Surrounding Quebec are places that deserve just as much attention as the city itself. Because of the compact nature of the city, it’s easy to find startlingly different landscapes and outdoor activities—from mountain hikes to river cruises—all within a few miles of the city limits. Discovering the natural scenery, charming villages, and talented artisans surrounding the city are sure to add enrichment to your trip to Quebec.
The day-trip ideas on this list will appeal to a wide range of travelers: Île d’Orléans will please gourmets and families; the Montmorency Falls Park will impress children and nature lovers; the Train du Massif is a unique romantic and culinary experience; Baie-Saint-Paul will enthrall art and history lovers; and the Jacques Cartier National Park will satisfy lovers of adventure sports and the great outdoors. In every direction away from the city lie ports of call that will enhance your stay.
This 26-mile-long island, just 15 minutes’ drive from downtown Quebec City, is so rich in history and scenery that it is worth a multi-day trip in itself. Nicknamed “the pantry of Quebec City,” it’s a popular gourmet destination—the perfect place to sample locally produced wines, beers, chocolates, ice cream, maple treats, and much more. The best way to tour the island is by car, following the main road that circles the island, stopping to try whichever delicious option suits your fancy.
Parc de la Chute-Montmorency
Set right in front of the bridge leading to Île d’Orléans, Parc de la Chute-Montmorency provides up-close-and-personal access to the impressive Montmorency Falls—which tower a hundred feet higher than Niagara Falls. It’s a popular family destination: kids big and small love to play in the falls’ mist, to ride the cable car up the falls, and to cross above the falls on a suspended bridge. A footpath takes visitors to the top, with stops at viewing at platforms along the way.
Le Train du Massif
Running through magnificent scenery, the Train du Massif follows a 90-mile track from the Montmorency Falls to La Malbaie. Different packages are available, some including fine-dining meals prepared by the chef of the famous Fairmont Manoir Richelieu. Trips that include cruises are not cheap, but they allow a view of the sights you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Shorter rides stop in Baie-Saint-Paul—but in my opinion, the last stretch between Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie has the most beautiful scenery and shouldn’t be missed.
Baie-Saint-Paul is Charlevoix’s main town, nestled at the bottom of a valley with open views onto the St. Lawrence River. The town is home to a highly regarded creative community, and visits to the many art galleries dotted along main street Saint-Jean-Baptiste justify the trip alone. In the summer, you can escape the crowds by taking a walk along the pier, or hike in the mountains surrounding the town.
Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier
This national park, just a 30-minute drive from Quebec City, is one of our real treasures. A valley up to 550 meters deep runs through its center, along which a vigorous river flows. An impressive range of activities, such as hiking on some 60 miles of paths crisscrossing the park, let you enjoy the stunning scenery.