Top Places to Visit in the Province of Quebec
We’ve lived half of our lives in Quebec. Quebec is best known for historic Quebec City (a UNESCO site) and cosmopolitan Montreal, but what really makes the province special is its nature. Quebec has 47 national parks, all with a varied mix of natural attractions.
If you’re a hiker there are lots of mountains to climb, places with superlative views and few visitors. The province has one of the world’s most beautiful fjords (the Saguenay Fjord), an incredible coastline of rocky coves and lighthouses (the Gaspé Peninsula) and one of the planet’s premier whale-watching spots (in the pretty town of Tadoussac). There’s Forillon National Park, Quebec’s oldest National Park and one of its most beautiful. There is the Parc National de la Gaspésie where you can hike the Chic-Choc mountains (the highest in Quebec) and stay in one of the most beautiful and romantic lodges in Canada.
There’s tons to see and do in Quebec and this guide will highlight some of the top places to visit in the province.
Montreal is the province’s largest city. It is a vibrant, international city with fantastic food, exciting nightlife, and some great historical, geographical and cultural highlights.
Absolute “must-see’s” in order: 1) Mont-Royal mountain in the center of the city, 2) Old Montreal and the port, 3) the downtown core, 4) the Plateau Mont-Royal and Lafontaine Park. Montreal is a great city if you’re a biker and if you’re adventurous I recommend renting a bike and seeing the city that way. If you have kids you’ll want to visit the Biodome and Botanical Gardens.
See my detailed Guide on Montreal here.
North of Montreal: the Laurentians
About an hour north of Montreal are the Laurentian Mountains. There are many small towns in this region that offer outdoor activities year-round, including cycling, hiking and skiing. The most popular place is Mont-Tremblant village (90 minutes from Montreal), a resort built by the same people who built Whistler in BC. It has some of the best skiing (you can ski right up to your hotel) and best golf courses in Quebec. Many people fly to Montreal just to be able to drive up to Mont-Tremblant. This post covers Skiing in Mont-Tremblant.
Nearby is Mont-Tremblant National Park, a popular place for hiking and other outdoor activities. If coming in the autumn, the “La Roche” trail (an easy 4.8 km trail) is recommended to see the fall colours.
South of Montreal: the Eastern Townships
About an hour south of Montreal are the Eastern Townships (which I actually prefer to the more popular Laurentians). This area is very bilingual, part of that due to the Anglo Heritage, part of it due to the US border being just a few kilometers away. Just like the Laurentians, this area is full of mountains and lakes. It also has some pretty towns like North Hatley, Magog and Sutton. But our favorite places in the Eastern Townships are a little further. The town of Lac-Mégantic is within easy reach of Mont-Mégantic National Park. Within this park, you have 2 peaks that are among the 3 highest peaks in the Eastern Townships: Mont St-Joseph (1065 m) has the more impressive views while Mont Megantic (1105 m) has an astronomy center (Astrolab) open to the public. The best thing is you can drive up to both peaks and hike from the top to great views in all directions. Our other favorite place is Mont Pinacle which is close to Coaticook. Mont Pinacle and why it’s our favorite hike in the Eastern Townships.
Recommended B&B in Coaticook: Les Petits Trésors. We would often stay here and go to the very nice Coffret de l’Imagination for dinner.
Flying In: Travellers coming to the Province of Quebec usually fly into Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (airport code YUL) or Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport (airport code YQB). We use CheapOair to book our flights (see below). Renting a car: You can pickup a car at either airports. The best deals are on Rentalcar.com.
About 3 hours drive east of Montreal lies Quebec City, the province’s capital. It is one of the oldest cities in North America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is well known for its quaint Old City, its grand winter festival, and gorgeous architecture. The highlight is the Chateau Frontenac, which overlooks the St. Lawrence river. Visitors love Quebec City’s charming European feel and many like to wander the little streets of the Old Town. Nowhere else in Canada compares to Quebec’s Old City. This inexpensive 2 hour tour of Quebec City is recommended.
Quebec city is also the most easterly point that connects the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence. Beyond the city (going east), the waterway broadens dramatically and the only connection between the north and south shores is by ferry.
Near Quebec city: Montmorency Falls
Just outside of Quebec City, along the northern shore of the St Lawrence, it is worth stopping at Montmorency Falls. It is the highest waterfall in the province of Quebec and is a nice place to stretch the legs and walk around. This full day tour from Montreal covers both Quebec City and Montmorency Falls.
Eastern Quebec, North Coast
Going east of Québec City is the pretty Charlevoix region, an area that dates back to the province’s first rural settlements. A popular tourist town is Baie St-Paul, a pretty little town known for its art galleries. Located in a bay, it is a good base to explore some of the mountainous national parks in the interior – recommended for spectacular hikes are Parc National des Grands Jardins ( the highlight is the Mont du Lac-des-Cygnes Trail) and Parc des Hautes Gorges de la Riviere Malbaie (The 5 hour Acropole des Draveurs hike is one of the most scenic in the province).
Further along is our favorite town in the whole province of Quebec: Tadoussac. It is a small town, popular for its whale-watching and hiking, and draws an international crowd. Tadoussac is located at the juncture of the St Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers – besides the marine attractions of the St Lawrence, it also offers great hiking opportunities along the Saguenay Fjord.
More in these posts:
A Road Trip to Quebec’s North Coast (this post covers Tadoussac, the Saguenay Fjord, and Parc des Hautes Gorges de la Riviere Malbaie)
Eastern Quebec, South Coast
Going East of Quebec, but on the South Coast, you’ll pass through many of the same pretty villages that you see on the North Coast.
By the time you get to Rimouski (3 hours east of Quebec City) you’ve entered a different region. Here the St. Lawrence has widened out and the water is a mix of salt and fresh water, the cool breezes carrying a whiff of the ocean. Nearby, Bic National Park is a pretty provincial park known for its rocky hills, salt marshes, and islands. It also has good bike trails (for those with bikes) as well as a camp site (which we weren’t very impressed with to be honest).
We stayed overnight at the very nice Hotel Rimouski.
Hiking in Saguenay Fjord National Park
Further east, the St. Lawrence widening further, you are officially on the Gaspé Peninsula when passing the town of Matane. The Gaspé is a beautiful region of sharp cliffs, dramatic scenery, and lighthouses. It is, in my opinion, the most beautiful region in Quebec.
Driving in from the coast, the Parc National de la Gaspésie contains the Chic-Choc mountains, the highest mountains in Quebec. Some great hiking here. For a very special treat, stay at the Gite du Mont-Albert, a lodge run by the park. It’s a beautiful, luxurious lodge in the middle of nature where you can be served fine dining by candlelight. Just fabulous and if you can come here for a night (or two) then you really should.
Back on the coast, the scenery only gets more impressive as you head east of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts.
Views from Cap Saint-Alban, Forillon National Park
Forillon National Park, at the very tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, is one of the most spectacular national parks in Quebec. It’s also a great place to do some camping, the facilities are excellent. Make sure to do the short hike to the lookout on Cap Saint-Alban.
Percé, down the coast from Forillon National Park, is the most famous (and popular) spot on the Gaspé. It is named after the often photographed rock with the hole. The geography is very pretty, just be warned that Percé can be quite touristy.
Where to stay in Perce: Au Pic de l’Aurore Motel-Chalets
More: A detailed account of our roadtrip through the Gaspé.
The Outaouais is in Quebec’s west, bordering Ontario (It actually starts in Hull, right across the river from Ottawa’s parliament buildings).
Hull is not a pretty city. But it holds the Canadian Museum of History. Entering the museum, you’ll be guided into the Grand Hall: A 6-story windowed hall looking out at Ottawa’s Parliament buildings on the opposite side of the river. Within the hall are Aboriginal longhouses and towering totem poles. The Grand Hall is one of the country’s most impressive indoor public spaces and the Museum’s architectural centrepiece.
Pink Lake Lookout (source)
Gatineau Park is a pretty, hilly park that also has historical relevance. It holds the Mackenzie King Estate (Mackenzie King is the longest serving Canadian prime minister, serving 3 terms in the early 1900’s) as well as the conference center at Meech Lake. But its highlights are two geographical spots: Pink Lake is a small beautiful lake with emerald-coloured water. A lot of people come here to walk the trails around the lake. The Champlain Lookout has beautiful views over the countryside and the Ottawa river.
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