Quebec by The Sea: 25 EPIC Things to Do in Canada’s French Province

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Start planning your summer vacation to La Belle Province in Canada. Quebec is the largest province in Canada, and it has four regions for you to discover. All are on the mainland except the Magdalen Islands (Îles de la Madeleine) at the enterance to the St. Lawrence Seaway. The three other regions are on the south shore: Bas St. Laurent (Lower St. Lawrence), the Gaspésie (Gaspé Peninsula), with Côte-Nord on the north shore of the St. Lawrence. You will find many attractions and adventures in this natural wonderland.

Road Trips

Moose observation Chic Chocs Photo Credit Eric Deschamps Quebec Martime
Moose observation in Chic-Chocs Photo Credi: Eric Deschamps Quebec-Maritime

There is an abundance of themed tours ranging from the traditional Whale Route, the eclectic Lighthouse Trail, the thirst-quenching Beer Tour to the adventurous Motorcycle or Snowmobile Tours. To find the perfect tour check out the Quebec Maritime website for detailed (maps, stops, itinerary) suggestions.

Parc Chutes (Falls Park) -Riviere de Loup

Riviere de Loup Falls Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Riviere de Loup Falls Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Enjoy the beautiful falls and short hike at Parc des Chutes in Rivière-du-Loup. There are over 6 miles of woodland trails along the river, a 108-foot waterfall, and a power station, making a visit to this park a must.

Ice Climbing in Rivière-du-Loup

Ice Climbing in Riviere du Loup Photo Credit Mathieu DupuisLe QuebecMaritime
Ice Climbing in Rivière-du-Loup Photo Credit – Mathieu Dupuis Québec Maritime

During the winter, the rock face across from the power station is flooded to create a spectacular ice-climbing wall. You can read more about unique winter activities in Quebec Maritime (including ice fishing, snowmobiling, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing).

Bike Through Parc National du Bic

Parc national Bic Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Parc national du Bic Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Parc National du Bic is a provincially run park ideal for hiking, camping, and watching the fog roll in from the St. Lawrence River. Hike up to Pic Champlain, the highest summit of the rocky Massif des Murailles. From the top of its belvedere, the view of the estuary and the park is breathtaking. There are also extensive bicycle paths (you can rent bikes at the rental center located in the Rivière-du-Sud-Ouest sector), an interpretation centre and more places to take stunning Instagram pictures.

Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse & National Historic Site

Pointe au Pere Lighthouse in Rimouski Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse in Rimouski Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Visit the Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse. A national historic site in Rimouski, it is one of the most well-known lighthouses in Canada. The one standing today is the third to be built on this site. Its octagonal tower rises to 301 feet, making this lighthouse one of the tallest in Canada. Boasting unique architecture, Pointe-au-Père remains one of the rare examples of a buttressed, reinforced concrete structure. The lighthouse was erected in 1909 because Pointe-au-Père was where river pilots helped ocean ships navigate the St. Lawrence River toward Quebec City and Montreal.

Empress of Ireland Museum and Onondaga Submarine

Empress of Ireland Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Empress of Ireland Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

A small but interesting museum is dedicated to the RMS Empress of Ireland. The maritime disaster commemorates the loss of 1,012 passengers in the most fatal shipwreck in the 20th century after the infamous Titanic tragedy.

The Onondaga Submarine is Canada’s first publicly accessible submarine. Take a self-guided audio tour and learn what life was like for the 70 men aboard this 300-foot behemoth that crisscrossed the North Atlantic from 1967 to 2000.

Hike Canyon des Portes de l’Enfer

Quebec Maritime Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Suspension Bridge at Canyon des Portes de l’Enfer – Photo-Credit-DownshiftingPRO.

Canyon des Portes de l’Enfer A challenging hike to the ‘gates of hell’ canyon, makes it a definite ‘must see’ in Bas-Saint-Laurent. The Canyon stretches for nearly 3 miles between tight and steep walls, sometimes reaching 968 feet in height. A network of hiking trails totaling more than 12 miles allows you to discover unique panoramas and access the highest suspended footbridge in Quebec, which overlooks the ‘gates of hell’ canyon. 

There is also the Labyrinth of Secrets, Gates of Oniria, and The Devil’s Road. The Labyrinth is intricate and set in a mysterious and magical wooded area.

Challenge the High Ropes and Ziplining Course

High Ropes Course Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
High Ropes Course Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Domaine Valga: If you want a true luxury log cabin experience, stay at Domaine Valga for a few days. This family-owned resort has three large cabins with additional suites in the main lodge. There is an intricate zipline and high ropes course that adults will find very exciting.

The aerial adventure Forêt de Maître Corbeau Park is a very appealing activity. With six high ropes courses and multiple ziplines, you will love trek through the forest. A beautiful location, Domaine Valga sits on a private lake where you can kayak, canoe, or paddleboard.

See the Breathtaking Views from Percé UNESCO Global Geoparc

Geoparc mondial UNESCO de Perce Perce Gaspesie Photo Credit Mathieu Dupuis Tourisme Gaspesie 1
Géoparc mondial UNESCO de Percé, Percé, Gaspésie Photo Credit: Mathieu Dupuis_Tourisme Gaspésie

Opened in 2017, the UNESCO Global Geopark provides a unique (and for some challenging) view as it is perched at an altitude of 656 feet. A suspended cantilevered platform, the glass bottom is pretty cool. If you are up for more of an adrenalin rush, the platform is the start of the zipline! The course is 251 yards long with a height of 110 yards. The maximum speed is 30 mi/hr!

Admire the Iconic Percé Rock

Perce Parc Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Perce-Parc-Quebec-by-the-Sea-Photo-Credit-DownshiftingPRO

When Canadians think of iconic images, they often think of the Rocky Mountains, the CN Tower, or Old Town in Quebec City. A memorable natural wonder in Canada is Percé Rock. The view from the Geopark is pretty amazing, but there is nothing better than taking a boat cruise to Bonaventure Island. The boat will cruise by Percé Rock and then circumvent the Island so you can have a better view of the over 200,000 seabirds that call Bonaventure Island home.

Boat to l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé National Park  

Bonaventure Island Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Bonaventure Island Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Bonaventure and Perce Rock National Park is both a provincial park and a sanctuary (since 1919) and has evolved into the nesting gtounds for the largest colony of North Gannets in North America. Once you dock on Bonaventure Island, you can take one of four trails to the summit to observe the birds. This is one of the few places in the world where you can do this.

Visit the Largest Colony of North Gannets in North America

Northern gannets Quebec By the Sea Photo credit Mathieu Dupuis Tourisme Gaspesie
Northern gannets Quebec By the Sea Photo credit Mathieu Dupuis_Tourisme Gaspésie

I loved the hike up for the views alone. You will hear (and smell) the birds long before you see them, but it is enchanting nonetheless. There is a kiosk at the top where you can grab a snack, sit back, and take it all in, or you can head to Resto des Margaulx, located closer to the dock, for their famous fish soup.

Enjoy the Beauty of Forillon National Park

Forillon National Park in the Gaspe Peninsula General Store @DownshiftingPRO
Overlooking Forillon National Park, Gaspesie – Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Forillon National Park is a jewel in the crown of Parks Canada. It sits at the top of the Gaspé Peninsula, providing a true nature experience that many identify with Canada. Forillon National ParkCovering almost 245 sq. km, Forillon National Park offers a host of experiences between sea, cliffs and forest.

This nature preserve is often a favorite vacation destination sought out by both Americans and Europeans. The appeal of hiking and camping in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but breathtaking views is irresistible.

See the St. Lawrence River from St. Alban Observation Tower

Forillon National Park Mont St. Alban Observation Tower Photo Credit © Parks Canada Roger St. Laurent
St.-Alban-Observation-Tower Photo-Credit: Roger St. Laurent via Parks-Canada

You can come from a far and still be able to enjoy a camping vacation as Forillon National Park offers ‘Ready to Camp’  options that provide all you need to be outdoors. These unique buildings (tents, cabins, or pods) are equipped with dishes, beds, stoves, and even a fridge to make it easier if you want the wilderness experience. There are also camping spots for tents or trailers – you’ll need to make reservations early, but it’s all a part of an authentic Quebec Maritime itinerary!

Visit Pointe à la Renommée Lighthouse

Pointe-a-la-Renommee-Lighthouse-Quebec-Maritime-@DownshiftingPRO
Pointe à la Renommée Lighthouse Photo Credit: @DownshiftingPRO

A bit off the beaten pass (but well worth the detour), a stop on the Lighthouse Trail will lead you to the most moved lighthouse in Quebec, Pointe à la Renommée Lighthouse. Now, in its original location, it was ‘exiled’ to Quebec City in the 1970s and returned in the late 1990s.

In 1904, the first maritime radio station was built in North America at this site. They have an exhibition, Marconi and the History of Radio Communications, and a small museum where you can learn more about the importance of this national historic event.

Climb the Wooden La Martre Lighthouse

La Martre Lighthouse Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
La Martre Lighthouse – Quebec by the Sea – Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Discover the authentic coastal villages in the Haute-Gaspésie nestled between spectacular cliffs and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Stop at La Martre Lighthouse Museum. Made entirely of wood it was originally erected in 1876. The current tower was built in 1906 and stands at a height of 19.2 m (63 ft) and has a range of 27 km (17 miles).

The original timing systems still controls the light. Take time to see the permanent exhibit in the foghorn shed. The tableaux recount the history of various shipwrecks in the area and introduce you to the expertise involved in designing lighthouse lanterns.

Hike the Northern most Section of the Appalachian Mountains

Parc national de la Gaspesie Gaspesie Photo Credit Mathieu Dupuis Le Quebec maritime 1
Parc national de la Gaspésie, Gaspésie Photo Credit Mathieu Dupuis_Le Québec maritime

Many Americans are not aware that the northernmost section of the Appalachian Mountain range extends to the Chic-Choc Mountains in Gaspésie National Park. Gaspésie National Park offers many outdoor activities. This area is well known as a hiker’s paradise, with almost 20 trails ranging from easy to expert. During the winter, there are also designated snowshoeing trails to follow. They also offer ‘ready-to-camp’ options if you want to stay longer.

Visit the Whimsical Jardin des Metis/Reford Gardens (International Garden Festival)

Reford Gardens Jardin de Metis Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
“Se mouiller (la belle échappée)”- International Garden Festival – Reford Gardens/Jardin de Metis- Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

During the summer and fall, you can visit one of the loveliest gardens in Quebec. Established by Elsie Reford between 1926 to 1958, the Reford Gardens/Jardin de Métis is one of Canada’s national treasurers. Some 3000 species and plant varieties, including the famous Himalayan blue poppy, are spread out over 15 gardens. The annual Garden Festival is the reason to make this a ‘must-see’ destination in Bas St. Laurent.

Watch the Sunset in Matane

Matane Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Matane – Quebec by the Sea – Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Take in one of the most beautiful sunsets on the South Shore of Quebec Maritime. You can walk the rocky beach looking out to the St. Lawrence River – the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. From Matane, you can take a ferry to the North Shore and discover more of Québec Maritime (Québec-by-the-sea).

Take a Ferry from Riviere de Loup (South Shore)

Riviere de Loup Ferry Terminal Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Riviere de Loup Ferry Terminal Quebec by the Sea Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

You can cross from the South Shore to the North Shore by ferry from Riviere de Loup to Tadoussac. It’s a wonderful way to cross the St. Lawrence River and potentially see some whales. If you want to head further north, take a ferry from Matane across to Baie Comeau and then head south on Highway 138 towards Tadoussac. Following down the Côte-Nord from Baie Comeau to Tadoussac, you will follow The Whale Route.

Learn About Whales at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre

Marine Interpretation Centre in Tadoussac Photo credit DownshiftingPRO
Marine Interpretation Centre in Tadoussac Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Before taking a whale-watching tour, stop at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre in Tadoussac. This center is dedicated to studying and preserving whales in the St. Lawrence seaway. There are guides to help you identify and teach you about marine mammals. They have whale skeletons and bones which have been painstakingly preserved for you to see. It is a small center but full of interesting and educational items. All proceeds go directly back into the program.

Go Whale-watching with AML Cruises from Riviere-de-Loup or Tadoussac

Whale Watching Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Whale Watching on the St. Lawrence River Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Undoubtedly one of the best activities to try is a whale-watching tour. I have written often about this marine adventure because there is no better way to experience the St. Lawrence River than from a ship, zodiac or kayak searching for whales. With a guided tour, you get the benefit of a marine biologist teaching you about the 13 species of whales in the region.

From the beautiful white beluga whale to the impressive humpback whales. You will also see plenty of seals and seabirds on your trip. We took a  VIP St-Laurent Lounge of the AML Grand Fleuve and loved the whole experience (even in the pouring rain).

See the Lighthouse in the Water

Haut Fond Prince Lighthouse Photo credit © Parks Canada J.F.Bergeron
Haut-Fond-Prince-Lighthouse Photo Credit: J.F. Bergeron via Parks-Canada

Built in Levis, Québec (across from Québec City), Le Toupie – as it’s been nicknamed, sits in the St. Lawrence River in 38 feet of water. Best seen from the water on a whale-watching cruise, Haut-fond Prince/ Prince Shoal Lighthouse was put into place in 1964. It is named after Prince Albert, Prince of Wales, whose ship hit the shoal in 1904 on his way to officially open the Victoria Bridge in Montreal.

Look out for Beluga Whales

Tadoussac Point Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Islet-Point-in-Tadoussac-looking-towards-Pointe-Noire-Interpretation-and-Observation-Centre – @DownshiftingPRO

Tadoussac Point is the perfect place to watch beluga whales as they enter the Saguenay Fjords. It is also a great place to stay for a few days as it has access to many unique experiences, including a farm tour (with Grey and Arctic wolves), Black Bear observation, dog sledding, kayaking, hiking, and snowshoe trails.

Marvel at Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay

Eternite Bay Saguenay River Fjords Photo Credit © Parks Canada J.F. Bergeron
Eternite-Bay-Saguenay-River-Fjords__Photo-Credit: J.F.-Bergeron via Parks-Canada

Discover the Saguenay Fjords as you head to Saguenay and Lac St. Jean. Stop at the Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay, which offers several interpretive and outdoor activities. One of the major attractions of Northeastern North America, this park’s hiking trails are filled with stunning views of the Saguenay Fjord. You will also be able to tackle a via ferrata (one of over 13 in Québec).

More to Explore in Québec

Kayaking in the Saguenay Region Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Kayaking in the Saguenay Region Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

The next region to explore in Québec is the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region. If you want to know more about this addition, read this blog post – 10 Things to do in the Saguenay Fjord Region of Quebec.

Places to Stay in Québec Maritime

Lodging in a teeppe at Cime Aventures Photo Credit Jessica Pommier Quebec maritime
Lodging-in-a-teeppe-at-Cime-Aventures Photo Credit: Jessica Pommier Québec Maritime.

Why stay in a hotel or motel when you can try something different? Whether you choose a yurt, ready-to-camp tents/cabins, treehouses, or geometric domes, you will love staying in these accommodations. Here is an extensive list of quirky and unique accommodations in Québec Maritime.

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.