Quebec’s cosmopolitan city of Montreal is full to exploding with French accents, historic European architecture, and a world-class food scene. But just beyond the city lies a treasure trove of picturesque towns, wineries, striking mountain ranges, and national parks.
We’ve compiled a list of our favourite day trips from Montreal. All you need is a car, a map, a pumping playlist, and a healthy supply of road snacks.
1. The Eastern Townships
About two hours from Montreal, the Eastern Townships are a study in quintessential Quebecois charm. We’re talking lush green countryside, thriving wineries, stately manor houses, old-school chocolatiers, and glittering lakes. Sample the province’s finest cheeses, sip the locally-produced cider, and check out microbreweries in the enchanting villages.
The village of Magog is a must-see, boasting its very own sea monster in Lake Memphremagog. Jump on a boat cruise and keep your eyes peeled for the Québécois Nessie, and spend a few hours in the village, visiting the galleries and cute boutiques.
Better yet, visit Bleu Lavande, one of Canada’s largest lavender farms, and enjoy a picnic in a blooming lavender field overlooking Applegrove Hill. C’est tres romantique!
On the north bank of the St Lawrence River, the Lanaudière region is a haven for wilderness adventures. From sweeping mountain ranges, to deep valleys, flowing rivers, and pristine islands, it’s got the lot. The question is, what to do first? Hike the wooded trails in Mont-Tremblant National Park (we recommend visiting in autumn when the forests blaze with colourful foliage), plunge into some water sports at one of the many inviting lakes, and check out the magnificent waterfalls in the Parc Regional des Chutes-Monte-a-Pene-et-des-Dalles.
Visit during summer for Le Festival de Lanaudiere, Canada’s premier classical music festival. There’s something about this pristine landscape that makes beautiful music come to life.
3. The Laurentians
Just an hour from Montreal lies the Laurentians, a natural paradise with everything from hiking and golfing, to quintessential log cabins on the lakes, and Mont Tremblant Resort, a world-class ski resort that’s equally fun in summer. Take the Chemin du Terroir, a gorgeous sign-posted route that winds through the country roads of Basses-Laurentides and Argenteuil, where you can taste the locally-produced beers and ciders, and meet the friendly farmers. Get out and stretch your legs on the banks of the glittering lakes and explore the woods on a foraging expedition.
The Laurentians boasts a killer food scene. Check out the eateries across from Lac Rond at Ville de Ste-Adéle. Your taste buds will thank you.
The city of Laval is Montreal’s largest suburb, under an hour’s drive north of downtown. This family-friendly locale is a blast for the kids (and the young at heart). Head straight to Cosmodome and immerse yourself in all things astronautic, with its three interactive space missions. At SkyVenture, go indoor skydiving and find out what it feels like to free-fall, and at the AeroSim flight simulation centre you’ll fly a Boeing 737 and an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Keen to get outdoors? Head to the nearby Parc de la Rivière-des Mille-Îles, or hike the eight-kilometre trail of forest at Bois de L’Équerre.
Skip breakfast and head south-east of Montreal to the ultimate foodie heaven. The Montérégie region is packed with orchards, maple groves, and vineyards. Make the most of the abundant pick-your-own orchards and check out the wineries, cideries, and lakeside trails along the Montérégie Wine Route. Can’t eat another bite? Parc Safari is well worth a look for close encounters of the wild animal kind.
In winter, learn how to tap your own maple tree at some of the world’s best sugar shacks. Make your own maple taffy, and take a sleigh ride through the snow-covered maple forest.
Canada’s capital city of Ottawa is just a two hour drive from Montreal, which means it’s easy to tick off two of Canada’s bucket-list cities in one trip. It might be a government city, but Ottawa has beauty and personality in spades. During summer, kayak the famous Rideau Canal that meanders through the city centre. In winter, it turns into the world’s longest ice rink and becomes a hub for outdoor fun and winter festivals.
Check out the funky ByWard Market and rest awhile on the lush grass of Parliament Hill. Feel like stretching your legs after the car ride? Time your trip to be there on a Wednesday when Lululemon runs free yoga classes on the Hill at midday. Don’t forget, Ottawa is home to many of Canada’s national museums, including the National Gallery of Canada and the War Museum. Both are well worth a look before you head back to Montreal.