Planning a holiday in Canada's largest province begs one question -- where to begin? Quebec features 1,450,680 square kilometres of natural beauty and a veritable feast for the senses, including the all-important sense of fun. Here are four distinct regions the whole family will love:
(or Laurentians -- about 100 km north of Montreal)
Montreal cottagers speak of a drive to the Laurentians as simply "going up north." They don't drone on about the sweet air, pristine lakes and breathtaking vistas. Perhaps most don't know that this mountain chain and its foothills are among the most beautiful in the province and possibly the world.
Things to do
During the summer, drop by the quaint town of Val-David as it hosts the largest pottery show in North America.
If you have a passion for outdoor sports, grab your hiking boots, rollerblades or bikes and hit the 200-kilometre-long linear park trail -- previously the path of "Le Petit Train du Nord" -- or take the plunge into canoeing or kayaking. For guided tours, visit www.pause-plein-air.com.
If a winter vacation is what you have in mind, don't miss Mont Tremblant. Practice your cross-country skiing or tackle as many of the 94 downhill trails as you dare (all levels of expertise). In the evening, your rosy-cheeked kiddies will burst into song as they jingle bells on a one-horse open sleigh. Other activities include ice-skating and snowshoeing (rentals and lessons available). Mom and Dad can chill at a spa while the kids are being taught the safety rules and latest techniques of skiing or snowboarding. Accommodations are available at all price levels.
(350 km from Montreal or 123 km from Quebec City)
The TraversÃ©e du Charlevoix is not for sissies -- it's recommended for intermediate- to expert-level skiers and hikers and experienced cyclists. Here is an adventure to challenge even the most experienced sportsperson. Imagine a seven-day, six-night trek across 100 kilometres of rugged terrain, with accommodations in log cabins (daily distance of 15-20 kilometres). Food is delivered each day. For more information visit www.charlevoix.net.
Out on the water, cool breezes provide welcome relief from the summer heat. Rendez-Vous Charlevoix is a sailing school for the whole family. Located in the heart of the region, in Pointe-au-Pic, they offer five-day courses Monday to Friday or weekend one-day courses so newbies can get their feet wet, so to speak. Everyone must work together at this team sport to get the desired results. Younger family members can get a taste of being the boss by taking their turn at the tiller.
Photography by J.F. Bergeron
Image courtesy of Tourisme QuÃ©bec
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Saguenay-Lac St. Jean
(About 350 km from Montreal or 223 km from Quebec City)
Go back to the '20s in the town of Chambord, which boasts an old-time village with original stone structures, villagers in period costumes and historical reenactments. It's a unique peek at life in a simpler time. For more information, including campsites and hotels in the area, go to www.sepaq.com.
Close by, in pretty St. Felicien, visit a zoo like no other, the Zoo Sauvage de St. Felicien. Hundreds of species roam free while visitors, enclosed in a train with barred windows, are driven, slowly, through the animals' natural habitats. Now, that's role reversal!
From St. Felicien it's just a short hop to the town of Normandin, home to some of the loveliest public gardens in the province. Get an eyeful at www.lesgrandsjardinsdenormandin.com.
The province's largest metropolis is an exciting place no matter the season. Choose from a wide range of accommodations for every budget, and make it your home base. Day trips are limitless. Here are a few suggestions.
A day in Old Montreal
On a muggy summer day, prepare to get very wet and have a boisterous good time jet-boating in the Lachine Rapids: www.jetboatingmontreal.com.
Take a few minutes to dry off (helpful hint: bring a change of clothes) and walk a few blocks to the Montreal Science Centre and IMAX Movie Theatre. Check it all out at www.centredessciencesdemontreal.com.
An evening cobblestone stroll in "Le Vieux" and dinner on one of Place Jacques Cartier's many outdoor terrasses is so Montreal. Get a good night's sleep -- there's plenty more to do tomorrow.
At any time of year
Take a day trip, including a sumptuous brunch, or stay overnight at the world's largest freestanding log structure, Chateau Montebello.
We have barely scratched the surface of how much there is to do on vacation in Quebec. For loads of other ideas, visit the Tourism Quebec website at www.bonjourquebec.com.
Photography by J.F. Bergeron
Image courtesy of Tourisme Québec
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