The Québec maritime Blog

Whale Watching in the Maritime Regions of Québec
  • Whale watching from the shore
    Marc Loiselle / Tourisme Côte-Nord - Manicouagan

Whale Watching in the Maritime Regions of Québec

The maritime regions of Québec boast some of the best whale-watching sites in the world. The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, the north shore of the St. Lawrence, Gaspé Bay and the area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off Percé are all prime locations to observe a multitude of species of cetaceans, including minke whales, fin whales, humpbacks, common porpoises, belugas and white-sided dolphins. There are many options to see these giants in their natural habitat, whether you prefer to stay on land or would like to head out to sea.

Whale watching from the shore

Located in Côte-Nord in the picturesque village of Tadoussac, where the Saguenay River flows into the St. Lawrence, the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre (CIMM) presents several permanent exhibitions that will introduce you to the traits and habits of the various species of whales found in this region. Experts on site will be happy to answer all your questions. After your visit, take some time to sit on the rocks just outside the centre to watch minke whales and belugas in action.

If you head east from Tadoussac along Route 138, you’ll find two observation sites along the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, both of which are managed by Parks Canada. In Les Bergeronnes, the Cap-de-Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre is one of the best places to watch marine mammals from the shore since the St. Lawrence is so deep in this area: you won’t even need binoculars to see them! A little further east, near Les Escoumins, you can use the telescopes at the Marine Environment Discovery Centre lookout, which overlooks the St. Lawrence. Stop here for a picnic and keep an eye on the water to observe the whales put on a show.

While you’re at it, why not take advantage of the idyllic environments found on the islands of the St. Lawrence to watch whales in complete peace and quiet? Located within the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park and protected by Société Duvetnor, both Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie (Brandy Pot) Island and Île aux Lièvres (Hare Island) are exceptional spots to observe belugas. You can even spend the night in the inn on Île aux Lièvres or camp on this island—and wake up to the sound of the whales!

Further downstream, where the estuary turns into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Sept Îles Archipelago offers you a great opportunity to observe impressive marine mammals during a hike on Grande Basque Island or while contemplating a stunning sunset before heading to your tent.

Sea excursions aboard a sightseeing boat

If you have sea legs, you’ll undoubtedly want to set off to encounter cetaceans in their natural habitat, which means you may want to participate in a sea excursion aboard a sightseeing boat.

Croisières AML offers excursions departing from Tadoussac, in Côte-Nord, to see the whales in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. Your chances of spotting marine mammals during these excursions are so high that the company offers an exclusive “Whale Warranty.” They also offer the only whale-watching excursions departing from the south side of the St. Lawrence, from Rivière-du-Loup, in Bas-Saint-Laurent. This is another opportunity to admire the exceptional biodiversity found in the marine park.*

*Please note that the excursions departing from Rivière-du-Loup are temporarily unavailable.

In Gaspésie, climb aboard the Narval III with Croisières Baie de Gaspé for an unforgettable experience in the waters off Forillon National Park, an exceptional whale-watching area. During the 2.5-hour tour, a professional interpretive guide will tell you everything you need to know about the whales found in Gaspé Bay and further out in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Whales and dolphins also commonly frequent the waters off Percé and Bonaventure Island. Croisières Julien Cloutier offers several departures every day during high season to take you out to see these marine mammals in the unique environment of Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé.

Zodiac excursions

If you’re looking for more of an adrenaline high, you’ll be happy to know that Croisières AML offers tours in Zodiac boats that will please thrill seekers with safety in mind. By approaching whales just at the surface of waters, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable contact with them. Dress warmly and be ready to breathe deeply the fresh air of the open sea!

Essipit Cruises also offer excursions from Les Bergeronnes aboard a Zodiac that can accommodate up to 12 passengers. Accompanied by an experienced naturalist captain, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the various species of whales found in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.

In Gaspésie, enjoy a Zodiac excursion accompanied by an experienced Cap Aventure guide in the waters of the Banc-des-Américains Marine Protected Area. A slightly longer excursion to Percé is also available. Unforgettable encounters await you during both of these adventures!

As you can see, there are many whale-watching opportunities in the maritime regions of Québec. Don’t forget to include at least one of these adventures in your plans for your next vacation in our regions!

Author Jean-Pascal Côté

A certified translator and avid outdoorsman, Jean-Pascal Côté works as a freelance writer and translator in Bas-Saint-Laurent, the region where he was born. He regularly escapes his daily life by going road biking, cycle touring or cyclocross racing, skiing in the mountains of Bas-Saint-Laurent or Western Canada, or sea kayaking on the St. Lawrence River. He is constantly dreaming up new travel plans. He also blogs (on an admittedly irregular basis) about his cycle touring adventures.

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