If you are looking for one of the best locations for summer kayak whale watching on the St. Lawrence Sound, Tadoussac (about 2 hours east from Quebec City)is the perfect destination if the whales are cooperating!
While there are a number of campgrounds in the area, Paradis Marin is clearly the favorite among kayakers, as I've noticed their group site is always filled. Besides fantastic cliffside private tent sites, they have 4-5 tepee rentals. This past year I rented one as I was taking along a couple of kayaking novices and thought it would be fun. The tepees feature woodstoves, partially raised flooring for sleeping and foam pads. There's also an outfitter on site for those wishing to fly into Quebec City, and their fleet of glass tandems are in excellent condition. In addition there's a small cafe on site that is truly fantastic. Waking up to muffins and coffee served with a smile in such a rustic setting was something I've not experienced.
There were a number of days when out on the water, paddling back to our launch point when the thought's of the "cooks" specials were heavily on my mind. The stew, the chili, the hot chocolate (served in bowls), were great. Only one thing to remember, if the whales were in the area, the cook and his sue chef were also out paddling so lunch wasn't always available. Guided tours are also available.
We paddled 3 different days, opting to skip one day. The first day, we saw only one whale and not very close, the second day three whales, the third day was a treat. We saw a large pod of grey's feeding incessantly and for hours we were the only humans around. We had a couple of close encounters, and when we beached ourselves for lunch, we were treated to a humpback and calf breaching. The splash could be felt under us as it was less than a couple of hundred yards away.
I'm not a whale watching expert, but I've done it in a number of places including the Caribbean in the winter. While the water temperate is very different on the St. Lawrence (always wet suit and dry suit suggested) as in August the water temperate is a modest 4C.
Over the years of going to this area, I've noticed the best days for finding whales are when the moon is either hidden or small at night, and there is a moderate morning fog hanging about 10' above the water.
This area is one I've not wanted to write about as I fear it could get crowded. This past year, on our last day out, after counting at least 20 whales that swam right up to us (as we played dead in the water in our kayaks) the most thrilling moment was as we were paddling back towards the campground after spending a couple of hours totally alone with the whales, approaching us was a flotilla of at least 150 kayakers on the water.
Of all the places I've kayaked (I've paddled most of the FL, GA, SC, NC, MA, and Maine coasts, and a major portion of the Great Lakes), this particular paddling trip along the St. Lawrence Seaway and sharing it with the whales is at the top of my list.
Various campgrounds, varying degrees of privacy in each.
The campsites were about $30US per night, the Teepee rental was $50US. Parking is free, launches are free.
Follow Hwy 138 along the north side of the St. Lawrence Seaway from Quebec City.
Canadian Tourism Board