Kayaking and Canoeing

Parc national Jacques Cartier
Jeff Frenette Photography

Getting out into nature is the perfect way to take a break from the everyday and reconnect with the things that really matter. Surrounded by lakes and rivers, Québec City has endless ways for you to get out on the water and enjoy the great outdoors. If you’re in town, why not take the opportunity to go canoeing or kayaking?  Both are great for exercise or as a kind of meditation in motion. Whether you’d like to go paddling on the St. Lawrence or one of the many other rivers in the area, you’ll find all the information you need below to enjoy good times on the water.

The Best Places to Go Kayaking and Canoeing

The following spots all have boat launches for personal watercraft as well as kayak and canoe rentals for independent exploring.

Jacques-Cartier National Park

The green hills and gorgeous river valley in Jacques-Cartier National Park have made it a favourite with nature lovers. A navigable 26 km (16‑mile) stretch of river takes you past cliffs that rise as high as 500 metres (1640 feet). The water is mostly calm, except for a few easy rapids. If you aren’t comfortable with white water, that’s okay—the park has portage trails for those sections.

Rafting down the river is the perfect activity for families with children between the ages of 5 and 12, since the rafts you can rent at the park are designed not to submerge. Kayak and canoe rentals are open to children age 12 and over, and the park also offers a shuttle service to take visitors and their watercraft to the launch areas.

Vallée Bras-du-Nord

Kayakers and canoers in search of a quiet place to paddle will love the winding river in Bras‑du‑Nord Valley. This is a great spot if you’re just starting out, since there are only two sets of Class I rapids (the easiest kind) along the 17 km (11‑mile) stretch of river that runs through this recreation area. Not only will you get to admire the wild beauty of a lush forest, you’ll also find plenty of little beaches along the way, perfect for a quick break or a picnic. If you like, you can also disembark and walk up a short path (about 15 minutes) to the lovely Delaney Falls. To make the most of your adventure in this magnificent valley, plan to spend between three and six hours going down the river.

Saint-Charles River 

Rent a canoe, kayak, or stand‑up‑paddleboard from Canots Légaré and head out onto the Saint Charles River, just 15 minutes from Québec’s city centre. With 20 km (12.5 miles) of calm waters, it’s perfect for a half‑ or full‑day getaway. If you’re inclined to pack a picnic, by all means do! Halfway down the river there’s a sandspit perfect for a well‑deserved snack break.

Marais du Nord

Less than 20 minutes from Québec’s city centre lies Marais du Nord, a marsh area beloved by birdwatchers. Rent a canoe or kayak onsite and spend time exploring the marsh’s hidden treasures. With a bit of luck and patience, you’ll spot some of the 160 species of terrestrial and aquatic birds that have been recorded here. Paddling along the Des Hurons River and Saint Charles Lake, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the Laurentian foothills.

Canoe-Camping

Jacques Cartier National Park

For a peaceful yet active backcountry getaway, there’s nothing better than a canoe camping trip. At Jacques Cartier National Park, you’ll find a number of different routes for two‑ and three‑day trips. If you’re looking for a real wilderness experience, you’ll be happy to know that some of the campsites are inaccessible by car. Surrounded by nature, you’ll be wrapped in a world of peaceful days and starry nights. Note that you may need to portage some sections depending on the water level when you go.

Vallée Bras-du-Nord

There are several options for canoe camping in Bras-du-Nord Valley. You can combine canoeing and hiking or do the 17 km (11‑mile) canoe route over two days. Midway along the route, there’s a backcountry campsite that can only be reached by river. Plus, the water level is generally high enough that you won’t have to portage. Now that’s relaxing!

Portneuf Regional Park

If you’re up for a challenge, Portneuf Regional Park has a loop that will take you across seven different lakes. With a total of 4.22 km (2.5 miles) of portaging, it’s a physically demanding route that rewards adventuresome paddlers with an unforgettable experience in pristine surroundings that can only be reached by canoe. Good planning is of the essence, since you’ll be overnighting at campsites without electricity or running water, but it’s well worth it for the authentic wilderness experience.

Sea Kayaking on the St. Lawrence River

Popular across Québec, sea kayaking is a wonderful way to see marine life in the great outdoors. The Québec City area offers a variety of sea kayaking opportunities on the St. Lawrence River. It can be intimidating to paddle on the St. Lawrence (and rightly so), so it’s best to go with a guide. Quatre Natures is a wilderness adventure company that offers a number of outings led by professional kayak guides, including an exploratory paddle to Île d’Orléans at sunset.

Best Time for Kayaking and Canoeing

Most kayak and canoe rental companies operate during the high season, from mid‑May to the end of September. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check the company’s website or get in touch before you firm up your plans.

Ice Canoeing

Ice canoeing used to be how people travelled between Québec City and Lévis in the winter. These days, it’s a competitive sport you won’t find anywhere else. Sign up for outing with Ice Canoeing Experience and try this unique activity in the company of expert guides.

If you’re intrigued but don’t feel quite ready to venture out on the icy St. Lawrence in a canoe, check out one of the three ice canoeing races in the Québec City area. Every year, the sport’s best paddlers put on one heck of a show!

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Editorial Team

As proud ambassadors of our beloved city, we’re delighted to be sharing the things and places we love most in the Québec City area. What a joy for us to help you discover everything this vibrant and welcoming city has to offer!

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