- Written by Dan
Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean Travel Insights
By Isabelle Khoo and Paul Auerbach / Photo by Nathalie Denis
Travel advice covering the basics when preparing to travel to Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean.
When To Go
The Saguenay/Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec has a fairly predictable climate: snowy winters and sunny, but sometimes rainy summers. Throughout the year, the area hosts a large variety of festivals. In April, Saguenay hosts its annual jazz and blues festival. In March, Roberval organizes snow drag racing and a snowmobile competition. And in July, the Port of Chicoutimi holds a beer festival where guests are invited to sample beers from Quebec and around the world. Other annual festivals include Tadoussac’s music festival in June, Dolbeau-Mistassini’s blueberry festival in August, and Saguenay’s international festival of photojournalism in October.
Saguenay-Bagotville Airport is one of the easiest ways to access the region, especially if you’re coming from far away. The airport is actually home to a Canadian Forces base and is the only operating base open to the public. Regular flights to the Saguenay-Bagotville Airport are available from Toronto and Vancouver with stopovers in Montreal or Quebec City. If you don’t like flying, your alternative is to drive. The region is about 210 kilometres from Quebec City, 460 kilometres from Montreal, and about a thousand from Toronto!
The region has a public transit network called Transport STS (Sociéte de Transport du Saguenay), which provides public transportation to a large portion of the city, including commercial, industrial, and residential areas. But keep in mind that the transit system is predominantly French speaking, so you might want to bring a dictionary if your French is a little rusty!
If you’re not a fan of public transportation then you can always rent a car. This is great because travel by road is the arguably one of the easiest ways to get around the region, however, renting a car will cost about $40 to $70 a day. But for adventure travellers, the area is also accessible by bicycle and is home to many scenic trails that can be explored.
What To Do
Visit the village of Tadoussac
Tadoussac is not only the tourist centre of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, it is also one of Canada’s oldest villages. Located at the mouth of the Saguenay River, Tadoussac offers a variety of activities to suit everyone’s needs, from nature enthusiasts, sport fans, and history lovers. Whale watching, snowshoeing, cycling and other activities are also available. As the launching point of the region, Tadoussac allows for opportunities to go to the theatre, step aboard a cruise ship, and even witness its beautiful sand dunes. The village is also known for its festive spirit and celebrates a number of festivals and events each year. For instance, the celebration of the Fête de la St. Jean, which has become a famous yearly event in the region and usually takes place on Tadoussac beach.
Explore the National Parks
The region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is so beautiful that it has four national parks, each with something unique to offer visitors. Pointe-Taillon National Park is a great place to hike, swim, and canoe. Consisting of warm water beaches, the park attracts a number of boating and swimming enthusiasts. In Monts-Valin and Saguenay Fjord National Park, hikers have a variety of trails to choose from and the landscapes in these areas are simply breathtaking. And finally, in Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, belugas, blue whales, and other species of marine mammals can be seen.
Hike, Bike, and Rock Climb
For adventure travellers, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean has great opportunities for hikers, bikers, and rock climbers alike. The region’s national parks are extremely suitable for long distance hikes. If you’re a bike enthusiast, there is a 256 kilometre cycling circuit called Véloroute des Bleuets. The path is located on the top half of the Saguenay River and crosses Pointe-Taillon National Park. And for rock climbers, the best opportunities include a 100-foot crag on the north side of the river near Chicoutimi; a 500-foot wall at Tableau; and a 1000-foot Cape Trinity wall at Eternity Bay, which has free camping at its base.
Step into history at Mashteuiatsh Reserve
Because First Nations history is so strong in the region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, many travellers opt to explore the reserve of Mashteuiatsh, located on the lake’s western edge. Here lays a perfect environment to learn about the First Nations people of the region. Through oral traditions, written history, and archaeological ruins, the Native Museum of Mashteuiatsh explores the life of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh. Hosting a number of workshops, cultural events, and exhibits for the public to explore, guests are even given the opportunity to meet local Ilnuatsh artists. In July, the museum hosts a festival as well, which includes a canoeing and portaging competition, triathlon, and Powwow ceremony.
Go on a Kayak Exploration
Kayaking on the Saguenay River is an excellent way to explore the region. Approximately 165 kilometres long, it runs east from Lac Saint-Jean and flows into the St. Lawrence River. The river can be accessed via kayak at any of the following four communities: La Baie, Saine-Rose-du-Nord, Rivière-Éternité and L’Anse Saint-Jean. The water can also be dangerous, so if you are inexperienced, it would be best to take a guided tour.