Riverside rambleQuébec’s sea-to-sky highways
Open and friendly, constant yet ever changing—just like Québec—the St. Lawrence invites you on a long and fascinating journey of discovery. Whether you travel by car, motorbike, recreational vehicle or even bicycle, the road hugs the river, first on one side, then the other, for hundreds of kilometres. An unforgettable odyssey between sea and sky!
The river is punctuated with ancestral villages whose origins often date back to New France. Dominated as much by lighthouses as by church steeples, five panoramic routes allow visitors to explore the river for much of its impressive length:
- the King’s Road (Chemin du Roy) between Montréal, Trois-Rivières and Québec City;
- the New France Route (Route de la Nouvelle-France) between Québec City and Beaupré;
- the St. Lawrence Route (Route du Fleuve) on the Charlevoix (north) side of the river;
- the Whale Route (Route des Baleines) from the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord to the Basse‑Côte‑Nord;
- the Navigators’ Route (Route des Navigateurs) from La Pocatière, near Québec City, to the Gaspésie.
Humble fishing villages or quiet rural towns, small industrial cities or perfect vacation spots: each area offers up a wealth of cultural and natural heritage. Don’t forget to take time out for a gourmet pit stop to savour succulent seafood, fish and other local delights!
The St. Lawrence au naturel
The banks of the St. Lawrence are also home to some splendid national parks:
- Parc national du Bic (Bas-Saint-Laurent), a breathtaking series of buttes and islands that are a refuge for shore birds and seals;
- Forillon National Park of Canada (Gaspésie), whose sharp cliffs and striking landscapes were noted by Jacques Cartier;
- Parc national de Miguasha (Gaspésie), designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its fossil troves;
- the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada (Duplessis), an enchanting collection of islands whose unique rock formations echo with the cries of the puffins and the blowing of the whales.
A section of the Saguenay Fjord—a colossal gash in the rock face bordering this St. Lawrence tributary—is encompassed by a national park that’s highly popular with outdoor enthusiasts. To fully appreciate the majesty of the cliffs, a number of boat operators offer tours up the fjord. The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is a 1,100 km2 (425 sq. mi.) conservation zone established to protect the marine life that flourishes at the confluence of these two great rivers.
The whales that frequent the plankton-rich waters of the St. Lawrence estuary can be seen frolicking from many spots on the shore. The Lac-Saint-Pierre World Biosphere Reserve harbours exceptional wildlife diversity, including the Canada goose and numerous species of duck; while, each spring and fall, the Cap-Tourmente National Wildlife Reserve welcomes hundreds of thousands of snow geese who stop over on their migratory journeys.
The banks of the St. Lawrence are dotted with lighthouses, of which Pointe-des-Monts on the north shore and Pointe-au-Père on the south are but two. Take time out from your travels to stop in at one of the many museums that showcase maritime heritage, like the Musée de la mer de Pointe-au-Père, the Musée maritime du Québec (L’Islet) and Musée maritime de Charlevoix.