Browse: Home / What to do in Quebec: 3 places you have to visit
It wasn’t until I was re-reading my old blog posts about Canada, feeling nostalgic and inspired by this week’s Canada Day, and my Canadian buddy’s trip back to her homeland on the same day, that I realised I have never actually shared anything about my time in Quebec – shame on me!
I wrote about preparations for the trip, my trip around Ontario, my favourite food and drink to try, and my top tips for a visit to Canada, but neglected any details about the beautiful province of Quebec.
For anyone who saw the previous post, you’ll know that I was in Canada for a wedding. I had flown in to Toronto and was taking a week ahead of the wedding celebrations for a solo road trip from Toronto, Ontario, all the way up to Taddousac, Quebec, and back again. I had deliberated over whether to travel so far, or just take more time in the places on route, but I was desperate to go whale watching, and Taddousac was the first point I would be able to do that, so I was determined to make it happen.
The scenery was beautiful, I had a great little Jeep and a good playlist, so I had no issues with the amount of driving I was doing. In Ontario I had already spent a night in Ganonque exploring the Thousand Islands, and in the capital, Ottawa where the RibFest and Jazzfest were taking place. I knew we had a week with the wedding party back in Ontario exploring Toronto, Niagra Falls, The Great Lakes and more, so I was happy to have a few quiet nights to myself in Quebec (you can see my itinerary/route here).
So what were my Quebec highlights?
1. Culinary delights in Montreal
My first stop in the province was Montreal, the capital of Quebec province. It was only a couple of hours drive from Ottawa, so I had plenty of time to check in to my guesthouse and after a quick bagel at the oldest bagel shop in Montreal, head out for a wander. Here I completely miscalculated distances, setting out for a long walk up to Mont Royal, around the park and finally to L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph. I started out fine, walking up to Mont Royal. It was quite far, but good to be out and moving around, and once at the top, the views of the city were incredible – well worth the hundreds of steps! The park was much bigger than I had anticipated, and I had hoped to have lunch in one of the cafes, unfortunately by the time I had reached these, they were no longer serving lunch and had closed for the afternoon! I had then worked out that I could walk across to L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph – which was a big mistake! It was much, much further, and along main roads with fast traffic and no scenery – I must have completely miscalculated the distances! Once I had realised however, I was on desperate look out for a taxi, but didn’t see a single one en route. The Oratoire was very pretty, and I was obviously glad to reach it, but unfortunately by then I was hot, hungry and exhausted, and there was nowhere to stop there either, so I didn’t embrace it quite as I would have done normally. Still without any taxis in sight, I plotted a short cut back through a residential estate, and if I’m honest, it was a miserably long walk back, so by the time I finally reached my guesthouse and it was getting dark, I stopped at a cafe on the road outside for a long cold drink, and then took a sandwich, tea and biscuits to my room, had a long hot bath and an early night!
No matter how much you love travelling and exploring, we all have these low points sometimes, and I think it’s important to acknowledge them – it’s not all smiling selfies and sunshine! However, more importantly, the next day I was refreshed and, with plasters on the blisters, I was ready to explore the old city (which I was thankfully much closer too!)
Montreal city put a smile back on my face. I walked down towards the old town through the Quartier des Spectacles, taking time to explore the quirky shops along the roadside, and stopped for some delicious dimsum and bubble tea in Chinatown, before reaching the Old Town. I was really impressed by the gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, both inside and out, and from here I wandered the cobbled little backstreets, and out to the Old Port, which gave great views along the river, and back to the old town. Back in the old town, I bimbled around the local markets, admired the architecturally-interesting administrative buildings and took my time to explore the culinary delights that Montreal is known for – including my first authentic poutine, and some delicious smores!
2. Living a fairytale in Quebec City
It was a three hour drive from Montreal to Quebec City, and at the last minute I had cancelled my hotel booking and switched to somewhere more central (learnings from my mistake in Montreal!) which was more expensive, but definitely worth it. The Hotel Port Royal was right in the centre of the old town and the whole area was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately the weather had turned a little grey the day I arrived, but it still couldn’t take away from the beauty. The city has a fairytale whimsical feel about it, with intricate paintings on the building walls and installations hanging across the lanes, and pretty flower pots scattered over the cobbled streets in front of little chapels. After another poutine lunch, with a ridiculously strong local beer, I made for Le Chateau Frontenac – the world’s most photographed hotel apparently – and Quebec City Cathedral, before walking along the city walls to Quebec City Citadelle. I had researched this ahead of time, so that I would arrive at the right time for a tour with changing of the guard and gun salute for the end of the day. As an army child, I always find these kind of military demonstrations somewhat nostalgic, and it was a great thing to end the day on.
The following morning, after a hearty Canadian breakfast (pancakes, fruit, bacon, potatoes and maple syrup?!), I decided to retrace my steps a little as the sun was now shining brightly in a blue sky, and I wanted to take another look at some of the pretty areas of the town in the sunshine – and it really did make such a difference!
3. Whale watching and bear spotting in Taddousac
I had planned to spend two nights in Taddousac, my furthest destination, to enable me to do both a whale watching cruise and a bear spotting trip, hence not needing to rush there from Quebec City that morning. It was a three hour drive, and the roads there were definitely the most beautiful that I experienced during my time in Canada. Roadsigns warned me I was now in moose country, but for all the straining of my eyes, I have to say that I didn’t see a single one! As I joined the St Lawrence River (which looked just like the ocean, with no sign of the other shore) the roads became quieter, and the towns that I passed became smaller and smaller, until we reached the ferry over to Taddousac. I was staying in Motel le Beluga, a really cute little beach hut style motel, where the staff were really friendly and helped me arrange my whale watching and bear watching. That first afternoon, after a wander around the little town, I joined a black bear spotting tour, which was incredible! We waited for probably an hour or so in complete silence and stillness (harder than it sounds!) without any promise of seeing anything, but eventually as we were all about to give up, a mother appeared with three mischievous little cubs and we watched them play for a good half an hour before it became too dark to see anything.
The following day, I had booked an early morning whale watching cruise. The town is renowned for its whale sightings, and we were not disappointed, seeing humpbacks, fin whales and grey seals. I chose an eco tour, which doesn’t allow you to go too close to these magnificent creatures, so that you don’t disturb them, so we were delighted when came over to say hello and popped up literally a few feet away from us! Afterwards I had a look around the town’s whale museum, which although small, was really engaging and interesting. After a nice lunch and local cider on the seafront (riverfront!) I explored a couple of the town’s smaller boardwalk hikes along the coastline, and was blown away. The scenery was incredible and the boardwalk took me, at some points out on the rocks over the water, and at others above the forest canopy, and it was all so clear and well maintained. I had booked a second whale watching trip for sunset, which with hindsight was probably not needed, but it was a lovely way to end a gorgeous day, before a lovely three course meal in a local restaurant.
My last day in Quebec Province was going to be a long one. I had to drive back to Montreal, covering the same distance in one day as I had taken over two on the way up. It was a six hour drive, and Montreal was the halfway point to get me back to Toronto in time for the rest of the wedding party’s arrival the following day, so the pressure was now on. I had a leisurely drive down (still trying to spot those moose!) and reached Montreal in the afternoon, which gave me enough time to check in (this time at the Hotel de l’Institute as I knew I would have minimal time there and just wanted something convenient) and take a walk down to see the Montreal Jazz Festival, which had just started. It was a great venue, and really relaxed, just what I needed as the finale of my little solo road trip. I didn’t stay late, and had just a little liquid refreshment as the following morning I had a six hour drive to Toronto airport (which was actually nearly eight with all the post-holiday traffic!) and a reunion with the wedding party to look forward to.
Looking back, I would have loved to have had more time to explore – and to have gone even further up the Lawrence River, but I think tha for the time I had, much like Goldilocks, it was just about right. I really hope to get back there again someday, so maybe I’ll be able to build on this then, for now, the memories and photos will have to do!