Hemera
Baie Saint-Paul village
In the 18th century, Baie-Saint-Paul was best known for spawning a horrible venereal disease outbreak called the Baie-Saint-Paul Malady. Happily, the town has moved on since then. Bordered by parks and nature areas, with the Laurentian Mountains towering above and the St. Lawrence River flowing minutes away, Baie-Saint-Paul is nestled in one of the only World Biosphere Reserves with human settlement. It’s also the birthplace of that incendiary gymnastic dance act known as Cirque du Soleil (the group’s original name, literally translated, was The Baie-Saint-Paul Stilt Walkers) and was once a favourite site of the Group of Seven. Today, artists still draw inspiration from the picture-perfect landscapes and the dozens of century-old homes in town. Nearby, Le Massif ski resort—home to the highest vertical drop in Eastern Canada—ranks as the biggest success story in Canadian skiing over the last decade. The ski hill has come a long way since the early 1990s, when a decommissioned yellow school bus took locals from the base to the summit a few times a day. With $100 million in investment planned before 2013, the whole area is ringing with the sound of swinging hammers.

Outside lowdown

Hiking: Right next to town, the Domaine Charlevoix covers 210 hectares of mountainous terrain and shoreline, and is scribed with hiking (and biking) paths that provide great views over the St. Lawrence. North of town, Parc National des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie is perfect for day hikes, and the famed Traversée de Charlevoix—a 100-kilometre hut-to-hut route—permits a week of hiking, mountain biking or cross-country skiing.

Biking: For road cyclists, the 50-kilometre (one-way) trip east to La Malbaie along Shore Road has more quiet villages than quad-busting climbs. Mountain bikers looking for downhill action head for Mont-Sainte-Anne, 30 kilometres west. Sea kayaking: Launch at the public beach on the river and you can spend hours exploring the estuary.

Skiing: Le Massif sits 15 minutes west of town. In addition to the Traversée, skinny skiers can also head for Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, where the Sentier des Caps de Charlevoix offers 65 kilometres of track-set trail, or the sparsely vegetated taiga landscape of nearby Parc des Grands Jardins.

 

About town

With three huge annual art festivals, Baie-Saint-Paul is home to what is probably the most thriving arts scene in the province outside Montreal and Quebec City. The Centre d’exposition de Baie-Saint-Paul has modern and contemporary exhibits of every art form imaginable, and you’ll find dozens of galleries, workshops, museums and boutiques in town and throughout the surrounding area. The Charlevoix region is also known for its amazing cuisine, and the restaurants in Baie-Saint-Paul are no exception. From Auberge la Maison Otis for a romantic dinner date to the Restaurant Le Mouton Noir for traditional French and Quebec dishes, you won’t have to look hard to find quality dining.

 

Other factoids » In 1663, one of Canada’s top 10 earthquakes (magnitude 7.0) hit the Charlevoix area » home to the largest number of artists per square foot in Canada » hosts an international ice-canoeing race » sits in a 60-kilometre-wide crater created 350 million years ago when a meteorite hit the area

 

 
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