Saguenay, Quebec, is like no other place on the continent. The Canadian city is located at the end of the Saguenay Fjord, the only fjord in North America and one of the world’s 10 longest. Rock cliffs lining the 126-kilometre glacial river valley soar higher than 350 metres. Rivière Saguenay flows beyond the fjord to Lac St. Jean.
Saguenay is a relatively new city, created in 2002 by a merger of Chicoutimi, Jonquière and La Baie, as well as other nearby sectors. It encompasses an area twice the size of the island of Montreal and is home to almost 150,000 French-speaking residents.
Saguenay lies 210 kilometres north of Quebec City near three national parks. Parc des Monts Valin boasts the region’s highest mountains, while Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay is an all-seasons destination for sports enthusiasts and offers three interpretation centers. Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park provides educational programs and has a mission to preserve the fjord and St. Lawrence Estuary.
The fjord is, by far, the area’s most popular tourist attraction. Winter brings plentiful snow and plenty of cold-weather things to do in Saguenay. Cross-country ski trails abound. Le Norvégian Cross Country Ski area in Jonquière has ski rentals and lighted trails for evening runs. Downhill skiers can choose from several runs in the Monts-Valin region. Centre de ski Le Valinouët at Monts-Valin Massif gets an average of six metres of snow every year and also has lanes for snow tubing. Snowshoeing is a popular pastime, and Saguenay also boasts myriad sledding and snowmobile trails. There is dog sledding—and even kite skiing!
After spending a day in the snow, adventurous Saguenay tourists may want to visit one of the area’s Nordic spas, like L'Eternel spa at Le Valinouët, where patrons immerse themselves in thermal waters then plunge into an ice-cold bath. At L'Eternel you can also relax by a warm fireplace in a yurt, bask in a hot sauna or pamper yourself with a massage.
In summertime, the fjord becomes a playground for swimmers, boaters and beach goers. Warm weather things to do in Saguenay include canoeing and kayaking, whale watching at the confluence of the fjord and the St. Lawrence River, and kite and wind surfing. The beach at Baie de Ha! Ha! overlooks the fjord next to Parc Mars in La Baie.
Beyond the fjord, Saguenay offers a wealth of arts and cultural attractions. The area boasts eight theatre companies, and there are numerous art galleries throughout the region, including L'Oeuvre de l'Autre Gallery at University of Quebec in Chicoutimi. Also, several renowned local artists open their studios to Saguenay tourists by appointment.
History buffs can recapture 17th-century Quebec during the time when French colonists came to the area by visiting Site de la Nouvelle-France, on Vieux-Chemin in Saint-Felix-d’Otis. At La Pulperie de Chicoutimi-Musée Régional, artworks are displayed throughout old industrial buildings. Six exhibition spaces showcase the area’s history and ethnography. The museum includes a whole house painted by local legend and town barber Arthur Villeneuve.