To the east, North shore
In the vicinity of Québec City - sightseeing and/or picnic
- Chute Montmorency: At 272 ft tall, the Montmorency Falls are 99 ft higher than Niagara Falls, though the volume of water is considerably less. The spectacular falls, named by Champlain in honour of the governor of New France, were the site of Wolfe's first attempt on the colony. However, Wolfe and his men were driven off by Montcalm's superior forces. In those days — before a hydroelectric dam cut off much of the flow — the falls were far more impressive, but the cascade remains an awesome spectacle, especially in winter, when the water and spray become a gigantic cone of ice, known locally as the ''pain de sucre'' (" sugar loaf"), which is climbed up by several enthusiasts every winter. You may reach the falls by car, by bicycle (25 km / 16 mi roundtrip from the Vieux-Port area), or by city bus (city buses leave from Place Jacques-Cartier, in Lower Town : bus #53 stops 15 minutes' walk from the bottom of the falls, #50 at the top; takes around fifty minutes). The best way to get up-to-date info on transits is to ask your hotel front desk.
- Allow half a day excursion from Quebec city. You can walk on a suspension bridge just above the water before it crashes down the falls. On one side of the bridge you can find a trail going downhill to a lookout that offers a side view of the falls halfway down. That trail can also lead to a hotel with food service and cable car terminal, about 10 min farther away. Unlike the illusion from some photos, the cable car ride actually is not alongside the falls, but descending to a highway below, downstream away from the falls. On the other side of the bridge there is a longer trail that eventually leads to a long staircase that offers frontal views of the falls. See video link: http://www.youtube.com/user/ray0c#p/u... TripAdvisor reviews are under Beauport, Quebec: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction...
- Canyon Ste-Anne ( virtual tour): Just off Hwy 138 some 6 km (4 mi) east of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré; can only be reached by car, or with a coach line forward to Charlevoix area which takes about thirty minutes from Québec City. It is also possible to take the Intercar intercity bus (line: Québec City to Baie-Comeau), and get off at the Canyon. Here, the river has carved a gorge where the water tumbles 74 m in a waterfall flanked by a chasm fringed with woodlands and short nature trails. A bridge crosses just before the precipice, giving views down the canyon, while in front of the falls a safe suspension bridge allows for splendid and terrifying views. There are adventure tours deep in the Canyon, such as via ferrata and treasure hunt, for example. Open from May to late October. There is a restaurant, a boutique and picnic area near the entrance.
L' Île d'Orléans is where many of the first French settlers arrived in the New World in the 17th century . 32 km (20 mi) long and 8 kim (5 mi) wide, in the St. Laurent river, it lies at 15 minutes from Quebec City. Wiki's article on Île d'Orléans here. It is connected with the mainland by a highway bridge (1935). The roadway following the perimeter of the island is called Chemin Royal and dates back to 1744, with beautiful views in all directions of the river, mainland, and the island itself. The island's information office is on the right at the top of the hill after the bridge at 490 côte du Pont - maps, self-guided driving tours (cassette or CD; English available). Many houses from the French Régime remain today (the Canac-Marquis house, at 4466 Chemin Royal in Ste-Famille being a fine example, not open to the public); the Maison Drouin historical house (1675) is open daily to visitors from late June to mid-October (4 700 chemin Royal). This link provides a few pics and text (in French only). The island is home to 15 art and specialty galleries, listed here . Many fine products may be bought directly from the producers, would it be the famous Domaine Steinbach's award winning ice cider, duck pâtés or onion confits (over 30 products made and sold on the premises), or apples, blackcurrant liquor from Mona & Filles (Mr Mona and his daughters) , fine jams and jellies, game, fine breads and pastries ... Or visit the blacksmith Economuseum, La Forge à Pique Assaut, to learn about traditional blacksmithing and possibly purchase a hand-forged item for your home. If your visit coincides with the blooming period, you may see a very big lavender field (75,000 plants) at Seigneurie de l'Île d'Orléans, in the village of St-François.
The Basilique Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré had a modest beginning as a simple wooden chapel, in 1658, dedicated to St Anne. It was distinguished as a basilica (pilgrimage church) in 1876. Half a million visitors visit the shrine, the chapels and the neighbouring Cyclorama of Jerusalem every year, with a peak on the saint's feast day on July 26 (and the nine days previous). The Cyclorama is one of just twenty mammoth painted trompe l'oeil (three-dimensional) panoramas in the world, and the only one in Canada. Location on a zoomable map here.
- Beyond Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, HWY 138 leads to one of the best ski resorts in the province: Mont Ste-Anne , which offers everything from golfing to canyoning in summertime, and is a great place to go to see the colourful foliage in the fall from its heights.
To the North/Northwest, North Shore
- New Wave Expeditions inc will make you experience rafting on the Jacques-Cartier river. Located only 30 minutes away from downtown Québec, you may choose from four sections of rapids, from novice to expert, with
highly rated guides and ultra-modern facilities for an incomparable
after-rafting experience with BBQ. During winter, room rental is available.
- Valcartier Waterpark (Village Vacances) offers
some wet fun for the whole family. The waterpark has over 35
waterslides and a huge outdoor wave pool, a pirate ship water
attraction, and a dungeon, as well as go-karting, mini-golf,
trampolines, arcade, and restaurants. In the winter, Valcartier
Waterpark becomes a large winter playground offering slides, tubing,
snow rafting, skating, ice karting, etc.
To the Est, North Shore
Charlevoix County - scenery, mountains, hiking
The CHARLEVOIX region is not only a choice travel and gourmet dining destination in Québec, but also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, a designation it received in 1989. This hilly region could be explored for weeks, and one would not see the end of it. It offers a variety of outdoors activities all year-long, and is the site of two of the finest parks in the province: Parc national des Grands-Jardins and Parc national des Hautes-Gorges- de-la-Rivière-Malbaie .
- The Massif-de-la-Petite-Rivière-St-François (known as ''Le Massif'') Ski Resort offers the best natural powder snow east of the Rockies, 43 ski trails and a 774 m ( 2 515 ft) vertical drop, with the unique sight of the St-Laurent river at your feet. It is possible to make a pleasant day trip out of Québec City, as doing so provides a nice opportunity to experience a totally different landscape, and allows very beautiful sight-seeing of the St-Laurent river. Two top destinations, and maybe a third one in between :
- BAIE-ST-PAUL (site in French only), a quaint village nested at sea level, nearly 100 km (62 mi) east of Québec City. Exit Québec through HWY 40 east, then Blvd Ste-Anne, then HWY 138 east. Very much liked by painters, Baie-St-Paul offers a surprising amount of art galleries and hosts an annual one-month long Symposium every fall, with live frescoes painting. Some history and links here, more here. The village is home for Microbrasserie Charlevoix, where locally brewed beers can be sampled in the Le St-Pub pub and restaurant (heated outdoor patio).
- The ''destination in-between'' could be a stop at the village of St-JOSEPH-DE-LA-RIVE by the river, where you may visit the Papeterie St-Gilles Economusée (Economuseum), and see how fine paper is still hand-made: ''Craftsmen from Papeterie St-Gilles
produce a fine cotton paper inlaid with local leaves and flowers. The
workshop, paper museum and boutique, make it the first economuseum in
the country. The Papeterie St-Gilles has won many regional and national
awards. Founded in 1965 by Monsignor Félix-Antoine Savard, it has
gained international reputation.''
On the St Laurent river: islands
- Croisières Coudrier offers the possibility to explore the shore and having an outstanding view over the Chutes Montmorency (Montmorency Falls); to Île d'Orléans (Orléans Island) where the majority of French settlers set foot in the beginning of what is today's Canada; the quiet Île-aux-Grues, off the coast of Montmagny, and also the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada in Grosse-Île. If you choose to visit the latter, you would be well advised to bring your own picnic, since the amenities are limited on the premises. In July and August, it is possible to see the fireworks competition, taking place every summer at the foot of the Chutes Montmorency (Montmorency Falls), from the river, with the same company. If you hold a CAA/AAA membership card, you may obtain a discount on the cruises.
- Groupe Dufour offers packages, one of them being a visit to the beautiful Île-aux-Coudres, a peaceful holiday island off the northern shore, with its handcraft stores, two small windmills and biking possibilities (you may rent a bike or bring your own). This option represents more than a day trip though, since it implies a 2 days-stay, with 4 meals. It is possible to enjoy visiting the island when driving east from Québec City to Baie-St-Paul, and from there head to Les Éboulements, where a free ferry awaits you.
- Croisières M/S Jacques-Cartier Inc. offers one-day tours to Île-aux-Coudres (go by ship, come back at 11 PM by coach), also to watch the fireworks competition, whale-watching, etc. Explore their bilingual site for extensive description of their destinations and packages.
See below for the
description of a seasonal 5 hour birdwatching cruise through the Île-aux-Grues
For nature lovers - bird-watching, hiking, and more
- Croisières Lachance, with the collaboration of Ornitour,
a local firm specialised into ornithology, offer seasonal 5 hour cruises departing from Berthier-sur-mer,
a small town located between Lévis and Montmagny on the south shore. These cruises take place every
week-end in May and the 1st week-end of June. Aside from the beauty of the Île-aux-grues
archipelargo, this cruise offers the possibility of observing the migrating snow
geese in early May, other migrating birds and ducks, and a unique colony of 800
to 1000 little penguins at the southernmost limit of their territory . The ship stops 20 minutes in front of the rock where
the penguins are nesting.
- Réserve faunique des Laurentides, covers an immense territory spanning 7861 square km
- Cap Tourmente
National Wildlife Area, and its 20 km (12 mi) of hiking trails, is a
popular destination for bird lovers (over 300 species may be observed,
at different times of the year) and is particularly interesting in
springtime and fall, when thousands of snow geese stop there during their migration - so many of them altogether, they look like snow on the ground! . Cap Tourmente
is best reached by car, it represents a 15 to 20 minutes drive from
downtown. This last link offers a clickable map indicating its location
(click on ''Attractions and activities nearby'')
- Station Duchesnay offers activities for individuals and families all-year long. Some pics here. Within 30 minutes drive from Québec City. Other link here.
- The Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier is another popular destination for nature lovers, within easy reach from Québec (less than 30 minutes); elk watching walks. Other website , including a location map (click on ''Attractions and activities nearby'').
- Stoneham offers kayaking, camping, mountain biking, fishing, rafting, horseback riding activities, and more.
To the South, South Shore
Lévis is an attractive Victorian town only 15 minutes away from Old Québec (Lower Town) by ferry, which is accessible to pedestrians, wheelchairs, bicycles, cars and buses. In summertime, a small tourist office is operated within the ferry building, which is the former train station. A few meters from the exit, lies a 15 km long flat walking and cycling path, the scenic linear park Parcours des Anses, from which magnificent views over Québec City await you (walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs, roller skaters welcome). Uphill to your right, when exiting the ferry, the Terrasse de Lévis park, directly facing the Château Frontenac, offers very fine views over Québec, the St-Laurent river, the Laurentides mountains and the bridges. The Terrasse was inaugurated by King George VI in 1939. It can be reached by foot through a daunting staircase, by car in less than 2 minutes, by taxi, or partly by bus with the local bus nr 24 or 28.
Many B&Bs contribute to make the city a popular destination, offering a quieter environment than Québec City, lower prices, proximity with the Old Town and the south shore highways (nr 20 and 132).
There are a few parking lots in the immediate vicinity of the ferry, which makes it a cheapier alternative to the more costly parking options on the north shore of the river, for those planning to spend several days in Québec City and not use their car. The most expensive of the 3 parking lots is the one closest to the ferry exit, belonging to ViaRail (pay at the machine). There is a cheaper one immediately across the street from the ferry (pay at the convenience store), and another one to your left when you exit the ferry, between the only street and the river. If you consider parking in this 3rd (and cheapest) parking lot, ask Quévec City's local expert for details on how to pay since this parking lot is not manned.
Rue Bégin St is a popular little shopping street, who attracts crowds of high quality ice cream and chocolate addicts at Les chocolats favoris, a chocolate factory that doubles as a highly popular dairy bar in summertime. Across the street from it, is a déli store offering a wide variety of cheeses, breads baked daily on the premises, a selection of imported oils and vinegars, organic fair trade coffee, and so on; light meals are available on the premises, which you may eat inside at the café, or outside at a table, or take out.
On Mont-Marie St, at number 6, you may visit the Maison Alphonse-Desjardins , birthplace of the founder of North America's first credit union system, Caisses Desjardins; the visit is free of charge, and the house is open on weekdays from 10 to noon and 1 to 4H30PM, and from noon to 5PM on weekends. Shopping addicts may get their fix at the Galeries Chagnon shopping mall, by HWY 132 (''blvd De la Rive-Sud''). If arriving by ferry, and willing to head to the shopping mall, turn right when exiting, drive up at the first hill/street nearby; soon enough, you will face 3 possibilities: drive in the middle one ("Côte du Passage"), keep driving south on the same hilly street for 1 mile or so.
Those interested in military history will enjoy visiting the Pointe de Lévy Fort No 1 National Historic Site from mid-May to late September. (From the website:) ''This Fort was the last in a chain of three forts built under the supervision of British military engineers between 1865 and 1872. These forts completed the defence network protecting Québec against any future land invasion by the Americans. Since 1855, a railway had linked Lévis to Maine. Fort No. 1 is higher than the Citadel in Québec, in fact it is the highest point in the region and provides a panoramic view of Québec, Île d'Orléans and Côte-de-Beaupré. This star-shaped fort was opened to the public in 1982. Today it houses a multimedia exhibition depicting its history''. Road directions here.
GROSSE-ÎLE AND THE IRISH MEMORIAL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Grosse-Île , off the coast of Montmagny, served as a quarantine station from 1832 to 1937. All the Irish citizens fleeing the potato famine (circa 1847) by immigrating to Canada were obliged to spend time on the island before they could be officially admitted to the country. Thousands of people, already weak from starvation, died on the voyage, made in cramped and unsanitary conditions; thousands more died at the overworked quarantine station. Grosse-Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site was twinned on May 25, 1998 with the National Famine Museum of Strokestown Park in Ireland.
The island can only be accessed through a cruise tour. Two cruise companies go to Grosse-Île, and all visitors receive a narrated cruise, a guided tour from Parks Canada staff and a 3½ to 4 hour stay on the island. On the island, the access to food is limited (expensive cold meals only), therefore, one would be well advised to bring a picnic. Croisières Lachance departs twice daily from Berthier-sur-Mer near Montmagny, 45 minutes drive from Lévis. Croisières Coudrier cruises daily to Grosse-Île, with departures from Québec City, Saint-Laurent at Île d'Orléans, and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. From Québec City, the ship leaves the Vieux-Port (Old Port) daily at 9:30 AM for a 90 minute cruise to the island, and the ship is back at Québec City at 5 PM. Both cruise companies strongly recommend confirming your sailing information at least 1 day in advance, since they may add cruise departures or have their schedule altered by weather or for other reasons.