Welcome to The Eco Hub’s first Eco-Travel Guide: Quebec Road Trip
Nestled along the St. Lawrence River lies one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
Tadoussac, located about 3 hours from Quebec City is the oldest village in Canada and home to the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, which covers an area of 1,245 km2.
The park protects a marine area endowed with an exceptional diversity of wildlife and plant life. Renowned for its scenic landscapes, the park is also one of the world’s best places for whale watching.
In fact, did you know that there are 13 whale species swimming about in the St. Lawrence River?
For my 45th birthday (oy, that’s hard to admit) I wanted to experience something unique, something that would allow me to connect to nature and what could be better than whale watching?
I was reluctant at first and had many questions.
Are the whales safe from the boats?
Are they really protected?
Are they being fed illegally by tour operators to ensure that tourists actually get to see them?
After extensive research, we booked our trip! More details on the Marine Protected Area below.
And a YURT!!!
We traveled over 5 days, here is how we broke up our trip.
Day 1 – Toronto to Quebec City
Day 2 – Quebec City to Tadoussac and Sacre Couer
Day 3 – Whale Watching and fun in a Yurt
Day 4 – Whale Watching then off to Montreal
Day 5 – Montreal to Toronto
DAY 1 TORONTO TO OLD QUEBEC CITY
I highly recommend if you are driving from Toronto, you break the trip up.
We left on a Saturday morning and drove from Toronto to Quebec City, it took about 8 hours, it was long, I am not going to lie.
We booked into the sweetest little hotel called Hotel Acadia, located in the heart of Old Quebec (a must see).
Here is the outside with my cute hubs!
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at Hotel Acadia, peak season price varies from $190 to $220 per night and included a decent Continental breakfast, which we enjoyed.
Our room was very rustic and simply lovely.
They also made sure to let us know that the environment matters to them. I know it seems like a small token, but honestly, it’s better than nothing.
(sorry for the blurry pic)
WHERE TO EAT
Old Quebec City is so charming and offers so many local shops and restaurants for you to enjoy.
For Dinner, we chose Restaurant Ophelia, the food, service, and vibe was impeccable. Pricy FYI!
The seafood is all sourced locally.
My hubby had the grilled calamari and I had the cod! Oh La La, both were a hit!
WHERE TO SHOP
If you are looking for an authentic French-Canadian shopping experience, then you must visit Quartier Petit Champlain, the streets are bustling with tourists, all trying to capture the perfect shot, which is not hard to do here.
It’s so….FRENCH and chic. I simply love it!
Honestly, you don’t have to shop at all! But if you must, then Boutique Amimoc honors the tradition of moccasins making in Québec City.
The story goes like this:
“1956 – In a small town, near Quebec City and the Huron Native Indian Reserve, Misters Auclair & Martineau started to make their own handmade moccasins in a basement. They crafted their first moccasins the same way their ancestors made them for centuries.
They handcraft a collection of moccasins and mukluks made and designed the original way and crafted by masters! All made in Canada.”
There are other cute shops, but this one was my fav.
WHERE TO JAM
This quaint, charismatic lively nook is a local hotspot where you will find boîte à chanson (Québécois folk cabaret), the night we were there they were playing French country (the hee haw kind) and it was FABULOUS! I am not sure of the singer’s name, it was just her and her guitar and she totally killed it!
Then it was bedtime to rest for another long day ahead.
DAY 2 QUEBEC CITY TO THE YURT! (In Sacre-Coeur)
We left Quebec City to travel to Sacre-Coeur, where our Yurt awaits!
To get to the Yurt, we traveled through the village of Tadoussac – much more to come on this pretty, historic, charming little town!
Sacre-Couer is about 10 mins from Tadoussac.
Let me just say that the drive from Quebec to Tadoussac (along Highway 138) is simply breathtaking, you weave along the road with the mountains looking down on you from one side and the vast, blue water on the other side!
It’s truly magnificent!
Along the way, there are too many gorgeous little towns and villages to count. We stopped to stretch our legs in the city of Baie-Saint-Paul. You can’t miss it, as you come down the mountain-top you start to see it in the distance nestled in the heart of a valley whose river runs toward the St. Lawrence.
We did not go into the town (wish we had) but we stopped to take a look at the view.
The winding drive continues the rest of the way, taking you through little towns, quaint streets and lots of artisans along the way.
We stumbled upon the cutest honey farm and stopped to buy some local honey.
It’s called Miellerie du crater de Charlevoix and is located in a historic barn just off the highway. There is a beautiful outdoor area where you can sit and relax and admire the majestic landscape overlooking the river and mountains, and of course, you can buy delicious honey!
A brief word from their website:
“The objective of the Charlevoix crater honey farm is first and foremost to make sustainable agriculture while respecting the environment. Proponents are certain that beekeeping will preserve the family patrimony that has been operating in the agricultural sector for five generations now. Living farming in a profitable, well-structured and liveable farm is the owners’ motto.”
The honey is delish by the way. Totally worth the stop.
Honey in hand, our road trip continued. We drove another hour or so and finally reached Tadoussac, well almost. We had no idea that we needed to board a ferry to get there. The road literally ends at the port, the ferry ride is about 5 minutes (free) and offers some beautiful views of the Tadoussac area. We spotted our first whales here, the White Beluga! It was too overwhelming to grab the camera in time! LOL!
It was windy and cool!
Once we crossed the ferry it was time to head to the Yurt. So exciting.
WHERE TO STAY IN SACRE-COEUR
Price was $250 per night.
Upon arrival on the property where the Yurt sits we were taken back with the view. It’s spectacular!!
It’s situated on a hilltop along the Saguenay Fjord. We had to park our car and walk about 5 minutes (it’s not too bad of a trek) to its location.
This adorable caravan is where the property manager sleeps.
There is a very winding road up and down a hill to the Yurt.
When you get to the top of this hill, where the yurt sits, you are met with this lovely view!
And take a look inside the Yurt! SO Chic!
The front door, and the main bedroom pictured below.
The cutest kitchen!
Love the fireplace and all the little details.
The Bathroom, which does have at a compostable toilet.
The Roof! You could see so many stars.
The Fire Place.
WHERE TO EAT
In Sacre-Couer there is only ONE please to eat. La Casta Fjord Cafe.
This place is simply heaven. It’s a small little wooden shack, cozy, warm, great food and wine, and super service… I did not want to leave!
It has two tables, this one…
And this one…
So you get to mingle with other people, it’s honestly just so cool! The food might be pricey for some, but its homemade goodness and worth it my opinion.
The owner France (she likes to be called Casta Fjord) is a QUEEN! and lives about 30 seconds away and actually went out to get the pie she made and forget, it was a decadent, delicious homemade Rhubarb Pie.
She cooks everything herself and the food was delicious, fresh and local.
We both tried the Cod and mashed potatoes, D-VINE!
They say you can see whales from her place, and if it was not so chilly, we would have eaten on the patio.
And enjoyed this view! Everywhere we turned looked like a postcard!
After dinner, we headed back to the Yurt to see the sunset. That’s me bundled up in a blanket, it was slightly cool, being that it was the beginning of June. If you plan to travel at this time of year, pack a few warmer things, you will need them on the boats when whale watching.
After the sun went down, it was time for a fire, then bed.
DAY 3 WHALE WATCHING IN TADOUSSAC
There are two ways to see whales in the St. Lawrence Estuary, by boat on a large cruise type vessel and in a zodiac.
The Zodiac enables you to sail directly at water level, providing the unique sensation of being closer to the whales. I break it down more in-depth a little further down in the post.
WHERE TO EAT
We got up early to have a little breakfast in Tadoussac. This little town is one of my fav’s in the world, it has so much history and character. I really fell in love and would go back in a heartbeat!
I also fell in love with Cafe Boheme, it’s located on the Main Street and serves fair trade organic coffee and is all about farm to table.
The decor is made up of odds and ends and they have local artists painting hanging on the walls. It’s warm and inviting.
My fav was some of the handmade items you can buy, like the jam, zero preservatives, zero sugar, zero crap!
There are quite a few really great restaurants you can visit in Tadoussac, this was our fav!
Prices are totally reasonable too.
After a good breakfast, it was time to catch the boat and go whale watching.
Here we are waiting for the boat! Look how foggy it was!
This is my hubby standing in front of the dock, you can barely see it! If you go and it’s foggy, don’t bother getting on the boat.
Here is a map of the Marine Park.
I can’t give a good review of the cruise boat as there was SO much fog you could not see your hand in front of you. We were on the boat for over 3 hours, it was torture. I am not sure why they even go out in that kind of weather, we did get to see a very large lighthouse up close and a gorgeous waterfall too.
If you are going at the beginning of June, its cold, make sure you have a scarf and gloves.
Leaving the dock.
The lighthouse up close, like I mean right on top of it!
The boat would be ideal for families with little kids and for people who may have health issues. If you can though, the zodiac is THE way to go.
Prices for both the boat and the zodiac are about $70 per person. And they have different depart times for each one.
For the large cruise we did the mid-morning to afternoon and for the zodiac, we departed at 8 am sharp.
DAY FOUR – WHALE WATCHING CONTINUED
We were up and at it early, no food as I get seasick and we did not want to take a chance of me throwing up on the zodiac.
The zodiac is a very different experience from the boat, you are up close (as close as legally allowed) and personal with the whales.
Make sure you have waterproof clothing, you will 100% get wet in the zodiac. And if it’s early June you will be cold and wet. It was really windy when we went out, but it was worth every second.
After you meet up and they put you in bright orange clothing, they load everyone onto the boat and you’re off.
I was so impressed with the knowledge of you our captain/guide, did you know there are over 13 species of whales in the region and she knew everyone. She really enhanced this larger-than-life experience by sharing her knowledge and taking us on a voyage into an entirely different universe.
When you get out into the water and they stop the boat, it’s exhilarating. You are looking around out onto the water waiting to catch a glimpse of these massive majestic animals, it was truly a once in a lifetime event for me.
It was very very windy the day we went out, making it very hard to get the perfect shot, but here is a small clip!
The first time I saw that tail come out of the water I cried. It was simply awe-inspiring!
If you love animals (like I do) this will literally take your breath away. The next two hours were spent moving from location to location on the water waiting to catch a glimpse, it was a good day. We saw Beluga’s, Menki, Grey, and Fin.
A BIT ABOUT CONSERVATION
The area as mentioned is overseen by The Eco-Whale Alliance, which was created in 2011 to encourage environmentally responsible whale-watching in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. The objective is to continually improve offshore whale-watching practices so that they represent a model of sustainability.
The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Hundreds of whales make it their annual destination after a long migration of thousands of kilometers.
In recognition of this unique natural treasure and of the potential of whales watching to raise awareness, five marine tour business owners, Parcs Québec, Parks Canada and the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) have come together to ensure the responsible practice and sustainable development of whale watching activities in the Marine Park.
Member companies and their employees contribute to achieving the objectives of the Eco-Whale Alliance through their commitment in providing unique and enriching excursions, practiced in the utmost respect of the whales. The marine park visitors can encourage the efforts of Eco-Whale Alliance by choosing a sea excursion company identified by this logo:
The objectives of the Eco-Whale Alliance are:
Raising public awareness of conservation;
Limiting the impact of marine observation activities on the whales;
Monitoring the resource and the effectiveness of management measures;
Implementing responsible practices from an environmental, social and economic point of view;
Working in collaboration with tourism, research, and conservation groups.
A no point on the tour did I feel that we were infringing on the animals, it was an experience to remember and I highly recommend you visit this part of Canada.
TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
We were on the zodiac for around three hours of pure exhilaration!
Then it was back to the yurt to pack up and hit the road.
We drove from Tadoussac to Montreal, it’s a super long drive, very pretty but long. We chose to stop in Montreal to break up the trip and to spend the night in this very cool, chic, Canadian City.
We stayed in a loft in the heart of the old city. It was very pricey ($300/night) but really gorgeous too.
Here is my hubs posing! So cute!
The next day, we hit the road, Toronto bound.
It took about 5 hours to get home, if you are traveling during the week, make sure you account for local traffic around big city limits especially during rush hour both in the morning and the evening!
I never knew this gem was hiding just a few hours from our home. Just 12 hours away, we were able to uncover one of the most magical places in Canada. No matter where you are from, this is definitely a place to visit.
Its beauty is astounding!
Between May and October, up to 13 species of cetaceans are found in the salty waters of the St. Lawrence, including blue whales, the largest animals on the planet, and impressive humpback, which swim up into the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord near Tadoussac to feed. In some places, you can even watch them from the shore.
I hope you found this post helpful!
Many more travel guides to come!