Québec province has a broad and exciting appeal that isn’t restricted to a particular season. In fact, you can find adventure and activity here all year-round.
There are national parks throughout the province, with many within easy access of the main urban centres. Many have stellar reputations for their beauty.
Québec’s national parks also have extraordinary experiences waiting to be discovered. Together, these glorious, protected spaces provide a perfect example of Québec’s mixed geography; each park has its own personality that comes from the combination of location, flora and fauna within it.
Within the parks it’s possible to practice a wide range of activities. During the summer months you can enjoy picnics, strolls, cycling, swimming and boating. To fully explore the areas though, canoe, kayak or hiking trips are the best way to go. Other parks offer fishing, diving, horseback riding and mountain biking.
Come winter, activities switch to snow sports such as skiing, dogsledding, snowshoeing and ice fishing.
WILDLIFE YEAR ROUND
These carefully preserved habitats are also home to diverse selection of animals, from the Canada goose to the moose and humpback whales, there are 650 different species within Québec province.
Whale watching here is world class – watching one of these giants burst through the sea surface is an unforgettable sight. In fact, there are 13 species of whale attracted by the wealth of shellfish within the St Lawrence River. Biggest of all the whales is the blue whale, which can grow to 25m in length. Other species you might spot include the fin whale, humpback whale and porpoises and dolphins. You may also be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of belugas, the small Arctic whale that lives in the St Lawrence year-round.
Many ports in the St Lawrence estuary and gulf offer whale watching daily from May to October. There are also opportunities to see the whales from the shore, such is the depth of the river at that point. From the shore you can also see seals. Towards the end of the winter, hundreds of thousands of these animals arrive from Greenland and make the pack ice their home in order to breed.
Away from the St Lawrence, Québec’s forests are home to white-tailed deer, moose, black bear and caribou. If you watch quietly you can also see beaver swimming in woodland streams. The black bear, the only bear other than the polar bear to live in Québec, is also found in most forests.
Twice a year, hundreds of thousands of snow geese alight alongside the St Lawrence. The immense flocks are an unforgettable sight and create an incredible cacophony of noise. In October the birds take a break along the estuary, where they feed on the muddy banks for three weeks before continuing their migration.
Returning in the spring, the geese arrive on the St Lawrence in late March and stay until the end of May; the largest concentrations are typically found mid-April.
Top 3 summer itineraries
Winter in Québec has something for everyone, whether you prefer gentler pursuits such as snowshoeing through a snow-covered forest or more raucous outings such as snowmobiling and dogsledding.
The snowmobile was in fact invented in Québec and is perfectly suited to the province’s rugged winters. So popular is the vehicle as a means of transport and a recreational pursuit that there are more than 20,000 miles of groomed and signposted trails across the province.
Dogsledding is a traditional means of getting about during winter that these days lets you experience the landscape in a more intimate way. By going on a dogsledding safari you’ll be able to set off on pristine trails, with the wind pummelling your cheeks and the silence only broken by the panting of the dogs running at full pace.
Québec offers skiers and snowboarders a lengthy season, with world-class resorts and hidden gems offering a range of outings for people of all ability. From late November to late April snow sits on the mountains, with an average of 3 metres falling during the winter. Resorts spread out over the Laurentian Mountains and the Appalachians offer the best skiing in eastern North America while the resorts themselves claim to have the best après ski around; known for its winter festivals and celebrations, après ski becomes a tradition in Québec.
Winter is also the time to try some of the province’s more unusual accommodation; luxury lodges such as Sacacomie provide style and comfort in exceptional landscapes while the Hotel de Glace, North America’s only ice hotel gives you the unique opportunity to bunk down on a bed of ice for the night.
Top 3 winter holidays
FESTIVALS & ANNUAL EVENTS
Québec stages a wealth of wonderful annual events and festivals. The year starts with the creation of a Snow Village, which lasts until late March and features ice replicas, hotels, restaurants, igloos and uber cool bars. Québec Carnival takes place in late January or early February and is billed as the world’s largest winter carnival; lasting two weeks it’s an antidote to winter with night parades, ice slides, dog sled racing and outdoor film screenings.
From late February to early March is the Highlights Festival, an international caibre event featuring Montréal’s leading theatres, orchestras, dance troupes and museums.
At the start of June is the Grand Prix of Canada, one of the few Formula 1 races in North America. Later in the month and throughout July is the Montréal Jazz Festival, which hosts around 600 concerts in the course of 11 days. More than half of these are free of charge. July is also the time for the Festival d’été de Québec; the counterpoint to the winter carnival, Québec’s Summer Festival lasts 11 days and sees the city transformed into a series of giant outdoor stages where hundreds of performers stage events. At the same time, Montréal hosts Just for Laughs, the world’s largest and most prestigious comedy event, featuring street theatre, stand-up, gala events and theatre shows.
The start of August sees Québec celebrate its history with the SAQ New France Festival, an event that commemorates the arrival of the first Europeans. There are more than 1,000 events over five days, with many inside the walls of old Québec that take people back in time to the 17th and 18th centuries. Dress up in period costume and time travel!