Top 17 Fun Things to do in Saguenay – For Residents and Visitors

Let the beauty and serenity of the Oasis of Saguenay captivate you. Let’s walk you through!

Saguenay is one of those places you read about, on the pages of a book, and think it can only be part of a fairytale. It isn’t. Truth is, Saguenay is hardly in the news, hardly known, and hardly noticed. This adds to its charm and people that visit Saguenay out of curiosity, return for a second visit.

Finally, the magic of Saguenay draws them to settle in that peaceful region on the Saguenay River, in the valley of Saguenay Graben.

The Saguenay that people encounter, is safe, peaceful, and full of the wonders of nature. Visitors have been known to stay back after one visit, turning from tourist to resident. The magic of Saguenay is what we shall explore here. Surely, we will discover before we get to the end of this article, what makes Saguenay magical, and why people who visit this city, hardly leave.

We will discover the many attractions of Saguenay, and things we can do all year round if we find ourselves lucky to be in that part of Canada. The Saguenay that we are about to read about, is a Saguenay with a story to tell. The story unfolds here and now. Welcome to Saguenay – the oasis of Northern Quebec.

Where is Saguenay?

Saguenay is a city in the region of Quebec called Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. It is on the Saguenay River, in the middle of Northern Quebec. The city is surrounded by lakes, rivers, hills, and valleys, making it a great attraction for tourists and holidaymakers.

The city is divided into 3 boroughs or districts. They are: Chicoutimi (made up of the former city of Chicoutimi, Laterrière and Tremblay Township); Jonquière (made up of the former city of Jonquière, Lac-Kénogami, and Shipshaw), and La Baie (formerly the city of La Baie).

On February 18, 2002, these cities and towns were merged with Saguenay, and the city of Saguenay was born.

Saguenay Population

According to the 2021 population census, Saguenay’s population is 148,497. Out of that number, 405 are immigrants, and they form about 0.3% of the population. 98.9% of the population have French as their first language, 1.1% is shared between English, Spanish and other languages.

Cities near Saguenay

Saguenay is easily accessible because it has 2 airports, a good road network, a rail line, and river transportation. The following cities are near Saguenay:

Quebec City. Quebec City to Saguenay City is about 135 miles or 217 km. This translates into 2 hours and 19 minutes by road, and 43 minutes by air.

Longueuil. Longueuil is 282 miles or 454 km from Saguenay. The driving time is 4 hours and 27 minutes. Flight time is 58 minutes.

Laval. Laval is 295 miles or 475 km to Saguenay. The driving time is 5 hours and 9 minutes. Flight time is 58 minutes.

Montreal. Montreal is 287 miles or 462 km to Saguenay. The driving time is 4 hours and 48 minutes. Flight time is 58 minutes.

Gatineau. Gatineau is 401 miles or 645 km to Saguenay. The driving time is 6 hours and 21 minutes. Flight time is 99 minutes. There is no direct flight from Gatineau to Saguenay. The traveler will first get to Ottawa and board an airplane for a 41 minutes flight from the Macdonald-Cartier International Airport to Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, from where he will board a 58 minutes flight to Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Saguenay.

Ottawa. Ottawa is 403 miles and 649 km to Saguenay. The driving time is 7 hours and 19 minutes. Flight time is 99 minutes. There is no direct flight from Ottawa to Saguenay. The traveler will first board an airplane for a 41 minutes flight from the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport to Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, from where he will board a 58 minutes flight to Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Saguenay.

Traveling to Saguenay

The beauty of Saguenay is that it is accessible by different means of transportation. Whether by air, road, sea, or rail, Saguenay awaits you.

Get to Saguenay by air

Saguenay is home to the Canadian Forces Base, Bagotville. It is called the Saguenay-Bagotville airport (YBG). It is a regional airport of entry into Canada and is one of the 2 bases used by the Royal Canadian Airforce. The airfield is also used for civilian operation and is the point of entry for flights from the Quebec region and neighboring cities.

Saguenay by road

Saguenay is 217km from Quebec City and 462km from Montreal. Going by road, route 175 is a 4-lane highway that passes through the Réserve faunique des Laurentides (Laurentides Wildlife Reserve). This wildlife reserve is located between Quebec City and the Saguenay region.

If you do not want to drive, take the bus to Saguenay from Montreal. There are daily trips to Saguenay from Montreal. The Orleans Express passes from Montreal to Quebec City, then to Chicoutimi, Saguenay. The journey takes about 6 hours.

Saguenay by rail

Another way to get to the city of Saguenay is by train. The Via Rail Canada operates the Montreal-Jonquière train which is a passenger train that plies Montreal and Saguenay, stopping at the district of Jonquière. The train travels 3 times a week, on a journey of about 9 hours. However, there are many stops on the way so don’t expect to get to Saguenay from Montreal, before 13 hours.

17 Best Things to Do in Saguenay

Saguenay is made up of 3 districts, and each of them comes with its own interesting assets, all adding to the charm of the city. There are so many good things to do in Saguenay but the following are the 16 best things to do in Saguenay, for visitors and residents.

#1. Tour the parks

There are parks, and there are parks! Saguenay has its share of beautiful parks, one of which is the Fjord-du-Saguenay National Park – the perfect place to begin your discovery of the charming city.
The park is just like a picture from the pages of a magazine, with lots of fun activities for all ages.

You can hike, ski, sail, and kayak through the park, to the beautiful sounds of birds chirping in the trees. If you’d rather sit and watch nature in its purest form, you can bird watch or look for other wildlife.

Another park is the Centre Touristique Lac Kénogami. It’s a huge lake with 136 islands and a shore made of fine sand.

There is also the Monts-Valin National Park which is known for activities like fishing and swimming.

Next is the Pointe-Taillon National Park which is near the Lac St-Jean. The park is known for its sandy beaches and cycling paths.

#2. Try Whale-watching

The St. Lawrence Marine Park is a special park dedicated to whale watching amongst others. Here, you not only watch sea animals, but you learn about the interesting world of these animals. This park is one of the best in the world for whale watching.

#3. Board a ship

The beauty of the Lac Saint-Jean is best seen aboard a ship. The lake is peaceful and calm, and if you don’t want to board a ship, you can cruise the lake in a boat. Cruises are offered in the afternoon and evening.

If you want a romantic outing with your loved one, you can have it in the middle of the lake, cruising to a perfect dinner which lasts about 2 hours and ends with a comedy performance.

Cruises are another way to enjoy the high cliffs of the Saguenay River which you will find at the Fjord which is the mouth of the river.

#4. Catch a glimpse of the sunset on the water

If you’re lucky to be at a place where you can watch the sunset in Saguenay, you will have another beautiful memory to reflect on. Places like the Government Wharf in Saguenay Lac-St-Jean, the Alma Marina, and the Roberval Marina, are said to be the best spots to see the sunset.

If Mother Nature smiles at you, you can also catch the sun setting, from the viewpoint of the Ansa-de- Tabatière, in the Saguenay Fjord National Park.

#5. Go camping

In Saguenay, there are campsites that are right on the water, with the hiking trail just steps away.
In Chambord, there is a campground located at the Ouiatchouan River. It is called the Val Jalbert Campground.

You can also camp at the Saguenay Lac-St-Jean region at the Fjord-du-Saguenay Natonal Park. The park has some of the best views of the fjord.

#6. Visit an aquarium

If you find yourself in the vicinity of Musée du Fjord, why not step into the aquarium dedicated to the Ha! Ha! Bay, and watch the countless types of sea creatures there?

If you find yourself at the aquarium when it is feeding time, you will be excited to watch the feeding session and see how the creatures scramble for food.

Do you know, fishes talk? There is an interactive screen where you can have a conversation with some of the fish. There is also a touch pool where you can actually touch them.

#7. Visit the Pyramid of Ha! Ha!

Although the Pyramid of Ha! Ha! cannot be compared to the Egyptian pyramids, it is still a treasure in Saguenay. The pyramid was built in memory of the Saguenay Flood which took place in 1996. It is named after Ha! Ha! River because it sits at the banks of the river.

The pyramid was built by the people of the La Baie district. The pyramid’s observatory offers a beautiful view of the river, and there is a park that offers live entertainment for everyone.

#8. Visit the pulp mills of Saguenay

The history of Saguenay is incomplete without a mention of its pulp mills. The La Pulperie De Chicoutimi has become a Regional Museum but it was once the largest pulp mill in the world!

As a museum, it contains a lot of history about the pulp industry. The museum often hosts special exhibitions and cultural activities for children. There are more than 26,000 items on display at the museum. It is located in the Chicoutimi district of Saguenay.

#9. Visit La Petite Maison Blanche

Visit the little white house that survived 2 floods! The first flood was a man-made disaster that occurred because an employee forgot to open the shovels of a dam located nearby. That was on 26th and 27th July 1947.

The second flood occurred as a result of a natural disaster. That was on 19th and 20th July 1996. All the houses surrounding the Little White House were either damaged or swept away.

After the flood, the neighborhood where the Little White House was located, was never rebuilt. It eventually became a municipal park.

In 2005, the house was turned into a museum, to tell the story of its survival and recount the history of the flood. It has become a tourist attraction – the museum of the Little White House or La Petite Maison Blanche.

#10. Hey, there’s a vivarium at Saguenay!

There is no end to the uniqueness of this beautiful city. It’s a wonder, how the Musee du Fjord manages to compile and display rare and exotic insects. Children love to visit the vivarium where they can see and touch insects which they often see on the pages of their textbooks, or on television.

You can imagine their excitement at being able to touch different species of hairy spiders, beautiful butterflies, stick insects, and grasshoppers.

The vivarium has frogs, salamanders, hermit crabs, and scorpions, among others. Not to worry, it’s safe to touch most of them.

#11. Visit the Air Defense Museum

The Air Defense Museum is the only francophone military aviation museum in North America. Here, you can learn about Quebec’s military aviation history, and see photos of jet fighters and other airplanes that Canada employed to achieve global peace.

The museum started exhibitions in 1997. There are annual exhibitions which attract crowds of history lovers. Each exhibition tells stories of the defense academy’s experience in fighting for global peace.

There are titles like ‘Helicopter Operations in Bagotville (2007)’; ‘Magicians of the Skies (2011)’, and ‘At Dawn an Alouette (2012-2013)’, among others.

Visitors are allowed to take pictures of jet fighters, the CF-116 Freedom Fighter, Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck, and other airplanes. Visitors can also have a tour of the military base.

#12. Learn to snowmobile in Saguenay

Snowmobiling is a way of life in Saguenay. In winter, you will definitely find more snowmobiles than cars, parked in every corner of the city. Saguenay experiences about 5 months of winter with an average of 275 inches of snow, and if you don’t learn to snowmobile, your winter fun will be incomplete.

There are about 3,300 kms of snowmobile trails in Saguenay. These trails will take you through some of the most beautiful sites you may miss during your stay in the city. With a snowmobile, you can safely cross the rivers of Lac Saint-Jean where snow conditions are quite constant.

Through the Laurentian Wildlife Reserve, be sure to pass by Mont-Apica where you can see snow-covered mountains.

The Saguenay Fjord is another route, with its beautiful villages especially the ice fishing villages of La Baie, L’Anse-Saint-Jean, and Sainte-Rose-du-Nord.

The Sommets du Fjord is another must-visit. Its trails are wider and straighter than most, and it is the popular choice for beginners who want to explore the beauty of nature.

#13. Go hiking

The Sentier Ouiatchouan is the perfect place to start. There is a 2 to 3-day hike of 30km available, connecting you from Sentier Ouiatchouan to Lac Bouchette, and on to Val-Jalbert. You may run into some wildlife, so beware.

A hike is a perfect opportunity to see some beautiful sites. For instance, the south end of the trail is near L’Ermitage Saint-Antoine in Lac-Bouchette, one of the most beautiful hotels in the city.

At the north end of the hike, you will find the famous Val Jalbert campground. You may decide to stop at either of the spots and relax, or you can continue hiking.

Somewhere along the line, you are sure to meet the beautiful Ouiatchouan waterfall – one of the wonders of nature.

#14. Have fun at a park

The Parc Mille Lieux de la Colline (Thousand Places Park) would make you wish you were a child again. But don’t worry, there is entertainment for the whole family. The park is a good way to spend your afternoon, sliding, climbing, or rolling down the Montagne. You can hop on the Loco le Train with the kids, and take a ride around the park.

There is a water park for summer days and a race track for a little more exercise. The park is complete with a village and places to eat and shop too.

#15. Taste the Saguenayan cuisine

Saguenay is blueberry land. It is the largest producer of blueberry in Quebec, growing and harvesting quite a lot of it every summer.

Many dishes from this region are made from blueberries, like the blueberry pie, blueberry sausage, and chocolate-covered blueberries. Others are pâtés, puddings, coulis, blueberry jam, and juice. The people of Saguenay are so popular for their blueberries that they don’t mind the nickname ‘Blueuets’.

To the people of Saguenay, the blueberries mean more than just fruit. It is a symbol of survival after the Great Fire of 17th August 1870 which destroyed 2/3 of the region but made the ground fertile for the production of blueberries. As a result, blueberries are used in almost every dish in Saguenay.

Taste their sangria made with red raspberry beer and other special beers. Another unique dish you can eat in Saguenay is the Tourtière, a pie baked slowly in low heat, made with potatoes and meat, cut into bits, and eaten with ketchup or beet juice.

#17. Take a souvenir home

Your trip to Saguenay would be incomplete without a souvenir from the beautiful city. There are lots of gallery boutiques that make unique things that can only be found in Saguenay.

You can take home a beautiful leather handbag, hand-crafted furniture, wall hangings, or beautiful paintings of the great Fjord and other sights of Saguenay. This is an important reminder of the sights and sounds of Saguenay.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What else is unique about the city of Saguenay?

First is the Saguenay Fjord. It is the only inhabited Fjord in North America. It is also one of the 10 longest Fjords in the world.

Second is L’Anse-Saint-Jean, one of the most beautiful villages in Quebec. The village is in the bay of the St. Jean River and the fjord of Saguenay and offers visitors various activities like horseback riding, hiking, fishing, sailing, kayaking, and lots more.

In October, it hosts the provincial Villages en Couleurs Symposium (Villages in Color) which is an art symposium.

Is there a university in Saguenay?

The district of Chicoutimi has a branch of the University of Quebec (UQAC). It is part of the University of Quebec network founded in 1969.

Are the immigrants living in Saguenay?

Saguenay welcomes immigrants from all parts of the world. As a matter of fact, immigrants are estimated to be about 405 out of the 148,497 population of residents in Saguenay.

Conclusion

Saguenay stands out as one of the most beautiful cities in Quebec, Canada. There’s so much more to experience in Saguenay, and a trip to the city will convince you. Take a trip today, discover the beauty of Saguenay, and the reason why people who visit once, always go back.