The Ultimate Guide to Road Trips in Québec
Cities, lakes, rivers, mountains, forests, the ocean… Quebec has them all. Planning a great road trip can be a big headache. Lucky for you, I have friends all over the province who’ve done the legwork (and the wheel work) and helped me compile this ultimate list of short and long roads to take. So prepare your playlist, grab your snacks, make room on your phone for photos and get ready for the best road trip ever!
Nature and city in one weekend
Suggested stops: Montréal / Mont-Tremblant / Ottawa
Mont Tremblant is less than two hours away from the city and it’s the perfect spot for outdoor aficionados who want to recharge. Hiking, road and mountain biking, canoeing, Via Ferrata rock climbing… not to mention skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and even a Spa Scandinave to round up a perfect day, any time of the year.
After an active day, head off on the two-hour panoramic drive through the mountains to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. Visit the Parliament, walk along the swirly river or dive into one of the world class museums. If you dare, sleep the day off inside an old jail cell at HI Ottawa Jail.
The Quebec few tourists see
Suggested stops: Sherbrooke & Trois-Rivières
Most road trippers explore the province from east to west. But we all know backpackers are not tourists. So let’s do things differently. Start at Sherbrooke, a dynamic student town and the perfect starting point for discovering the route des vins. Drive through the plains to charming Trois-Rivières for a night of partying on Forges Street or a day on lake Saint-Pierre.
Suggested stops: Montréal / Trois-Rivières / Québec (le Chemin du Roy)
The Chemin du Roy (King’s Road) is a portion of what is most commonly known as Highway 138. But it’s also the oldest road in the province, dating back to the 1600s. And it is a wonderful alternative to the otherwise monotonous and boring ride between Quebec and Montreal. The chemin du Roy will take you along the Saint Lawrence river via some of the most beautiful towns in the area, like Trois-Rivières. Your drive will be dotted with mansions and flowery fields, instead of white highway lines.
The most stunning tour
Suggested stops: Québec / La Malbaie / Rivière-du-Loup / Sea Shack / Griffon Aventure
If time isn't an issue, this is the most beautiful of all road trips. After following the Chemin du Roy from Montréal to Québec, stay on the 138 towards La Malbaie and into Charlevoix. Along the way, you can stop at the Montmorency Falls, Orléans Island and the unbelievably picturesque Baie-Saint-Paul. Get there with a craving for sweets, and sample the bay’s famous ice-cream dipped in sucre à la crème (we're not translating that—you’ll have to try it out)! Spend a couple nights at HI La Malbaie. From here you’ll be close to spectacular national parks, like the Grands-Jardins and the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. When you are ready, catch the ferry to Rivière-du-Loup. If you time it right, you may see the whales and a seriously beautiful sunset.
Back inland, keep driving through the many roadside towns until you get to the legendary HI Sea Shack at Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, Gaspésie. This place is known as the “party hostel” for a reason. But of course, if you're too tired, you can chill on the hammocks by the beach and people-watch all night long to the rhythm of the ocean waves. The parc national de la Gaspésie and the majestic Chic-Choc mountains are 30 minutes away from the hostel. Also worthy of a mention is the best poutine in the entire province, nearby at the cantine d'Amours à Trois-Pistoles. If, instead of eating this local delicacy, you’d rather see dozens of seals sunbathing, head to parc national du Bic (two and a half hours eastward along the water).
When you leave HI Sea Shack behind, dry your tears and head to HI Griffon Adventure, which will be waiting for you at the tip of the Gaspésie. Keep your cameras handy—this is one of the most dramatic roads in Quebec, snaking all over the mountains. Griffon is at the entrance to Forillon Park. The hostel is like an intimate version of the Sea Shack, with small chalets perched on the cliff, quiet weekdays and party weekends. You'll also find it to be the best place for canyoning or playing in the emerald river water, like kids in a pool.
On your way back, go to the Bay of Chaleur for the obligatory photo op at Percé Rock and the wonderful drive along all the peaceful fishing villages.
The emerald river does her name justice
On the way back, go to the Bay of Chaleur for the obligatory photo op at Percé Rock and the wonderful drive along all the peaceful fishing villages. Then, for a last night in style, cross into the neighbouring province of New Brunswick: the HI Wentworth awaits you!