September and October mean one thing in Canada: spectacular fall foliage. The combination of panoramic vistas ablaze with hues of orange, crimson, and shimmering yellow, and the old-world charm of French-Canadian villages in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, makes for an unforgettable autumn adventure.
Planning a weekend in Charlevoix? It couldn’t be easier. Jump on a shuttle at Gare du Palais in Quebec City for a quick 30-minute ride to the Train de Charlevoix station at the base of Montmorency Falls.
Your autumn escapade begins the moment you take your seat on the train. It’s like gliding through an idyllic postcard as you travel along the St Lawrence River, the fiery hills to your left alight with scarlet leaves, and the glistening waterway to your right, dotted with boats and kayaks.
Colourful Baie-Saint Paul
The Train de Charlevoix passes through seven picturesque coastal villages on its way to La Malbaie. First stop - Baie-Saint-Paul, a charming artisan village, framed by a spectacular autumn palette. Stroll down rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste among quaint boutiques, shops, and countless art galleries. Stop to eat on the sun-kissed patio of L’Orange Bistro, where you’ll get to know the friendly locals with their thick French accents, as you nibble on melted Migneron cheese and crispy calamari.
Had your fill? Board the train once more and enjoy the ride to the end of the line: La Malbaie.
Explore La Malbaie
One of Canada’s original holiday resorts, celebrities and the wealthy upper-class used to gather at La Malbaie as far back as 1900, including former US president William Howard Taft. The area is made up of a handful of separate, equally-adorable villages, each one steeped in French-Canadian culture, from Saint-Fidèle to Pointe-au-Pic.
Visit Les Jardins du Cap à l'Aigle, stunning gardens set in a little village two kilometres east of La Malbaie. It’s like stepping into an oil painting as you meander over the footbridge amid hundreds of lilacs that climb the hill between a sparkling waterfall. Breathe in the dizzying perfume and chat with local artists displaying their creations.
The Musée de Charlevoix is also worth a visit. This waterfront museum illustrates the history of the region through fascinating displays and artwork. Worked up an appetite? Make a beeline to Joe Smoked Meat for the best smoked meat sandwiches in the region, a staple Quebec dish. The friendly servers and cruisy blues tunes create the perfect atmosphere in this funky eatery.
Endless outdoor adventures
There’s no shortage of ways to immerse yourself in this autumn paradise during your special weekend. Go whale watching on the St Lawrence River, where blue, fin, minke and humpback whales frolic with belugas, or take a cruise with commentary provided by a guide along the Malbaie River, in the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-rivière-Malbaie National Park.
Hike or bike one of hundreds of trails in the Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve, with short day treks and multi-day hikes on offer, spanning spectacular valleys, rivers, and mountains. The blue skies and mind-blowing scenery of autumn will transport you to another world – and provide the ultimate panoramas for photos that will set your Instagram page on fire.
Stay at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu and visit La Maison du Bootlegger
Check into the magnificent Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, nestled between the sea and the mountains, a vision of historical grandeur. Enjoy the quiet charm of the countryside, awash with brilliant autumnal hues, blended with the sophistication of a world-class resort. When night falls, visit the truly unique La Maison du Bootlegger. Once a famous “Speakeasy” during the Prohibition years, visitors can still explore its ingenious maze that links secret doors, hidden bars, and private rooms. Feast on a barbecue meal over a blazing charcoal pit and rock the night away with Joey Tardif and the Bootlegger House Band.
Did you know?
VIA Rail Canada has joined forces with Train de Charlevoix to respond to the rising demand of autumn adventures. Now, you can reserve seats on board a VIA Rail train and the Train de Charlevoix in a single transaction.
This means you can more easily plan a trip that originates in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, Ontario, or Montréal and ends in Québec City or the Charlevoix region. A shuttle provides ground transportation between Gare du Palais in Québec City and the Train de Charlevoix station at the base of Montmorency Falls.