6 Reasons to Stop in “La belle province” during the winter months

December 1, 2023

With the recent announcement that cruise line Ponant will be running winter cruises on the Saint Lawrence River as soon as 2025, many guests will soon have the opportunity to experience the famous Québec winter. While some may think that activities are limited during the cold-weather season as les Québecois shelter in their warm homes, nothing could be further from the truth! There is plenty to do from December to March as the ground gets covered in snow and turns into a giant playground for both kids and adults alike.

 Visitors who give the following winter activities a try will get to enjoy the crisp cold air, the sound of the snow crunching under their boots and the sight of the icy shores and snow-covered trees.

Put your skates on

Passengers alighting in Québec City will struggle to find a more scenic place to try ice skating than Place D’Youville’s skating rink. Visitors can rent a pair of skates and glide over the ice as they admire the breathtaking views of the old city ramparts nestled against modern buildings.

 Ice skating is fun for all ages, and little ones can even snuggle up underneath a blanket as a parent pushes them on a sled. Talk about taking it easy! Anyone with cold hands can warm up afterwards with a hot beverage at the Café-boulangerie Paillard. 

See the harp seal pups up close

Every winter, harp seals gather around the Îles-de-la-Madeleine to give birth to their young. Drawing in many visitors to the islands, the sight of the pups in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, those lucky enough to get up close and personal with the animals on the ice floes may face one major issue: too many amazing photos to choose from!

Get the catch of the day

Ice fishing… Indoors? Absolutely! During the winter months, the Saguenay River turns into an ephemeral village with hundreds of small heated cabins sitting on top of its thick layer of ice. Visitors can sit back, soak up the immensity of the Fjord and enjoy trying to catch some of the many varieties of fish found in the area. And while the novelty of ice fishing inside a rustic hut is part of the attraction, serious fishers also gather here each year. With deep salt water running in the Fjord, the Saguenay River is home to both freshwater and sea fish, which makes it a popular destination for anyone hoping to stretch their fishing season.

Meet Bonhomme at the Québec Winter Carnival

The Québec Winter Carnival isn’t just another festival. It is a celebration of everything that makes the Québec winter so fabulous. After 70 years, the programme contains some truly spectacular events. Artists fiercely compete in the famous ice sculpting competition, and athletes take on the icy Saint Lawrence River during the ice canoe race. Other activities include an iconic float parade, and the opportunity to slide down Québec’s hilly (cordoned off!) streets. As the carnival is held in February, the weather can be bitterly cold. However, anyone attending can warm up at one of the many heated stations. With a small glass of hot Caribou of course! The beverage, a mix of red wine, whisky and maple syrup, is as unmissable as the carnival itself.

Explore the wilderness on foot

While snowshoes were once used out of necessity, snowshoeing has now become a popular sport in Québec. There is nothing better than stepping off the beaten track to explore the backcountry and enjoy the sights and sounds of the wintry forest. There are snowshoeing trails just about anywhere in the province, but those looking for a unique experience should head to Gaspé. With its hundreds of kilometres of beautiful trails, the area around the bay has it all: unspoiled wilderness, impressive mountains and the sight of the sea in the distance.

Sunny, with a chance of snow

In Québec, every season brings something unique, and les Québecois have learnt to not only adapt, but to create amazing moments for themselves. The same uniquely fun experience awaits every guest onboard the Commandant Charcot over the next winter season!


Find out more about the Cruise the Saint Lawrence sustainable development guidelines on our sustainability page.