We're keen to go whale-watching in Canada with our boys this summer, but want to include epicurean adventures along the way. Any route suggestions?
Thanks to the humpbacks, belugas, minkes and more, you've got a lot of choice in the whale department. And what region doesn't have a local brew or farm-food trail these days? Vancouver Island and the Charlevoix region of Quebec, though, are standouts:
Vancouver Island is an ideal hub for whale watching, "particularly when combined with culinary experiences," says Janice Greenwood-Fraser, the manager of travel media relations for Tourism British Columbia (hellobc.com). And while the 20,000 Pacific Gray Whales may have already migrated up the B.C. coast, many orcas (also known as killer whales) inhabit the waters around here year-round and there are plenty of zodiacs ready to zip out into the Pacific in search of whales and other marine life.
In Victoria, for instance, whale-watching companies include the 100-per-cent carbon neutral Eagle Wing Whale Watching (eaglewingtours.com), as well as Prince of Whales (princeofwhales.com), SpringTide Whale Tours & Charters (springtidecharters.com) and Orca Spirit Adventures (orcaspirit.com).
Culinary experiences, meanwhile, range from a chef-led walk through Chinatown, (chefheidifink.com), dinner at the Gatsby Mansion Restaurant on Belleville Street (recently reopened under executive chef D'Arcy Ladret) to simple but delish al fresco meals in the Inner Harbour (redfish-bluefish.com).
Or consider Cowichan Valley, a farm-to-fork hotspot 45 minutes north of Victoria. "This area receives more sun and the best growing conditions of anywhere on Vancouver Island and is home to most of Vancouver Island's wineries and many producers," says Luba Plotnikoff, media relations manager for Tourism Vancouver Island (seevancouverisland.com). Potential stops include Merridale Ciderworks (merridalecider.com), Venturi-Schulze Vineyards (venturischulze.com) or the Stone Soup Inn (stonesoupinn.ca).
The village of Cowichan Bay itself, the first slow food town in North America, is also home to Ocean EcoVentures (oceanecoventures.com), which recently tweeted about an "epic afternoon on the water" during which guests saw a female orca breach 25 times.
In Quebec, Charlevoix is a prime destination for both whale-watching and epicurean adventures, says Gillian Hall, media relations director with Destination Québec (bonjourquebec.com). This scenic region along the St. Lawrence River has established a Flavor Trail (tourisme-charlevoix.com), which runs from Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie.
It features more than 40 growers, producers and restaurateurs, inviting you to sample such culinary treats as tarte grand-mère, plum nectar wine and fresh-daily cheese curds. Other regional highlights include sailing among the granite cliffs of the Saguenay Fjord or watching a biologist-diver in action at the Marine Environment Discovery Centre (pc.gc.ca) in Les Escoumins.
As for whale watching, cruises depart from Tadoussac, Saint-Siméon and Baie-Sainte-Catherine, and tour companies include Croisières Groupe Dufour (dufour.ca) and Croisières AML (croisieresaml.com). Potential viewings include fin whales, minke whales, the massive blue whale which migrate here in the summer, and the year-round St. Lawrence beluga.