Baie-Saint-Paul, photo credit Touisme Charlevoix|Annie Bolduc
Distance : 212 km (132 mi.)
The road from Québec City to Tadoussac has to be one of most beautiful and exciting you'll ever drive on in your life. Flanked by the St. Lawrence River on one side and the mountains on the other, the drive brings you Québec at its most sublime. Driving along the scenic River Route (Route 362) between Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie is a must. Pure air, sparkling water, magnificent peaks, picturesque villages and epicurean delights – this is one experience you won't want to end!
A. Parc de la Chute-Montmorency. You’re barely on your way when this park grabs your attention. An 83-metre (272-foot) waterfall in a glorious natural setting – you’ll simply have to stop. And a worthy detour it is, too, with a sumptuous view of the St. Lawrence River, Île d’Orléans and Québec City.
B. Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Your second stop brings you to the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré shrine. This medieval-inspired basilica, with its sublime stained glass and remarkable rose window, is ... heavenly!
C. Mont-Sainte-Anne. Stop at this four-season mountain resort. Here, outdoor activities abound: hiking, golfing, mountain biking, etc. Go for a panoramic gondola ride 800 metres up the mountain and enjoy breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence Valley.
D. Baie-Saint-Paul. Nicknamed “le paradis des artistes” (artists’ paradise), Baie-Saint-Paul is a pretty little town nestled in the Charlevoix hills. Artists have flocked here for years to try and capture its legendary beauty. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Baie-Saint-Paul also boasts the highest concentration of art galleries and craft boutiques in Canada.
For spectacular views of the St. Lawrence, drive the scenic Route 362 from Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie. From there, head to Les Éboulements, which offers one of the most stunning panoramic views in all Québec.
E. In Sainte-Irénée you’ll find Domaine Forget, a renowned dance and music academy that hosts an international music festival . This large property is also steeped in history and features buildings that really make an impression.
F. La Malbaie, formerly known as Murray Bay, at the end of Route 362. Former U.S. President William Taft owned a summer residence here and reportedly said it was “as intoxicating as champagne, but without the headache of the morning after.” Today, the area’s stately villas are charming inns, restaurants and art galleries. La Malbaie is also home to the prestigious Manoir Richelieu hotel.
Drop in at Fromagerie Saint-Fidèle, a cheese factory founded in 1902, and sample their delicious cheddar. The Poterie de Port-au-Persil, a gallery boutique featuring the handmade creations of 50 Québec potters, is also worth a stop.
Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, photo credit Michel Julien
G. Saint-Siméon. whose claim to fame is its hospitality, for which it has earned the title of “Hotel Village”. From here you have access to a multitude of activities including whale-watching and ecotourism excursions, fishing and hiking.
Your trip ends in Baie-Ste-Catherine, where you can visit the Pointe-Noire Interpretation and Observation Centre and get a spectacular view of Tadoussac and the river mouth of the Saguenay. This is one of the best places to observe white whales, which you can get closer to with an excursion on a Zodiac with AML Cruises. The giants of the sea have never been so close!