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Charlevoix is a natural and authentic tourist region which extends from the village of Petite-Rivière-Saint-François to the mouth of the Saguenay, on the North shore of the St. Lawrence River. The region owes its name to the Jesuit, François-Xavier de Charlevoix, New France’s first historian. The territory, the smallest tourist area in Québec, includes 13 municipalities from 6 sectors, four of them are part of the « Association des plus beaux villages du Québec » (The most beautiful villages of Québec Association). Saint-Siméon (Port-au-Persil), Saint-Irénée, Les Éboulements and La Malbaie (Cap à l’Aigle) reflect the amazing beauty of Charlevoix’s scenery.
Among Charlevoix’s sectors, is Isle-aux-Coudres, only accessible by ferry through Les Éboulements (Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive). This island whose name refers to the the abundance of « coudriers » (now called hazel trees) reigns on the St. Lawrence and vibrates in tune with its marine environment.
Charlevoix quickly became a favorite resort destination during the white ships era and has a long tourist tradition. As early as the 1800s, La Malbaie’s inhabitants welcomed excursionists coming to enjoy the region’s hospitality, the sun and the river’s salted water. Owning a summer residence in the region, Howard Taft, who would become President of the United States, used to say that La Malbaie’s (Murray Bay) « air intoxicates like champagne without the next day’s hangover ».
Offering stunning scenery and viewpoints, the Charlevoix region owes its particular topography to a meteorite impact 400 million years ago that shaped a 54-km diameter crater whose central upturn is the mount of Les Éboulements. Various glaciations modeled the area, leaving several traces as a testimony to their occurrences.
Between river and mountains, Charlevoix is a Biosphere Reserve with a diverse flora and fauna. Its three national parks demonstrate the natural wealth of the territory. The backcountry’s mountains are part of the Laurentians, an ancient geological formation that may be observed while traveling the Mountain Road. The sector’s forests offer territories abundant with game, visited since the 1900s by fishing and hunting fans and outdoors lovers. The St. Lawrence River borders the region’s east coast and presents breathtaking landscapes which may be enjoyed from the St. Lawrence Route, one of the most scenic roads in North America. In this area, the waters are brackish and the tides phenomenon is ever present. The St. Lawrence estuary and the Saguenay fjord create conditions favourable to the marine mammals’ diet; several whale species, seals and sea birds may be observed.
During the hot summer days or when the trees are adorned with their vibrant fall foliage or when the earth is covered by its winter white carpet, the region boasts a plethora of activities in all seasons.
Charlevoix enjoys a long standing gastronomic creativity. On a rugged terrain where culture is not an easy task, small and original productions can be found. Producers, artisans and chefs work together to highlight the region’s wealth. On the Flavour Trail, taste the authenticity of these products, true signature to the finest regional tables. Due to the proximity and originality of the local products, the chefs’ playground is amazing. Menus are composed of local producers’ fresh yields for the pleasure of food lovers. Famous for its terroir products, Charlevoix is a must for gourmets and foodies.
It is certainly on account of its rugged landscape, with the river hugging the mountains and its sunshine worthy of the Borealie that Charlevoix is so highly regarded by artists from all disciplines. Painters were the first in the 20th century to pay tribute to those spectacular landscapes. Clarence Gagnon paid several visits to Baie-Saint-Paul, sometimes in the company of other artists, to create many of his canvases as a testimony to Charlevoix’s reliefs. Baie-Saint-Paul still vibrates with the artists’ audacity through its plethora of art galleries and studios reflecting the rise of folk art. The municipality is famous for having the most art galleries per capita in Canada. The region is also a source of inspiration to writers, composers and performers, instantly charmed by the river’s air. Listen to musicians who come here to recharge their batteries as well as to create.