The Art of Slow Travel in Québec

Picking cloudberries, kayaking on the river, taking in outdoor art shows, and spending nights under the forest canopy: Québec is one great outdoor playground.

Text—Juliette Leblanc
Cover photo—Kevin Brunelle

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Tasting the local flavours
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Come ready to breathe in the landscape and savour the land. In farm and food trades, one unique season follows another—and summer is especially sumptuous. Orchards, vineyards, apiaries, markets, distilleries, and agri-tourism farms abound in the province. Pick up an assortment of local products for a picnic on the fly.

Magdalen Islands. Photo: Jeanne Rondeau-Ducharme

In Gaspésie, Côte-Nord, or the Magdalen Islands, delight your taste buds with a wealth of fresh seafood: northern shrimp, scallops, lobster, cod, herring, turbot, mackerel, the much-coveted snow crab, mussels, clams, and whelks.

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In Côte-Nord, stock up on smoked fish and Sel Saint-Laurent, the first sea salt produced in Québec. Take a leisurely stroll through Montréal’s seasonal markets; the Marché des Éclusiers in Old Montréal is especially charming.

If you’re inclined to tipple, the province is home to hundreds of wineries, distilleries, and microbreweries.

We could easily fill up a whole article listing them, but here are a handful of our favourites. Visit Domaine Sainte-Famille on Île d’Orléans for their culinary workshops. In the Eastern Townships, you’ll find two biodynamic gems: Clos Saragnat—the inventor of ice cider—and vineyard Domaine Bergeville.

Sample L’Isle-aux-Coudres, a samphire beer, at distillery and brewery Menaud in Charlevoix; enjoy the view from the Distillerie des Marigots, perched atop a cliff overlooking Chaleur Bay in Gaspésie; or watch the sun set over the river at the Tête d’Allumette microbrewery in Kamouraska.

Linger at farmers’ shops like Au Gré des Champs in Montérégie, where you can watch cattle graze in their natural habitat after stocking up on fine cheeses.

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The Abbaye Val Notre-Dame is worth a trip just for their gourmet shop, but you’ll find roaming the grounds difficult to resist. Designed by architect Pierre Thibault, the abbey sits on a forested plateau overlooking the Rivière L’Assomption, and its gardens and meditation areas are beautiful and peaceful. In the Eastern Townships, visit the Au Pied Levé farm for their lodge and rustic restaurant, or Les Soeurs Racines, a young vineyard and lodge surrounded by five kilometres of forest trails. In Ferme-Neuve in the Upper Laurentians, stop at the Miels d’Anicet apiary and enjoy a feast in their lovely open-air canteen, Pollens & Nectars.

Miels d’Anicet. Photo: Virginie Gosselin
Au Pied Levé Farm. Photo: TQ, Gaëlle Leroyer

Dropping anchor along the St. Lawrence River
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The St. Lawrence River cradles Montréal and Îled’Orléans, widening as it flows along the Côte-Nord and Gaspésie before rushing into the Gulf and the Atlantic. The fleuve holds a central place in the collective imagination of Quebecers; the mighty waterway’s waves, salt air, and diving birds inspire locals to lounge along its shores.

Since Montréal is an island, you’re never too far from the water for a riverside meal or an after-work drink.

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Our treasured spots include two parks within the city, and another that’s just a quick ferry ride away. Parc-Nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques is a large forested area offering barbecue pits, so bring your grillables for a cookout. A stroll along the Rivière des Prairies in Parc-Nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation pairs perfectly with an ice cream picked up on Gouin Boulevard. Take the ferry (or drive) to the Parc national des Îles de Boucherville; the islands are perfect for a long meander, a quick dip in the water, a picnic, or all three. 

In the Charlevoix region, you’ll find Baie-Saint-Paul impossible to resist. Right on the bay, the hotel and spa Le Germain offers a perfect environment for remote work just a few steps from the beach. Nine hours further east, the town of Havre-Saint-Pierre in the Côte-Nord region offers an unforgettable view of the St. Lawrence. If you’re tempted to venture out on the waves, try Les Vagues for a guided stand-up paddleboarding tour through the Mingan Archipelago, home to many marine mammals.

Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. Photo: Sébastien St-Jean

Havre-Saint-Pierre lies on the edge of the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, where islands, islets, and iconic limestone outcroppings offer endless opportunities for marine birdwatching.

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When you’re back on the road again, stop a few kilometres from Tadoussac at Essipit for a memorable sea kayak trip—the most respectful way to partake in the area’s renowned whale-watching. Rent a cabin or pitch your tent on one of their campsites to extend your stay; this magnificent site is operated by the local Innu community, one of the 11 Indigenous Nations in Québec. 

It would be impossible to talk about the whales of the St. Lawrence without mentioning Gaspésie. The majestic mammals return with the warm weather, arriving at the end of April or beginning of May, and departing at the end of October. Time your visit to greet them or see them off. In Percé, stop at peaceful Pointe Saint-Pierre before visiting Le Nordet, a new ecotourism centre featuring a Nordic spa and  environmentally friendly hotel with a view of the sea.

MURAL Festival. Photo: MURAL, ABCDF, Rashad Bedeir.
Photo: Jeanne Rondeau-Ducharme

Art and nature in the city and beyond
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One of the charms of travelling is finding art where you least expect it: turning a corner to come face to face with a giant mural, spying the sculptures scattered throughout parks, stumbling upon an outdoor art show, and even coming across the little pockets of wilderness—nature’s art—thriving in the middle of a city.

Montréal’s annual MURAL Festival takes place each summer, complete with guided tours. In Québec City, the La Cité-Limoilou district gives three walls to graffiti artists through the Murs Légaux initiative, letting them create legally. The same district is home to more than 250 works of outdoor public art.

Reford Gardens. Photo: Nancy Guignard

For botany enthusiasts, the Reford Gardens hosts temporary art exhibitions on a vast flowery terrain—a must-see in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region.

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Also well worth checking out are the international film and art festival Les Percéides and the photography exhibitions of the Rencontres de la photographie, both in Gaspésie.

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Pockets of nature dot the province’s urban centres; there’s more than enough to meet your needs for peace and chlorophyll. The Parc Frédéric-Back environmental rehabilitation project in Saint-Michel is a real boost to the city of Montréal. Once the site of a quarry and landfill, today it is a 153-hectare park that combines grassy valleys, picnic areas, a shareduse path for running and cycling, and its otherworldly, big white orbs used to capture biogas. In Laval, the Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles offers a variety of activities throughout the year, notably kayaking trips at dusk in summer. 

The Domaine de Maizerets is a well-kept Québec City secret. This vast 27-hectare park features a historic heart, a wooded area, and an arboretum—don’t forget to save time for a breath of fresh air here during your trip to the Limoilou neighbourhood.

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Every region of Québec holds its own outdoor treasures. For a full immersion in nature, try the Parc Régional Kiamika in the Laurentians: this 184 km2 park contains 10 lakes and no fewer than 40 islands and islets where you can camp in peace.

Cap Tourmente, Route Verte. Photo: Jeanne Rondeau-Ducharme

Go your own way
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Whether you get where you’re going by bike, car, train, or ferry, the potential for adventure in Québec is limitless. The BESIDE team views travel time as an essential part of the trip rather than a necessary step.

Bring your two wheels to the Outaouais Region to pedal along the Ottawa River or over the hills of Gatineau Park. In the Lower Laurentians, lap up the 40 km La Vagabonde bike path. Québec’s Route Verte, a 5,300 km network of bike paths criss-crossing the province, offers something for every level of cyclist. 

In Sherbrooke, follow the Magog River along the Grandes-Fourches cycling route, a 52 km path that conveniently passes by Strøm Spa Nordique, if you need to soothe your muscles.

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There’s no shortage of breathtaking drives in Québec, and some of these routes are bike friendly. Route 362 between Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie seems like it’s being swallowed up by the river and the horizon. Route 132, between Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and Grande-Vallée, smells of salt water, and the strong wind whips at your face. The stretch of road connecting Saint-Armand to Frelighsburg, especially the last section, offers a commanding view of the village from the top of the hill—and the descent is particularly exhilarating on two wheels. Route 117 between Grand-Remous and Val-d’Or covers 253 km of forests, lakes, and the immense Réserve faunique La Vérendrye

Train de Charlevoix. Photo: Tourisme Charlevoix, Caroline Perron

The train is also a great way to travel, a fact too often forgotten. Trains allow you to pay full attention to the landscape rather than your GPS.

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If vacationing by rail appeals to you, check out the Train de Charlevoix, which links up three stations (Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, Baie-Saint-Paul, and La Malbaie) along the St. Lawrence River. Ferries have a romantic allure and let you glide along your route while you admire the view free of care. We especially recommend the ferries from Isle-aux-Grues to Montmagny, Rivière-du-Loup to Saint-Siméon, and Matane to Baie-Comeau.

Bonjour Québec’s mission is to promote the province as a destination, both internationally and locally. We are proud to highlight our connection to the land, our creative culture and the authenticity of our tourist experiences. We encourage people from near or far to discover Québec as never before. It’s a place you will fall in love with at first sight.

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