A hub of rich history, irresistible culture, and stunning architecture, Quebec City is one of the oldest settlements on the continent, and to this day, remains the only walled city north of the Mexican border.
Here you’ll find an old-meets-new vibe, with fascinating nuggets of history – like Le Château Frontenac – coexisting with exciting new restaurants and nightlife destinations.
However, the real gems can be found mere miles from the city limits.
From waterfalls and whale-watching to religious mountain villages and gorgeous train rides, the region surrounding Quebec City is bursting with a little something for everyone.
Here’s a list of the very best day trips to get you started.
1. Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park
Widely known as the prime whale watching destination in the entire province, the Saguenay St Lawrence Marine Park lies at the mouth of the Saguenay and St Lawrence Rivers.
The mix of fresh and salt water creates an irresistible environment for an astonishingly diverse array of whales, including blue, humpback and beluga.
Departing from the village of Tadoussac, you’ll have the chance to see the enormous animals up close in their natural habitat.
This day trip is a must for all nature lovers and is well worth the two hours from Quebec City that it takes to reach the rivers.
2. Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier
Intersected by an awe-inspiring valley more than 500 meters deep, the Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier is a gorgeous pine-covered wilderness that is, astonishingly, only 30 minutes from the busy center of Quebec City.
Mist often clings to the hillsides, giving it an eerie beauty, and the river and surrounding valley offer a host of activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
With over 60 miles of hiking trails to choose from, you can spend the entire day exploring the national park or pack some food for a riverside picnic in the summer.
During the winter, skiers descend on the valley for some world-class cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
3. Île d’Orléans
Without a doubt one of the most popular day trip destinations from Quebec City, Île d’Orléans draws visitors throughout the year, both local and foreign alike.
The large island is connected to the mainland by bridge and is reachable by car in less than 20 minutes; it offers a wonderfully diverse range of attractions.
History buffs will want to take a guided tour to learn about the island’s heritage, whilst foodies will be in for a real treat.
Because its heritage and climate, the island has been nicknamed “the pantry of Quebec City” and has become a gourmet destination where you can sample chocolate, fresh fruit, local maple syrup, wines, beers and much more.
See it from above: Quebec Helicopter Tour
4. Le Train du Massif
One of the best ways to soak up the breath-taking scenery of the Charlevoix region without spending hours hiking is to take a train journey, of which few are as wonderful as Le Train du Massif.
Running from Montmorency Falls to La Malbaie, the route takes you past soaring hills, forested valleys and places of historical significance.
The winning feature, however, is the experience on board the train itself.
Some packages are available that offer truly spectacular, chef-prepared, four-course gourmet meals that you can enjoy whilst admiring the scenery.
5. Grosse Île
Another island not far from the city offers visitors a fascinating insight into the history of immigration into Canada.
Grosse Île was once the entry point for many Irish immigrants who came to Canada over the course of a century in the early 1800’s.
Their history remains there to this day in the form of villages and monuments.
Aside from this, it’s also a gorgeous place to hike, with many people favoring the stunning Mirador Trail that takes you on a winding route among 600-year-old trees between river and mountain.
The main town of the Charlevoix region, Baie-Saint-Paul is a hotbed of creative and gastronomic prowess.
It’s home to a renowned artist community and as a result, houses a plethora of galleries with something to grab the attention of even the most casual passer-by.
These can be found on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Street, though there are others tucked away beyond the main avenue.
These galleries – combined with the gorgeous views of the neighboring river and surrounding mountains – make it a wonderful village to visit for the day.
The food here is also world class.
Grab some lunch at Le Saint-Pub microbrewery before heading back to the city.
7. Aventures Nord-Bec Stoneham
Located just next to the Parc National de la Jacques Cartier, this day trip is a hands-on adventure experience for those who want to get in touch with the wild.
Among the gorgeous alpine landscape, you can try your hand at dogsledding, snowshoeing and even receive an introductory course in forest survival techniques! If you want to completely escape the city, then this is the day trip for you.
8. Montmorency Falls
Nestled within the beautiful Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, the Montmorency Falls are truly a sight to behold.
Over one hundred feet taller than Niagara, the falls attracts visitors all year round, though its preferable to go in summer when you can also make the most of the excellent hiking in the park.
The falls themselves are breath-taking.
You can make the journey to the top in a cable car and if you’re not scared of heights, you can venture out onto the vertigo-inducing suspended bridge joining the two river banks and peer out over the top of the falls.
Recommended tour: Montmorency Falls Bike Tour from Quebec City
One of the most popular cities in the country, Montréal is home to a thousand reasons why you should visit.
As it is reachable in less than three hours heading southwest from Quebec City, it’s well worth the journey.
Foodies will be spoilt for choice; Montréal has more restaurants per capita than any other city on the continent! Lovers of the arts will also be satisfied with the incredible range of festivals throughout the year, from film and dance to music.
The young demographic, combined with gorgeous French colonial architecture and a zest for life, makes Montréal a must-see destination if you have a day to spare.
A destination for lovers of everything outdoors, Mont-Sainte-Anne is home to vast expanses of alpine wonderland, where you can find just about anything to keep you active and in the fresh air for a day.
Only 40 kilometers away from Quebec City, you’ll find luxury campgrounds, lakes, hiking trails, and even a world-class alpine ski resort.
Whether you arrive in summer or winter, it’s an excellent place to escape from the city for a day or two.
The town of Levis lies a short way across the St Lawrence River and is a beautiful place from which to get a completely different perspective of Quebec City.
You can board a ferry to get there, which leaves every hour from terminals on both sides.
The sleepy city is home to old parishes, the gorgeous Chaudiere Falls, and national historic sites like the Levis Fort.
Spend your day wandering around the points of interest and make sure you get to a few good vantage points to enjoy the spectacular views.
12. Valcartier Vacation Village
Perfect for a family vacation or a getaway with some friends, the Valcartier Vacation Village is an amusement park of epic proportions that transforms depending on the season.
During the summer, it’s the largest waterpark in Quebec – home to rides and pools and spas of all kinds.
In the winter, however, it turns into a snow-covered playground where you can ski, snow-raft and ice-skate to your heart’s content.
Just before entering the magnificent Charlevoix region, you’ll find the small settlement of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre.
The religious village occupies a truly breath-taking location amongst mountains and the majestic St Lawrence River and is a wonderful place to explore for the day, with nature never far from sight.
The highlight is undoubtedly the St-Anne Basilica – a beautiful structure that attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year
14. St Anne’s Canyon
On the edge of the Beaupré Coast, Sainte-Anne’s Canyon is a must-see attraction for nature lovers and those with an affinity for heights.
Not far from Mont Sainte-Anne, the area shares the same rugged alpine beauty as the mountain, though offers a host of different activities.
The sheer rock walls make for some truly excellent rock climbing routes and the raging river below makes the experience even more nail-biting.
For something a little less extreme, you can wander around the two-foot-wide suspension bridges that connect both sides of the valley, which will be more than enough excitement for some.
15. Le Château Frontenac
Though technically housed inside the Old Walls of Quebec City, you can easily spend a day exploring and enjoying the luxuries of one of the world’s leading hotels – Le Château Frontenac.
Having undergone an extensive – not to mention expensive – renaissance project, the old castle features stunning colonial architecture and is impossible not to gawp at.
From fine dining to spas and bars, the incredibly opulent hotel is a perfect place to spend a few hours or an evening for a special occasion.