“I’m going to go to Charlevoix, Quebec.”
“You’re going where?? I’ve never heard of it.”
As I was planning my end of summer vacation, I figured I would visit a place less well-known and off the beaten path. However, I had no clue how OFF the beaten path I would be as a result.
If you follow, you know that I am a Francophile and obsessed with all things French. So when I heard that Charlevoix was an interesting mix of countryside, food and nature, I signed myself up.
But let’s not kid ourselves. I came here for food. Nature was the bonus (especially after spending days in a concrete jungle). But what I found was the perfect 1.5 day escape for nature, art, galleries, outdoor activity and of course, eating.
The Charlevoix region was formed from a crater that fell over 350 million years ago in the Northeastern part of Québéc. As a result, this area boasts a popular ski resort (Le Massif de Charlevoix), cute coastal towns (La Malbaie and Baie St. Paul) and is home to the “flavor trail” otherwise known as a region with farmers and food producers you can visit spread along the towns of Baie St. Paul, La Malbaie, St. Urban and Les Eboulements.
If you’re a foodie, sign up for a road trip along the flavor trail to visit Fromageries, Boucheries and other farm to table producers. After speaking with locals, I find out that the flavor trail was a partial birth of a need to boost agrotourism. Think of this place as the Napa Valley for food; instead of tasting your way through wineries, you get to taste your way through wineries AND food producers.
Charlevoix is about a 90 min drive from Québéc City. There are two ways here:
1. Renting a car and driving (Which I did so that I could drive to different producers and take in the scenery)
2. Taking a train from Québéc City to Baie St. Paul
The region’s two most occupied towns for tourism are Baie St. Paul & La Malbaie. From a locals perspective, La Malbaie is home to cute and more secluded B&B escapes. Baie St. Paul is closest to the flavor trail and the larger town with shops, art galleries and scenery.
If you drive only one direction, I recommend driving the 362 – it’s the road that hugs the coastline of the Fleuve St. Laurent and offers beautiful scenery that will make you pull over (squealing at the beauty of the scenery) every 10 minutes or so to capture idyllic pictures.
If you have a couple of days, drive up using the 138 to take in the mountain views to get to La Malbaie and then the 362 back down to take in the coastal view on the way back to Baie St. Paul.
Le Germain Hotel Charlevoix – This hotel is AWESOME. Here’s three reasons why:
1. Shiplap + IKEA + Design = How I would describe this hotel. There are different styled rooms that make you feel like you’re staying in a rustic farm with modern design. Feeling creative? They even feature art and sculptures all over the property.
2. Trails & a Farm? – The nice surprise when I checked in was that there was an organic farm on site! In the morning, you can walk the gardens, hike the nearby trails, take selfies with farm animals and take in great mountain views.
3. Amenities on site – This was a perfect place to ESCAPE to nature and in retrospect, I would have spent more time on property for a couple of days to reground, relax and unwind. In addition to two great restaurants and a cafe/boulangerie on site, there is a thermal spa (indoors & out), morning fitness activities (morning yoga on the terrace) and you can take the Train de Charlevoix to stop here or go back to Québéc city.
Oh, and the beds. Did I mention the bed? DIVINE.
EAT & DRINK
Le Bercail @ Le Germain Hotel – This the more casual restaurant (of the two on property) and the ambiance here is great for dinner, cocktails & chatter. Their dishes offer a sampling of all the ingredients, producers & delicacies from the Charlevoix region. In fact, you can pretty much sample the whole region through its menu. They feature food from the local boucheries, boulangeries, patisseries and fromageries. Duck proscuitto anyone?
Cafe Charlevoix Brulerie Artisinale – This cute little cafe and roastery is nestled and tucked away off the main strip in Baie St. Paul. In addition to great coffee and lattes, you can check out their roaster where they roast coffee on site. This is also a great quiet place to sit, recharge your phone and just listen to the locals chat en francais.
Mouton Noir – This was the place locals raved about (vs. the other restaurants recommended in Baie St. Paul). Why? Because in addition to creative Charlevoix cuisine, you can sit out on the terrace overlooking the St. Laurent river for a little extra relaxation.
Visit the Charlevoix Flavor Trail – But really. This is why you come here, to eat and bask in Foodie Farm-to-Table heaven. The flavor trail itself could feed you for the entire day. I’ll cover producers to visit in a separate post!
Gallery Walk & Shop in Baie St. Paul along the Rue Saint Jean Baptiste – Browse galleries, boutique shops and soak in the small town provincial charm.
Kayaking in the Fleuve St. Laurent – I was so captivated by the scenery of Charlevoix (seriously, I literally screamed at all the beautiful views as I was driving) that I decided I wanted to get immersed in my element, water.
The river near Charlevoix is technically an estuary. Oddly enough, this river acts like the sea with its salt water, sea creatures and tides.
I signed up for a full day Kayaking tour (which means six hours of play in the water) in La Malbaie at Cap D’Agile. This full day tour took us up the coastline of Cap D’Agile where you could kayak, witness wildlife (Bald Eagles, Seals) and literally eat delicacies straight from the water (seaweed & shrimp anyone?)
I geared up my GoPro and hurried into the waters. The lower tide of the morning made it easy for us to kayak to a waterfall for lunch while being followed by seals. We searched for white belugas in the water (which have been known to frequent the waters) but turned up empty. However, we were rewarded with a delicious lunch of smoked Charlevoix salmon and bagels to fuel up for the two-hour kayak back into the port.
On the way back, we ended up chasing a storm so we had to kayak further into the water of the Fleuve to avoid the tidal pulls to shore. At that point, the leader told us we were floating over 150 ft of water below us. I gulped.
Oddly enough, this reminded me of my free diving and snorkeling experience in Hawaii. Never would I thought I would have been wandering over Québécois waters in the middle of nowhere.
The fear of the unknown combined with the peace of the scenery felt so restorative that I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else except in those waters. At that moment, I remembered why I enjoy solo travel and why it’s so necessary for self-love and restoration.
This rural journey of Charlevoix continued to remind me that when we are open to anything, we come alive in so many ways.
So, ready to check out Charlevoix yet? It’s worth the adventure!