After a month living in Montreal, this family is ready to escape the city. City life was fun and all but reiterated what we already knew, we’re small town folk at heart. Our next destination? Tadoussac for some whale watching!

Why Tadoussac?

Early in 2017 when we started jotting down our wishlist for our cross Canada journey, ‘See a Beluga whale!’ got put on the list. I don’t remember who said it but it seemed a stretch dream at the time. Belugas are in the arctic aren’t they?

As I began compiling places to see across the country, Beluga whales in the St. Lawrence river makes an appearance. Then a friend tells me about it. Then an instagram post and an article in a magazine at the dentist. Clearly the signs are telling us to go. As I research further, it would seem that Belugas are as commonplace in this part of the country as seeing a black bear in my part of the country. Bring it!


“Why are there so many whales in Tadoussac?

“And why is the river salty? Just where does the river end and gulf begin?”

Turns out Tadoussac sits right at the confluence of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence rivers which are emptying into the ocean. Because of the 2 rivers different densities, temperature and salinity along with the currents and tides at work, an environment is created perfect for an abundance of krill and capelin to get caught up. This in turn, brings the whales to have a smorgasbord of food to gobble up- nomnomnom!

This meeting of the fresh river waters with the salty sea means our zodiac is zipping along the St. Lawrence Estuary. First fluvial (the river) then the estuary (fresh and salt mixing) until becoming the Gulf. Read more here and here.

Aquarium to Natural Habitat

From when Kaya was a baby, we visited the Vancouver Aquarium bi-monthly. The trip into the city let her nap and me enjoy my coffee before visiting our favourite Beluga whales. We continued on once Brennyn was born. We’d sing Baby Beluga over and over and sit at those giant windows learning about Beluga blubber and bubbles, giggling all the while.

Listen, not all zoos and aquariums are created equal. Though some are appalling, many provide refuge and seek to educate. The Vancouver Aquarium certainly educated us and in so doing allowed us to become advocates for protecting animals and nature. Raffi introduced us to Belugas, the Aquarium allowed us to see, appreciate and learn about them. 10 years later, we have become passionate about seeing them in the wild only furthering our desire to protect this wildly amazing planet of ours.

Getting There

Google maps tells me it’s 5.5 hours from Montreal to Tadoussac. If you’re travelling Quebec, do stop in Quebec City for a few days. We drive on by this time as we are hoping to be back to explore in the winter for Carnival.

We do stop in the Charlevoix area and recommend doing so. Probably best to add a day or more here too for all the quaint villages and artistic vibe. We are here in early October as the fall colours are beginning to burst forth. Festivals and markets line the streets and I’m both thankful and regretful that I can’t buy ALL. THE. ART!

You’re certain to meet many friends along the way 🙂

Onward we go. The more north, the more colours appear. “PULL OVER!” I screech, not willing to let another Quebec fall colour scene zip by my passenger side window. Oh the struggle of needing to make progress in making it to your destination with needing to stop everywhere to enjoy every new, breathtaking scene!

After snapping some photos and taking a moment of pure presence and gratitude to be here- out East- FOR FALL- we can move on. Kaya’s favourite part is the ferry highway. A quick, free, 10 minute ferry ride breaks up the monotony of our regularly scheduled driving days. Soon after, we find our motel, then a cheap place for dinner which I abandon when I sense this about to happen.


Whale Watching

We book our 2.5 hour zodiac whale watching with Croisières AML, a reputable company with great reviews. Sure enough, our zodiac is fantastic, but it’s the certified naturalist guides that make the difference. They know how to find the whales, can answer any question about them, and give an equally compelling explanation in both French and English (she knew Spanish and a bit of German too)

We miss out on the bigger whales on this day, though to be honest, our goal really is to see those Belugas. And oh do we see them. As a threatened species, population declining still, they are protected so the boats are not allowed to get too close but just seeing dozens and dozens of white backs all over the estuary does a heart good. Eat well friends, grow, thrive, so happy to see you! Next we see a ton of Minke whales and an enormous colony of grey seals (funny looking things.) As we are headed up the Saguenay Fjord we are thrilled when we see Belugas again, only much closer this time. And not only Belugas, but a mamma and two baby belugas! Our guide tells us they must only be a couple weeks old! We squeal with glee, huddle up together and whisper-sing Baby Beluga. Absolutely amazing.

Beyond Whale Watching

Sentier de la Pointe-de-l’Islet trail- 1km

Tadoussac isn’t all whale watching we soon learn. The hike downtown near the whale watching is easy and beautiful. Bring binoculars and enjoy some whale spotting from shore while the kids search for cool rocks and seaglass.

Tadoussac town

The town itself is a delight. We find quaint shops, yummy food, such friendly people and some great coffee. Go explore it!

Sand dunes- 4km from town. La Maison des Dunes in your GPS.

My kids have not stopped talking about going back here. It’s like an enormous sandbox, tilted, creating sandy amusement parks of jumping, sliding, rolling and playing joy!!

Bring lunch, snacks, water, sunscreen, sand toys and sleds. We brought none of the above but if I were going back, I promised the kids to have all of the things…

If We Go Back We Will Be Certain To…

Spend an entire day, or more at the sand dunes.

Bring binoculars for all.

Camp right along the ocean for a summer visit.

Head to Saguenay town for all the fun activities and sights up the fjord. 

Have you been? Planning on going? Let us know your tips, faves or curiosities!

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