The ultimate roadtrip through Quebec
Buckle-up you are in for a great road trip through Quebec! Oh, did I said that this is one of the most scenic drives in Canada?
Stops? The perfect mix of city life and nature: Montreal, Quebec City, Charlevoix & Gaspésie. You will do a total of 2,034 km.
How many days? 10 days. Don’t worry, you will not be on the road every day!
When to go? From May to October. However, keep in mind that everyone will be going there in summer. Avoid the crowds and the high prices by not going during the months of June, July and August. Since you all work hard, why not combining your vacation with some statutory holidays like labour day? Find out more about how to maximize your vacations, with my series, plan from the office.
You will drive off the most scenic roads in Canada passing by mountains, sea and buzzing cites. This trip will make you fall in love with nature and locals alike and you will see that the province is full of hidden gems.
Let's be serious, who doesn’t love a road trips? There is no secret that I love a good road trip, they are easy and comfortable travels. There something about the scenic views and access to areas that you would not have access to otherwise. A road trip gives you liberty and comfort. After all, you are not carrying your bags from the airport or bus station to another and you don’t have to abide by a certain schedule. And in North America, it is the easiest way of transportation since we don’t have a super fancy hyper-developed train system like in Europe and Japan (#notjealous).
So how do you plan a 2,034 km road trip? Where do you start? Which stop do you do? Worry not, we have got your back!
What to pack? Bring your active/hiking gear since you will be doing a lot of hiking. I strongly recommend a light sweater and a scarf, even in summer, it gets really windy in Gaspésie and up in the mountains. Also, don’t forget to pack a reusable water bottle, sunscreen and insect repellent. Really, don’t forget these 3!
Better start choosing your driving companions and your playlist for this epic road trip now!
First stop: Montreal
Montreal is a big and lively metropolis that mixes the charms of Europe and the modernity of North America. Montreal is an artsy, hip and foodie city all at once. If you like to shop, hang in a park, go to a cool speakeasy or go to a museum, the city has an activity for you!
Why start here? It's the biggest aerial hub of the region with easy connections domestically and internationally. You can also arrive by bus or train easily from other parts of Canada and the US.
Pro tip: Driving in Montreal is a nightmare so don’t rent your car upon arrival, take the time to enjoy the city by foot, bike and public transit.
How long? 2-3 days
Delicious food? Haven’t you heard of poutine, bagels, smoked meat? There are 10 dishes that you have to try in Montreal, and you cannot leave without tasting them. Montreal has the highest number of restaurants per Capita in Canada and the second in North America after New York, so I’m sure you will find a nice bar and restaurant of your liking. I recommend Eater and Tastet to find a restaurant depending on your tastes.
For complete tips on how to visit Montreal as a local go here. I’ve been living in this great city for the past 15 years. In that guide, I’m giving you all the info that you need!
What to do in Montreal?
Travelling to Montreal without visiting Old Montreal would be your biggest mistake. By far the most popular attraction of the city, Old Montreal is beautiful. The oldest area of the city will make you feel like you are in Europe, with its cobblestone streets and old French architecture dating back from the 17th century.
Since you will be doing your Quebec road trip in the summer, you need to go to a terrace, an outdoor patio, and enjoy the sun with a drink in your hand.
Go to one of the 100+ festivals the city hosts. There is something for every taste from classical music to the hottest DJs in the world. In the summertime, there are 30+ festivals to enjoy! The city hosts world renown festivals like International Jazz Festivals, Osheaga and Just for laughs.
Go to the Mount Royal, the little mountain overlooking the city. It has various lookout points to admire the city’s skyline.
Lachine Canal is my favourite sport in the city, a park and a national historic site located in the southwest of Montreal. It is a 14km waterway and a park. It is close to the Atwater farmers market; so, grab something to eat and do a picnic by the water. Then you can have a nice walk by the canal, or you can bike and even kayak. From here, wander around Saint-Henri, an up and coming neighbourhood with tons of things to eat.
The city has countless of graffiti and murals scattered around. Here is my guide to know where to find them!
Looking for more activities? Here is my complete guide of top things to do in Montreal in Summer.
Second stop: Quebec City
Drive from Montreal to Quebec City (255 km – 3 h)
Québec City is by far one of the most picturesque cities in Canada. It has a mixed colonial history between French and English and is characterized by being the only remaining walled city north of Mexico. The city is one of the oldest cities in North America as it celebrated its 400 years birthday in 2008. The old part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How long? 1-2 days
What to do in Quebec CITY?
Wander around and get lost on the hilly cobblestone streets of the old Quebec. Here you can admire the architecture of the new France.
Go to the main architectural landmark, Chateau Frontenac and take some time at the Dufferin Terrace and enjoy the views of the Saint Lawrence River.
To get the best view of Quebec City, go to Observatoire de la Capitale which gives you 360 bird’s eye view of the city.
Where to eat?
If you have the budget, go for a fancy supper at Champlain restaurant. This is one of Canada’s top restaurants and it is located in the Chateau Frontenac. I highly suggest it, the menu is sophisticated and creative with an impressive wine list.
The Saint-Roch neighbourhood has become a foodie hotspot in the past few years. Here you will find plenty of hip bars and restaurants.
Third stop: Charlevoix region
Drive from Quebec to La Malbaie (141 km – 2h)
On your way to Charlevoix, just outside of Quebec City you will find the Montmorency falls. Did you know that these falls are 30 meters higher than Niagara Falls? However, they are less imposing since they are not that wide. The good part is that they are also less crowded!
In the Charlevoix region, get ready to be seduced by the St. Lawrence River that is so wide that it feels like the sea and the rolling hills and mountains giving dramatic and breathtaking landscapes. The region is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. This appellation, like the popular and praised UNESCO world heritage site, are given by the UNESCO to preserve certain natural sites.
How long? 2-3 days
Delicious food? The region is a foodie stop for agritourism and regional farm-to-table cuisine, putting forward artisanal cheeses and organic lamb, among other products.
Things to do in Charlevoix?
Go hiking! This is one of the hiking hotspots in Quebec and it's no wonder why the views from the mountains are GORGEOUS. The most famous trails are Mont-du-Lac-des-Cygnes, Acropole-des-Draveurs and Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park. Check out the trails and other essential info of these 2 national parks, Parc national des Grands-Jardins and Parc national des Hautes‑Gorges-de-la-Rivière‑Malbaie.
The idyllic setting has played an important role in the arts and culture of the region putting these small towns in the center of numerous poems and world-renowned paintings. There are 4 main towns and villages: Baie Saint Paul and La Malbaie are around 1 hour apart and in between, are located Île-aux-Coudres & Les Éboulements. Don’t forget to stroll down the river and walk on the photogenic bridge Pointe-au-Pic on Chemin du Havre at La Malbaie.
La Malbaie is the home of the famous and historic Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. This hotel looks and feels like a castle. Even if you are not staying in the castle-like mansion it is worth a visit, the views and its activities are splendid. You can go for lunch, dinner, have a drink, there are 7 restaurants to try. Le Charlevoix is a quadruple diamond awarded (the Canadian version of the 3 Michelin star) restaurant. Or simply enjoy a cocktail on their outdoor patio and be mesmerized by the river that feels like the sea. You can also go golfing or enjoy a treatment at their spa. The casino and several hiking spots are also on the premises. Love stargazing? The manoir also has an Astronomy Observatory. Like I said before, you don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy it.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to check out my complete article about the area to have all the info that you need.
From here: you have the option to extend your trip and go to Saguenay and Tadoussac to see the fjords, Kayak on the sea and whale watching. However, you can see whales in your next stop. You can spend 1 to 3 days in the area. The fjord national park is called Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay along the Saguenay River.
Fourth stop: Gaspésie
Drive to Saint Simeon and then take a ferry to Riviere-du-Loup (64.3km - 2h)
Here you will be doing lots of driving but it's worth it! The roads are windingly photogenic, you will not want to snooze in the car during the trip. It takes you through the start of the Appalachians mountains, the Saint Lawrence River and the gulf. And of course, countless lighthouses.
You will be doing a complete loop of the Gaspé peninsula. This amazing tour takes you through the regions of Bas-Saint-Laurent & Gaspésie.
From La Malbaie drive 25min to Saint-Simeon. From there, take the ferry at Saint-Simeon wharf to Rivière-du-Loup. It is highly recommended that you arrive at least 1 hour before the departure. Its a first come first serve system and the ferry only comes 3 times per day. So you better plan this well. Here is all the info for the ferry.
Riviere-du-Loup is the gateway to the region. You will be coming back to Montreal through here. Rivière-du-Loup to Montreal is 431km so around 4 hours.
There is one route to follow, Route 132 from the Kamouraska area to Gaspé which will take you along the stunning seaside.
How long? At least 5 days
Delicious food? Amazing fresh seafood! After all, there is no such thing as too much lobster rolls! Plus, there are 16 microbreweries to visit and local gin is on the rise!
Must-dos in Gaspesie and Bas-Saint-Laurent?
Here are my 3 favourite highlights of the region. However, there are plenty of things to do along the way. For a complete region of what to do in the Gaspé peninsula go here. In that guide, you have all the additional stops to do.
Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs (known as Île Verte) is a heavenly island in the Bas-Saint-Laurent (Lower St. Lawrence) region. Words lack to describe this island. Maybe Idyllic landscape, charming, nature sanctuary will fit. The island has one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen! On this untouched rugged island, you can see whales, seals and other wild animals. Oh, and did I say that you can sleep in a lighthouse? The island lighthouse is Québec’s oldest lighthouse. Lightkeeper's and assistant lightkeeper’s houses have been turned into a B&B. The island is nature heaven and it has very little human development, there are no grocery stores or gas station and it only has 3 restaurants that are only open during the high season. The best thing to do here is to explore the island either by foot, car or bike. Stay on the beach and see animals pass by in the river. You can also do a picnic on the beach with smoked fish from the Colette fish shop. Seriously, best picnic spot and food ever!
This is THE excursion that you are looking for! Hop on a boat and see thousands of birds! The tour will bring you closer to the pierced rock and it will then tour the island. The National Park of Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé is home of 200,000 seabirds, including 110,000 northern gannets. It is the world’s most accessible colony of these birds.
In the park, rangers can explore the island with you and talk to you about the island’s curious yearly visitors. I would highly suggest doing the guided visit with them! We learnt so much through our guided visit, they will explain to you the animal behaviour, why they nest here and the type of vegetation the island has. I feel like if we would not have done the visit with the guide, we would not have enjoyed it as much.
The whole island is a national park, so no one lives there anymore. There are some houses and they have been restored for historical purposes.
Forillon National Park
This park is one of the most beautiful parks we have ever visited. It marks the end of the long Appalachian mountain chain and it is at the easternmost point of the Gaspé Peninsula. I highly suggest staying overnight as one day is not enough to visit the park. The park has many ready-to-camp-tent that are perfect for glamping.
In the park, we did 3 trails of different lengths and level of difficulty, La Chute, Mont-Saint-Alban and Les Graves.
After doing the loop you will be back to Montreal. If you still have vacation days left and prefer nature to cities you can go to Mont-Tremblant or to Eastern Townships (Les Cantons-de-l'Est) which are only 1 or 2 hours away from Montreal. The later option borders the United States, it can be a nice end trip if you are taking the road back to the U.S.
Tips for planning your road trip in Quebec
There are no tolls on highways Quebec. There is only one exception, the A-30 expressway but you will not be taking it so you don’t have to worry about it.
You will be doing a LOT of driving, we did more than 2,000 km so be prepared to drive long distances. I would highly suggest extending your trip so you can drive fewer hours during the day which lets you more time to enjoy the activities.
All road signalization is in French; however, we have standardized signals through North America so it will be easy for you to get by.
Brake for moose and other wildlife. Keep an eye out for wildlife, constantly you will see tons of signs regarding wildlife passing. However, if you see a moose, hit the breaks! Moose are gigantic animals and if you crash into them you will most likely have a deadly accident.
Gas, there are places that are a little remote and gas stations might be distant from one another so keep an eye on this. However, for most of your trip, it will be fine. I was pleasantly surprised that there were a lot of electric car charging stations so you can do the tour with an electric car!
If there is a restaurant that catches your eye do a reservation, especially in high season! There are no countless places so I would highly recommend having a plan.
The province is full of microbreweries, if you are a fan of craft beer like are, I would recommend buying a Passport en fût . This beer passport that allows you to taste 12 beers with the purchase of the app. The app is associated with more than 85 microbreweries across the province of Quebec. The app has a little description of every bar and all the menus are also available so you can choose between so many options.This is a great deal since a pint is usually around $8, you get a chance to drink more cold ones for your money!
Bring a cooler with you, there are countless of artisanal shops this way you can bring back home some smoked salmon or other local products or eat them on the way. After all, a road trip calls for great snacks.
It goes without saying but be mindful of the environment and wild animals, don’t go pet them and do not leave your trash at the national parks. Pick up after yourself!
Extra tips on when to come:
Be aware that in summer, a two-week "construction holiday" in Quebec this means that most Quebeckers take their summer holidays during this time. At the same time, roads are being repaired and the result is a lot of traffic. These vacations the last week of July and the first week of August.
Montreal hosts the F1 GP each year on the second weekend of June. Keep in mind that the accommodations in Montreal during this period are EXTREMELY expensive. Hotels and other rental places prices skyrocket during this period as this is the peak of visitors in the city. If you are not coming to see the F1, I would suggest coming for another week. It will be cheaper and the city will be less crowded.
French is the official language. English is spoken by most of the service staff, however, don’t expect that everyone will be fluent in English. Don’t worry if your French is a little rusty, however, people do appreciate if you go the extra mile to speak a little French. You don’t speak any French? No worries, you can at least learn a few words like Merci (thank you) and Bonjour (Hello).
The currency is the Canadian Dollar, the sign is $. The dollar can be easily found abroad at any currency exchange offices. Credit and debit cards are accepted everywhere.
It is customary to tip around 15% of the final price. If you are horrible at math like me, you can sum the 2 taxes and it will give you a ballpark amount of what you have to tip. Not mandatory but tipping house cleaners at the hotel is a nice gesture.
The voltage in Canada is 110 Volt, the same as in the rest of Canada and the US.
So, when are you planning your next trip?
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