Unlike part 1, part 2 of our trip around Charlevoix, Quebec will be more of a list rather than my personal experiences. Most of the time it was just D and I and it was basic sightseeing items.
Lots of driving, from Monday evening to Friday evening (back in Montreal), but also lots of things we saw and did.
Here is our itinerary for the rest of Charlevoix.
La Malbaie, Small Town of Charlevoix
Fun fact about Malbaie: in French, someone who is from Malbaie is called Malbaiesee. This word also means someone who had a bad experience in bed with another person.
Besides that, Malbaie is supposed to be a bigger town that Baie-Saint-Paul, but I found it not as cute and quaint.
We checked into the campground late. It was one of those private campgrounds that are close together and mainly caters to RVs. Yeah, I don’t like those, but we were also traveling during “Construction vacation.”
Construction vacation is when all the construction workers and lots of Quebecois take vacation. It is usually around end of July and beginning of August for 2 weeks. Avoid these weeks.
So many campgrounds were full or very expensive.
We cooked some dinner on our little camping stove and then went to bed.
Around 12 am our neighbors came back and were making so much noise.
D did something very un-French and yelled at them to be quiet.
Surprisingly, they apologized and they became quiet.
Until like 7 am when they started making noise again.
We packed up and found a bakery, another French thing, to get some croissants.
There are three big things to see in Malbaie:
- The Casino
- The Hotel
- The waterfront
The casino was closed due to COVID. The Hotel was open to guests only due to COVID, but the outside was nice. It is similar and owned by the people who have the fancy hotel in Quebec City.
Malbaie has a water path by the water as well as a “port area.” It isn’t an actual port, but you can get close to the water and there are little food shacks.
The waterfall is part of a private campground. You have to pay $5 each person to enter. This is cash only—so pretty sketchy. The waterfalls are OK, they are nice, but not worth the extra money.
Unfortunately, the weather was pretty foggy so driving out of Malbaie towards Tadoussac wasn’t the best, but still nice.
Make sure to take the route by the water (which isn’t what Google recommends since it is longer).
Tadoussac, Charlevoix’s Whale Spot
To get to Tadoussac, you need to take a ferry. The ferry is free as it is part of the highway and it is about a 30 minute ride, maybe less. Due to COVID, they prefer you stay in your car and if you have to leave it, wear a mask while on the boat.
We planned on staying at the campground/hostel really close to the ferry in Tadoussac. We called them ahead of time to reserve, but when we showed up, it was clear they don’t really keep track of reservations.
As a traveler and a hostel-frequenter, I was not bothered by this hostel. It catered to a lot of hippie types. Many of the patrons had dreadlocks and over sized cloths. The smell of marijuana was in the air.
D was not sure about this. We asked the receptionist for the campground and she pointed to the woods. In the back of the hostel there is a small hill with a lot of trees, “the woods.”
Within the trees are different wooden platforms that tents are to be pitched on. It was far enough away that the noise and smell of the hostel wasn’t a concern. We picked a platform we wanted and when we returned she said it was taken already. We picked one close to it and paid. It was $12 per person, one of the cheapest camping rates during this week.
Unfortunately, the kitchen was off limits due to COVID, but the showers were still open. When we went to set up our tent, the girls who took the site we wanted decided on another site and said we could take theirs. The one we took was already taken anyways.
So we still got the platform we wanted (21, if you are interested).
Due to not being able to stake the tent down, we had to be creative with the rain fly. We tied the tarp among the trees above the tent so that helped when it rained that night.
Here are the things to do in Tadoussac:
- The biggest thing to do is whale watching.
- Hotel Tadoussac
We didn’t try to go inside Hotel Tadoussac, we just took a picture of it from the beach area, which is in front.
The cemetery is nearby and has some old graves. The graves are funny because it also detailed how old the person was to the day: “8 years 3 months and 2 days old.”
The waterfront is mainly the beach, but there is a quick “hike,” more like a walk nearby that offers some nice views.
The next day we bought some postcards and then drove to our next destination.
Saguaney, Middle of Charlevoix
Saguaney is the biggest city in this area. It is at the entrance to Lake Saint Jean. This day was very rainy. But, we managed to see some of the highlights when it stopped raining or barely raining.
- Small white house
- An old factory park
- Nature park
The small white house was one of the few if not the only house/structure that survived “Canada’s biggest natural disaster.” This was a flood. The small white house has a fountain pouring water from below the front door to show how the flood was. The small white house also says if you aren’t happy with the exhibits, they will refund your ticket. We didn’t bother going inside even with this guarantee.
The old factory park is nearby and it was an old paper mill factory that was abandoned in the early 1900’s. They have made one building into a museum and the rest are left for people to wander and enjoy the history.
In the back there is a huge pile of sawdust, the sign says it comes from the early 1900’s. That’s crazy!
The nature park is a city park free for everyone. They have different walking trails that allows you to see different waterfalls and viewpoints. The main park is near the factory park, or on that side of the town.
We went to the end of the trail (other side of the town) and walked a bit to see the main waterfall. I think it is the same niceness as the Malbaie waterfall, but better because it was free!
We camped at Pointe Taillon campground, which is right by the provincial park Pointe Taillon.
It is a private campground, but it is really nice and the tent area is away from the RVs. The tent area is a huge grass area and you set up wherever.
The showers are alright, you have to pay a quarter for 5 minutes, but it isn’t very hot water. Also, a lot of mosquitoes.
The next day we got our bikes out and decided to bike around Pointe Taillon park. This park is on a peninsula into Lake Saint Jean.
Like other Quebec provincial parks, Sepaq, it is 8.50 to enter so about $10 each. We paid online via our cell phones and started biking. There is a path along the water and a path that cuts through the middle to the other side of the peninsula. We did both to make a circle.
We were stopped by some park rangers to make sure we paid, but other than that it was a fun and smooth ride.
My bicycle, as a long distance bike, was made more for this type of biking than D’s, who has more of a street racing bike.
There are nice views – bring a lunch and enjoy the day!
Afterwards, we stopped at a diner for some lunch. It was a bit expensive for what it was, but filling and good. D wanted some pie so he ordered a slice of sugar pie. This one little slice was $8.
For reference, a whole pie as big as your face in the grocery store is $5. This little slice was super delicious, but NO WAY! $8????
We continued driving around the lake.
There is a bike trail around the lake and many bike tourers were doing it. However, this trail more follows the main road, which isn’t by the water all the time. Just FYI.
I would like to bike around this lake, I think it would be fun and beautiful.
We stopped for gas near the water and sat by the water for a bit. It was finally a completely sunny day!
The next big town is Roberval. It has many major stores and restaurants. Like the other places, the thing to do is the waterfront.
They have a beach, with lifeguards!, and a nice walking path with plenty of benches and tables for picnics.
We bought some dinner and ate on one of these benches. They also have free Wifi at the port area.
Two major foods from this area to try:
- Red Champagne
- Blueberries- specifically blueberry pie
D and I aren’t really interested in fruit pies so we didn’t taste it, but I am sure it is delicious! Red Champagne is like cream soda. It isn’t alcoholic at all. It is nice, but not something I could drink all the time (like Coke or Sprite).
The next day we had lunch at a diner in Roberval. We wanted brunch though, but they only serve breakfast from 6 to 11 and then after 1:30. We arrived at 1 pm so we had to wait 20 minutes to order and we were served the food at 1:30.
Val-Jalbert is a town based on a ghost town that used to be a full fledged town when the paper mill was active in the beginning of the 1900’s.
Unlike in Saguaney, the whole “abandoned” town is a museum and you have to pay to enter.
Let me rewind, we stayed at the campground outside the “abandoned” town. It was a nice private campground, but more geared to RVs. The showers are free.
This allowed us to receive a discount to the “abandoned” town. We paid around $27 each to enter.
The original cost without the discount is $33 about.
So, be sure you want to enter.
This being said, I did like what we say. It was very educational and historical. Now, is it worth about $30? Maybe not.
Anytime we went into a building we had to wear a mask (COVID), but walking outside was fine.
The “Abandoned” Town
I use quotes around abandoned because it was, but now it isn’t.
Here are things to do and see in the “abandoned” town.
- Old homes of the workers
- The general store
- The old mill
- The waterfall
- The old school/nunnery
Another benefit to staying at the campground is that you can go at night (between 6 to 9 pm) to see the sunset and the waterfall at night. There are lights around the waterfall making the water different colors—better to see at night.
We also got to read some of the signs during the evening so we had less to do the next day.
The whole visit took us about 3 hours. We got there more or less when it opened at 9 am and left around 12 pm.
We headed to the mill, by the waterfall, to see a film show about the place. See their website for updated times and opening hours and admission as it might have changed from time of writing to when you go.
The film is just in Quebec French. Let me repeat – Quebec French. Even D, as a native French speaker from France, had a hard time understanding some thing. Me – was worse. There is a sign saying to ask for headphones.
I thought this meant for hard of hearing. But I think it was for translations. So, if you don’t speak French and have no interest in trying (like me haha), ask for headphones. But, I don’t know if they were giving them out due to COVID….we will never know I guess.
But, due to the visual components, you get an understanding. Such as when the Spanish flu came to the area, many workers and their families were affected and that some economic problems befell the mill in the 1920’s, etc.
Many of the homes are not restored and not open to enter. Some are completely ruined. The historians left those homes falling apart to show visitors what that looked like. There are two homes that are restored and you can see the furniture.
Due to the economy and modern innovation for turning wood into paper, these mills went bankrupt and had to stop operations. The people had nothing else to do, but leave to find other jobs. Most of the homes were owned by the mill.
In fact, the town was totally sponsored and ran by the mill. The mayor of the town was a worker of the mill. So when the mill closed, basically the town was closed.
The general store is once again a general store, but selling souvenirs and coffee. The old school was run by nuns so the top floor was the rooms of the nuns, many closed due to COVID, and the bottom floor were the classrooms.
Again, it was nice, but maybe not everyone’s cup of tea for $30.
Our last stop on this trip was La Tuque. It’s about an hour and half drive from the BIG lake. There are two routes to get back to Montreal. One from Lake Saint Jean to Quebec City to Montreal and the other, through La Tuque. La Tuque is a nice stopping point for food or gas.
The drive is also super nice – lots of trees.
There isn’t much to do with La Tuque. We got some food for snacks and drove to a park. This park happened to have a waterfall.
There are a lot of waterfalls in this area of Quebec.
The park was free to enter and the waterfall was free to see. It is nice and worth the stop. There is also a viewpoint (in this wooden tower thing) that is nice as well.
Then we were off. Back to Montreal.
Final Thoughts on Charlevoix
You can definitely stretch this trip to more than what we did if you want to sunbath and swim and everything. But, I think this is the minimum about of days (4 full days) to see the main points.
You could also go into the National Park of Maurice. It is a bit difficult to get to from La Tuque as you have to go down into Shawinigan and then back up, but if you have the time and proper planning, it’s definitely worth it!