Quebec City is the ultimate weekend trip from Montreal – lots of yummy restaurants, cute streets made for wandering and a cozy vibe anytime of year. It’s also the gateway to the Charlevoix region, one of Quebec’s most picturesque areas. This itinerary involves a lot of driving but is perfect for when you’re craving a getaway and are limited on time.
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9am-1pm drive: Tadoussac is just under 6 hours away from downtown Montreal by car. 9am is the ideal time to leave to get an early-ish start while avoiding peak rush hour. Make sure you prepare a Spotify playlist and some road trip snacks, because the bulk of the day will be spent on the road!
1pm-2pm lunch: Your drive will take you through lots of towns, ranging from not-so-picturesque to absolutely beautiful. Baie Saint Paul is one of the latter and is definitely worth a stop. The town itself has lots of restaurants, but your best bet for taking in a nice view without getting too off-track time wise is a picnic lunch. The Belvédère Baie St Paul roadside stop on Route 362 has picnic tables and offers the perfect panoramic view of the bay and town.
2pm-4pm drive round 2: On the road again! This part of the drive is the most scenic, taking you through cute towns and offering stunning views of the water. If you’re into art, galleries and workshops are sprinkled along this entire drive. If that doesn’t interest you but you’re itching to stretch your legs for a bit, Alpacas Charlevoix is a unique stop along the way. You can browse around their little boutique and/or tour the farm – a non-guided tour is CAD $6. The setting is beautiful and the animals (including their guard dogs, a couple of Great Pyrenees) are absolutely adorable.
4pm arrived (finally!): After a long day of driving, take some time to settle in to your accommodation for the night and take in the views. There are a number of hotels/B&B’s in Tadoussac itself, but another great option is Baie Sainte Catherine, just across the water from Tadoussac. The majority (if not all) of the options in both Tadoussac & Baie Sainte Catherine definitely aren’t glamourous, but the simple feel and beautiful views offer a charm on their own. We stayed at Motel Le Vacancier, which has private access to the beach, sweeping views given its position up on a hill, and is a 5-minute drive away from where the whale watching boats depart. Again, it's definitely no frills, but it works for a quick stay.
5pm-7pm microbrewery: From Baie Sainte Catherine, you’ll have to take the free ferry to Tadoussac. In the summertime, it passes every 20 minutes and provides a quick (and pretty) connection to Tadoussac. Before dinner, head on down to Microbrasserie Tadoussac. This spot has seating both inside and outside and serves a selection of delicious local brews – the perfect way to settle into that vacation-y feeling.
7pm-9pm dinner at le café bohème: After a couple of beers and a walk around Tadoussac’s waterfront, head up to Le Café Bohème. This spot has a cute terrace and French-inspired bistro-style food. Try the moules & frites or the paella Côte-Nord, paired with a wine from the Charlevoix region – amazing after a long day of driving! This place does get busy, so it may be worth coming here before drinks to put your name down.
9pm-10pm wind down: It’s been a long day on the road and you’ve got an early start ahead, so head back to your digs for the night & settle in!
7am-10:30am whale watching: Time for the highlight of the trip! AML offers zodiac tours both in the morning and afternoon, but the morning tour is best if you’re tight on time so you can get on with your day! You’ll be asked to arrive by 7:30am in order to have time to gear up and board. Parking is available at the departure point for CAD $5, and is pretty vacant so early in the morning. The boat, guided by a “nature expert,” will bring you to different spots to see whales and other wildlife. If the zodiac boat doesn't seem like your thing, you can also book a tour aboard a larger boat or a kayak tour. Both are available in the area.
TIP: Dress VERY warmly! It may by 20+ degrees outside, but it gets FRIGID on the boat, especially on windy days. A hat, gloves and a warm sweater wouldn’t be bad calls.
10:30am-11:30am hot shower: Trust me when I say you’re not going to want to skip this step. The air is FRIGID out on the boat, and a pit stop back at your accommodation will give you time to warm up and pack before heading out properly for the day.
11:30am-1pm lunch at chez mathilde: Last night’s dinner spot, Le Café Bohème, supposedly has one of the best brunches in Tadoussac, but if you’re looking to try something new, head over to Chez Mathilde. This bistro has some yummy lunch options & a cute patio to dine on.
1pm-4pm quebec city bound: Time to retrace your steps as you head on down to Quebec City!
4pm-6pm check-in & wander: If you’re looking for a place to stay slightly off the beaten path, the Saint-Roch area is an up & coming district packed with trendy restaurants, shops, cafes and bars. Take a stroll down Rue Saint Joseph E before heading to Vieux Quebec (about a 25-minute walk from Saint-Roch, depending where you’re staying). This is a great area to spend some time in, wandering around and popping into any shops that pique your interest. To a hit a couple of the must-do’s, make sure you plan a stop by the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral before heading over to admire the renowned Chateau Frontenac.
6pm-7pm escalier casse-cou & drinks: These super steep stairs lead to one of Quebec’s most quaint areas, Le Petit Champlain. The good news is that a trek down and back up definitely merit a drink – restaurants and cafes line the streets, so you’ll have your pick. Pub des Borgia has a nice selection of craft beers and cocktails on the menu as well.
7pm-9pm dinner at mille et une pizzas: Quebec City as a wide array of high-end restaurants, but if you’re looking for something hearty in the Saint-Roch area after a busy day, Mille et une Pizzas is a great little find – friendly staff, a relatively inexpensive menu & a huge selection of delicious pizzas. Quebec has lots of great dining options so if you're after something a little upscale, I'd recommend you do a little more research based on what you're in the mood for or have a wander until you find a spot you like the look of.
9pm+ night out: If you’re up for it, wander around Saint-Roch’s streets – its hip nature means you’re sure to stumble into a good bar!
10am-11am café saint henri: To gear up for the day, head to Café Saint Henri for a coffee and one (or several) or their delicious donuts. Worth every calorie!
11am-1pm lunch & wandering: Head back into the Vieux Quebec area for one last taste of this charming little neighbourhood. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Le Lapin Sauté in the Petit Champlain area. This little French restaurant has an amazing brunch menu and the perfect terrace for people watching.
1pm-3pm wine tasting: Right across from Quebec City is Île d'Orléans, a rural-feeling island dotted with wineries. Only a ~15 minute drive from Saint-Roch is Vignoble Ste-Pétronille, a beautiful winery set on expansive land with a view of the Montmorency Falls. A tasting of 3 wines will set you back CAD $5, and you can purchase a bottle on-site to be enjoyed on their charming terrace.
3pm+ drive home: Time to head back! If you’re not in a rush and have the appetite to do a bit more sight seeing, the Montmorency Falls are right across the bridge from Île d'Orléans. Entry to the park is free, but parking is paid (approx. CAD $12) and a ride on the cable car will set you back CAD $12.39.
what to pack.
✧ cooler bag to bring along a packed lunch for the road
✧ puffer vest to stay warm on the whale-watching boat trip
✧ insulated reusable water bottle
✧ waterproof case to protect your phone from the boat's inevitable splashes
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Have any other tips for the perfect roadtrip in Quebec? Share in the comments :)