There’s a good reason why Quebec has been nicknamed “la belle province” (the beautiful province). The beauty of this part of Canada is undeniable. Its landscapes are breathtaking and the people you’ll meet are just as wonderful.
Ready to discover it for yourself? Follow this four-day itinerary through some of the most charming and picturesque regions of Quebec.
Day 1: Quebec City to Baie Saint-Paul
From downtown Quebec City, start with a short 15-minute drive along the St. Lawrence River to reach Montmorency Falls. This 270-foot waterfall can be viewed from the highway below, but for the most impressive vistas, drive up to Avenue Royale and a walk across the bridge suspended above the roaring water. If you’re thrill-seeker, try zip-lining across the falls to get back to your starting point.
Before returning to the highway, travel eastward on the historical Route de la Nouvelle-France and sample local flavors from Ferme Le Comte de Roussy in L’Ange-Gardien (great views and delicious pies) and Praline & Chocolat in Château-Richer (delightful pastries and chocolates).
Once you’re back on road 138 by the St. Lawrence River, it will take you about 90 minutes to reach the quaint seaside town of Baie Saint-Paul. If that’s too fast for your liking, plan a stop at the stunning Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine.
Once in Baie Saint-Paul, head to French Bistro Le Mouton Noir. It’s one for the best patios in town. For a beautiful nature walk, visit Boisé du Quai (accessible via Sainte-Anne Street) and explore the shores of the St Lawrence seaway. At the Boisé’s western tip, you’ll find a beautiful observation tower. It’s the perfect place to watch sunset over the marshlands.
In the evening, make your way to the fantastic Le Germain Hotel & Spa, a charming country boutique hotel with a warm urban feel.
Day 2: Baie Saint-Paul to La Malbaie
Before leaving Baie Saint-Paul, fill up on delightful sandwiches, pastries and coffee from bakery À chacun son pain. If you get a baguette at the bakery, make sure to accompany it with one of the wonderful cheeses from Laiterie Charlevoix.
Drive to La Malbaie via the scenic coastal Route du Fleuve (road 362). Prepare to be wowed by views as this road is nested between the Laurentian Mountains and the St. Lawrence River.
In Les Éboulements, make a reservation at Auberge de nos Aïeux for a meal you won’t forget. From May to October, this welcoming inn serves local products in a superb dining room that overlooks the vast St. Lawrence River and the tranquil Isle-aux-Coudres island. If visiting in winter, pay a visit to Chenil du Sportif for a fun dog sledding excursion (plan at least half a day).
Next, in Saint-Irénée, visit Domaine Forget, a beautiful site dedicated to art. It’s home to an amazing sculpture garden and a fantastic concert hall. This site is especially popular in summertime during the Domaine’s international music festival. For a relaxing time in the sun, head to Saint-Irénée beach, one of the best spots in the area to stick your toes in the sand and swim in the St. Lawrence River.
Once you reach your end destination for the day, La Malbaie, plan on spending the night at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. The hotel’s location alone is worth the detour. There, enjoy a variety restaurants, activities and luxurious rooms. If you’re looking for something a little smaller, there are plenty of quaint inns and bed & breakfasts in the area. For one of the best smoked meat sandwiches outside of Montreal, eat at Joe Smoked Meat on Sainte-Étienne Street.
Day 3: La Malbaie to Tadoussac
Visiting this part of Quebec without seeing whales is quasi unthinkable. On day three, join a whale-watching excursion (late April to November) on the waters of the Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park. If you prefer physical activity over a leisurely cruise, opt for a guided kayak tour - you might still get to see whales! In wintertime, explore the land via snowmobile or on skis.
On your way to Tadoussac, stop at Fromagerie Saint-Fidèle to sample great local cheeses (try La Belle Brune, a Swiss cheese made with local beer). This cheese factory has been around for over 100 years and has been a source of local pride for just as long.
To get to Tadoussac, hop on the free ferry that departs from Baie Sainte-Catherine. Crossing time is only 10 minutes and the ferry runs frequently (year-round, day and night), and it offers magnificent views of the Saguenay Fjord.
Founded in 1600, Tadoussac is easily one of the most charming bays in the country. This lovely town of 800 people is a renowned whale-watching destination. On land, don’t miss a visit to the Marine Mammal Interpretation Center.
Tadoussac is also a great place to take in the history of the province. It was a major port during the New France days and a place where local Innus Essipit First Nation interacted with European explorers and settlers. Cultural must-sees include the beautiful Petite Chapelle de Tadoussac, a national historic site of Canada and the oldest wooden church in North America, and the Chauvin trading post, Canada's first fur trading post.
Returning to Quebec City
If you prefer to catch the ferry back to Baie Sainte-Catherine, make sure you visit the stunning valley of Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park, 40 minutes north of La Malbaie.
Ready to start planning your own road trip in Quebec?