Just two hours north of Quebec City, the region known as Saguenay Lac Saint-Jean beckons adventurers of all ages. This is an area where French language is dominant, Nordic spas accompany small country inns, the cheese curds are squeaky fresh, landscapes stretch wide, and waterfalls thunder.
Saguenay Quebec region, which is three times the size of Belgium, stretches from Tadoussac on the Saint Lawrence River all the way up to Lac (Lake) Saint-Jean. Splitting the region in half is the Saguenay Fjord, which at 105 km long is one of the 10 longest fjords in the world. From the rolling hills to the lakes and rivers, Saguenay is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
I visited this region in the spring, if you can call early May “spring’ this far north. Snow was still melting in lumps across the ground and the lake, which had been solid ice a week earlier, was slowly breaking up to catch a glimpse of the water below. This late coming of spring meant that the ice fishing fans, snowmobilers and snowshoers that enjoyed a nice long winter of outdoor activity will slowly give way to the families that come from near and far to enjoy the region’s warm-weather adventures.
As I explored and learned more about the region on a press trip, it was abundantly clear that Saguenay Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec is a perfect destination for families seeking adventure. Following are just a few of the unique experiences to be had in Saguenay Quebec.
10 Adventurous Things to do in Saguenay Quebec
Note: My trip was hosted by Tourisme Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and my meals, accommodations and activities were complimentary. All opinions are my own. This article includes some affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.
Helicopter over Saguenay Fjord
Most of the Saguenay Fjord is surrounded by National Park and hard to access by land, outside of a scattering of villages. You can certainly view the fjord by boat, as the Navettes Maritimes du Nord offers boat tours and shuttle services throughout the fjord. But if you are ready for a bit of an adrenaline rush, take to the air. Departing from the town of La Baie, which is also a cruise ship terminal, Peak Aviation offers 10, 20, and 35-minute tours of the Fjord. Bring your camera (and your motion sickness pills!)
Navigate the Via Ferrata
There are many places to zipline and challenge yourselves with ropes courses in the Saguenay region but none as thrilling as the Via Ferrata route in Parc National du Fjord. Here you can make your way along the rocky bluffs of Cap Trinité, with stunning views over the Saguenay Fjord and bay. This aerial course combines rock climbing and suspension bridges and is open to beginners and advanced adventurers.
Kayak near Beluga Whales
Beluga whales live in the St. Lawrence River and in the summer, they make their way up the Saguenay Fjord to Baie Sainte Maguerite, where they nurse their young. While you need to be careful not to approach these beautiful creatures, especially in preservation zones, it is not unusual for kayakers in the Fjord to have close encounters with belugas.
Camp with Caribou (and other wild animals)
Zoo Sauvage de St-Félicien is unlike other zoos. Here you will find over 75 different species from the boreal forest and the cold regions of the world. But what really sets it apart is the seven-kilometer Nature Trail Park, where North American animals like the bison and black bear, roam semi-free. Most visitors will take a one-hour tram ride through the park, but those more daring can have an “Adventure in the Land of the Caribou.” This 26-hour experience includes an overnight in a prospector’s tent, dinner over an open fire, canoeing on Lac Montagnais at sunset, and exclusive behind-the-scenes zoo access.
Sleep in a Bubble
At Parc Aventures Cap Jaseaux, the accommodation options range from rustic log cabins to treehouses, suspended spheres, and even a bubble dome that allows you to lie in bed and stargaze at night. During the day, the adventure continues with sea kayaking, ziplining, an aerial treetop adventure course, and a Via Ferrata course along the cliff face above the Saguenay Fjord.
Dance with Wolves
The wolf holds an allure for humans, perhaps from its mythical placement in fairy tales and horror stories. Yet it is rare that we can encounter wolves in the wild, let alone up close and personal. And frankly, most of us would be frightened out of our skin to be within arm’s length of a wolf. However, at the Aventuraid wolf camp in Saguenay, there is a pack of wolves that have imprinted on humans. That means they have been around humans since birth so they see us as friends, not prey. Here you can not only meet these wolves, but you can also sleep in a yurt and wake to the howl of the wolves at the moon above.
Bike Between the Blueberries
The Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region produces 23 million kilos of blueberries each year. You can bike through some of the blueberry fields on the Véloroute des Bleuets bike path. This route encircles Lac-Saint-Jean for 256 kilometers, crossing 15 picturesque municipalities and the Parc national de la Pointe-Taillon. With a flat path, that is primarily off the road, this circuit is perfect for families and also offers options for dining, camping, hotel, and bed & breakfast stays. Equinox Aventure makes a cycling vacation easy by taking care of bike rentals, hotel reservations, and luggage, and cyclist transportation.
Go Canyoning in Gorges
All those cliffs and water in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean are bound to lead to some exciting adventures. H2O Expeditions leads excursions for families to either go canyoning through caves and secret rivers, or you can go white water rafting through class three to five rapids. There may even be some cliff jumping involved!
Stay in a Haunted Village
Whether the authentic 1920s historic village of Val Jalbert is haunted or not, I can not say. But it isn’t hard to believe that this ghost town, which is slowly being restored to its former charm, has some mysteries within. You can visit the town with its period houses, pulp mill, and general store. Or, you could stay overnight in a beautifully designed room in one of the houses or camp near the breathtaking waterfall.
Go Bear Watching
Okwari Aventures offers outings in a Rabaska canoe that allow families to learn about and observe black bears in their natural habitat. A full day experience will include a nature walk, lunch in a log cabin by the river, learning how to call a moose, and getting to meet a “trapper.”
Other (Less Adventurous) Things to do Do in Saguenay
Of course, a visit to Saguenay Lac Saint Jean doesn’t have to be all about adventure. There is plenty to do in and around the lake, as well as the towns of La Baie and Chicoutimi. For those less adventurous, there is still plenty of things to do in Saguenay Lac Saint Jean including:
Dig for Sea Creatures
The Musee du Fjord offers a cute little aquarium and history of the fjord and the surrounding area. However, what the kids will really love are some of their programs that get out onto the banks of the Baie des Ha Ha to dig in the sand for sea creatures.
Learn to Make Cheese
Fromagerie Perron is the only establishment in Quebec to offer a hands-on cheese making workshop at the Musée du Fromage Cheddar. In less than an hour, you will learn how to make cheese in a simple-to-follow workshop. Honestly I have done tons of food tours and cooking classes and this was one of my favorite food-related activities that I have experienced so far.
Even if you don’t want to make the cheese, at least go taste the cheese. Either there or at Medard in Saint-Gédéon.
Where to Stay in Saguenay Lac Saint Jean
If you aren’t sleeping in a tree or hanging out with the animals, there are a number of small country inns scattered throughout the region. Many include a full Nordic spa experience, or at least a hot tub for a warm soak after a busy day. Most also specialize in local cuisine, from fine dining to local favorites like poutine. My recommendations include:
Auberge des 21 – renowned for their fine terroir cuisine, spa, and beautiful views of Baie des Ha! Ha!
621, rue Mars, La Baie, G7B 4N1
Auberge des Iles – a full-service inn nestled on the shores of Lake Saint-Jean with beautiful views and outdoor hot tubs.
250, rang des Iles, St-Gédéon, G0W 2P0
Chalets et Spa Lac Saint-Jean – these lakeside condos offer plenty of options for families large and small, as well as an authentic Nordic spa experience.
96, chemin du Parc-Municipal, Chambord, G0W 1G0
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