For an off-the-beaten-path vision of the (very) old world, look no further
Saguenay Fjord, shaped by a glacial collapse that took place over 175 million years ago, hosts a sparkling, primal landscape. The fjord, which includes both Saguenay Fjord National Park and Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, is bursting with life. Fir-yellow birch forests house wolves and black bears, while peregrine falcons live in the cliffsides and beluga whales swim along the shore. The local Amerindian population, who’d been around for at least a thousand years before it was formally named by explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535, called the fjord Pitchitaouitchez, translating to “that which flows between two mountains.”
At 64 miles long, this is one of the world’s longest fjords and thus home to dozens of activities any cruise goer can partake in. Here are some of our favorite activites you can do at Sanguenay Fjord.
The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park—located in the waters where the Saguenay River meets the St. Lawrence estuary—is a natural picnic for whales, seals and birds. About a dozen blue whales visit in the warmer months, as well as minke whales, fin whales and humpbacks; the endangered St. Lawrence beluga lives there year-round. There are whale-watching cruises and Zodiac tours. By land, you can see the belugas at the La Halte du Béluga lookout at the mouth of the river, in the Baie-Sainte-Marguerite sector of the park; for a more diverse viewing, take a seat on the shoreline rocks on the La Pointe-de-L’Islet trail off the Tadoussac federal wharf. If you’re itching to learn more about the St. Lawrence beluga, check out the Visitors Centre in the Baie-Ste-Marguerite sector.
Want to get real up-close and personal with the Marine Park wildlife? If you’re there between May and October, kayaking might be your best bet. As you glide through this magical landscape, skirting islands and sweeping through the blue waters, you can learn about the myths and legends surrounding the fjord. If you see marine wildlife, keep a respectful distance, and enjoy your front-row seats!
There’s so much to do here, but the good news is, you can’t really go wrong. The park is open—though less accessible—in the winter, and you can try backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and even ice fishing. In the summer months, the hiking, if that’s an option for you, is fantastic. If you’re up for something intermediate-to-difficult, the hike “De La Statue”—up to the statue of Notre Dame du Saguenay, leaving from the Discovery and Visitors Centre in the Baie-Éternité sector—offers a spectacular panorama. For something a little quicker, try the 0.5 km L'Anse-de-Tabatière hike in the L’Anse-Saint-Jean sector, which also boasts amazing views of the fjord. (More hikes are mapped out here.) And if you’re interested in birdwatching, head to the Méandres à Falaises trail in the Baie-Éternité sector. Early morning is best, and don’t forget your bug spray!
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Fjord Saguenay Fjord is 2.5 hour drive from Quebec City, and about an hour’s drive from the city of Saguenay. If you’re coming from either locale, renting a car may be your best bet. Just make sure to decide which sector you’re interested in heading towards! (The Fjord, as we’ve mentioned, is quite long.) To get to the Baie-Éternité Sector: from Quebec City, take the Route I75 N towards Saguenay through the Laurentides Wildlife Reserve, then take 170 E towards Ville de la Baie until you reach Rivière-Éternité village. If you’re coming from Saguenay, take Route 170 E. To get to the Baie-Sainte-Marguerite Sector from Quebec City, follow 175 N, then 172 E towards Tadoussac to the park; if you’re coming from Saguenay, take 172 E.
Of course, the easiest way to get to the Fjord is to take a ship. Why drive when you can sail in style?
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