Updated: March 20, 2024


When visiting Quebec, Canada, embarking on a whale watching adventure in Tadoussac is an unmissable bucket-list experience.

Glide into the heart of the Saguenay-St-Lawrence Marine Park, home to the majestic titans of the sea and revered as one of the globe's premier whale-watching havens. Choosing your tour vessel, whether it's an exhilarating Zodiac or a multi-level boat, is a pivotal decision.

Our comprehensive guide acts as your compass, aiding you in selecting the perfect whale watching cruise tailored to your preferences. Furthermore, we provide comparisons of top-rated whale watching tours departing from both Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine, along with insider tips - covering everything from what to wear to the best time for whale-watching.

Prepare for an intimate encounter with these gentle giants! Let's dive right into the adventure of a lifetime!

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Compare Top-Rated Tours & Prices for Whale Watching in Tadoussac, Quebec

We've meticulously curated a comparison of Tadoussac's most popular Whale Watching Tours, ranging from family-friendly leisure cruises to adrenaline-pumping zodiac boat adventures. For those who prefer not to journey to Tadoussac or Baie-Sainte-Catherine, we've also included a full-day bonus option departing from Quebec City.

We've included quick links below, so you can easily check and compare the current prices for each tour. Plus, we've added brief descriptions, highlighting the unique features and special offerings.

Quick Booking Links to 4 Top-Rated Tours

Descriptions of Whale Watching Tours in Tadoussac

Highlights

This thrilling 2 to 2.5-hour whale watching excursion unfolds on an adventurous Zodiac boat, led by a bilingual certified naturalist captain fluent in both English and French. Your comfort is assured with provided waterproof coats and pants.

The destination is the captivating Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, offering a remarkable opportunity to witness majestic whales. Weather permitting, this excursion may also feature an exciting fjord expedition, treating you to mesmerizing landscape vistas.

Inclusions

  • Zodiac boat tour
  • Commentary from a certified naturalist guide
  • Waterproof coat and pants
  • An excursion in the fjord (if the weather conditions allow it)

Tour Details

  • Departs from: Choose from two locations: Baie-Sainte-Catherine Pier (159 Route de la Grande Alliance) or Tadoussac Pier (177 Rue des Pionniers, or 122 Rue de la Cale Sèche).
  • Starting Time: Morning, Daytime and Sunset departure options
  • Duration: approx. 2 - 2.5 hours
  • Type of Boat: Zodiac
  • Available Languages: English, French

Highlights

This eco-responsible 3-hour whale watching tour, departing from Tadoussac or Baie-Sainte-Catherine, offers a choice between a standard cruise and a VIP upgrade. VIP perks include access to the upper deck lounge, priority boarding, a private terrace, local drinks, and gourmet snacks.

On a specially designed boat, you'll explore the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park and Saguenay Fjords National Park, known for prime whale sightings. While you keep watch for these majestic creatures, your knowledgeable naturalist guide will captivate you with intriguing facts about whales and the marine ecosystem.

Inclusions

  • Whale watching cruise
  • Bilingual commentary
  • Expert naturalist guide
  • Upgrade to VIP lounge on upper deck (if option chosen)

Tour Details

  • Departs from: Choose from two locations: Baie-Sainte-Catherine (159 Route de la Grande Alliance) or Tadoussac (177 Rue des Pionniers).
  • Starting Time: Morning cruises usually depart around 10 AM, while daytime cruises set sail at approximately 1 PM
  • Duration: approx. 3 hours
  • Type of Boat: AML Grand Fleuve - Large, three-level Boat with indoor and outdoor observation areas, crafted for an optimal whale-watching experience
  • Available Languages: English, French

Highlights

This 3-hour whale watching cruise offers the VIP Package, featuring priority boarding and access to a reserved upper walkway. The cruise departs from two locations, Tadoussac or Baie-Sainte-Catherine. For the regular upper walkway access, you'll ascend to the ship's highest point for a unique whale-watching perspective on the exclusive observation deck.

For an even more exclusive experience, consider upgrading to the Lounge VIP option. In the Lounge VIP, you'll indulge in an intimate VIP lounge with complimentary local bites, wine, beer, and drinks. In both options, professional naturalist guides will enrich your adventure.

Inclusions

  • Whale-watching cruise
  • Access to a reserved walkway
  • Naturalist guide
  • Priority boarding
  • Interior lounges (only with the Lounge VIP option)
  • Local bites, wines, beers, and spirits (only with the Lounge VIP option)

Tour Details

  • Departs from: Choose from two locations: Baie-Sainte-Catherine (159 Route de la Grande Alliance) or Tadoussac (177 Rue des Pionniers).
  • Starting Time: Morning cruises usually depart around 10 AM, while daytime cruises set sail at approximately 1 PM
  • Duration: approx. 3 hours
  • Type of Boat: AML Grand Fleuve - Large, three-level Boat with indoor and outdoor observation areas, crafted for an optimal whale-watching experience
  • Available Languages: English, French

Highlights

This 11-hour whale-watching tour from Quebec City includes an around 3-hour bus transportation to Baie-Sainte-Catherine, where you can choose between a thrilling 2.5-hour Zodiac boat ride or a leisurely 3-hour cruise on a three-level vessel with indoor and outdoor observation areas (pick your option at checkout).

A certified naturalist-captain provides insights about the region's history and wildlife. Both boats set out from the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River to the renowned whale watching site at Saguenay-Saint Lawrence Marine Park, where an exciting encounter with whales is in store. The trip ends with the return trip to Quebec City.

Inclusions

  • Air-conditioned vehicle
  • 2.5-hour or 3-hour whale-watching cruise
  • Certified naturalist-captain
  • Guided panoramic bus tour

Tour Details

  • Departs from: Fontaine de Tourny; Québec City, QC G1A, Canada
  • Starting Time: 09:00 AM
  • Duration: approx. 11 hours
  • Type of Boat: Choose between a Zodiac or a three-level vessel
  • Available Languages: English, French

How to get to Tadoussac, Quebec?

The quaint town of Tadoussac is nestled in the Côte-Nord region, situated approximately 215 kilometers (134 miles) northeast of Quebec City. Getting to Tadoussac is a straightforward journey, and you have several transportation options:

  • By Car: From Quebec City, take Route 138 East, a scenic drive that lasts about 3.5 to 4 hours.
  • By Bus: Various bus companies provide service from Quebec City to Tadoussac, some with direct routes. This is a convenient choice if you prefer not to drive. The bus journey usually lasts 4 to 6 hours, depending on stops.
  • By Ferry: For a captivating journey between Tadoussac and the Charlevoix region or the south shore of the Saguenay Fjord, hop on the free ferry departing from Baie-Sainte-Catherine. With departures every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the season, this short but scenic 10-minute ride across the Saguenay River might even treat you to the sight of whales swimming nearby. No reservations are required. 
  • By Guided Tour from Quebec: Another convenient option to reach Tadoussac is by joining an organized full day tour departing from Quebec City. This hassle-free choice allows you to relax and enjoy the journey while a professional guide takes care of the transportation, ensuring you reach the whale watching cruise in Tadoussac comfortably and without any worries.
Whale Watching Boat Tour from Tadoussac or Baie Sainte Catherine 1

Is Whale Watching in Tadoussac Worth it?

Without a doubt, embarking on a whale watching expedition in Tadoussac is an unparalleled experience that's absolutely worth your time!

Nestled in the charming small town of Tadoussac, you'll find yourself at the maritime crossroads where the St. Lawrence River meets the Saguenay Fjord, an integral part of the world-renowned "whale route." Tadoussac proudly serves as the gateway to the Saguenay-St-Lawrence Marine Park, celebrated as one of the most exceptional whale-watching destinations on the planet. 

Here, you'll have the incredible opportunity to encounter 13 species of marine mammals, including the awe-inspiring blue whale, the largest mammal on our planet. While it's true that no two expeditions are the same, and sightings cannot be guaranteed, the rich and unique ecosystem of the St. Lawrence region is so densely populated with whales that encounters are almost certain.

Moreover, the backdrop of Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park and Saguenay Fjords National Park provides not only a stage for marine life but also a breathtaking canvas of natural beauty. Ultimately, whale watching in Tadoussac is more than a journey; it's an immersive encounter with nature, creating cherished memories that will undoubtedly hold a special place in your heart…

Tip: To make the most of your adventure, it's crucial to choose an eco-friendly tour that prioritizes the welfare of wildlife, ensuring a safe distance is maintained, and disturbances are kept to a minimum. With our recommended tours unwaveringly following the stringent regulations of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, your experience is not only responsible but also bound to be unforgettable.

Whale Watching Boat Tour from Tadoussac or Baie Sainte Catherine 3

Whale Watching in Tadoussac: What to Expect?

On a typical whale watching adventure in Tadoussac, you can anticipate the following:

  • Departure: Choose between morning cruises (typically around 10 AM), daytime voyages (approximately 1 PM), or, in select instances, a magical sunset cruise. It's important to keep in mind that hotel pickup and drop-off are not part of the package; you'll be responsible for reaching the departure point on time. In addition to the Tadoussac Pier, you have the option to select the Baie-Sainte-Catherine Pier as your starting point or even begin your journey from Quebec City.
  • Duration: Whale watching tours departing from Tadoussac or Baie-Sainte-Catherine typically run for 2 to 3 hours, with the option of full-day tours departing from Quebec City. To ensure a smooth departure, most tour operators kindly request that participants check in at the ticket booth 30 minutes to an hour before the scheduled departure time.
  • Typical Itinerary: Step aboard and sail to the renowned whale-watching sites of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. This enchanting realm is home to 13 species of whales, and other wildlife. As you keep a vigilant eye out for these magnificent creatures, your guide explains the world of whales and the marine ecosystem. Most tours also include an excursion through the picturesque Saguenay Fjords National Park, offering awe-inspiring fjord panoramas.
  • Guide: Tours are typically bilingual in both English and French, led by expert naturalist guides or captains with extensive knowledge of whale behavior and the diverse fauna and flora thriving in the St. Lawrence region. They will enthrall you with insights into the captivating marine life and geological wonders found in this Canadian region.
  • Suitability: Note that the Zodiac boat tours are not suitable for wheelchair users or certain individuals, including children under 6, pregnant women, and those with joint, back, or mobility issues.
  • Safety & Equipment: The whale watching tours listed below are conducted with stringent safety measures in place. Life jackets are provided, and the experienced crew is trained to respond to any unforeseen situations, ensuring you have a secure and enjoyable experience. To ensure your comfort, zodiac tours also offer participants waterproof coats and pants. It's worth noting that cruises are canceled if the weather presents a potential risk to passenger safety.
Whale Watching Boat Tour from Tadoussac or Baie Sainte Catherine 4

How to choose the Perfect Whale Watching Tour in Tadoussac, Quebec?

When it comes to selecting the ideal whale watching safari in Tadoussac, two major factors deserve your consideration. Let's explore them:

1. The Type of Boat

You have a choice between two boat types: a spacious multi-level vessel with a capacity of 200 to 700 people or an inflatable Zodiac designed for smaller groups of passengers. Let's examine the advantages and disadvantages of each:

  • Large Boat: Large boats are an excellent choice for individuals prone to motion sickness, families with children, and those seeking a comfortable and spacious experience. The expansive vessel we recommend below from AML Cruises accommodates up to 695 passengers and offers a remarkable three-level, 32-meter (105-foot) adventure with both indoor and outdoor observation areas. 

    This kind of boat features a glassed-in main deck with excellent visibility, and even a VIP lounge and a covered upper deck. The indoor spaces not only offer refuge from the elements but also serve as ideal vantage points for enjoying the marine spectacle. Onboard amenities, including a bistro, restrooms and a gift shop, add to the overall comfort and convenience of your journey.
  • Zodiac: Conversely, the Zodiac provides a much closer encounter with the whales and marine life of the St. Lawrence River. This is because of its smaller size: the open-air boat, typically accommodating between 24 or 60 passengers, is exceptionally fast, enabling you to approach the whales swiftly and closely. 

    Unlike large boats, where a naturalist guide accompanies you, the Zodiac is led by a naturalist captain. The trade-off is that the ride is a bit shorter and can be a bit more turbulent, making it a great choice for adventurers seeking an intimate nature excursion. 

2. The Departure Point

In addition to the Tadoussac Pier, you have the option to choose the Baie-Sainte-Catherine Pier as your starting point. Opting for the Baie-Sainte-Catherine Pier is recommended if you're coming from Quebec City or Charlevoix, or if you have reduced mobility, as it offers easier boarding. Our recommended whale-watching cruise options listed below provide departures from both Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine.

A third option is to select a full-day tour departing from Quebec City. With this choice, you won't need to worry about transportation to the whale-watching departure point, as bus/minibus transportation to Baie-Sainte-Catherine and back is included, along with the whale-watching cruise itself.

What to See on a Whale Watching Tour in Tadoussac?

Embarking on a whale watching tour in Tadoussac promises not just the thrill of seeing the gentle giants but also an opportunity to witness the natural wonders of the St. Lawrence region.

Here's what you can expect to see on your unforgettable journey:

1. Whales of Various Species

The centerpiece of any Tadoussac whale watching tour is, without a doubt, the whales. This area is home to a remarkable variety of whale species, with nearly 13 different types residing in the St. Lawrence. Some are abundant, while others are endangered and require observing from a distance of 400 meters for their safety. Keep a keen eye out for the awe-inspiring blue whale, majestic humpback whales, graceful minke whales, and the impressive fin whales. 

2. Beluga Whales

Among the most iconic inhabitants of the St. Lawrence River are the beluga whales. Recognizable by their striking white color and unique vocalizations, encountering these sociable and inquisitive creatures is a memory you'll cherish. The St. Lawrence is the only habitat for this cetacean species year-round, making Tadoussac a rare location to observe belugas in their natural environment.

3. Other Marine Life

In addition to whales, your adventure might introduce you to the charming world of gray seals and harbor porpoises, whether they're lounging on rocky outcrops or gracefully gliding through the river. Be prepared for possible sightings of the Atlantic white-sided dolphins and white-beaked dolphins. Keep your camera ready to capture these playful creatures curiously peek above the water's surface.

4. Birdlife

The St. Lawrence region is a haven for bird enthusiasts. During your tour, be on the lookout for various seabirds, including Atlantic puffins, northern gannets, and cormorants, as they glide through the sky or perch on cliffs. These feathered inhabitants add an extra layer of beauty to the already stunning landscape.

5. Saguenay Fjord

During your whale watching tour, you'll typically have the opportunity to marvel at the breathtaking grandeur of the Saguenay Fjord, a narrow inlet of the Saguenay River. This natural wonder, formed during the last Ice Age, is indeed a spectacle to behold. As you cruise through this majestic fjord, you'll find yourself immersed in a landscape adorned with towering cliffs, lush greenery, and crystal-clear waters.

This stunning scenery is every bit as captivating as the marine life you're seeking, creating a truly unforgettable experience.

Whale Watching Boat Tour from Tadoussac or Baie Sainte Catherine 5

When is the Best Time for Whale Watching in Tadoussac, Quebec?

Whales grace the waters surrounding Tadoussac with their presence throughout the entire year.

The prime time for whale watching in Tadoussac falls within the whale watching season, typically running from May to October. During these months, you can witness the arrival of numerous rorqual whales, such as humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales, and blue whales, as they migrate to the St. Lawrence region for feeding.

July and August stand out as the peak months for whale watching in Tadoussac, offering the best opportunities to encounter a diverse range of whales.

What to Wear for Whale Watching in Tadoussac?

  • Layered Clothing: Regardless the season, it’s always colder on the water than on land, so be sure to dress accordingly. Start with thermal underwear, add insulating options like a fleece jacket, and finish with a water/windproof outer layer.
  • Warm Hat and Gloves: Pack a warm hat and gloves for potential chilly moments on the water. The wind can pick up, making a hat especially useful.
  • Comfortable Footwear: Choose comfortable, waterproof shoes with good grip. Keep in mind that open-toed shoes are not allowed on zodiac boats for safety reasons.
  • Sunglasses and Sunscreen: Bring polarized sunglasses and apply sunscreen for sun protection. A hat can also help shield you from the sun.
  • Binoculars: If you have them, bring binoculars for a clearer view of distant whales.
Whale Watching Boat Tour from Tadoussac or Baie Sainte Catherine 2

8 Insider Tips for your Whale Watching Expedition in Tadoussac

Now that you're equipped with clothing suggestions, let's dive into some additional insider tips to guarantee an extraordinary whale watching adventure in Tadoussac:

  1. Guarantee your Adventure: Whale watching cruises are immensely popular, especially in the busy months of July and August. To guarantee your spot and steer clear of any letdowns, it's smart to book your tour well ahead of time.
  2. Choose the Right Tour: Select a tour that aligns with your preferences. As mentioned above, large boats offer stability and comfort, ideal for those prone to motion sickness or families. Zodiac tours provide a closer and more intimate encounter with marine life, perfect for adventurers.
  3. Arrive Early: Boats depart on time, so arrive at the meeting point early to ensure you don't miss your cruise.
  4. Essentials to Bring: Make sure to pack must-have items such as sunglasses, sunscreen, and a camera equipped with a zoom lens or binoculars. These items will help you capture the breathtaking beauty of these magnificent creatures and the awe-inspiring landscapes.
  5. Prepare for Motion: If you're prone to motion sickness, consider taking motion sickness medication before your tour. Onboard, focus on the horizon to minimize discomfort.
  6. Maintain a safe distance: To guarantee a secure whale watching adventure, it's vital to stay a safe distance away from the edges of the boat. Even in tranquil waters, unforeseen jolts and movements can happen, making it essential to be cautious to prevent accidental falls into the water or the loss of personal belongings.
  7. Respect the Rules: Please be mindful that smoking is strictly prohibited during the tours, as is bringing food and drinks onboard. Additionally, it is of utmost importance to refrain from attempting to feed the animals during the excursion.
  8. Stay Patient: Last but not least, remember that wildlife sightings can be unpredictable. Be patient, keep your eyes peeled, and enjoy the anticipation of witnessing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

FAQ - Whale Watching in Tadoussac, Quebec

What is the best time to see Whales in Tadoussac?

The whale watching season in Tadoussac stretches from May to October, with the peak months being July and August. During these months, your chances of encountering a variety of whales.

Regarding the time of day, it's worth noting that there isn't a specific time that guarantees better sightings. Nevertheless, if you seek a more serene experience, the morning is a favorable choice, as daytime tours tend to attract more visitors.

How much does whale watching cost in Tadoussac, Quebec?

The cost of a whale-watching tours in Tadoussac, Quebec typically ranges from approximately 94 to 101 euros per person. For those seeking a more luxurious experience, there are VIP whale-watching cruises available. These VIP packages often include access to a VIP Lounge with complimentary food and drinks, as well as exclusive upper deck access. Prices for these VIP experiences can go up to 180 euros per person.

>> Check the recommended tour options and their prices.

Can you see whales from shore in Tadoussac?

It is indeed possible to catch sight of whales like minke whales from the shore in Tadoussac. On rare occasions, you might even be lucky enough to witness the graceful Beluga whales. For the best chances of whale-watching from shore, make your way to locations like Islet Point and Rouge Point. Find a nice spot on the rocks, and remember that patience is your best friend as you search for these mesmerizing marine animals.

Are there orcas (killer whales) in Tadoussac?

There have been sightings of those majestic killer whales (Orcas), in the Tadoussac area. While it's exciting to know that they've been observed in the St. Lawrence River near Tadoussac, it's important to keep in mind that these encounters are relatively rare. So, if you happen to spot one, consider it a remarkable and fortunate moment during your whale watching adventure!

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