Montrealers don't need to go far to find hidden gems and famous landscapes that, in the summertime, look like they belong on a tropical island. From Quebec's beaches and rugged coastline to emerald rivers and waterfalls tucked away in the forest, there's plenty to see and do without ever leaving the province.
Seemingly endless natural beauty awaits — often just a few hours from Montreal.
After being cooped up in our homes all winter, it's nice to know that these vacation-like spots are within reach.
There are also some magical landscapes to be found in the distant corners of the province if you're looking for a little bit more of a getaway.
Travelling around the globe and discovering new, exotic locations is great. But there's something extra special about exploring your own backyard. Plus, you get to support local communities and business owners.
Where will you go first?
Distance from Montreal: About one hour
Cost to visit: $12 per adult
This stunning beach will give you major tropical vibes thanks to the beautiful water and sand.
This town in Quebec is home to a beautiful lake and beach with Instagram-worthy views. About three hours from Montreal, this beach will give you the feeling of being on a sunny island vacation, somewhere far away from home.
Located in the Îles de la Madeleine, the Plage de la Grande Échouerie offers wide sandy plains, rolling dunes, and endless ocean vistas. If you are looking to explore somewhere a little further, then this is the spot for you.
Less than six hours from Montreal, Pointe-Taillon National Park is the place to immerse yourself in nature. Sépaq puts it best: "Who hasn't dreamed of a day spent lounging on a vast sandy shore and walking for miles without reaching the end? That's exactly what you can do on kilometres of shoreline at Parc national de la Pointe-Taillon."
The Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé is where cliffs dive into the sea. Rocky islands punctuate the horizon, resulting in a dramatic rural landscape that, though well-known, feels like a world away.
There's a proposal to build a massive new beach in Montreal along the Saint Lawrence River in the Ville-Marie neighbourhood of Sainte-Marie.
The beach would sit just north of the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Montrealers would be able to access it from the Parc du Pied-du-Courant via a universally accessible, 60-metre elevated walkway over the CP and Port of Montreal tracks that, right now, form a barrier between the water and neighbourhood.
In a statement shared with MTL Blog, group president Victor Balsis explained the latest beach idea takes into account feedback from both the port and City of Montreal. He also said that Les AmiEs has attempted to open dialogue with candidates in the federal and municipal elections.
"As the federal and municipal elections are upon us, these issues are more pertinent than ever," Balsis said.
"Although most of these proposals concern federally owned assets, these issues require close coordination with our municipal government which is normally responsible for urban issues on a local level."
"We have reached out to a few parties/candidates but have not heard back on these specific proposals."
But sometimes the best things to do are the most spontaneous ones. These six spots are incredible this time of year and are within a two-hour drive of Montreal, making for amazing last-minute fall getaways.
Distance From Montreal: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Address: 399, Route 323 Nord, Montebello, QC
Why You Need To Go: Parc Omega is a crowd favourite. Getting to see wild animals and enjoy nature is always awesome, but it's especially magical this time of the year, making it feel like a real-life fairytale.
Address: 285, chemin de Brome, Ville de Lac-Brome, QC
Why You Need To Go: This winery is super close to the city, offering wine tastings, guided tours and a terrasse with a picnic area. They even hold an event where you can try your hand at harvesting the vineyard. A great way to cheers the new season!
Staycations are where it's at 2021, and Quebec — with its rolling hills, beautiful lakes and endless drives — is a wonderful place to go exploring near to home. As Canada's largest province, it's chock-full of memories just waiting to be made.
Quebec offers an abundance of both history and nature, from its townships brimming with European charm to its vast provincial parks. You can fly, train or bus to many of Quebec's must-see destinations, but the best way to explore this far-reaching province is by car.
If you're craving the open road, take a cue from 95.9 Virgin Radio host Vinny, who knows a thing or two about road trips. As one of the hosts of Montreal's favourite radio station (and a born-and-bred Montrealer), he reaches road trippers and commuters every weekday morning.
Vinny knows that when it comes to exploring Quebec, you don't have to travel far to uncover lush scenery, wildlife and get some R&R. In fact, his favourite spots are all less than three hour's drive from Montreal.
Just imagine hitting the open road with the windows down and the radio pumping, cruising your way around picturesque villages, quaint architecture, lazy rivers and towering fjords.
Once you've checked out your favourite stops from Vinny's list of must-sees, all you need is a car, snacks for the road and 95.9 Virgin Radio on full blast.
Time From Montreal: 2 hours
Why You Need To Go: With so much to do and see, Mont-Tremblant is one of Quebec's most popular destinations no matter the season or the reason. From a panoramic gondola ride with a bird's eye view of the Laurentians to bike riding through one of the mountain's many trails, this spot is ideal for explorers and adventurers alike.
After a day spent wandering through nature in all its glory, you can wind down with a shopping spree in Mont-Tremblant's famed pedestrian village. Follow it up with an Instagram-worthy dining experience at one of the dozens of restaurants for a vacay done right.
Why You Need To Go: Less than two hour's drive from Montreal (during which you can jam out to tunes on 95.9 Virgin Radio), Saint-Sauveur is another popular Quebec destination that makes for a great day trip. With a massive outdoor pool and water park, restaurants like Gibby's and spas like Vinny's fave, the Polar Bear's Club Spa, Saint-Sauveur is a must-visit for Montrealers.
Spend the day soaking and steaming in the spa's thermal waters, view the Laurentians from horseback or shop to your heart's content. No matter how you choose to spend your time, there's no shortage of fun to be had at Saint-Sauveur.
Why You Need To Go: According to Vinny, Estérel Resort is "an oasis." With a four-season spa that boasts lake and mountainside views, it's easy to see why. Estérel Resort is all about escaping the daily grind, so what better way could there be to make use of a vacation day? Estérel's all-inclusive packages make it a one-stop-shop for all things R&R.
If you're in the mood for a solid sweat sesh, you can venture through the Laurentians via paddleboard, canoe, kayak, pontoon boat or bike. Foodies will especially love the range of fine dining, including the renowned Bistro à Champlain restaurant.
Why You Need To Go: With more than 225 species that call it home, Zoo de Granby is the largest zoo in the province and offers a great day out for the whole family. Due to continued health and safety guidelines, reservations are required for the summer 2021 season, so be sure to save your spot to get in on all the action.
Slender-tailed meerkats, white rhinos, Japanese macaques and snow leopards are just some of the many animals you'll get to spy here. Learn all there is to know about Granby's conservation efforts while you're at it, too.
Why You Need To Go: Just off the island, La Ferme Quinn is a go-to destination for farm-fresh fruits and veggies, including apples, cucumbers, kale and almost every type of berry you can think of. With fall just around the corner, now's the time to plan your apple-picking adventure to stock up for all those pies you're sure to make.
If baking isn't quite your thing, don't stress. According to Vinny, La Ferme Quinn has the "best apple pie ever." You can also load up on muffins and a ton of other baked goodies that may or may not make it through the car ride home.
Why You Need To Go: Combining rustic charm with jaw-dropping architecture, Le Château Montebello might just take your breath away in the best way as it's situated within nature itself. Fun fact: Le Château Montebello is the world's largest log cabin, and it was rated one of the top 10 resort hotels in Canada by Travel & Leisure.
To make your staycay complete, there's an outdoor pool and cabanas, a sports chalet boasting everything from tennis to mini-golf, a nautical pavilion for those who like to kayak, canoe or paddleboard, hiking trails and even 90-minute guided ATV rides.
Why You Need To Go: You don't need to travel far to uncover the beauty of Quebec. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Centre de la Nature is a massive urban park that spans 50 hectares.
Whether you're in search of a chill picnic, wanting to uncover nature via the Centre's five kilometres of pedestrian paths, or looking to entertain the family at Piscine Saint-Vincent or the on-site petting zoo, Centre de la Nature has it all. There's even a tropical greenhouse that boasts a stunning array of plants and animals, so be sure to have your camera at the ready.
Why You Need To Go: Charm and character combine with history to make Quebec City a must-see (and see again) spot. Walkable and sure to satiate your wanderlust, Quebec City is a great spot to spend your vacation days. Crank up the radio while you're en route and listen to 95.9 Virgin Radio hosts talk all things pop culture and more before you pull up in one of the province's most iconic destinations.
Once you're there, soak up a bit of history at Château Frontenac then traverse the Plains of Abraham, the site of the famous Battle of Quebec. You can also peep a stellar view of the St. Lawrence River from Dufferin Terrace, zipline above Montmorency Falls, shop and eat to your heart's content — however you choose to spend your time, Quebec City has plenty to offer.
Why You Need To Go: Touted as a "super cool experience" by Vinny himself, Parc Omega is a safari park with a 12-kilometre route that winds throughout. You're likely to see wolves, deer, bears, bison, birds and more at this year-round attraction.
For the brave-of-heart, you can also spend a night or two in a cabin, chalet, lodge or pod that's surrounded by a pack of wolves. Each accommodation has a glass facade to allow uninterrupted views of nature and wolves alike.
Why You Need To Go: Since it's always five o'clock somewhere, what better way to spend a day than at a winery? Located just minutes from Montreal, La Bullerie is the first Quebec vineyard that specializes in sparkling wines. With the likes of white, red and, of course, rosé, you can sip and santé while you take in the picturesque views of wine country.
If you fancy a picnic while you're there, La Bullerie offers one of their very own that includes choice cheese, fruit and a local dessert. It's the ultimate daytime date location.
Why You Need To Go: This is one of the more popular spots for a country house because it's close to the city, but still gives you the feeling of being on a getaway. Whether you have a house here or not, you definitely need to make the trip.
Why You Need To Go: Great in the winter, great in the summer, this town is downright fantastic at any time of the year. It's also home to the fabulous Estérel Resort which will truly make you feel like you're travelling abroad.