While there is no shortage of interesting things to do in the only walled city north of Mexico, visitors with a bit more time on their hands should consider going on day trips from Quebec City in order to fully grasp and enjoy the beauty of the Québécois landscapes.
Whether you’re into outdoors, history, food or just curious to see what this vast province is all about, hop in that car and get out there.
Located a short 15 minutes from the centre of Quebec City, these mighty waterfalls surpass, in height, Niagara Falls from atop their 83 metres.
There are a number of ways to admire this powerful show Mother Nature put on for visitors, either by via ferrata, by panoramic cable car, or on foot by crossing the suspension bridge… if you dare! Open year-round.
- Half-day trip to Montmorency Falls and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica
- Bike tour to Montmorency Falls from Quebec City
- Parc de la Chute-Montmorency waterfalls admission and cable car
- Parc de la Chute Montmorency double zipline
Characterised by stunning landscapes that have long inspired the artistic community of the province, Charlevoix is truly a gem waiting to be discovered. Its rolling hills (the area is a designated World Biosphere Reserve), its joie de vivre and its proximity to the historic St. Lawrence River make it a top destination for travellers keen to get better acquainted with the Québécois identity.
Public transportation is rather scarce, and honestly, ill-advised; in a place where beauty unfolds at every turn, you’ll want to have the liberty of a car and stop any time your heart swells.
Amongst the most popular things to do in Charlevoix:
- Parc National des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie, a magnificent national park ideal for low-effort-high-reward hiking (aka the only kind of hiking I’m into) thanks to the outstanding views shaped by fjord-like glacial valleys reaching over 1,000 metres in altitude. While hiking is a priority, other sports are also available on-site, such as kayaking, fatbiking, SUP, fishing, and in wintertime, snowshoeing and dogsledding. There are fully-equiped Nordic cabins onsite for visitors wishing to stay overnight.
- Baie-Saint-Paul, a quaint and lively area filled with painters and troubadours right on the coast of the St. Lawrence. This is where you’ll find some of the best restaurants, microbreweries, pâtisseries, and all kinds of epicurean pleasures Quebec is known for. It’s also one of the oldest and best-preserved villages in the province, and as such, possesses a remarkable New France architectural ensemble. If you decide to stay overnight (and you should), make sure to book at the splendid Hôtel & Spa Le Germain Charlevoix for a authentic Québécois stay; everything in the hotel, from the furniture to the food, is local.
- Isle-aux-Coudres is a compact island (at just 23 square kilometres) with legendary hospitalilty and where time seems to have stood still for the better part of a century. Famous for its foodie heritage, it would be unthinkable to make it to Isle-aux-Coudres and not stop at its legendary cider house and 150-year old mill. The best way to discover the almost anachronic island is by bike.
Whale watching cruise
Now, this requires a bit more time on the road as it’s a 3-hour ride from Quebec City but if you’re an animal lover then by all means indulge.
Travel along the Saint Lawrence River to the town of Baie-Sainte-Catherine, then choose from two distinctly different boating experiences — a small, speedy zodiac or a large, three-level observation vessel. Enjoy an exceptional view on this 3-hour cruise in search of whales, seals and belugas. A certified naturalist captain will provide the education on this unique encounter with nature in the heart of the Saguenay-Saint Lawrence Marine Park.
Ile d’Orléans is often dubbed the “garden of Quebec City” due to the abundant produce that is sourced from this lush, tranquil island just 15 minutes from the city. Wineries, orchards, bakeries, farm-to-table restaurants: it’s all there.
There are several historic villages to explore, each with its own set of characteristics, scenic views of the St. Lawrence, and amicable locals you’ll become friends with in no time.
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Another national park that is well worth the day trips from Quebec City! This is home to one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the province, dominated by dense coniferous forests and a deep, mighty river where water sports are practiced daily.
There are over 100 kilometres of hiking trails, as well as plenty of wintry sports should you be bold enough to visit Quebec City in the wintertime.
- Hiking in Jacques-Cartier National Park
- Quebec City Snowshoeing Tour
- Nordic Backcountry Skiing Tour in Jacques-Cartier National Park
As one of Canada’s most famous attractions, there is no such thing as visiting Quebec City in winter and not going the extra mile to Valcartier, where the emblematic ice hotel is now located.
Open from early January to late March, weather permitting, the ephemeral structure is nonetheless stunning in both allure and architecture. Rebuilt and redesigned every winter (as you know, summers in the province of Quebec are cold enough to keep an ice hotel running, quite the contrary in fact, as Valcartier Park is home to a water par the in summertime!).
Guests can choose to stay overnight in one of the uniquely-designed 45 rooms and suites; I’ve been told that it’s actually a remarkably comfortable experience! Body warmth and high-performance sleeping bags keep visitors toasty throughout the night.
For those only looking to visit and enjoy the spectacular facilities, that’s also possible. Whatever you do, though, make sure to indulge in the tradition and have a cocktail served in a glass made out of ice! Now in its 18th year of operation, Hotel de Glace is a truly singular destination that will have both young and not so young visitors in awe.
To most Québécois, Valcartier is the ultimate winter playground in the province – also the largest one in North America. Being a poor skier means I often resort to tubing as my go-to wintry activity (I don’t want to embarrass myself any more than I have to), and the short yet exhilarating ride down is still ever so thrilling even after 30 years.
Valcartier has over 35 slides as well as skating rinks and snow rafting for hours of fun on end.
- Ice hotel visit & transportation
- Visit the Hotel de Glace and Snow tubing at Village Vacances Valcartier
- Overnight Stay at Hotel de Glace, Quebec City