Top 10 Things To Do in Charlevoix
About 4 hours north-east of Montreal lies Charlevoix, a lovely part of the province sitting pretty between a great semi-circular range of mountains and the St-Lawrence river. Its idyllic rolling hills, grazing farm animals, and passionate residents make it an ideal getaway for a weekend – or somewhere to linger a little while longer.
1. Live The Farmer’s Life at Hotel La Ferme
La Ferme is located in the heart of Baie-Saint-Paul on the site of an old farm, formerly the most important wood standing farm structure of its kind in Canada, unfortunately ravaged by fire and no longer standing. This expansive hotel spreads out across five buildings constructed around a courtyard, each with its own distinct design and feel. This “anti-resort” hotel is the perfect blend of rural and urban and operates with a particular openness towards the surrounding community. Life on this very unique farm centers around lounging at the outdoor thermal baths at Spa du Verger, exploring the on-premise Sunday farmer’s market, enjoying the spectacular views all around the property or indulging in a decadent meal featuring local products at restaurant Les Labours. Not too shabby!
(Photo: Mayssam Samaha)
2. All Aboard The Train Of Le Massif De Charlevoix
The Train of Le Massif de Charlevoix travels along the river between Quebec City in the south and La Malbaie in the north, with a stop at Hotel La Ferme in Baie-Saint-Paul. This unique rail cruise takes passengers on a discovery of some of the region’s most breathtaking vistas, as well as its history, culture and hidden treasures through a multimedia presentation. The cruise also takes you on a discovery of Charlevoix’s regional cuisine through a seasonal menu created by Le Manoir Richelieu’s acclaimed executive chef. Treat yourself to a copious breakfast, a three-course lunch, a four-course gastronomic dinner or a gourmet après ski fare, all featuring some of the most distinctive local products.
(Photo: Benjamin Gagnon)
3. Sample Fine Cheeses
The first thing you notice when driving up the road that leads to the Maurice Dufour cheese-making farm is the large pasture with fluffy white sheep peacefully grazing. This cheese-making company was created in the early ’90s by founder Maurice Dufour and is considered to be a precursor in the revival of fine cheeses in Quebec. Tour the farm, taste the wide range of products and stock up on some fine cheeses at their boutique.
(Photo: Maurice Dufour)
4. Eat Your Way Across The Region
One of the best ways to discover a region is through its culinary offerings. Charlevoix’s Route des saveurs was founded 15 years ago through a collaboration between farmers and cooks wanting to showcase the region’s unique terroir. About 40 producers and restaurants are now part of it and are scattered across the region. Follow the map provided on the website to spot those of interest to you, and stop for a tour of the premises as well as a taste of Charlevoix’s unique products, including but not limited to foie gras, breads, chocolate and cider.
5. Cozy Up To A Charlevoix Alpaca
What are 85 alpacas doing this side of the Andes? When Nathalie Poirier purchased a land in the small town of Les Éboulements, she was looking to farm one-of-a-kind animals that wouldn’t be put down. Her heart settled on alpacas, which are clean, quiet and sweet creatures that live in herds. Alpacas are sheared once a year and are praised for the quality of their fiber, which Nathalie improves with each passing year. Take a tour of the farm with Nathalie and meet some of the animals up close and personal. Learn all about these strange-looking but oh-so-cute creatures, from macho males to one-day old babies.
(Photo: Mayssam Samaha)
6. Chase Windmills on Isle-aux-Coudres
Isle-aux-coudres is a 30-square kilometer island off the coast of Baie Saint-Paul, accessible via a 15-minute ferry ride from the small town of Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive. The island was discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1535 and has since become a popular tourist destination. Whether you’re a nature, culture, history or food lover, this tiny island has something for everyone. It’s also said to be the only place in North America where one can still find a fully functional watermill (established in 1825) as well as a fully functional windmill (established in 1836). The mills grind wheat and buckwheat into flour, which visitors can purchase on site in their natural state or in the form of baked goods.
7. Be At One With Nature
Because of its privileged location between mountain and sea, Charlevoix boasts many outdoor activities for all nature lovers. Fishing, hiking, water and winter sports, camping, cycling, mountain biking, horseback riding, sea kayaking, sailing, canoeing and canoe camping are yours to explore. One of the most spectacular and unusual ways to enjoy Charlevoix’s spectacular nature includes “canyoning”, which consists of a series of descents on ropes into the heart of canyons and along waterfalls. Amateurs, families and advanced hikers alike can enjoy this most-thrilling activity.
8. Try Tomato Wine
Close your eyes and take a sip of this fresh, crisp and slightly sweet aperitif wine and you will never be able to guess that it’s made from tomatoes! Yes, the world’s first tomato wine is made in Charlevoix, using a well-guarded family recipe that hails from Belgium by its founder, Pascal Miche. “Omerto” tomato wine is named after Mr. Miche’s great-grandfather, Omer, who made tomato wine as far back as 1938. Today’s production uses a blend of 6 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, organically grown by the owner on his land. You can take a tour of the property and taste the 2 different wines produced there, the dry version as well as the fruitier one.
(Photo: Mayssam Samaha)
9. Live the Artsy Life in Baie-Saint-Paul
Baie Saint-Paul has been a big draw for artists for centuries. The mountains, the river, the colours and the beautiful light have been a favourite and a source of inspiration for many, including Canada’s Group of Seven painters. This heritage town with over 85 century-old homes is also home to over 25 art galleries and a gorgeous Contemporary Art Museum which hosts the International Symposium of New Painting in Canada every August. Walk down the quaint narrow streets of one of Quebec’s oldest municipalities and admire its many shops and galleries.
10. Go Whale Watching in Baie-Sainte-Catherine
Although whale watching may seem like a very touristy thing to do, seeing those gigantic whale tails jutting out of the water and splashing back down will become one of the best vacation memories you’ll ever make. Between May and October, catch one of the many cruises that leave from Baie-Sainte-Catherine, a tiny town that is ideally located at the heart of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. Blue whales, humpback whales, fin whales and belugas can all be observed while they feed in the waters nearby.