Québec is a province of wild landscapes and cultural hubs, from its Arctic far north to its biodiverse St. Lawrence coast, ancient mountains cut by gorges, and historic cities.
The trip possibilities are vast. The pressing question is where in Québec a paddler should make camp. There are a million lakes and more than 15,000 water courses—not to mention the gulfs and bays battering up against its edges. Narrowing down your list is an almost impossible task. Fortunately, no matter which corner of the province you explore, there’s no shortage of remarkable spots to pitch a tent.
Here are 12 recommendations for camping destinations a paddler will love in Québec to set you on the right course.
12 camping destinations in Québec paddlers will love
1 Sleep under the stars where the waters divide in Abitibi-Témiscamingue
If there ever was a place meant for paddlers, it’s Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The two territories’ Anishinaabe names quite literally translate to “where the water divides” and “deep water,” respectively.
There are 22,000 lakes and rivers in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, with the divide of rivers running north to James Bay and south to the St. Lawrence. The region is also home to prolific canoe tripping rivers, the Kipawa and Dumoine. So where should a paddler set up shop? As far from the main current of travelers as you’d like to go. An excellent place to start is embarking on Kipawa Lake.
Kipawa Lake is often touted by locals as one of the loveliest lakes in the entire province. For canoe trippers of all abilities there are few better places to get lost under the Milky Way for a night.
Exode Batisseur D’Aventures provides canoe tripping experiences across Abitibi-Témiscamingue including on Kipawa Lake and other favorites including the Kanasuta River and Raven Lake. Simply let them know where you want to trip and they’ll make it happen.
2 Find a kayak touring haven in Bas-Saint Laurent
The Appalachian Mountains roll toward their northern terminus as the St. Lawrence River widens in Bas-Saint Laurent. Stunning maritime landscapes, minke whales, seals and lighthouses make this region a touring paddler’s dream.
Havre du Bic is a haven for marine life taking refuge from the exposed St. Lawrence, where you can take a guided sea kayak tour with Aventures Archipel. When it comes time to snooze, camping along the rocky coastlines of Bas-Saint Laurent is the cherry on top. The coves and cliffs of Parc national du Bic will provide a bingeworthy backdrop to kick back and enjoy from the comfort of your campsite. (Note that Québec’s provincially operated parks are called “national parks” but are not affiliated with Parks Canada. They are instead overseen by Sépaq.)
3 Enjoy accessible adventure in Centre-du-Québec
You don’t need to go far from the bustle to find a little adventure in Québec. The hills and valleys of Centre-du-Québec are right between the cities of Montreal and Québec City, yet their quaint forests and soothing rivers provide enough of an escape to satisfy the soul. It’s the perfect place to have the best of both worlds by experiencing the cultural centers while also enjoying the outdoors.
Your weekend detour should start with setting up a campsite. Parc Regional de la Rivière Gentilly is a centrally located choice. The riverfront park’s 50 tent sites are a favorite for unwinding with a bit of fishing on the Gentilly River (just make sure you obtain the proper fishing license first). Or, if you’d like a bit more luxury, they have 20 ready-to-camp A-frames and small cabins to stretch out in.
Recreational kayakers will especially enjoy a float on the Saint-François River. On the mellow run, you can pull your boat up on a rock outcrop, take a swim, enjoy a river picnic and perhaps even spot a wading heron.
4 Camp among soaring gorges in Charlevoix
Charlevoix is home to the one million-hectare UNESCO Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve, two Sépaq parks, and some of the most dramatic mountainscapes in the province of Québec butting against the St. Lawrence River.
When it comes to camping, few places can compare to the soaring gorge of Parc National des Hautes‑Gorges-de-la-Rivière‑Malbaie, the cornerstone of the UNESCO biosphere.
Paddlers won’t have to travel far from a campsite around the park to enjoy the best of the Charlevoix region. You can challenge the whitewater of the Malbaie River by inflatable canoe with Descente Malbaie. River kayakers seeking experiences suitable for all levels can take a trip to Katabatik – Adventure in Charlevoix and the Gouffre River for a family-friendly recreational kayak trip on the stream with wild salmon.
5 Find big adventure and multiday camping in Côte-Nord
The Côte-Nord region of Québec is a place of big adventures.
In Tadoussac, where the Saguenay meets the St. Lawrence, touring paddlers can launch with Mer et Monde Ecotours for a three-day trip along the St. Lawrence in search of unspoiled beach campsites, whales and rock outcrops, while spending the evening feasting on local flavors.
Farther down the St. Lawrence, you can find one of the Côte-Nord’s most unique camping destinations for sea kayakers—Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. The archipelago has the highest concentration of erosion monoliths in Canada, and the islands provide dramatic camping for multiday excursions within a few kilometers of the mainland with a permit from Parks Canada. Or better yet set up basecamp on the Big Island with Noryak Aventures, and let them handle the logistics while you set out to see the geologic wonders day after day from the island’s protected bay.
Noryak’s wilderness camping excursions don’t limit paddlers to the coast though. The outfitter also runs multiday river trips down the remote and word-class Magpie River in the North Shore’s interior.
6 Stay at the edge of the Earth on the Gaspésie Peninsula
On the Gaspésie Peninsula, 1,000-meter peaks reach down to meet the sea, while Cape Gaspé stretches like a finger into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, before being sheered abruptly at 95-meter limestone cliffs. This place makes it feel as if Québec is located at the far edge of the Earth.
Sea kayakers and standup paddleboarders can camp out on a sandy beach with a view of the cape at tent and RV sites available with Cap Aventures just outside Forillon National Park. Cap Aventures also guides paddling tours throughout the cape and Gaspé Bay.
In a place like Gaspésie, the cliffs and arches of the sea aren’t the only marvel in town. Traveling farther south on the Gaspésie Peninsula, canoeists can admire the unbelievably clear water of the Bonaventure River draining the Chic-Choc Mountains. You can find a campsite right alongside the crystal clear Bonaventure at Cime Aventures and take a trip with the outfitter to gaze over the side of your canoe into pools full of Atlantic salmon swimming in plain view.
7 Find secluded camping on the lakes of the Laurentians
Hundreds of lakes and streams dot the serene landscape of the Laurentian Mountains. Many know of Mont-Tremblant National Park and its various camping options, from wilderness sites to treehouses, just a two-hour drive from Montreal and Ottawa. But when we load the canoe, we’re heading farther west into the Laurentians to Kiamika Region Park.
In Kiamika paddlers will find secluded campsites. The park remains an overlooked secret in the Laurentians, featuring dozens of lakes and islands, meaning you have your pick of the forest or a sandy beach.
8 Pitch your tent and experience pristine river tripping in Mauricie
La Mauricie National Park is sprinkled with lakes and cut along its edges by rivers. On its eastern border is its namesake Saint-Maurice River, and to the north, a major tributary, the Matawin. Up the Matawin, paddlers will find riverside campsites at Centre d’Aventure Mattawin, the perfect place to set up camp and explore the region.
Centre d’Aventure Mattawin’s 18 campsites provide sights and sounds of the Matawin flowing through the northern forest. The outfitter’s base also has eco-tents and cottages with electricity if you’re looking to upgrade from the tent.
With the Matawin River right in front of you, and the Saint-Maurice nearby, you won’t have to take the canoe far for a river experience. Centre d’Aventure Mattawin also offers guided canoe-camping trips to immerse paddlers in a complete Mauricie experience.
If you’re looking for more excitement, the Matawin also offers class IV whitewater, which the adventure center would gladly steer you and a crew through in their rafts. Heading out of the Matawin Valley you can take the canoe to one of La Mauricie’s many lakes or take a day trip to Maïkan Aventure in Trois-Rivières, where they have everything a paddler could need, from new boats to the piece of gear you forgot at home. You can also book a guided trip with them to float the lower Saint-Maurice River.
9 Find remote adventure within a stone’s throw of a Canadian metropolis in Montreal
Montreal may be one of Canada’s largest cities, with a metropolitan population of over four million, but that does not mean the city lacks adventure for paddlers. To the contrary, the St. Lawrence offers everything from wild water to wildlife.
Rafters can tackle some of the largest volume whitewater on the planet on the Lachine Rapids with Rafting Montréal.
Or you can take a kayak tour of Montreal’s Old Port on the renovated Lachine Canal with Aventures H2O. Kayakers on the tour will cross Saint-Gabriel Lock and paddle through the Peel Basin, meeting at the intersection of the city’s industrialization and the river’s natural world as you head for Old Port.
You may be surprised to find the city’s best kayak camping is not far from Old Port, in Parc National des Îles-de-Boucherville. The Sépaq national park is made of five islands inaccessible by car and offering on-island campgrounds for remote accommodations without leaving Montreal.
10 Set up camp in Québec’s whitewater capital of Outaouais
When we think of Southwest Québec, it stirs images of the whitewater of the Outaouais region. The Ottawa River and its tributaries, like the Gatineau, are places of thrill-seeking. Warm, slow-moving pools of the voluminous rivers reach fall lines where they drop into thunderous rapids. Whitewater kayakers and rafters from all over the world descend upon the Outaouais region to get their fix from these dopamine-producing rapids.
The place to camp in Outaouais is right where the action is—at the outfitters serving these impressive rivers.
Rafting Momentum offers camping at their base but, more importantly, rafting trips on the Rocher Fendu section of the Ottawa. You’ll have a hard time leaving the post-trip camp celebration after a day conquering the crashing waves and churning hydraulics of mythical rapids, including McCoys Chute and the Lorne.
Up on the Gatineau, you can listen to guides at Bonnet Rouge Rafting spin tales of the river’s 150-year transition from log drives to whitewater paradise before going on to tackle the river’s infamous class IV-V rapids like Lucifer and High Voltage.
11 Take in the stunning views surrounding every campsite near Québec City
There are few cities in North America as stunning as Québec City. It’s known for its atmosphere and architecture as Canada’s oldest European burg, and equally so for the parks, forests and waterways surrounding it. The Jacques-Cartier River, Montmorency Falls and St. Lawrence surround Québec City, to name a few such water courses.
Camping near Québec City is just as diverse and magnificent. On Île d’Orléans just outside the city on the St. Lawrence River, you can camp with Quatre Natures on enchanting riverside sites at the island’s east end. Then take a kayak excursion along Île d’Orléans’ historical maritime shores where the St. Lawrence turns tidal.
Or head inland, 50 kilometers north of Québec City to canoe-camp with Quatre Natures within the gorge of the Jacques-Cartier River in the Sépaq national park. There is no better way to explore the park than from the seat of a canoe where you can witness the majestic valley floor rise up the mountain slopes to their round peaks covered in coniferous forest. For another unique experience on the Jacques-Cartier River head downstream of the park to Donnacona and take a packraft micro-adventure down Jacques-Cartier whitewater with Rivière Concept.
12 Get colossal water views from your tent in the “Land of Giants”
From the sandy shores of Lac Saint-Jean to the 300-meter-high cliffs of Saguenay Fjord, no view in this “Land of Giants” is anything short of showstopping.
Canoeists, paddleboarders and kayakers will find the perfect place to set up base camp in the numerous campgrounds circling the shores of the warm, relatively shallow 35-kilometer-long Lac Saint-Jean. A standout is the campsites near the beaches of Parc National de la Pointe-Taillon on the lake’s north shore.
Once you’re settled in, head off in any direction for the paddling opportunities that make this lake a destination. You can paddle the lake itself or sign up to navigate the class IV-V rapids of the Mistassibi River with H2O Expedition & Adventure.
Adventurous sea kayakers are drawn downstream from the lake to the Saguenay River and the rugged allure of the Saguenay Fjord. The fjord has 300-meter-high walls cut by glaciers above and water depths of 210 meters below, where social pods of beluga whales swim throughout. Fjord en Kayak offers guided outings to best experience the chiseled bay. For experienced paddlers, try out their kayak-camping expedition on the Fjord with a taste of local gastronomy.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux is a camping experience as wild as the fjord. Their accommodations of hanging spheres and treehouses are just across the water from Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay.
Once you’ve dipped your paddle in the waters of Québec, you’ll discover there is always another perfect camping option right around the corner. Finding these new places is part of the fun of any paddling trip. You can learn more about every outdoor experience la belle province has to offer by visiting Quebec Aventure Outdoor.