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Quebec: Sauguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Exploring the Fjord and Meeting Black Bears - Real Time Family Vacation Experiences.Ville de Saguenay Quebec  Family travel ingenuity is hard to come by these days – many ideas for family vacations evoke a feeling of “been there, done that.” Destinations that surpass expectations and offer entirely unique experiences are rare. The Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec is one such destination. With a multitude of uniques, remarkable, and memorable experiences, there are so many activity choices the biggest problem is deciding what to do first.
Recently I traveled to the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean to do some investigative research on what the region had to offer families, and was blown away by what I discovered. Family friendly, comfortable, safe, unique, authentic, earth friendly, inspiring, quieting, and delightfully French Canadian, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is a remarkable family vacation destination. My discovery notes follow.

Discovering the Fjord de Saguenay. The Musée du Fjord in Ville de Saguenay invites family to “swim” into the fantastic natural world of the Saguenay Fjord and the Baie des Ha! Ha!.
Our guide at the Musée du Fjord, a charming Quebecois by the name of Mathieu, led us out on our exploration of fjord. Lugging our shovels and tromping around in our waterproof boots we followed Mathieu, wondering what awaited us on the muddy floor of the fjord. As it turns out, we’d been drafted into a scientific expedition of discovery. Mathieu gave us a crash course in the marine ecosystem of the fjord and then put us to work. Ville de Saguenay Living HistoryTold what signs to look for we dug for soft-shelled clams, small worm-type things (with impressive mouths) and little log-clinging life forms that scurried away once unearthed. Mathieu helped us collect a few specimens and we headed back inside to check out our finds under microscopes in the Science Fjord section of the museum. Viewed up close the specimens were otherworldly – utterly of the world of the fjord. Mathieu explained the part each organism played in the fjord’s ecosystem, and encouraged us to look through the multitude of microscopes at the various other examples of fjord-dwelling life forms.

Inspecting the museum. After we concluded our scientific inquiries, we set out to explore the rest of Musée du Fjord. The permanent exhibition focuses on the history of the settlements on the banks of Baie des Ha! Ha!, and provided wonderful photos and interactive displays. The temporary exhibition explores the myth and mystery of sea monsters around the world and across Canada – one of the most interesting interactive exhibits displayed sites across Canada where a “sea monster” has been spotted, including first-person eyewitness accounts.

The museum provides amusing, interactive scientific experiments. Laureate of eight excellence awards, the Musée du Fjord is a unique, fulfilling experience for visitors of all ages. Microfjord showcases on a giant screen the microscopic flora and fauna living in these fresh and salt waters. Bonus points: The view of the bay from the Bell Observatory cannot be beat.

Going with a guide. Families visiting the Musée du Fjord should definitely check out one of their guided outdoor excursions designed for families, such as the “Living on the Shores of the Bay” excursion, which takes families on an outdoor adventure to the shoes of Baie des Ha! Ha! with an expert guide, and then back to museum to check out marine invertebrates under a microscope, neatly tying in discovery, fun and learning into one package.  Discovery: The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is a unique marine conservation area in Québec. Take advantage of your visit to the Musée du Fjord to find out everything you need to know about the magnificent Marine Park.
Bear hunting made easy. Looking for some black bears, we headed to Okwari Adventures, in Saguenay. Our estimable guide, Jean-Benoit, made it immediately clear that black bears, and the forest of the Borealie, were in his blood. As a third-generation tracker, Jean-Benoit exudes a confident calm connection to the land – a modern-day Québécois John Wayne with a wicked sense of humour.
Our Okwari black bear experience started with an introduction to black bears, including the opportunity to see and touch black bear skulls. Following this we zipped over to the river for an explanation about salmon, and their particular mating rituals (look up salmon spawning sometime, it’s crazy!)

We then headed into the forest, where we learned about the wildlife that call the forest home, and the basics of surviving in the Borealie forest (bottom line – you’d better hope you have a satellite phone). After a quick lunch at a lakeside chalet, we headed out on our 10-person Rabaska canoe, experiencing first-hand how yesteryear’s coureurs-des-bois (explorers/traders/trappers) travelled the lakes and rivers of Quebec, and learning about the flora and fauna of the Quebec waterways.
We walked along the lakeshore and learned more about the local wildlife, and got a chance to see a beaver dam up-close – it’s quite the engineering feat! Then we headed back up the road for our black bear encounter. We walked out to a covered observation deck and took our seats. Our guides warned us to be very quiet, so as not to spook the bears. We waited with bated breath. Slowly, slowly the bears melted out of the trees and approached their food. I marvelled at their size and the odd disparity in their appearance – they look almost huggable, but you wouldn’t want to get a bear hug from one. I spotted three baby bears playing amongst the adult females – what could be cuter?

We finished the day back at the Okwari Adventures headquarters, and the whole group agreed it had been a great day filled with experiences more than family vacation worthy. Quebec Squeaky Cheese
Go for the cheese. One awesome benefit of visiting the region is the chance to sample squeaky cheese. Produced locally and available almost everywhere it is a delightful part of the local experience eaten as a snack or combined with hearty bread and fresh blueberries makes life is good – no great!

Location on the planet. Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean is only a two-hour drive from Quebec City so parents can combine the best that the city offers with an escape to a secret summer family vacation playground.

Make it happen. Check out the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean tourism blog, fan them on Facebook, check out their videos on Youtube or find gorgeous photos of the region on Flickr. Tourism Centre 412, boul. Saguenay Est, bureau 100, Chicoutimi (Québec) G7H 7Y8. Toll-free 1-877-BLEUETS (253-8387) or

Summer Vacation Planning Details and More Things to Do with Kids.
Okwari Aventures.  7400, chemin des Chutes, Saguenay, arrondissement La Baie, Québec G7B 3N8. (418) 697-5132 or

Musée du Fjord. 3346, boulevard de la Grande-Baie Sud, Ville de Saguenay, arrondissement de La Baie, Québec G7B 1G2. (418) 697-5077 or

The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. The park is located at the confluence of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence Rivers. Parks Canada 182, rue de l'Église C. P. 220 Tadoussac Québec G0T 2A0. (418) 235-4703 or

Content and images provided by Amanda Lucille Nelson-Duac. Her comments and observations based on a visit to the region. Copyright updated 2016.