If you’re looking for things to do near Montreal, you’ll be spoiled for choice no matter which season it is.
Montreal is an amazing place to call home, and we’ve got a separate page covering some of the most fun things to do in Montreal, but the city is also close to areas of epic natural beauty, as well as charming towns and bustling cities. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city for a short while — maybe just for an afternoon, or perhaps a few days — and see what the wider region has to offer. Below you can get information on some of the amazing experiences on your doorstep while living in Montreal.
So, in the opinion of the writer and some of his friends (few as they are), here are some of the top experiences you can have near Montreal!
Stuff your face at a cabane à sucre
What is it? Congratulations on making it through another winter in Quebec! As your reward, please enjoy the most decadent meal of your life. The first days of spring means it’s cabane à sucre season. A cabane à sucre, also known as a sugar shack, welcomes diners to share food and festivities. There will be maple syrup on pretty much everything. Expect a variety of meats and vegetables, served in a traditional environment. Some cabanes allow you to bring your own wine or beer.
Cabanes / sugar shacking is popular in Quebec because of Mother Nature. In order for the sap to flow in the spring, maple trees need cold nights and warm sunny days, which is exactly what the Quebec climate serves up. The result is delicious maple syrup and a great day out.
Best time of year to go: Mid-March to Mid-April
Bike the p'tit train du nord
What is it? A disused old railway line has been converted into a trail, which runs slightly more than 200 km through the Laurentian mountains from Mont-Laurier to Saint-Jerome. Along the way you’ll wind through gorgeous hills and around pristine lakes, sharing the journey with wildlife.
The p’tit train du nord is simply amazing, probably the best weekend activity I’ve done near Montreal. You can split the route into three sections, stopping for two nights, or pedal that bit more each day and only stop overnight once. I highly recommend staying at Le Baril Roulant in Val-David; it’s an auberge with private rooms and dorm accommodation, with a brewery and restaurant attached. It’s set up brilliantly for cyclists and sits right on the trail.
There’s a bus to bring you from one end to the other, so you can have your car waiting for you in Saint-Jerome. Alternatively, you can also bike from Montreal to Saint-Jerome and back, negating the need for a car altogether. This will add about 55 kilometres, or three hours of biking, each way, however.
Best time of year to go: June to early October
Learn more: GoBiking.ca has all the info.
Camp at La Mauricie National Park
What is it? La Mauricie National Park, 200 kilometres northeast of Montreal, is a treasure of picturesque hills, waterfalls, and lakes. There is something for everyone at La Mauricie, whether it’s camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, snowshoeing . . . or just kicking back with a beer and looking at the stars.
Best time of year to go: Any time. If you’re looking to kayak or hike, spring and summer are best, while autumn colours are breathtaking and winter snowshoe excursions provide opportunities for getting out into nature.
Learn more: Parks Canada has a good overview.
Visit the nation's capital city
Best time of year to go: Like Montreal, Ottawa is a proper four-seasons city. If you visit in winter, you can join thousands of other people skating along the majestic Rideau Canal. That said, summer may be the best time to go.
Learn more: Things to do in Ottawa.
Visit the other nation's capital city
What is it? Another capital? Yes. Quebec City, a three-hour drive or train ride northeast of Montreal, is where the Assemblée Nationale, or National Assembly, sits. The Québécois are recognized “as a nation within a united Canada,” which is wonderfully ambiguous, given the history.
History, you say? There’s plenty of that in and around Quebec City, focused principally on September 13, 1759, when the British forces defeated those of France on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. With the exception of the small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, located off the coast of Newfoundland, France ceded its North American possessions to Great Britain. That’s why locals will order their coffee in French, but pay for it with a green $20 note emblazoned with the crowned head of Queen Elizabeth II.
Quebec City today is a tourism hot spot. Summer brings a constant stream of cruise liners, from which thousands of selfie stick-wielding tourists will disembark, ready to splash their cash in and around the Chateau Frontenac, a striking hotel that dominates the skyline of Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec). And it really is old, by North American standards anyway. Founded in 1608, the ramparts surrounding the city are the only fortified city walls remaining in the Americas north of Mexico.
Best time of year to go: Quebec City is fun any time of year, but bear in mind that from December to March the temperature is well below freezing and often complemented by a bitter wind. Even April can be cold and snowy. Accommodation in July and August can be expensive, so consider May, September, or October for a trip to Quebec City.
Learn more: Quebec City tourism.
Watch the whales near Tadoussac
What is it? At the mouth of the Saguenay River, around six hours’ drive northeast of Montreal, lies a town called Tadoussac. The most famous residents of Tadoussac are not people, but whales, who are attracted by an abundance of krill due to the meeting of cold, fresh water from the Saguenay and the warmer, salty water of the St. Lawrence.
If you’re heading to Tadoussac, make sure you stop in a couple of the quaint towns in the Charlevoix region north of Quebec City, notably Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie.
Best time of year to go: The peak season for whale watching in Tadoussac is late June to early September.
Learn more: Tourisme Tadoussac
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