Pointe-à-Callière, Cité d’archéologie et d’histoire de Montréal, photo credit Normand Rajotte
Tour Distance: 1,000 km (621 mi.). Duration: six to seven days.
Make a date with history on this journey through time as you follow in the footsteps of Jacques Cartier on his discovery of Québec. From Montréal to the Gaspé Peninsula, each leg of this historical road trip will introduce you to museums full of treasures and historical sites with amazing stories to tell. At every stage of your journey, we suggest a major historical attraction to visit where you’ll make incredible discoveries!
About 90 minutes east of Montréal is Trois-Rivières, Québec’s second oldest city. Even today, it has a European feel to it, as you’ll see when you explore the streets of the old town. You can also learn about its rich industrial past by visiting Boréalis, the center for the history of the paper industry, a Trois-Rivières must-see attraction.
B. Head to the Capital. Essential to this historical tour is a visit to Québec City! More than 400 years of history await those who are fascinated by our heritage. The birthplace of French civilization in North America, Québec City has many stories to tell. Among its numerous historical attractions, we suggest you visit the Plains of Abraham, site of the 1759-1760 battles between French and English troops.
From Québec City, head to Isle-aux-Grues and cross over to the Grosse-Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada. Located in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, Grosse-Île, also known as “Quarantine Island”, served as a quarantine station for the Port of Québec City from 1832 to 1937. In 1847, the site bore witness to the tragedy of Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Famine.
C. Continue East. Near Rimouski, you’ll be able to do some boat gazing. The maritime historic site at Pointe-au-Père features the Pointe-au-Père lighthouse, built in 1909, which played a key role in navigation history. The Empress of Ireland pavilion, devoted to the story of this ocean liner, recounts its construction in 1906, its sinking in 1914 and the loss of 1,012 lives. Visit the Onondaga submarine, unique in Canada, and as you board the ship, an audio guide will immerse you into the daily lives of the 60 or so men who lived on board, confined to this 90-metre-long vessel.
D. And the Rest Is History. Sent by Francis I, King of France, Jacques Cartier landed in Gaspé in 1534 and claimed the territory that had been inhabited for thousands of years by Aboriginal and Inuit peoples. To see where it all began, visit the Musée de la Gaspésie and the Jacques Cartier Monument in Gaspé. This museum is also an ideal place to learn about the history of the Gaspé peninsula.