Between sea and mountains lies a gourmet’s playground—one of Canada’s best-kept secrets and an increasingly important player in the international tourist scene. Quebec’s Charlevoix region has become renowned for its sophisticated cuisine as a well for outdoor adventure in dramatic landscapes.
It’s been on the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List and Top 75 Resorts list consistently since 2011 and many of the hotels and restaurants have been awarded the AAA/CAA Four Diamond Award. Local cheesemakers were also winners at the 2010 World Cheese Awards.
Its magnificent geography—the result of a meteorite hitting the area some 350 million years ago—has the mighty St Lawrence River tucked against the Laurentian Mountains. This is a rolling terrain of rounded hills and winding roads that drop down to fjords, bays and deep rivers. Quaint French-style villages are nestled against the foot of the mountains or tucked away in peaceful coves.
The 18th century village of les Éboulements is famous for its architecture and La Malbaie village oozes the romance of the 19th century “Belle Époque” era with a French-style castle, Le Manoir Richelieu, overlooking its bay. Once a popular vacation spot for the American elite (President William Taft spent so much time here the area was dubbed White House North), many of the former American summer retreats have been converted into inns and hotels. The beauty of the area has seduced many artists and there are dozens of art galleries and studios throughout the region including those in the charming villages of Baie Saint-Paul and Sainte Iréné.
A unique microclimate creates an atmospheric zone with fertile soil and to celebrate the perfect produce from this region, local chefs and farmers have created the Circuit de la Route des Saveurs (The Flavour Trail). Starting at Baie Saint-Paul, this culinary route includes 22 inns, hotels and restaurants as well as 14 specialty gourmet food producers all offering award-winning cuisine.
In 1989 parts of the Charlevoix region were designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This includes two national parks, Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie and Parc national des Grands-Jardins as well as two sky-high hiking trails cutting through the Laurentian Mountains. Sentier des caps (headland trail) is home to the famous Le Massif ski resort, which boasts the highest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies. Nearby is the magnificent Traversée de Charlevoix (Charlevoix crossing) a 105 kilometer trail that runs through several ecosystems with panoramas of 1000-meter summits. Head further up the coast to Tadoussac for whale watching and sea kayaking
Charlevoix offers the best of both worlds: a chance to explore rugged wilderness alongside sophisticated cuisine and culture.