Rivière-Du-Loup, a small French-speaking town on the Saint Lawrence River (Fleuve Saint-Laurent), is a hidden gem that many may not know exists. This town is known specifically for sunsets and whale watching, but with its beauty, it may have much more to offer tourists.
I have always been a city girl. I love the rush of people, the availability of things to do, the sights, and the sounds. I love everything about the city. So, to say that I am drawn to a tiny French town on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River is quite surprising. Nonetheless, there is something about the town of Rivière-du-Loup, or “Wolf’s River,” that keeps drawing me back.
Rivière-du-Loup is a tiny town located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. With a population of just under 20,000, Rivière-du-Loup was once only accessible by the St. Lawrence River. It wasn’t until 1783 that the first road was built. At one point, Rivière-du-Loup was mainly an English-speaking town. Now, only 1% of the population comprises Anglophones (English speakers). Because it is so tucked away and somewhat far from the main cities of Québec, Rivière-du-Loup is often overlooked. Many people do not even know it exists unless they are specifically looking for something there, which will most likely be a whale-watching cruise.
I first visited Rivière-du-Loup in 1999. I was nine years old and on a Canadian family vacation. We (my parents, grandparents, and myself) traveled from our home in Pennsylvania north to Maine and then crossed into Canada. After spending a few days in Montreal and Vieux-Québec (Old Quebec City), we traveled two hours north to Rivière-du-Loup. Our goal was to take a whale-watching tour on the Saint Lawrence River. Since the tour leaves early in the morning, it was only logical that we arrive a day early and spend the night. When we entered this town, we were amazed. It was so quaint and beautiful. You saw the beautiful Saint Lawrence River and the picturesque mountains behind it everywhere you looked. It wasn’t built up like a touristy town would be. Most places to stay were individually owned auberges— inns typical in France or French-speaking regions. There was very little evidence of hotel chains like Days Inn or Marriott. French street signs were also evident—like they are in most of the provinces in Québec. We found a place to stay—a beautiful auberge with individual bungalows relatively close to the Saint Lawrence shoreline.
I had to sleep in a cot because the bungalows only had two beds and no pull-out sofas or reclining chairs. I remember hearing the fog horn from the lighthouse nearby all night. It was a peaceful sound. In the morning, we boarded Croisières AML Rivière-du-Loup Billetterie—the whale-watching tour boat. In the middle of July, we were told to purchase heavy hoodies and jackets because the sea air of the Saint Lawrence River is cold, even in the summer. We saw lots of whales and enjoyed a relaxing tour of the river. Then it was over, and we started to head back home. I always loved that town; it just had a feel about it. I knew that I would go back again.
Let’s fast forward eighteen—yes, eighteen years. It is now 2017, and I am 27 years old. My family (now my parents and only my grandmother) has decided to recreate our 1999 Canadian vacation and tour the same spots in Québec and Montreal that we had years before, including the whale-watching tour on the Saint Lawrence. Of course, now I will enjoy it more because I am older. I also now have a love of photography that I did not have when I was nine. Like we did eighteen years prior, we toured Montreal and the old city and then headed north to that quaint French town on the Saint Lawrence. We drove passed the auberge we stayed in on our first trip there. It is still open and operating. However, unlike in 1999, we had pre-planned our visit to Rivière-du-Loup and made reservations to stay at another auberge— Auberge de la Pointe. The view from our room, and the auberge itself were all amazing! The hotel guests would stay out late into the night, talking and singing on the auberge’s large deck. It felt like family, even though we had never met these people before. And the sunset over the Saint Lawrence—one I could NEVER get tired of watching! Being there brought back all those feelings I had when I first set foot in that town many years ago. Nothing