Tour Distance: 1400 km (870 mi.), from Ottawa to Percé
Duration: 10 to 14 days or more
Welcoming visitors from Ontario, this Totally Epic Road Trip is designed so you can discover some of Québec’s greatest iconic landmarks, from Ottawa to Percé, and even farther, should you wish. Just get in your car and sweep across this beautiful province, from west to east, discovering amazing attractions and awe-inspiring landscapes. More detailed routes are available for certain portions of this trip, including: Along the Ottawa River, Whale Route and Gaspésie Tour.
A. Ottawa. Bordering the province of Québec, Canada’s capital, with its history, culture and museums, is a great place to start your totally epic road trip. Make sure you stop at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, just across the river from Ottawa; it is the most popular and most visited museum in the country. Another attraction that’s a great bet is the Casino du Lac-Leamy. Once you’ve fully enjoyed the sites, hop on Route 148 to head to Montréal.
Old Port of Montréal, photo credit Tourisme Montréal Stéphan Poulin
B. Montréal. A dynamic city mixing up Old World and New … and there’s something for everyone all summer long, thanks to attractions, festivals, cafés, bistros and more. After the drive from Gatineau, an excellent place to stop and stretch your legs is Old Montréal and the Old Port. Here, you can visit many attractions, including Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History and the Montréal Science Centre. While in the city, you will also want to stop by Montréal’s Olympic Park where you can see the tallest inclined tower in the world and visit the Space for Life complex nearby.
The King’s Road. The time has come to leave behind the “city of a hundred bell towers” and head to Québec City. For a panoramic and historic ride, take Canada’s oldest roadway, the King’s Road (signposted Chemin du Roy), Route 138. You can also opt for Autoroute 40. No matter which way you choose, about halfway to the provincial capital, you can stop to visit Trois-Rivières and explore downtown on foot; restaurants, cafés and art galleries abound.
C. Québec and Old Québec. You’ve come to the city “where the river narrows”. But on this trip, it’s only going to get wider as you make your way to the sea! First and foremost, take a tour of Old Québec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city, founded over 400 years ago, has a distinct European flair thanks to cobblestone streets and stone buildings, not to mention the charming accent of its people. During your tour, you can learn more about the city’s military history at the Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site or on the Plains of Abraham. In the area around Québec, you can take a break from the city for a taste of nature at Parc de la Chute Montmorency, with its impressive falls, and on Île d’Orléans.
D. On the Road to Chicoutimi. Say goodbye to the provincial capital and its attractions and head north on Route 175 into the vast territory of the Réserve faunique des Laurentides. On the other side of this wildlife reserve, you’ll enter the Saguenay region, where you can stop in Chicoutimi.
A Fork in the Road – the Fjord Route. From Chicoutimi, you have two choices for exploring the Saguenay Fjord, the longest of its kind in Eastern Canada. The slopes of this glacier-carved beauty are so steep that bridges do not cross it often; you can opt to explore the southwestern shore and pass through the Charlevoix region, or the northeastern shore, via Manicouagan. • On the southwestern segment of the Fjord Route, stop in the lovely city of La Baie, located alongside the majestic Baie des Ha! Ha! Here, you can visit the museum to learn more about the Fjord and its creatures at the Musée du Fjord. Continue along Route 170 until you reach the municipality of Rivière-Éternité, where you can access the Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay, home to some of the most spectacular views of the fjord. Stop at the Baie-Étérnité Information Kiosk in the park for details on cruises, hiking trails and more. When you’re ready to continue your epic road trip, follow Route 170 to the St. Lawrence River, and take Route 138 to Tadoussac. Should you opt for the northeastern segment of the Fjord Route, which runs along Route 172, you’ll also want to stop by Parc national du Fjord-du- Saguenay, but in the Baie-Sainte-Marguerite Sector; a perfect place to camp or hike! This sector is named after a unique bay fancied by beluga whales, who gather here in the summer. You can learn more about these fascinating near-threatened animals by having a chat with a park warden at the scenic lookout. Then, make your way to Tadoussac by following Route 172 until it meets Route 138, where you will go south to your next epic stop …
E. Tadoussac – Whale Watching and the Fjord. This resort town has been hailed on Trip Advisor as a favourite among travellers to Québec. And for good reason. In Tadoussac, you can climb aboard a variety of boats, from a thrilling Zodiac to an observation boat, and meet the giants of the sea: whales. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a stupendous humpback whale breaching in the distance. Other animals you may encounter are fin whales, seals and belugas.
Whales Watching, photo credit AML Cruises Marc Loiselle
F. The Whale Route to Baie-Comeau. Take Route 138 North along the Whale Route (signposted Route des baleines) to Baie-Comeau. You will continue your discovery of the dozen species of whales found in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence with stops at different observation points. If you like diving, you’ll want to stop in Les Escoumins, one of Canada’s best diving destinations. It is also possible to go scuba diving in Baie-Comeau.
Ferry to Matane. Take the ferry across the St. Lawrence Estuary to Matane. You will enjoy a unique experience lasting a little over two hours aboard the M/V Camille-Marcoux icebreaker. Take a moment to relax during the crossing before you start exploring a new destination. Onboard amenities include a cafeteria, bar, and lounge, and there are screenings of films.
G. The Gaspésie Tour. Here you are in Matane, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in the Gaspésie region. Continue driving down Route 132 which will take you through Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, the gateway to Gaspésie National Park, Forillon National Park and Gaspé, whose name comes from a Mi’kmaq word meaning “end of the land”. But you’re not at the end of your trip yet. Push on to Percé, a town that has been attracting tourists since the 1930s.
H. Percé Rock. The ocean crashing. The seabirds calling. In Percé, you can’t miss the magnificence of the Rock and shouldn’t skip a tour of Bonaventure Island, home to North America’s largest colony of northern gannets. If you want to make this fun trip last even longer, you can drive to Chandler and take a CTMA discovery cruise to Îles de la Madeleine (Magdalen Islands). Ferry service to the islands is offered from Souris on Prince Edward Island.