Quebec City is an exciting travel destination that is like no other in North America. You’ll feel as if you’re in Europe, strolling the cobbled streets while gazing up at well-preserved 17th-century architecture, enjoying a cafe culture similar to Paris, and be within the only fortress walls that still exist north of Mexico. But what’s outside of this beautiful city? There’s a ton of nature that awaits, and much more that can be enjoyed on one of these unforgettable day trips.
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While it’s a little over a three-hour drive away, it’s worth waking early to visit Tadoussac, and the trip alone is jaw-droppingly scenic. A small village lying along the St. Lawrence River where it meets the Saguenay River, it’s not only filled with charming French-style bistros and cafes, but it’s one of the best spots for whale watching. From May through October as many as 13 species can be found in the saltwater of the St. Lawrence, including belugas, humpbacks, minkes and even blue whales. Friendly beluga whales inhabit the area all year-round, but peak viewing time is during the summer months. There are also miles and miles of trails to hike while enjoying that gorgeous mountain and water scenery.
Two hours and 20 minutes north of Quebec City, Saguenay lies in a valley along the Saguenay River, surrounded by a stunning lake and lush hill scenery. It’s the gateway to the beautiful Fjord-du-Saguenay National Park, renowned for kayaking, hiking, sailing and skiing, depending on the time of the year. You can watch for wildlife like moose, beaver, porcupine and even beluga whales here too. There’s also a great aquarium and historic village that offers a trip back in time to the 1920s, with costumed staff, a general store, post office, pulp mill and school. Visitors can also enjoy spectacular views of Ouiatchouan Falls.
Less than three hours from Quebec City, Montreal is Canada’s second-largest and considered its cultural capital with its long list of attractions to explore. A city of festivals, there are some 100 multi-day events that take place annually. If you want to attend one, check the calendar and plan your day trip around it. They’re hosted at Quartier des Spectacles near downtown. Visitors can also enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides down the cobbled streets of Vieux-Montreal, known for its European flavor, check out unique boutiques and visit renowned museums like the Musée d’Art Contemporain and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Foodies will be in paradise – there are more restaurants per capita than any other city on the continent.
A few hours west of Quebec City, Saint-Sauveur is another town famous for its festivals. Attend everything from the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur to Les Sommets Gourmands, the biggest festival on the continent for active epicureans, with multiple music festivals in between. Take advantage of Canada’s largest mountain water park in the warmer months, and in the winter, fantastic skiing, boarding, snow tubing, ice skating and snowshoeing. There are lots of spas and many great eateries like the ultra-romantic Le Bistro St-Sauveur.
Nestled in a sweeping valley in the bay of the St. Jean River and the fjord of the Saguenay, this beautiful village offers endless breathtaking views and a host of outdoor adventure. Just some of the activities on offer here include hiking, horseback, riding, fishing kayaking and sailing. When the region is transformed into a winter wonderland, ice fishing on the fjord, cross-country skiing on the trails and alpine skiing on Mount Edouard are all possible.
While it is a long drive for a day trip, it may be worth the early morning rise to visit the village and resort of Mont-Tremblant, a popular destination in Quebec. A little over three-and-a-half hours away, it’s especially popular in the winter as one of the top resorts in eastern North America. Skiers and boarders come for its wide runs, but there are all sorts of other winter sports like snowmobiling and ice climbing. The colorful village itself is filled with a variety of eateries serving international fare and boasts one of the liveliest après-ski scenes in the region. If you visit in July you can attend the popular International Blues Festival.
For a shorter day trip, Île d’Orléans is technically part of Quebec City, a 26-mile-long island that can be reached in just 15 minutes from downtown. It has an incredibly rich history and beautiful scenery as well as being a favorite spot among those who appreciate delicious food. You’ll find locally made wine, beer, ice cream, maple treats, chocolate and more. Just take a drive along the main road that circles the island, popping into whatever looks interesting.
Located along the U.S. border near Vermont less than three hours from Quebec City, Stanstead was founded by pioneers from New England in the late 18th century. It developed through the 19th century with the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists and the booming granite industry. Today, you can still see many impressive historic buildings, with the main route, Dufferin Street often referred to as an outdoor museum with its wealth of landmarks, including churches, the 1873 Stanstead College, a former post office and the 1881 Collège des Ursulines. Don’t miss the two-centuries-old Mansur School, a one-room pioneer schoolhouse built entirely of red brick at the corner of Curtis Road and Route 143.
The second oldest city in the province, Trois-Rivières, lies at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Saint-Maurice rivers and is under 80 minutes from Quebec City. A cultural hub, its rich history is what put it on the map, bringing many to experience the old town. On one side of the Saint-Maurice River is the modern city center, while the old part of the city is on the other. Take a trip back in time by strolling the oldest road, Rue des Ursuline and checking out over 50 buildings that date as far back as the mid-17th-century. Other highlights include the Québec Museum of Folk Culture and the historic Boucher-De Niverville Manor.