Day Trips from Quebec City
Story and photos by Charles Williams
Charles is the editor for Pursuits with Enterprise. Email the author.
Drive beyond the Old City walls to discover the joys of rural Quebec.
In Quebec City, people like to linger — in bistros, bakeries and outdoor cafes. With the sound of the beautiful French language everywhere, punctuated by the smell of cafe au lait and freshly baked croissants, who could blame them?
I dawdled, too. I hung out in the lobby of the iconic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, hoping to get a glimpse of someone famous — no luck. I roamed the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec, searching for some soul-satisfying poutine. And I relaxed in a 400-year-old hotel, soaking in a whirlpool tub and soaking up the historic ambiance.
But Quebec is Canada’s largest province, and Quebec City is only part of its allure. To fully appreciate what the province has to offer, rent a car and explore the beautiful countryside.
Montmorency Falls Park
(14 km from Old Quebec)
I love waterfalls — their soothing sounds and gravity-driven force inspire me. Luckily, the impressive Montmorency Falls, which is 30 metres higher than Niagara Falls, is a short drive from the city.
Visitors can arrive at either the top or bottom of the falls. From the top, a trail leads to a suspension bridge that spans the roaring water. The opposite side features a 487-step staircase down to the bottom with scenic viewpoints along the way.
Montmorency Falls Park is open year-round. In winter, the waterfall’s mist freezes and accumulates at the foot of the falls. The result is a huge pile of ice known as the “sugar loaf.”
Island of Orleans
(16 km from Old Quebec)
A slower pace of life exists just 15 minutes from the city. The Island of Orleans is known as the “Garden of Quebec,” and local farmers markets stock much of its bounty. And what a feast it is — ice cider, chocolate, wine, terrine of guinea fowl, duck confit, blackcurrant liqueur and more.
Route 368 circles the island and passes by farms, orchards, sugar shacks and maple groves. The 33-kilometre-long island can easily be driven in a day. Sainte-Petronille is a small village on the western tip, and this vantage point offers great views of the St. Lawrence River and Quebec City.
(35 km from Old Quebec)
The Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre Basilica attracts over a million visitors each year. The basilica is built in the Romanesque Revival style and honours St. Anne, the patron saint of Quebec.
Louis Guimond, who suffered from back pain, helped build the original church in 1658. During construction, he placed three stones in the foundation and was allegedly cured. Since then, people from around the world have arrived seeking cures for their illnesses. Those who feel as if they have been healed leave crutches on the entrance pillars.
I’m fortunately in good health, so I spent my time exploring the beautiful upper basilica, which has 75 stained glass windows, mosaics and a revered statue of St. Anne and her precious relics.
Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area
(48 km from Old Quebec)
Greater snow geese are usually white, and less than 1 percent are blue. They mate for life, fly up to 100 km/h and stay aloft more than 965 km.
Tens of thousands of these fascinating birds gather at Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area during their spring and fall migrations.
The wildlife area is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River near Saint-Joachim. In addition to greater snow geese, 180 bird, 30 mammal and 700 plant species live here. High tide brings the geese closer to shore and nearby fields, allowing bird-watchers to get a closer look.
Cap Tourmente also has 21 kilometres of hiking trails and an interpretation centre with exhibits and picnic areas.
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