Some of the world’s best whale watching is from Quebec, and tourists come from all over the globe to experience this magical landscape and its marine giants. There are over a dozen species of whale in Quebec, so taking a tour here is the best way to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.
While we went on a whale-spotting adventure in Vancouver, there’s no denying that Quebec offers one of the top spots for whale watching in Canada. The Charlevoix region is home to the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, which is full of krill and small fish that attract minke and fin whales, humpbacks, blue whales, belugas, harbor seals, porpoises, and other species.
Many tours take the “whale route” from Tadoussac to Côte-Nord, usually in a zodiac boat or sea kayak. There are a lot of cruise options, so this guide will help you choose the best whale-watching tour in Quebec. I’ll also share the best time to go whale-watching in Quebec and the types of whales you might see!
Quebec whale-watching tours
Typically, the best whale-watching in Quebec takes place in Tadoussac and Quebec City.
Tadoussac is part of the world-famous “whale route” on the Côte-Nord (North Coast). Along with the charming fishing towns and temperate forests, you’ll be able to spot different whale species. It’s even possible to see whales from the shores of Tadoussac on the Pointe-de-l’Islet trail or at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre.
Quebec City is another gorgeous place to see whales in Quebec. Most of the whale-watching tours from Quebec City go to the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, where you can see the mighty blue whale, belugas, minkes, porpoises, and more. Back on land, you might enjoy spending time in Old Quebec City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whale-watching in Quebec City
Since Quebec City is such a beautiful and historic place, I recommend this full-day tour to help you experience all it has to offer. You’ll take a cruise ship or zodiac boat to the St. Lawrence Estuary with the pristine Laurentian mountains in the distance. Off the Charlevoix coast, keep your eyes peeled for beluga and minke whales, porpoises, the big blue, and other whales in Quebec.
- Highlights: Belugas, blue whales, minke whales, other cetacean species
- Starting point: Quebec City
- Duration: 10 hours
- Price: $175
- Description: Depart from Quebec City and drive through the charming village of Baie-Sainte-Catherine. Then, take a tour off the Charlevoix coast to see a variety of cetaceans and other marine creatures.
Whale-watching in Tadoussac
This zodiac boat tour will journey from Tadoussac to the Saguenay Fjord, where you’re likely to see humpback whales and other cetaceans. Continue into the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, one of the best places to spot fin, minke, and beluga whales in Quebec.
- Highlights: Belugas, fin whales, humpbacks, minkes, harbor seals, and other porpoises
- Starting point: Tadoussac or Baie-Ste-Catherine Pier
- Duration: 2-2.5 hours
- Price: $71
- Description: On this 2-hour trip, you’ll ride on a speedy zodiac boat and get as close to the whales as responsibly possible. Enjoy the lovely sights from the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park while spotting several whale species.
Whale Watching from Montreal
This 2-day excursion is perfect if you want to explore the area during Quebec whale season. You’ll stop by the Baie-Ste-Catherine and drive along the St. Lawrence River, where you’ll board a 3-hour Quebec whale-watching tour, then visit the picturesque town of Isle-aux-Coudres. The next morning, enjoy some time at the gorge and waterfalls of Canyon Sainte-Anne and finish your journey with a stop at the Quebec Aboriginal Village.
- Highlights: Humpbacks, orcas, blue whales
- Starting point: Tourist Information Centre of Montreal
- Duration: 2 days
- Price: $524
- Description: Enjoy 2 days in Montreal’s most beautiful scenic spots, including the Baie-Ste-Catherine, Isle-aux-Coudres, and Canyon Sainte-Anne. You’ll also get a 3-hour Quebec whale-watching tour, during which you may see blue whales, humpbacks, and other sea creatures.
Quebec whale-watching season
If you’re wondering about the best time of year for whale-watching in Quebec, I would prioritize the summer months and early fall. You’re most likely to see different types of whales in Quebec if you travel between May and October. During this time, over a dozen species populate the waters of the St. Lawrence Gulf.
You can see massive blue whales and fin whales in the summer, as well as humpbacks. Minke whale-watching season in Quebec extends from March to December, while belugas can be spotted year-round.
Types of whales in Quebec
While you’re whale spotting in Quebec, you’re probably going to see more than one type of cetacean. Most tours include a naturalist guide who can tell you the differences between each species. Here is a snapshot of what you can expect to see while whale-watching in Quebec.
Humpback whales in Quebec
Humpback whales are one of the most exciting cetaceans to see because of their exuberant behaviors. When you catch sight of these massive whales breaching or tail-slapping, it’s one of the most breathtaking experiences.
Moreover, about 7,500 humpbacks swim through the St. Lawrence Estuary every season, attracted by the krill and plankton. So, your chances of seeing these whales in Quebec are quite high, regardless of the tour you take.
Blue whales in Quebec
The blue whale is another endangered species, but fortunately, some of them can be found in the St. Lawrence Gulf. If you take a whale-watching tour in Quebec in August or September, you’ll have the best chances of spotting them. Blue whales are gentle giants that measure around 100 feet long, so seeing one in the wild is a magical experience. They are the biggest animal on earth!
Pilot whales in Quebec
There are two types of pilot whales, and you’ll find the long-finned species in Quebec. Pilot whales are one of the biggest oceanic dolphins in the world, surpassed only by orcas. They typically travel in groups of 10-30, but they’re hard to find in the St. Lawrence Estuary.
Beluga whales in Quebec
Belugas are one of the most common species in aquarium shows, and their endangered status makes them more difficult to find in the wild.
There are less than 1,000 beluga whales in Quebec, most of which inhabit the waters year-round. You can easily recognize them by their melon-shaped heads and their light-grey bodies, which turn white as they age.
Minke whales in Quebec
Some people mistake minkes for orcas but, as you’ll learn on a Quebec whale-watching tour, minkes have smaller dorsal fins further back on their bodies. You can see these types of whales in Quebec from March to December in the St. Lawrence Gulf.
Fin whales in Quebec
Every summer, a few dozen fin whales make their way to the St. Lawrence Estuary. They’re second in size only to the blue whale, so they’re quite a majestic sight to see during a Quebec whale-watching tour. Their slender bodies allow them to swim quickly through the water.
Orcas in Quebec
It’s not impossible to see killer whales in Quebec, but it’s highly unlikely. Orcas are more prevalent on the Vancouver coast, but the areas of Tadoussac in Quebec are full of other cetacean species. If you really want to see orcas, I have an entire article where I share my experience whale watching in Vancouver.
Dolphins in Quebec
You can go dolphin-watching in Quebec on just about any boat cruise.
The two species you’ll spot are the Atlantic white-sided dolphin and the white-beaked dolphin. Both are playful and can often be seen swimming with pods of whales.
Harbor seals in Quebec
Besides whales in Quebec, you can also see harbor seals. These pinnipeds can be brown, tan, grey, or silver-white and weigh over 350 lbs. You’re most likely to see them in the St. Lawrence River.
That’s all the information you need to enjoy whale-watching from Quebec! I hope now you feel better prepared to take a Quebec whale-watching tour and spot different types of whales in Quebec.
Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help. Happy spotting!