Bordered by the Laurentian Mountains to the north, the Saguenay River to the east, and the St. Lawrence River to the south, the Charlevoix region is famous for awe-inspiring vistas and kaleidoscopes of color that change throughout the day. The region also has rich historical significance for both French Canadians and English Canadians.
Jacques Cartier is believed to have explored the area in 1535. More certain is a visit 73 years later by Samuel de Champlain.
New France's first historian, the Jesuit priest François-Xavier de Charlevoix (pronounced shar-le-vwah), is the region's namesake. The area's first nonindigenous inhabitants arrived as early as the mid-1600s. Among other things, they developed a small shipbuilding industry that eventually specialized in sturdy schooners called goélettes, which were used to haul everything from logs to lobsters up and down the coast in the days before rail and paved roads. In the 19th century, as steamships plied the St. Lawrence, Charlevoix became a popular summer destination for well-to-do English Canadians and British colonial administrators from Montréal and Québec City. Since then, tourism—and hospitality—has become Charlevoix's trademark.
The region has attracted and inspired generations of painters, poets, writers, and musicians from across Québec and Canada, and became a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1989. In summer, hiking, fishing, picnicking, sightseeing, and whale-watching are the area's main attractions. Winter activities include downhill and cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, dog sledding, and snowshoeing. Charlevoix's many great local food products and restaurants are also a big draw for tourists.