7 Ways Tadoussac and Charlevoix Are Unique Destinations for Whale‑Watching
Content Partner: Croisières AML
Most travellers will tell you that of all the incredible experiences to be had in Eastern Québec, whale-watching cruises out of Tadoussac and Charlevoix are the incrediblest. That’s no accident. The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is one of the top whale-watching spots on the planet. AML Cruises are masters of the art of getting passengers together with the leviathans of the St. Lawrence, always with the utmost respect for them and their habitat.
A Phenomenal Number of Species
The thing about whale watching on the waters of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is just how many species of whales there are. It’s not uncommon to see 5 different whale species on one trip. The fact is that up to 13 species are found in this part of the St. Lawrence, and there are seals too.
Some species never fail to put in an appearance, like fin and minke whales. Parks Canada records also mention that about 100 individual humpback whales were spotted in the park in 2021. Beluga whales are rarer, as is Earth’s biggest animal, the blue whale. Both are objects of studies and have special protected status.
Seeing them surface is unforgettable! Skilled captains and knowledgeable nature interpreters make whale watching all the more fascinating. The success rate for whale-watching trips is sky high, and AML even has a guarantee that, in the unlikely event that you don’t see any, they’ll take you out another day for free.
- Croisières AML
A One-of-a-Kind Marine Protected Area
The meeting of the Saguenay Fjord and the St. Lawrence Estuary produces an aquatic community teeming with over 2,000 animal and plant species, from microscopic algae to the largest animal in the known universe. That biodiversity is protected and cared for in a vast 1,245 km2 marine area, the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.
It’s a gargantuan lunch counter for seabirds and marine mammals, particularly for the outsized appetites of migrating whales. Every year they travel thousands of kilometres to feed here. It all turns the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park into a limitless source of wonder between May and October.
Visitors stopping in Tadoussac and Charlevoix will find knowledgeable, licensed nature interpreters and gain new awareness of this complex and delicate ecosystem. Whale watching with AML Cruises is an opportunity to discover natural beauty that goes well below the surface!
- Croisières AML
Making Respect for Nature the Highest Value
Getting up close and personal with wildlife is both a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility—the duty to protect that biodiversity and hand it on intact to future generations. Natural heritage conservation and sustainable tourism were the principles behind the foundation of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park in 1998, one of the world’s first protected marine areas.
The Éco-Baleine Alliance has been supporting environmentally friendly practices in the marine park since 2011. It’s made up of Parks Canada, Sépaq, GREMM (group for research and education on marine mammals), and the leading cruise companies, including AML.
To avoid disturbing the whales, AML Cruises has designed two special 60-passenger zodiacs. Larger zodiacs reduce the number of vessels on the water and thus the potential stress on the whales. The speed of the boats and their distance from the watchees are also important—the captain forms the first line of whale defence. The Marine Park regulations and corporate best practices together constitute a model for the world.
Safe and Comfortable Sailing
Another thing everyone loves about whale watching out of Tadoussac is the comfort. The captains at AML Cruises are expert pilots who know the waters of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Fjord down to the last detail.
That means you don’t need to brave the high seas to find yourself facing a mess o’ whales. The Marine Park has awesome whale watching nearer the shore where the sailing conditions are best—smooth and easy, whether you’re on a ship or zodiac.
The Show’s in the Water, as well as All Around You!!
Whale watching off Tadoussac can make you feel somewhat torn. Sure, you’re scanning the waters tirelessly for whales to blow, roll, or raise their flukes. But how do you peel your eyes off those rugged coastal landscapes seen in an all-new way from out on the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park?
Tadoussac Bay belongs to the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club, and also frames an enchanting historic village—listed as one of Québec’s most beautiful. Besides Tadoussac, you have a front-row seat for the meeting of two titans of nature: the St. Lawrence Estuary and Saguenay Fjord, close to 100 km of cliffs and waters joining with the sea. Among its many excursions, AML Cruises has many with side trips to the heart of that dramatic glacier-sculpted landscape.
- Jeff Frenette Photography
- Charlevoix, Robert Chiasson
- Parc national du Fjord du Saguenay, JMDecoste
- Mathieu Dupuis, Le Québec maritime
A Few Hours from the Splendours of Eastern Québec
Ultimately, what makes Tadoussac unique is that it’s only a 3-hour drive from the UNESCO World Heritage city of Old Québec.
And what a drive it is! The views from Route du Fleuve in Charlevoix are particularly impressive. It’s said to be one of the loveliest scenic drives in North America.
In Tadoussac, you’re right there on the X of the treasure map. At the crossroads of Charlevoix, Saguenay–Lac Saint-Jean, and the immensity of the Côte-Nord, home to the Whale Route. It’s all on your doorstep from Tadoussac.
Just down the road to the east is Les Escoumins, where you can catch a ferry to the South Shore and set out to explore Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie before heading back to Québec City. There are more road trips than you can shake a stick at! But one thing’s for sure, you’ll never forget your first whale-watching cruise in Tadoussac.
- Croisières AML
A Half Century of Expertise and Dedication on the St. Lawrence
A heavyweight to meet the heavyweights! Who better to handle your adventure in the world’s best whale-watching location than the Number 1 adventure cruise operator in Canada? AML Cruises is a family business founded 50 years ago and today operates no fewer than 25 boats out of 10-odd Québec ports.
Whale watching is their stock in trade. The high season for whale watching in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park runs from early May to the end of October. A boatload of packages are available for getting out there with the giants of the St. Lawrence. Take a big zodiac or one of the two whale-watching ships operating in the area: the AML Grand Fleuve or the AML Zéphir.
For 2 or 3 hours of magic—or more since some packages have whale watching and accommodations for a complete adventure—you’re in good hands with the captains at AML Cruises. You’ll be grateful too for the nature interpreters on board, who share their knowledge in English or French to help you understand and appreciate the precious ecosystem you’re carefully and respectfully exploring.