Culture

Where to eat, drink, play and stay in Quebec’s charming Charlevoix

All the standout spots to savour in the Quebec resort region
Joanna Fox
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Around 350 million years ago, a meteorite crashed into the earth, creating the roughly 54-kilometre crater where Charlevoix is now nestled. There’s a certain magic in the air, scented with pine and spruce, rolling across the hills and farmland. The area is known for its stunning views of the St. Lawrence River, and it’s home to some fantastic ski slopes, including the world-class resort Le Massif and the brand-new Club Med Quebec Charlevoix. For indoor types, there’s a vibrant arts and culture scene and farm-to-table dining. Here are a handful of places to luxuriate in the Charlevoix of the past and get a peek at its future. 

Faux Bergers

Best Hyper-local Dining

 1339 Boulevard Mgr de Laval, Baie-Saint-Paul | fauxbergers.com

Despite its cheeky name—meaning “fake shepherds”—Faux Bergers is the real deal: it’s located on an award-winning cheese farm and works with professional herders to care for its flock of sheep. Meanwhile, in the dining room, the prix-fixe, seven-course menu celebrates the region’s terroir with an ever-changing selection of hyper-local dishes, including smoked duck magret, roasted matsutake mushroom or arctic char. Book ahead to nab a spot, or try your luck at their more relaxed sister restaurant in Baie-Saint-Paul’s city centre, Buvette gentille.


 

Menaud 

Best Booze

1 Rue de la Rivière, Clermont menaud.ca

The 1937 book Menaud, maître-draveur, written by Charlevoix author Félix-Antoine Savard, follows a log driver who struggles to protect his country and home. It’s also the namesake for the area’s best distillery and brewery. The owners use local ingredients in their creations, like beer and gin brewed with haskap berries, or vodka flavoured with rhubarb and organic baby ginger. Not only do the distillers have a grain to (very good-looking) bottle ethos, they also source their own wheat, rye and barley from a neighbouring farm.

Menaud’s crops are grown by the Harvey family farm on the nearby Isle-aux-Coudre.

 

Ah La Vache !

Best Cheese Bender 

124 Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Baie-Saint-Paul ahlavacheresto.com

Stepping into this cozy Baie-Saint-Paul restaurant feels like entering an après-ski time warp. Chef-owner Nicolas Bellon, who was born in Switzerland, and his partner, Quebecer Sophie Essiembre, opened up Ah La Vache ! in 2015, where they serve up bubbling pots of fondue. The options include Emmental, raclette and a funky Ciel de Charlevoix blue, but our favourite is Bellon’s classic Vacherin-Gruyère.

 


 

Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul

Best Cultural Destination

23 Rue Ambroise-Fafard, Baie-Saint-Paul | macbsp.com

In 1992, the celebrated Québec City architect Pierre Thibault transformed a former theatre site into a new museum—the only one in eastern Quebec with a sole focus on contemporary art. On the docket from November 26 to June 4 is an exhibition from Etienne Saint-Amant, an artist who translates the beauty of science and nature through mathematics and abstraction into art, using his own formulas to create digital images. 


 

Hydromel Charlevoix

Best wine

49 Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Baie-Saint-Paul | hydromelcharlevoix.com

hydromel charlevoix makes its delicious wine and spirits with honey from its local beehives, which are dotted throughout the region. Pairing specific honeys with local fruit and botanicals, the distillery and meadery also produces piquettes, pétillant naturels and gins. Drop by to see how honey makes its way from bee to bottle, and stay to sample their Rang 5–Pet Nat, a delightful, deep-pink honey wine flavoured with local blueberries. 


 

Le Germain Charlevoix

Where to stay: Best Splurge on a Hotel & Spa

50 Rue de la Ferme, Baie-Saint-Paul | germainhotels.com 

Ski obsessives couldn’t ask for a better home base than Le Germain, which is wedged right between the mountains and the comforts of Baie-Saint-Paul. Rooms start at $215 a night, and there are two top-notch dining spots in the hotel. The relaxed Le Bercail offers lunch, drinks and dinner by a crackling fire, and the terroir-driven fine-dining experience at Les Labours includes food prepared in front of patrons. The hotel’s spa includes a Finnish sauna, a eucalyptus steam bath, hot and cold outdoor pools and a snow fountain. It’s the perfect place to refresh, recharge or simply enjoy the views.

 


 

Photo courtesy of Domaine Belle Plage

Domaine Belle Plage

Where to stay: Best budget

192 Rue Sainte-Anne, Baie-Saint-Paul | domainebelleplage.ca

Domaine belle plage stays true to its name, smack dab in front of one of Charlevoix’s prettiest beaches at the spot where the Gouffre and St. Lawrence rivers meet. It’s an ideal jumping-off point to explore the best of the region, with the town of Baie-Saint-Paul a short walk away, and Le Massif, a popular skiing destination, only a half-hour’s drive. The hotel’s 33 clean, contemporary rooms  (starting from $95 a night) accommodate all types of travellers, with the bonus of more spacious options and kitchenettes for families.

Local favourite

“​​My favourite place to eat in Baie-Saint-Paul is the Café Piada, an authentic Sicilian restaurant, café and market near the Rivière du Gouffre. Try the cheese-filled gnocchi—it’s heaven in your mouth—or pick up some pastas, olives and peppers imported from Italy.”
Everist Prokofiev, artist and gallery owner


This article appears in print in the December 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Buy the issue for $8.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $39.99.