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 IMG 3929The author and pals enjoy time on the river.

Whale Watching and Sea Kayaking in Maritime Quebec

Way up north in Quebec lies one of the top eco-tourism destinations in North America, the Quebec Maritime and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The third most sustainable destination in Canada the culture in the maritime is rich and friendly.

There is so much magnificence in the St. Lawrence seaway.  The flueve as it is known in French is home to an array of wildlife, 13 species of whale swim in the deep waters of the St. Lawrence tripadvisoras well as seals, dolphins, porpoise and all the fish and krill that feed them.

Ocean loving birds fly above the waves and loons, the famous Canadian symbol, rest on the shore. For the environmentally conscious traveler, nature lover or extreme sport enthusiast Quebec Maritime offers plenty to do, see, learn and explore.

Quebec Maritime is a vast area north of Quebec city which encompasses the regions of Cote-Nord, Gaspe, Bas-St. Laurent, and Iles de la Madeleine.One of the top eco-travel destination in North America. 

The St. Lawrence seaway runs through the center of the region. An ecological wonderland as well as main transportation artery the flueve has seen the very beginnings of Canadian settlement and continues to be an important source of income for Quebec as well as a beautiful and unique environment.

I traveled from Baie Comeau in the North to Taddossac in the south, these towns cling to the marine park which is a sanctuary for many marine mammals as well as being a pristine place to enjoy outdoor sports.
Whale species in the Maritimes of Quebec.Whale species in the Maritimes of Quebec.
Beluga Nusery

Perhaps the most famous resident of the seaway is the beluga whale that unlike other species lives in the St. Lawrence all year. The territory of the belugas forms the bounds of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, and every year thousands come to see these remarkable creatures in their habitat.

Belugas usually live in deep cold arctic waters but because of a geological quirk the St. Lawrence is both deep and cold enough for them to survive happily. More than happily in fact, this isolated population has little reason to leave, there is plenty of food brought in by deep ocean currents and the Saguenay Fjord makes a perfect nursery for their young.

The Saguenay belugas spend their entire lives in the seaway, living up to 60 years. Often identified by their scars they are tracked by marine biologist and over the years certain whales have become familiar faces, like locals at a coffee shop.

It is easy in summer to spot the belugas from the shore or on the water, their white stands out against the Atlantic grey. In winter however they become almost invisible as they blend in with the ice pack on the seaway.

In addition to the friendly belugas 12 other spicesof whales have been spotted in the seaway.  “ When you see a blue whale, wow, it’s like time stops,” says Suzie a local resident who works for Maritime Quebec.  She’s been lucky to see a few in her life.

The Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre (CIMM) in Tadoussac is the best place to bone up on whale facts and get a good sense of these marvels creatures without having to get wet.

Their exhibits include the bones of whales which have beached on the shore and you are allowed to touch the giant bones to get a sense of just how tiny you are.

Adventure Close At Hand

Maritime Quebec isn’t just a great place for marine life, it’s also makes a wonderful spot for all kinds of outdoor activities, from sea kayaking to hiking, snowshoeing to ice fishing, no matter the season there is something to engage and excite. In the words of the locals in Maritime Quebec there is no bad weather, just bad clothes.

To truly understand the draw of the area you need to get out on the water. Mer et Monde offers sea kayaking on the St.Lawrence, their guides will show you around the coast, they also have a spectacular camping area that allows you to camp right on the rocks by the sea.
A rescued mountain lion at Ferme 5 Etoiles.A rescued mountain lion at Ferme 5 Etoiles.Wake up to whales blowing and diving. If you didn’t bring a tent (or don’t want to fly with all your gear) you can rent a site that is already outfitted with a four person safari tent, table, chairs, stove and cooking gear, just show up with food and you’re ready to enjoy.

If the St. Lawrence is too daunting or you are a novice kayaker you may consider kayaking on the Saguenay Fjord. Known as the beluga nursery the dramatic scenery and calmer waters attracts kayakers of all levels.

 Ferme 5 Etolies offers kayaking guides for the day, half-day or ever for extended multi-day expeditions. With an experienced guide like Yannik Bouchard you can traverse these pristine waterways, and if you are lucky encounter belugs, seals, and other marine life. " Being able to work here has been a dream come true, I only applied here." Yannick said attesting to the quality of the guides.

If kayaking isn’t your style, or you want to go out farther from shore consider taking a zodiac whale watching cruise. Lasting for only a couple of hours you will speed along with an experiences and trained guide out to areas where the whales are known to gather.

There are hiking trails all throughout the region and in winter snow-showing and cross country skiing are worthy pursuits. But check ahead for the weather, in this region they see 12 meters of snow a year, so often town are all but shut down from November to May. Always check availability and don’t venture into snowy areas without proper equipment and a guide.

Mountain Lions, Wolves and Bears

In addition to the marine mammals that inhabit the St. Lawrence the forests contain many exciting species native to Northern Quebec. Mountain lions, black bears, and wolves all call these pine forests home.

Don’t worry they don’t want to encounter you any more then you want to encounter them. Unless of course you do want to encounter them, then you can hire a guide who knows their habits, their territory and how to behave around them. Ferme 5 Etoiles offers guided tours for bear sightings as well as providing a sanctuary for wild animals that are in need of rescue.

The name Ferme 5 Etoiles, means Five Star Farm in English and hopes to offer quality accommodation for animals that can no longer live in the wild. Some animals were rescued exotic pets, others were injured or orphaned in the wild and are recovering. Red deer, moose, mountain lions and wolves call the farm home as well a as a slew of huskies for the farm’s dog sled.

Time for ice wine in Quebec!Time for ice wine in Quebec!Delicious Quebec

The region is also home to a strong Québécois culture and unlike southern Quebec you won’t see many Anglo influenced place names, menus or even street signs. The food is fantastic up here!

The maritime region is home to great craft beers, including the famous Unibroue brewery. If you’re feeling an unquenchable desire for all things Canadian the region produces their own unique ice wine, made from frozen grapes, as well as maple syrup. Menus feature local salmon, game and other delicacies of the sea as well as French Canadian staples like poutin.  they also make ice wine here from apples.

While ‘Je me souviens’,  “ I remember”, may be the motto of Quebec don’t be deceived, this isn’t a region lost to time. Filled with unique shops, ecologically focused small business and many young entrepreneurs the Quebec maritime is a living breathing part of Quebec.

Asleep in the Trees

Mer et Monde offers their traveler friendly camping for those who want to enjoy nature up close and personally. If you do have your own tent there are secure platforms of the sea rocks where you can set up and enjoy. However for those who seek a little more comfort there are still excellent options.

In Sacre Coure you can stay in sublime tree houses at Canopee Lit Hotel. If you fancy yourself an outdoor enthusiast, or have an artistic soul this is the place of the north shore to find some peace, enjoy decedent food and all the privacy one can imagine.

Inspired by the tiny home movement and graced with the resources to buy a forest,  three cousins from France, a chef, a graphic designer and an electrician, moved in 2009 to start up a unique bed and breakfast style hotel.
IMG 8885
ight mini homes are hidden in the forest, close enough to walk to the main house but far enough apart to make you believe that you are all alone. Perfect for honeymooners or those seeking some serious R&R the tiny cabins are equipped with electricity, hot water and cooking equipment.

Four of the cabins are open all year and have heating while the remaining four are open for summer only and have out door showers and giant skylights. The dinners are unique and delicious. This is roughing it in all the right ways.

If you’d rather be closer to civilization however Hotel Tadoussac has a mean breakfast and offers the chance to stay in a beautiful historic hamlet on the sea. Ask for a bay facing window and maybe you’ll see a whale out in the morning.

Whether you came for the whales, the ocean or the camping you will find yourself falling in love with the region’s hospitality and charm. From magnificent pine forests to world-class restaurants Maritime Quebec offers solace from the city and rejuvenating experiences for every traveler.


Quebec Maritime

Mer et Monde Ecotours
Offering rustic camping, pre-set camping and kayaking in two locations.
1.866.637.6663IMG 8870
In Les Bergeronnes and Tadoussac, Quebec

Ferme 5 Etoiles -Vacation Center
Part animal sanctuary, part hotel, part adventure guides.
465 Rte 127 North, Sacre-Coeur, Quebec

Croisieres Essipt
Zodiac whale watching excursion

Canopee Lit
303 chemin de l’Anse de Roche, Sacre-Coeur

Hotel Tadoussac

Marine Mammal interpretation Center (CIMM)
108, rue de la Cale Seche, Tadoussac


Kathleen Broadhurst
is a travel writer and photographer from Massachusetts. She specializes in eco-travel and South and South East Asia and has written about eco-villages, environmentally sustainable travel and ecotourism in India, Australia, Thailand and elsewhere. She is a GoNomad travel writer and her work has been published on Matador Network and Boots N'All. You can read about her past and future adventures on her blog Travel Vicarious.Photo Credits Kathleen Broadhurst unless stated.


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