Summer along the St. Lawrence
A hotspot for French-Canadian culture and outdoor adventure
The St. Lawrence River is one of the mightiest seaways in the world—an absolute force in commerce and shipping. But for those who live and travel in the area, the St. Lawrence is so much more. The area is home to incredible outdoor activities, cozy little communities, and dynamic small cities. Here are eight destinations that showcase the region’s nature, history, and culture to perfection.
Located near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, the small city of Rimouski has been witness to centuries of change in and around the river. It’s the perfect destination for anyone interested in local history. Some of Rimouski’s most notable sites include Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse National Historic Site, La Maison LaMontagne Historic Site, and The Empress Of Ireland Museum. Rimouski is also an artistic hub and home to events like Festi Jazz International, the Grandes Fêtes du St-Laurent, the Carrousel international du Film de Rimouski, and the Salon du Livre de Rimouski (which is the oldest literary event in Quebec).
The small city of Rivière-du-Loup is often described as an ideal stopping point between Quebec City, the Maritimes, and the Gaspé Peninsula. But, as anyone who visits can attest, this little hub is much more than a waypoint. Rivière-du-Loup is a superb base for exploring the great outdoors and offers hiking, mountain biking, fishing, snowshoeing, whale watching, and golf. You can connect with fellow nature-lovers at HI Rivière-du-Loup, which is located on a homey residential street in the heart of the city, close to cute cafes, outdoor gear outfitters, and fun bars. Consider this one of the best places to observe the unique culture that the St. Lawrence region offers.
An incredible destination for those seeking adventure, Saguenay is the gateway to the Saguenay Fjord—the only one in the province of Quebec. More than 100 kilometres long and so deep that whales swim in it, the Saguenay Fjord is a superb kayaking spot. Whether you’re planning a gentle afternoon paddle or a multi-day excursion, the area’s breathtaking natural beauty is an unforgettable experience. Hiking and ziplining are also popular and for those really into heart-pounding activities, you can try the Fjord’s Via Ferrata climbing route. What better way to admire the scenery than from the towering heights of nearby cliffs?
This little village of just 800 people sits where the St. Lawrence River and the Saguenay River meet. As a result, Tadoussac is the perfect place to go for all things nautical. The village is home to some of the finest whale watching in Canada. It’s also an excellent spot for bird watching, hiking, and eating (fresh seafood is the area’s specialty)! The Marine Animal Interpretation Centre is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the Tadoussac and you can find nautical-themed souvenirs at Les Savons de l’atelier, a local artisan soap shop that incorporates local sand in their exfoliating products.
Just a short drive from Rivière-du-Loup, the small New Brunswick city of Edmundston bridges two worlds. It’s the gateway to the Maritime provinces but it’s still firmly entrenched in the Francophone culture of the St. Lawrence and Madawaska regions. On Saturday mornings, the bustling farmers’ market showcases Edmundston’s homey side and neighbours catch up with each other while waiting in line to buy ployes. A regional treat similar to a pancake, Edmundston’s ployes use soft buckwheat flour and have a slightly sweet, nutty flavour, delicious when covered with butter and brown sugar or creton, a spiced pork spread. Pro tip: When you cross the border into New Brunswick, remember to adjust your clocks. You’re on Atlantic time now!
The small town of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is located just east of Quebec City. The community is home to the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré and the Convent of the Redemptoristines. The Basilica, may be of interest for backpackers who love to learn about history or ogle at fine architecture. Its 240 stained glass windows and wall covered with discarded crutches beg for more than just a mere glance. Nearby, the Canyon Sainte-Anne will captivate nature lovers with its spectacular waterfall and steep walls. It’s awe-sticking views, rushing waters, suspension bridges will make for an action-packed day for lovers of the outdoors. While visiting, don’t miss out on the Aircanyon, a 50 kilometre-per-hour seated ride that takes you through the trees and right above the gorge!
In bygone days, the pretty town of La Malbaie was known as Murray Bay and carried a posh nickname. It was called the “Newport of Canada,” a nod to the fashionable American movers and shakers who spent their summers in the area. Today, La Malbaie is every bit as gorgeous but much more welcoming and accessible. The charming HI La Malbaie ensures that you don’t have to be a millionaire to stay in the area and their friendly bistro boasts local craft beer and amazing waterfront views. You can learn more about the community’s remarkable history at the nearby Musée de Charlevoix.
No trip along the St. Lawrence River could possibly skip Quebec City. Stroll through the streets of Old Quebec and you'll feel as though you've been transported to Europe - without the expensive flight. In the heart of it all, HI Quebec sits within old fortress walls and unique heritage buildings - steps away from the main attractions of the city, as well as many cafes and shops worth exploring. The hostel itself dates back to 1790 and was a former convent - today it's one of Canada's busiest and most popular hostels! Join a walking tour and take in the rich history of the city - or grab that Instagram-worthy photo of the old Québec Funicular, the Château Frontenac, or the Breakneck Stairs (these steep steps are the oldest in the city!).
Venture away from the old town for some shopping along the vibrant and unique streets of the St-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood, take some more history lessons at the Citadelle of Quebec, or plan a day trip to the stunning Montmorency Falls, the tallest waterfall in Quebec. Oh and while you're in the city - don't forget to try the poutine... or one of many lesser-known dishes the culinary capital of Canada has to offer!