Charlevoix is a stunning outdoor playground. In summer, the brilliant blue sky is matched by the deep azure of the St Lawrence, while the hills, lined with hiking trails, are carpeted in green. Fall brings colorful foliage, and in winter, snowcapped mountains loom above the rural valleys. For 200 years, this pastoral skein of streams and rolling hills has been a summer retreat for the wealthy and privileged. Of late, it has become Québec City's preferred retreat from the stresses of city life.
Unesco classified the entire area a World Biosphere Reserve, which resulted in worthwhile restrictions on the types of permitted developments, and a sense of pride among residents. There's also a lot to be proud of in the lovely towns such as Baie St Paul, with ateliers (artists' studios), galleries and boutiques lining its narrow streets.
While Charlevoix totals 6000 sq km, it's home to just 30,000 people.