In the province of Quebec just outside of Old Quebec City, you can take some quality time and enjoy the island countryside of Île d’Orléans. This is one of the first areas of French inhabitation in Canada and the island contains a whopping 6 French heritage villages located throughout the area and you can visit all of these in a single day trip. These are filled with artisanal food shops and boutique stores. You will even find small roadside stands with fresh fruits and vegetables. With a small population, you can spend time with the friendly locals who have made this place a unique destination for all visitors to Canada.
Quebec’s Île d’Orléans is a well-known culinary delight and one of the many food tours that are provided here is the best way to explore the island while enjoying all the benefits that are provided here. You can travel by bus, car, or even e-bike and scooter here. Chemin Royal is the main road that connects all the villages. It is very scenic and you will find yourself caught up in the sightseeing as you make your way through the circuit.
It will feel as if you almost went back in time compared to being on the mainland. It’s why even two of the villages have been formally recognized by the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec. This is an agricultural wonderland and the inhabitants have made it vibrant with its wineries, and farms for cider, and chocolate desserts.
The 6 Villages of Île d’Orléans
The biggest village here, this will be your first stop on your time on the Île d’Orléans. This is where you will learn how the Chemin Royal is the main road to make your way through the island. If you require assistance you will find the tourist information office here along with well-placed convenience stores. But you are here to explore what this part of the island is well known for. The North part focuses its attention on cultivating grapes, berries, and apples for wines and ciders.
You will learn that many of these farms have been in the same family for at least 2-3 generations. Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau focuses on apple orchards to produce award-winning ciders. Sampling all the different flavors is a highlight and you may want to purchase yourself a bottle for later. They also provide you the opportunity to come to pick the orchards during the season as a fun activity with friends and family.
You also have the option during part of the year to enjoy one of the best things that Quebec has to offer: maple syrup. This is by visiting one of the sugar shacks located on the island. The dense forest of maple trees surrounds a single log cabin, large barn, or multiple buildings where the sap of the tree is collected and boiled to make maple syrup. It is a traditional festivity with dance and live music to celebrate in a great hall. You’ll be given a full-course menu to really satisfy that sweet tooth and take some maple products home to liven up your meals. It’s just one part of those traditional Canadian foods you have to try.
At the west tip of the island, this village has been able to keep its picturesque charm. The houses are well maintained with their multiple styles of vibrant architecture. Along the path of the Saint-Lawrence River, you can find impressive landscape views of Old Quebec, Beauport Bay, and Montmorency Falls. In the center of the area is the boutique cafe and shop Chocolaterie, a frequent pit stop on any tour. Here is where you can enjoy the sweet taste of homemade chocolate desserts, truffles of a wide variety, and even the better ice cream dipped in chocolate. Walk it off by exploring the rest of the neighborhood.
From this maritime village, you have the option to take a guided kayaking tour along the St. Lawrence River as you explore the outskirts of the island and take in the natural beauty. You will find many traditional houses made of simple wood and older buildings which help to preserve the natural charm of the village. Go to the maritime park to learn about the island’s art of shipbuilding and tools used, or sit down for a nice picnic.
If you prefer to stay out of the water head to the fields of Ferme Francois Gosselin where you can pick the various berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries) that make up this wonderful area. Enjoy the addition of maple products being served at the roadside kiosk. Many of the farms here provide fresh produce directly to Quebec City and you may find some of them at the farmers market.
The many vineyards around the island help to make this destination stand out. Even in the winter climates, the grapes have managed to thrive here. The wildness of its vines is what gave it the name “Isle of Bacchus”, who was the Greek God of wine-making, fruit, and orchards. Visit Vignoble du Mitan where you can sit on the patio and relax with some spectacular views of the landscape and water while sipping on some ice wine. With plenty of acreages to walk around and explore, you can find yourself plenty of wine-tasting experiences to retreat from the city life.
Or if you prefer, you can find yourself Pub Le Mitan, the only microbrewery located in Île d’Orléans. In autumn you can see the amazing changing of the leaves and just have yourself bewildered at the beauty of all the color changes. Take the Route du Mitan which helps connect Sainte-Famille to Saint-Jean. It takes you through the center of the island where you can view all the open fields and forestry.
On the south end of the Île d’Orléans, you will find this area filled with classical architecture from the homes and chalets of the 19th century. This is where the more important members of the island community resided. You can tell by the multitude of colors that paint the houses Some of these have become heritage-protected buildings and show both the island and Quebec’s history during that era. As historical sites, you can take a short walking tour through some like the Mauvide-Genest Manor along with the grounds. The single church along the shoreline gives you some great views.
Located here is a highlight of the island, the observation tower. This is where you can get some great photos of the landscape inland. This is the smallest village composed of mostly farmland and hunting grounds originally. What you can experience is the fragrant lavender fields of La Seigneurie. Perfect for those looking to stroll through nature in a relaxed setting.
When is the best time to visit Île d’Orléans?
The best time to visit Île d’Orléans and Old Quebec itself is during the summer and autumn. The seasons have the weather warm but you are coming to see the change in colors of nature. You can also find plenty of outdoor activities and festivals going on in the city and on the island. It gives you a chance to embrace the local culture.
Where to stay in Île d’Orléans
It’s not necessary to stay overnight on the island. With Old Quebec being so close you can easily find accommodations at one of the many hotels, Airbnb’s, or hostels. If you choose to stay on the island you can find yourself in the comfort of several cozy B&Bs and lodges. The owners keep these older residences well maintained with the modern comforts and old-style feel we all come to know and love.
Now that you have experienced one of the best day trips to have in Quebec, you can go back to exploring Old Quebec City or head out and see what else the province has to offer. You can stop by Montmorency Falls on your way off of the island or instead head back to Old Quebec to do some more city exploring. This is the time to embrace the French-Canadian culture while you are in this lovely part of the world.
This article originally appeared on The World Overload. Featured Photo Credit: Unsplash