Let me start by stressing just how BIG the province of Quebec.
1,542,056 km big, to be exact. That’s 6.7 times bigger than Britain. 5.4 times bigger than Texas. 37.3 times bigger than Switzerland. You get the idea. It does take a long time to get anywhere, and the better part of this massive piece of land is either uninhabited or has hostile weather and conditions. Yes, Quebec is that big.
That however didn’t stop the Quebecois from being quite imaginative, and come up with amazing travel opportunities that showcase the striking natural beauty of our province, a somewhat hidden gem and relatively new player on the tourism map.
But where to start, you ask? Look no further. I’ve curated a bucket list of things to do in the province of Quebec, from Montreal to the Eastern Townships to Gaspésie. I guarantee that there IS something for everyone!
1. Marvel at the Saguenay fjord
Exit Norway – Quebec has an incredible fjord, too! Go on cruise on the mighty Saguenay River to admire the steep cliffs of the fjord, and let nature unfold its sheer beauty before your eyes. Cruises conveniently start at one of the province’s most beautiful villages, Sainte-Rose-du-Nord – killing two birds with one stone!
2. Go snowshoeing
I may have only discovered this winter sport very recently, but it’s now become one of my favorite things to do. And the best part? You can do it just about anywhere. In the middle of a dense pine forest or just a few minutes out of the capital, it’s perhaps one of the most accessible winter activity in the province.
And if it’s your first time, it will also be one of the funniest.
3. Taste the Montreal restaurant scene
If there’s one thing I like to do in my hometown, it’s eating. Very often, and as varied as possible. Montreal has an incredible restaurant scene that offers pretty much anything for anyone, both in terms of budget and palates. From the staple poutine to a cherry-sauce duck to original sushi, there is no such thing as being hungry in Montreal. Trust me!
4. Go hiking
Quebec has some lovely peaks to hike, and admire the view from. More than 6,000 kilometers of trails are available to both the newbies and aficionados, in every part of the province – from Gaspésie to Laurentides to Montérégie, you are guaranteed to find the perfect trail for you, and then some.
5. Go whale watching in Tadoussac
Tadoussac is a popular destination in the summer, even for Québécois. We all dream of the day where we can finally see one of the things that make our province so notorious! There is a number of different cruises to hop on and watch Mother Nature in full swing, with many species of seabirds and sea mammals, like belugas, minke whales, blue whales and seals.
6. Taste the Wine Route in the Eastern Townships
I wrote about this before – driving the Wine Route in the Eastern Townships is one of the most interesting things to do in Quebec, I think, and also one of the most accessible from Montreal. It’s a great way to meet and chat with the locals, who are truly passionate about their products and who will willingly discuss the whole wine-making process with the aficionados.
7. Go cycling in the Laurentides
With over 3400 bicycle paths spanning over our beautiful province, it’s no surprise that cycling is one of the most popular things to do in the summer/fall, especially in the Laurentides region. There’s a special trail called “Le p’tit train du Nord” (translated into “The small train of the North”) that stretches over 200 km on what used to be an old railway line, and is now officially the longest linear park in Canada! It offers gorgeous views on the forests, lakes and rivers of this region. The trail is surprisingly flat, making it accessible for just about anyone, including people who, like me, aren’t big on sports.
8. Stay in a log cabin
My friends and I now have a tradition of sorts – renting a log cabin for the New Year’s Eve. We stock up on chips, local beers, and chocolate cake, and we retire to the deep woods of the Laurentides for three days, away from technology, and the rest of the world. It gives us ample time to catch up, drink plentifully, go ice-skating on one of the many nearby lakes, and simply enjoy what Quebec has best to offer at that time of the year.
Although we prefer to go in the winter, log cabins are available throughout the year – and there are thousands of them available!
9. Live the maritime life in Iles de la Madeleine
Quebec’s most famous archipelago – both for its delicious food scene, and also the genuinely welcoming locals. Its history dates back to 1534, when Jacques Cartier set foot there for the first time. The island only has about 13,000 inhabitants today, and still rely on fishing as their sole activity. In other words – you’ll have the best fish and seafood of your entire life at the Magdalen Islands.
10. Explore the walled city of Old Quebec
Did you know that Quebec is the only remaining walled/fortified city in North America – and UNESCO site? Put your history buff hat on and wander around the cobblestone street in the cradle of the French civilization in North America. Take in the majestic Plains of Abraham, the different gates, the Citadel and many more fascinating historical sites. Follow in the footsteps of the colony’s first settlers!
11. Enjoy the wonders of nature at the Rocher Percé
Visit one of the world’s largest natural arches – 20 meters! – in Gaspésie! The rock, made of limestone and sandstone, is the object of many legends, which local guides will be more than happy to narrate. In addition to the Rocher Percé, the region has a lot of things to do, starting with the Bonaventure Island, scenic routes, whale watching and more.
12. Go dog sledding
Did you know that dog sledding is a tradition that goes back to the 10th century, where dogs were used for hunting and travel purposes? While today dog sledding is more a leisure thing, it doesn’t make it any less popular! There are hundreds of places where you can go dashing through the snow, both in the wild forests of the Chaudière-Appalaches region or closer to the main cities – the choice is yours!
13. Experience the hot-air balloon festival in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu
What all started as a small tourism initiative in 1984 ended up being one of the world’s major hot-air balloon festival, with more than 400,000 visitors each year. Admire the beautiful hot-air balloons, that come in all colors and shapes, and go concerts of the most popular artists of the season. It’s also very close to the Granby Zoo!
14. Attend one of the Montreal festivals
I’ve written extensively about this before, and for good reason – the Montreal festivals are famous around the world, both for their quality and variety. Whether you’re into jazz, visual arts, indie music, sci-fi movies or beer, you are guaranteed to have a good time, at any time of the year.
15. Admire the scenery in Charlevoix
Charlevoix is renown throughout Quebec as the artist capital – indeed, many painters, poets, and authors go to Charlevoix to get inspiration. With reason! The area is home of some of the province’s most gorgeous landscapes, prestigious hotels and casinos, as well as ski centers and more. There is no such thing as being bored in Charlevoix!
16. Mingle with the locals in Omega Park
Located just a few minutes outside of Montreal, the Omega Park really is one-of-a-kind – an 1,800 acre park that gives the opportunity to visitors to discover local species in their natural habitat and in which they are free to roam freely. Including right next to you! This your chance to get an up-close encounter with Canada’s rich fauna, and an unparalleled picture-taking opportunity!
And a delicious bonus to finish this bucket list…
17. Drink/eat maple… everything!
Quebec produces more than 75% of the world supply of maple syrup (you’re welcome), and therefore, we have quite the selection of maple-flavored delicacies. For the enjoyment of my taste buds! We have everything from maple cookies to maple-smoked bacon to maple liquor & cream to maple butter. There is a number of sugar shacks that you can visit in the spring. My tip? Wear your stretchy pants.
Are you just as inspired by Quebec as I am? In reality, I don’t think a lifetime is quite enough to see and do everything the province has to offer – there’s just too much, on too big of a territory. But I love my province, and I will make everything I can to see every inch of it. I still have a good 60 years left… You in?
Have you been to the province of Quebec? What’s your favorite thing to do? The quirkiest, the most spectacular?