Discover Fashionable Down-to-Earth Murray Bay
Three hundred fifty million years ago a meteorite nearly three miles wide crashed into the shore of the St. Lawrence River just east of Quebec City. Traces of the crater can still be seen in the Charlevoix region of the Ebouillement and locals feel that a little bit of heaven was left behind, particularly in Malbaie, a nearby summer resort where mist rising from the river creates what appears to be an actual "city in heavenly clouds."
Malbaie hovering in the heavenly mist
Initially this section of the mighty St. Lawrence didn't create a good impression. In 1608 when the ultra-low tide left his ship high and dry, explorer Samuel Champlain dubbed it mal baie -- which translates from the French as Bad Bay. Renamed Murray Bay by 18th-century Scottish settlers, in recent years it has returned to its original French appellation.
Dry low tide at Champlain's Bad Bay
During the 1800's, Murray Bay was discovered by American and Canadian families who retreated here by train and boat to escape summer heat, spending a few months relaxing in lavish "cottages" which lined the local Boulevard.
Sedgwicks, Blakes, Wrongs, Minturns, Harlans, and notably President William Howard Taft were among the fashionable seasonal residents. Their vacations are chronicled in a new book, some of their sprawling homes survive for visitors to admire, and whether you come for the season or merely overnight, there are plenty of attractions and activities to enjoy in Malbaie.
"Murray Bay" chronicles the colorful history of the locale's summer residents.
VISIT THE HISTORIC SITES
Historic summer houses still line the Boulevard.
A plaque marks the pew where President Taft would sit while attending services at the historic Protestant Church.
VISIT LE DOMAINE FORGET
An international festival of music and dance is held on Le Domaine Forget's 150 acres of rolling green hills which combine the properties of three prominent former residents. Music performances are held in the Concert Hall and students carrying violin, cello, flute cases meander among contemporary works of art in the Outdoor Sculpture Garden which visitors come to admire.
BROWSE THROUGH A MUSEUM
At the informative Musee de Charlevoix permanent exhibits highlight the fishing industry and vintage crafts and lifestyle of the early inhabitants and showcasing local artists.
Exhibits at the nearby Charlevoix Maritime Museum celebrate the lore of the schooners which plied the St. Lawrence. Two of the old wooden boats and a tugboat can be toured. Exhibits at the Observatoire Astronomique de Charlevoix help visitors understand the origin of the local landscape and unique geology.
Museum exhibits showcasing local artists
ENJOY THE SHORE
Bask in the sun on a sandy beach or pack a picnic for the park at Point au Persil.
SAMPLE LOCAL DAIRY PRODUCTS
Local cheeses offer tempting choices and it's a "must" to sample maple syrup flavored "erable" ice cream in cup or cone.
SHOP AT A FARM STAND
Along with cheeses and dairy products, roadside stands offer local produce, berries, corn, squash, potatoes. Visitors can sample blueberry, strawberry, and wild flower honey at the Miellerie de Charlevoix honey farm or are invited to tour Champignons Charlevoix where oyster mushrooms are grown and marinated.
TAKE HOME AN AUTHENTIC LOCAL SOUVENIR
Mittens and caps of local alpaca, ceramics, preserves, and adorable rag dolls are among the merchandise shopkeeper Eric Blouin offers at the Boutique de Charlevoix along with colorful fabric purses and quilted jackets handsewn by his wife Nancy Jiguerre. The shop also carries charming rustic carved ducks, birds, chickens, horses, created by local craftsman Ernest Villeneuve.
ENJOY THE CUISINE
Fish and seafoods are specialties, but whether you choose a hot dog garnis (tarted up with mayo, lettuce, tomato, relish, and a touch of mustard) at a local casse-- croute/food stand or indulge in an elegant meal at the Auberge des Trois Canards, there's an array of local gastronomy to sample.
Don't miss trying the local tradition of slathering a thick slice of bread with a choice of savory butters to grill for yourself right on the open flame at the Trois Canard hearth.
EXPLORE THE WOODS AND OUTDOORS
Hiking, camping, canoeing, biking, fishing, wildlife watching are popular activities at Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Riviere-Malbaie national park. Through a panorama of glacial valleys, fauna, and waterfalls, almost 20 miles of trails crisscross and climb some of the highest stone faces east of the Rockies.
Scene in Hautes Gorges park
CHECK IN TO CHARMING LODGINGS
Modeled on a French chateau, the Fairmont's elegant Le Manoir Richelieu is a favorite of the luxury trade, but vintage homes and mansions have been converted into dozens of quaint and cozy inns, lodges, bed and breakfast accommodations.
Malbaie is less than a two-hour drive from Quebec City. Boats still pull up to the historic pier, and Wednesday to Sunday.