Quebec Road Trip: 6 Places to Visit in La Belle Province
If you’re seeking some joie de vivre this summer, put the province of Quebec on your travel list. Foodies, history buffs, motorists and outdoor adventurers are spoiled for choice in Canada’s largest province.
With its old-world roots, Quebec is a delightful mashup of North America and Europe. Picture yourself noshing on local cheeses, bagels and poutine in old Montreal, people-watching from a sunny outdoor patio in Old Quebec City, cycling along the historic St. Lawrence River or hiking in one of four national parks in the dramatic landscape of the Gaspé Peninsula. You can also stock up on maple syrup, because – true fact – Quebec is the world’s largest producer of the sweet confection, accounting for more than 70% of global output.
Here are six places to consider visiting when planning your road through Quebec.
Montreal, Quebec’s largest city, sits on an island between the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. From Ontario, you can take Ontario’s Highway 401 right into the city (where the road is named Autoroute 20). The iconic tri-peak Mount Royal, in the middle of the city, has an expansive park with views that help you get a lay of the urban landscape.
Explore Montreal’s walkable neighbourhoods
Once you have enjoyed the park’s tree-lined trails, head down hill, leave your car parked, and explore this European-flavoured city’s walkable neighbourhoods:
- Plateau Mont-Royal has a young and hip vibe, thanks to the fact that many students live here. Located on a slope of Mont-Royal, it offers casual eateries, cafes, galleries and shops along bustling Rue St. Denis. Wide bike lanes make it a perfect spot for exploring on two wheels.
- Vieux Montreal, with its cobblestoned streets, cozy cafes and unique shops, dates back 400 years, making it one of the oldest developments in the province. Be sure to stop by to admire the striking Gothic Revival Architecture of Notre Dame Basilica.
- Other sights include: Place Jacques-Cartier a lively square in summer, surrounded by gardens and historic landmarks. And if you’re an art lover, you can’t miss Musee Des Beaux Arts. Founded in 1860, this museum has a vast collection of ancient art, modern art, sculptures and photography.
Granby, QC | Photo: easterntownships.org
Head straight east from the city on Autoroute 10 for two hours to the beautiful Eastern Townships, setting for most of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache crime novels. Be sure to bring a cooler and a picnic basket as you motor through charming villages with spas, fantastic restaurants serving local cuisine, and plenty of hiking trails.
Visit Tourism Eastern Townships' website to learn more about the region when planning your trip.
If you have time, skip the busy motorway and head north to Route 132 which ambles through small hamlets along the southern bank of the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City. The trip will add an hour to your two-hour driving time, but it’s worth it. Once you arrive, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve landed in a European city, as you soak up the old-world vibe. Vieux Quebec (the old city) is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to 1608, it is the only walled city in North America.
The Chateau Frontenac, which sits on a rise overlooking the St. Lawrence River and surrounded by the Dufferin Terrace promenade, is the most photographed hotel in the world, according to Guinness World Book of Records.
From there, it’s an easy hike up to the Plains of Abraham just beyond the terrace to see the fortifications, which are the most intact defensive wall between here and Mexico. Then amble through the narrow cobblestone streets of the old city to explore the many bistros, cafes and galleries. For added charm, tour the old city in a horse-drawn carriage.
Laurentian Mountains, Mont Tremblant Canada | Photo: officialmonttremblant.com
Just an hour and 15 minutes from Quebec are the Laurentian Mountains, one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. The landscape ranges from rounded mountaintops to soft, rolling hills dotted with more than 9,000 freshwater lakes and a host of Swiss-like, small towns. The viticulture centre of the province, it offers maple syrup, local cheeses and fresh produce.
South shore of the St. Lawrence River
You’ll have to double-back through Quebec City and take the scenic 12-minute ferry ride across the St. Lawrence River. Loafing along Route 132 on the river’s south shore is a gorgeous way to spend a few hours in this laid-back rural area. Take your pick among several itineraries. Want to go beluga whale watching? Drive from La Pocatiere to Riviere de Loup, where you can hop on a ferry to pretty nearby islands. Whale and seal spotting is pretty much guaranteed.
As you enter this spectacular peninsula, the St. Lawrence River broadens to a dozen kilometres wide. This seaside playground is rich with historic landmarks, dramatic landscapes and four national parks thrown into the beautiful topographical mix. You can turn back at Mont-Joli, but if you have time, circumnavigate the entire peninsula on the seaside road along the Bas-Saint-Laurent-Gaspesie. But be aware, a circumnavigation is more than 1,500 kilometres, measured from Quebec City. Any way you choose to do it, you can stop to go kayaking, go salmon fishing and sample craft beers.
Over the shorter route of nearly 1,000 kilometres, or the circumnavigation which stretches to 2,164 kilometres, you’ll come away from your travels having experienced one of Canada’s distinct and rich cultures.
Thinking of an Ontario trip as well? Here’s our Ontario Road Trip Planner: 5 Regions You Need to Visit.