Local Tourism: A Beginner’s Guide
Outdoor concerts, river kayaking, and bike paths to escape the crowds: (re)discover Québec starting with your own region.
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Local or regional tourism adheres to the simple rule of backyard travel. Each city in Québec, starting with your own, has its own secrets and emblematic places. The practice became more popular during the pandemic, but it had been gaining ground for a few years before that. Discover Québec, starting near home.
The goal of this short guide is to help you spice up your weekends with local trips and staycations.
Let your hometown and region surprise you. Let spontaneity and curiosity guide you as you explore unknown places.
Forest and river baths
Many cities in Québec have magnificent nearby regional and nature parks. Consult a map to find the ones closest to you. Here are some suggestions:
This park offers activities throughout the year, notably summer kayaking trips at dusk, introductions to family fishing, and ice fishing in the winter.
Île Saint-Bernard (Montérégie)
Less than 30 minutes from Montréal, Île Saint-Bernard is a peaceful haven for year-round hiking. There are nearly 250 local bird species and many viewpoints of the water.
Parc de l’Île Saint-Quentin (Trois-Rivières)
Along the banks of the river, just steps from downtown Trois-Rivières, this island has a family beach that includes, among other things, an outdoor summer film program. In winter, Trifluviens converge there to go snowshoeing or fatbike riding on the island’s trails.
Canyon Sainte-Anne (Québec City)
Multiple trails and suspension bridges lead visitors to lookouts over the Sainte-Anne-du-Nord River. The falls are 74 m high — surpassing the ones in Niagara.
Éco-Odyssée Nature Park (Gatineau)
A completely unique place, this park, located 30 minutes from the city of Gatineau, is a water labyrinth that can be explored by canoe or paddleboat.
Les Sentiers de l’Estrie (Sherbrooke)
This non-profit organization lists all the hiking trails in the greater Sherbrooke area to help give everyone access. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hiker, you’ll find a circuit that will make you happy!
Parc-Aventure Joannès (Rouyn-Noranda)
This park with 10 km of trails is ideal for a family outing or to stretch your legs.
Parc de la Rivière-du-Moulin (Saguenay)
This municipal park has hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing trails. You can also rent boats for an adventure on the water.
Camping shouldn’t only be associated with long-distance expeditions that require weeks of planning. You can camp a stone’s throw from the city — or even at home!
Many of us are unfamiliar with the culture scene in our own city or neighbouring towns. Strolling around a new neighbourhood and, after a quick detour, stumbling across an open-air art exhibition or a garden to sit and quietly read in can be a great and accessible way to recharge your batteries. Here are some suggestions to feast your eyes upon:
- Sherbrooke — The Promenade du Lac des Nations is hosting a photo exhibition with the theme of Humans from Here and Elsewhere.
- Rouyn-Noranda — The FME – The Festival of Emerging Music, a music-lover’s favourite, is a cultural staple in Abitibi. Past editions have always included outdoor performances, which, technically, makes this an outdoor activity!
- Montréal — Mural Festival takes place in the city in August and even offers guided tours. In addition to the summer offerings of outdoor concerts, there are various comedy nights in some of the city’s parks.
- Val-d’Or — In the heart of the city is the quiet calm of Des Marais Park, where you’ll find sculptures by Jacques Baril, Robert Saucier, Bill Vazan, and Jean-Yves Vigneau, created by these artists for a national symposium titled Terre minée . . . La fin serait-elle un commencement?
- Québec City — Through the Murs Légaux initiative, three walls of the Cité-Limoilou borough have been given to graffiti artists to create their art legally. Citizens are invited to visit multiple times to see the evolution of the works. This same borough has 250 works of outdoor public art.
When visiting your own city or a new location, why not try to find the most beautiful bookstores, galleries, and cinemas? Here are a few of our favourites, in rapid succession:
- Saguenay — The contemporary art centre Bang brings together three venues and an artist residency program, and houses the Point de Suspension bookstore, which offers publications on contemporary art to complement the centre’s programming.
- Montréal — Cinéma Moderne opened its doors with the mission of offering independent film and showcasing works that are often inaccessible to the public. The venue combines a projection room and a café-bar area with a patio in the summer, right in the heart of Mile-End.
- Gatineau — The Imagier Art Centre has three elements: contemporary art exhibits, music and performing arts shows on the Parc de l’Imaginaire stage, and educational activities.
- Rimouski — The L’Alphabet bookstore is located in front of the river, a few steps from the bike path along the Route Verte and the Promenade de la Mer, an ideal place to leaf through a new book.
- Joliette — The Musée d’Art de Joliette has temporary and permanent exhibits as well as an outdoor sculpture path.
- Québec City — The Maison de la Littérature houses a public library, rooms for writing, a comics workshop, an art studio, a writers’ residency, and a literary stage, all inside a heritage church filled with natural light.
Islands of urban nature
To get away from the hubbub of busy streets, to sit down and grab a coffee or a meal to go, or simply to stretch your legs in the fresh air, these islands of nature that dot the province’s urban centres will meet your chlorophyll needs.
- Montréal — On the banks of the river, the Grand Potager initiative is nestled among Verdun’s greenhouses. A collaborative community project, the site can be accessed through comprehensive programming that runs throughout the year.
- Québec City — The Domaine de Maizerets is a well-kept Québec City secret. A vast 27-hectare park, it is divided into three parts: the historic heart, the wooded area, and the arboretum. An ideal breath of fresh air during your trip to the Limoilou district or on your way to the Beauport Bay. The park is accessible in summer and winter.
- Sherbrooke — The Grandes Fourches bike path runs along the south shore of the Magog River. In addition to crossing bucolic landscapes, the circuit will take you past the Strøm Nordic Spa, an irresistible attraction, should your calves need a little break!
- Montréal — The Parc Frédéric-Back environmental rehabilitation project in Saint-Michel is a real boost to the metropolis. Once the site of a quarry and landfill, today it is a 153-hectare park that combines grassy valleys, large white spheres that capture bio-gas, picnic areas, and a multi-purpose trail for running and cycling.
Staycation in the streets of Québec
Québec’s cité does not lack for attractions. It’s hard to get tired of the breathtaking views or to resist the narrow cobblestone streets. Our contributor Léa Beauchesne put together an incredible itinerary for the province’s capital. Here’s the best of that list, with a few additions:
Perfect places for a picnic, or to take a nap:
- The Plains of Abraham deserves its place on the list of classics. Otherwise, visit Parc Victoria, on the edge of the neighbourhoods of Saint-Sauveur and Saint-Roch, ideal for meals to go or drinks at Noctem.
- The Forts-et-Châteaux-Saint-Louis national historical site, underneath the Dufferin Terrace, near Château Frontenac, is a crypt that houses fascinating archaeological remains. After your visit, stretch out on the fortifications’ well-kept lawn for a siesta.
- The urban vegetable farm operated by Les Urbainculteurs, Louise Basin Gardens, is among the finest picnic areas in Québec’s Old Port.
- In the lovely Bois-de-Coulonge Park along the Grande Allée Ouest Boulevard, you’ll find horticultural trails and a delicious canteen: Panache du Parc.
The most beautiful streets where you can walk slowly, gently, forever:
- On Sous-le-Cap Street, stroll under the walkways that link houses to their sheds.
- Raise your eyes up from the low angle of Cul-de-Sac Street to admire Château Frontenac.
- Colonel-Dambourgès Hill, paved and bounded by ramparts, connects the Old Port to Canoterie Hill — thus linking the Basse- and Haute-Ville areas.
- The little café Chez Temporel is hidden on Couillard Street.
- Along Saint-Joseph and Saint-Vallier Streets in Saint-Roch, let your culinary temptations guide you among these gems: Le Clocher Penché, Nina Pizza, L’Affaire est Ketchup, Patente et Machin, Le Renard et la Chouette, or even Le Pied Bleu.
Staycation on the shores of Montréal
We often forget that Montréal is above all an island, to be enjoyed on beautiful summer days. To follow up on the itinerary that was carefully drafted last year by our colleague Marie Charles Pelletier, here are some ideas for islanders in search of local adventures:
Top five places for a picnic or happy hour overlooking the water:
- Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville is a perfect place to bring together picnicking and an outing or hike along the river.
- Parc-Nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques in the West Island is a superb wooded area (with barbecue pits) surrounded by Lac des Deux Montagnes and the Des Prairies River.
- Parc des Corroyeurs is located on the water’s edge in the Sud-Ouest borough.
- A promenade through Parc-Nature de l’Île de la Visitation, on the shores of the Des Prairies River, goes well with an ice cream from Gouin Boulevard.
- Bota Bota, a classic Old Montréal spa right on the water.
- For another type of water’s edge, there are the very refreshing pools in Jarry (Villeray), Laurier (Plateau-Mont-Royal), and De la Fontaine (Verdun) Parks.
To complete your outings and picnics, the team suggests the vegan ice cream shop Swirl, with its offering of irresistible flavours: Québec haskap, Qantu cacao, locally roasted coffee . . .
And to escape the crowds in the parks and patios, there’s nothing better than an outing on the river at sunset. Espace Navi rents kayaks, SUPs, and paddleboats from its centres in Verdun and Nuns’ Island. On guided tours, you can reach Rock Island, an oasis of tranquility. For the more adventurous, KSF in Verdun offers surf lessons on the eternal waves of the St. Lawrence River.
Local travel can easily be adopted as a year-round mindset. There are so many unexpected treasures to discover, while travelling close to home and joyfully exploring your own city!
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