G7 Executive Talk Series

Branded Story / Charlevoix

Welcome to
Charlevoix!

Welcome to
Charlevoix!

© Tourisme Charlevoix, Steve Deschênes

Charlevoix is like no place else on earth, with its breathtaking mountain vistas, unique natural habitats and fascinating history that is intimately linked with the majestic St. Lawrence River. Boasting an exceptional terroir, the region’s charming villages are home to a people with a singular fondness for the good life. Everything sets Charlevoix apart – even its climate! From sea to taiga, an extraordinary experience awaits you at the heart of the Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve.

Petite-Rivière-Saint-François – the gateway to Charlevoix
This village is nestled along a narrow six-kilometre strip of land between the St. Lawrence River and the mountains. Dating back to 1675, Petite-Rivière-Saint-François is the site of the region’s first modern-day settlement. Without a doubt, this is the best place to start your trip.

For nature lovers, it’s hard to beat the Massif de Charlevoix, which boasts the highest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies. Here, winter enthusiasts have a wide range of outdoor activities to choose from, including the famous sled run! The explorer in you will love the Sentier des Caps trails, a main feature of Petite-Rivière. Once the snow falls, the hiking paths transform into a winter paradise of frosted fir trees, offering snowshoers and cross-country skiers extraordinary panoramic views.

Baie-Saint-Paul – at your service
Baie-Saint-Paul is a destination in and of itself. Beautifully integrated with its natural environment, this remarkable city is sure to impress you with its brightly coloured centennial homes and undeniable charm. Amazingly, this town of 7,000 inhabitants was named the Cultural Capital of Canada in 2007! But it won’t take you long to understand why: to use a current buzz phrase, Baie-Saint-Paul is the archetypal organic city, whose history, heritage and architecture are all perfectly in tune with its surroundings.

Baie-Saint-Paul has many more painters, sculptors and artisans than one might expect for its size. But there’s a good reason for this: the city offers the perfect environment to pursue a creative calling. Its natural setting, inspiring landscapes and exceptional quality of light are a magnet for artists – so much so that Saint-Jean-Baptiste Street now boasts the highest concentration of art galleries in the country. These establishments vie with each other in an art scene that goes well beyond pictorial representations of the surrounding nature. In fact, it was here that Cirque du Soleil was born in 1982 as a group of street performers, known then as the Club de talons hauts (high heels club). Strolling through the city centre, visitors can admire public art works as they sample the wares of regional chocolate makers and explore unique local shops such as the Shamâne soap boutique and Charlevoix Pure Laine weavers. Here, creativity reigns supreme!

Baie-Saint-Paul has been so successful in fanning the flames of art that it has become a de facto cultural capital. The Museum of Contemporary Art organizes internationally renowned exhibitions and events, including the popular Symposium of Contemporary Art, which each year showcases 12 visual artists and their creative processes. Among Baie-Saint Paul’s many cultural events, you won’t want to miss Le Festif! music festival and the dazzling celebration of colour that is the Rêves d’automne painting festival.

Mountain Road
Get ready for a few surprises and some friendly encounters as you discover the food producers along the top of routes 138 and 381. Here you’ll find an abundance of local products with which to build your own picnic basket or simply enjoy along the drive!

Mountain Road’s elevation offers some of the best views of Charlevoix’s breathtaking landscapes. You’ll be astonished by the surreal interplay between river and mountain, peak and valley, rock and vegetation. It’s hard to resist the call of the mountaintops as they recede ever farther into the distance. But just how far can you go? As far as your feet – and hiking boots – will take you! In summer or winter, you can continue your adventure along one of Québec’s most beautiful natural paths, the legendary Traversée de Charlevoix. This 105-kilometre trail between Saint-Urbain and Mont Grand-Fonds offers the ultimate backcountry experience.

St. Lawrence Route
This road is a bit easy to miss the first time, but once you discover it you’ll readily find your way back! The St. Lawrence Route’s appeal lies in its unique mix of familiar comforts and unexpected surprises. You can take a mere 40 minutes to drive the short (and sometimes bumpy!) 58 kilometres from Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie, enjoying spectacular river views along the way. But if you opt for a more leisurely pace, that’s when the magic happens! Don’t let its unassuming name fool you: the celebrated St. Lawrence Route is considered one of the most beautiful and panoramic roads in eastern North America.

Route 362 could also be called the “Cultural Highway”. With each mile, you’ll travel deeper into the fascinating history, know-how and traditions of the farming communities that are still shaping the region today. Be sure to stop in the village of Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, a true cultural gem. Then, follow the road to the ferry and take a ride to the Isle-aux-Coudres, where you can sample cider at Vergers Pedneault or explore the famous flour mills. If you decide to stay on the mainland, drop by the Papeterie Saint-Gilles for some handcrafted paper products, or spend an afternoon at the Charlevoix Maritime Museum and tour its schooners and shipyard.

Saint-Irénée – picturesque by nature
It’s impossible not to stop at Saint-Irénée’s famous Jetée des Capelans pier, with its eye-catching red buoy and anchor embedded in the ground. During the winter holidays, the site becomes aglow with a captivating display of multi-coloured lights. Once you’ve crossed the railway tracks, there’s nothing separating you from the St. Lawrence. Winter visitors can catch sight of immense ships travelling up and down the river beyond the cape, against the backdrop of an Arctic-hued lunar landscape.

During the summer, Saint-Irénée’s sandy beach is one of the most beautiful and popular in Québec – and you can even go horseback riding! Charlevoix loves its beaches, and Route 362 passes alongside many notable examples as it follows the shoreline all the way to Cap-aux-Oies.

Baie-Saint-Paul is a destination in and of itself. Beautifully integrated with its natural environment, this remarkable city is sure to impress you with its brightly coloured centennial homes and undeniable charm.

La Malbaie – so much to offer
La Malbaie is the perfect jumping-off place for the region, with water and mountain activities within reach all year long. From here, you can easily arrange for a tour of Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie Park by snowmobile or dog sled, or hit the slopes and trails at Mont Grand-Fonds ski resort. But it’s La Malbaie’s hotel and entertainment offerings that are its true calling card. The Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is worth the trip alone, with four restaurants featuring locally sourced products, an indoor/outdoor spa and a multi-award-winning 27-hole golf course. Speaking of restaurants, the area’s Flavour Trail offers foodies the ultimate farm-to-table experience. The Trail includes four inns between Saint-Irénée and Cap-à-l’Aigle, in addition to the Manoir Richelieu itself. There is no shortage of opportunities to indulge your inner gourmet in and around La Malbaie!

No visit to La Malbaie would be complete without a trip to the famous casino. It’s much more than your typical gambling establishment, offering a wide variety of shows, concerts and activities that perfectly complement the local scene. One of the casino’s must-see events – and no doubt the most spectacular – is Ode à l’hiver (ode to winter), a music and fireworks extravaganza set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pointe-au-Pic wharf.

From river to sea
Once you pass La Malbaie, the St. Lawrence slowly starts to surrender to the Atlantic Ocean. The air suddenly changes, becoming more and more saturated with sea spray, and on windy days you can even taste the salt on your lips!

Port-au-Persil – pure magic
The Association des plus beaux villages du Québec (Most Beautiful Villages of Québec) has four members in Charlevoix; of these, Saint-Siméon and Port-au-Persil hamlet are arguably the most stunning. Head up the road to check out the donkeys at the Ferme de l’Âne du Saint-Laurent. Keep an eye out here for one of the most beautiful views of the St. Lawrence! A short drive later, you’ll find yourself crossing a small stream, signalling your arrival at Port-au-Persil. In summer and winter alike, visitors flock to the pier to admire the white McLaren Chapel and the colourful houses that dot the cove. Words can’t describe the feelings evoked by the beautiful views on display here, where the river meets the horizon. The effect is even more striking in winter, when the sun breaks through the wind-swept snow clouds and mist rolls over the jagged ice on the frozen St. Lawrence.

Baie-des-Rochers – a well-kept secret
Located directly across from Île aux Lièvres, Saint-Siméon is also the gateway to the beautiful Baie-des-Rochers Park. This municipal park offers three exceptional hiking paths, including the Anse de Sable trail which starts where the road ends at Baie-des-Rochers’ quay. Then again, you might choose to arrive by water instead, following a two-day kayak trip from Cap-à-l’Aigle. Baie-des-Rochers offers the adventure of a lifetime. Here, you’re at the edge of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, so chances are good you’ll cross paths with a few seals – and maybe even a whale!

Baie-Sainte-Catherine – a calm retreat
The most striking thing about Baie Saint-Catherine is its utter tranquility. Located in the heart of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, it’s the last village before the ferry to Tadoussac and, further east, the mythical North Shore.

Here, the marine biodiversity is unlike anywhere else on the planet. And exploring the waters of the St. Lawrence and the Marine Park is the best way to discover it. You have a wide range of options to choose from: if you prefer to remain above water, you can go kayaking, take a Zodiac, or board a whale-watching boat. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can try diving in the unique, cold saltwater environment of the St. Lawrence Estuary and Saguenay Fjord.

If you opt for a more leisurely pace, that’s when the magic happens! Don’t let its unassumingname fool you: the celebrated St. Lawrence Route is considered one of the most beautiful and panoramic roads in eastern North America.

Isle-aux-Coudres – full of surprises
There’s something fascinating about Isle-aux-Coudres. Although this tiny island appears rather peaceful at first glance, it plays host to a dizzying array of sports and cultural events, gastronomical experiences and holiday activities.

Upon disembarking from the Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive ferry, there are two things you should know. First, the islanders’ nickname – Marsouins – pays homage to their beluga fishing heritage. Second, it’s possible to explore the 23-kilometre island entirely on a bike. But by the time you leave, you’ll have made many more discoveries along the way.

The island has not one but two economuseums, both of which bear the imprint of the surrounding terroir and reflect the rich local history. The first museum is not far from the pier as you arrive and can be visited on foot or bicycle; this is the Cidrerie et Vergers Pedneault, where you can go apple picking in season. The second, the Moulins de l’Isle-aux-Coudres, immerses visitors in the world of milling and traditional flour-making. After visiting these two must-see attractions, be sure to leave room for pie at the Boulangerie Bouchard, where the signature pâté croche (a savoury meat turnover) will no doubt tempt your taste buds.

Isle-aux-Coudres offers a number of beautiful walks with exceptional panoramic views of the St. Lawrence. A good example can be found at the Parc de la Roche à Caya (Caya’s Rock), which features an interpretation trail that takes visitors alongside a series of beaches and sand bars. At Pointe-de-l’Islet, you can clamber over the coastal granitic rocks at low tide amid refreshing sea spray. Don’t be surprised if you see a few large, multi-coloured sails zigzagging across the sky – Isle-aux-Coudres is one of Québec’s most popular kitesurfing destinations. In winter, the main event is still La Grande Traversée, a thrilling canoe race across the ice between Isle-aux-Coudres and Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive.

The road back
As you cross back to the mainland, take some time to enjoy the exceptional view of Mount Éboulements, the site of an ancient meteorite impact that shaped the region some 400 million years ago. By all measures an historic event – just like the 2018 G7 Summit. Although your visit to Charlevoix may be winding down, the memories you’ve made will last a lifetime, as will the desire to come back again!

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