Just north of Montreal, the mountainous Laurentians is a hive of activity in the summer months. Surrounded by more than 9,000 lakes and rivers, visitors are never far from the waters edge. A dip after relaxing on one of the many beaches is recommended, or for more adventurous types there’s kayaking, paddle-boarding or white water rafting. You can even go canoe camping and sleep under the stars with over 58 sites along the banks of Rivière-Rouge, including spots only accessible by boat! Swap the paddle for hiking boots in search of the highest peaks of Mount Loup-Garou.
In under 90 minutes you can swap the bustle of Quebec City for rock climbing the highest boulders in eastern Canada at Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Riviere-Malbaie national park or see a whale breach the surface in The Saguenay-Saint-Lawrence Marine Park, home to 13 species of whale. Or, why not try mountain biking which has recently made its debut at le Massif de Charlevoix, with several trails suitable for a variety of skill levels. Hiking and biking trails range from family-friendly 30-minute loops to three-day adventures.
If nature is part of the criteria then Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean delivers in abundance with three national parks, two wildlife reserves and a marine park. Lac-Saint-Jean offers more than 42 km of fine sandy beaches as well as a cycling circuit along the lake, from which you can spot beavers. In Saguenay-Fjord national park visitors can camp in the wilderness, sail in a sea kayak or zodiac on the waters of the marine park to observe the beluga whales. For keen fisherman, mid-May to the end of August is the perfect time for tight lines in the Réserve faunique des Laurentides.
Birds, bears and beavers all call the boreal forests and waterways of Tadoussac home. Twitchers should keep their eyes peeled at parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay for the elusive boreal owl. The location is on the migratory route and makes for an incredible sighting from atop one of the sand dune plateaus, 60 metres above the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary. For a larger encounter, observe black bears in their natural habitat with a guide who will also teach the ancient beliefs of the Innu, the indigenous people of the North Shore, that hold this animal as sacred.