Last Updated on February 27, 2023 by MacNaughtan
I am a huge fan of road trips in Quebec, especially in autumn when the fall foliage is in full bloom. I remember my first autumn season in Quebec in 2013. I was visiting the city for a story. I remember waking up to a full schedule of places to visit in the city and deciding to blow everything off to drive around the mountains (I was born north of Jasper, Alberta, I am a mountain girl) and gape at the vibrant fall foliage.
Rusty oranges, ruby reds and golden yellows transform the landscapes around Quebec each autumn; some years are more dynamic than others. While the vividness and duration of Quebec’s fall foliage change from year to year, one thing does not change, my pressing need to rent a car and embark on an autumn road trip or five. Sometimes I’ll go on a day trip from Quebec City, other times I’ll book myself a mini-getaway along a scenic route. If I have plans to visit my family in Ontario, I’ll change my route and choose scenery over convenience.
before you go
I generally skip the planning phase and hop right into a rental car. Road trips = adventure and I want to leave myself open to all of the possibilities that arise along the way. In autumn, however, I will pull out a map and decide on my main driving route. I am, after all, wanting to see all of the colours on all of the trees. Once I know the main route, the only things left to do are charge my camera batteries, grab a bunch of snacks, and pack a mixture of warm and cool weather clothing.
While I can buy snacks along the way, and I do, I always have a bunch sitting on the passenger seat. I have made ranch Cheez-It crackers for years (a box or two coated with melted butter, tossed in ranch dressing mix, and baked), but they recently sent me a box of the new Cheez-It Snap’d crackers and I am now addicted to them – I devoured the free bags and the double cheese ones are now a staple on my grocery order. I balance the carb overload with seedless grapes or strawberries and Oka cheese, which I pre-slice for easy snacking. Meat sticks from The Great Canadian Meat Company are added to the mix whenever I find them – usually at a gas station.
I also swing by my favourite pâtisserie for some croissants and torsades… ? ?
Autumn weather can be unpredictable in Quebec. Some days will be hot and sticky and others can be quite cool and let’s not forget about the wind and occasional rainstorm. I recommend packing clothing that can be layered, added and removed with ease. Personally, I pack a light jacket or heavy hoodie, as well as woolly socks, rain boots and running shoes on every road trip, the rest of my clothing depends on the length of the road trip.
I admit, Île d’Orléans will always be my favourite day trip from Quebec City (I recently wrote a digital guide on the island). It’s located around 17km (10.5 miles) from Old Quebec, making it an ideal choice for half-day adventures or as a mini escape from the city. Drive around the island, turning right at the traffic light and following the road around the island. In Saint-Jean, Route du Mitan cuts through the island and offers stunning views as you drive towards the village of Sainte-Famille. Visit wineries such as Vignoble Saint-Pétronille, Vignoble Isle de Bacchus, Vignoble du Mitain for delicious wines and epic fall foliage views. Microbrasserie de l’Île d’Orléans is open year-round and one of my favourite places for craft beer and savoury comfort foods. Casse-croûte Chez Mag is always a good idea, too! You can also stop to buy pumpkins and gourds, explore a cornfield maze, and go apple picking!
the route: hwy 138/a440/40 from downtown quebec city towards sainte-anne-de-beaupré. follow the signs for île d’orléans and cross the bridge.
make it a stopover: stay the night at les ancêstres auberge or le triangle d’été.
Avenue Royale, stretching from Beauport to Saint-Joachim, is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Quebec, and my favourite street outside the city of Quebec. No, really, it’s my favourite, I drive people down this street a lot when I have a rental car. Start near Montmorency Falls and follow through the towns of Boishcatel, L’Ange-Gardien, Château-Richer, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré and Beaupré, passing beautiful ancestral homes. Château-Richer is home to my favourite pâtisserie, as well as outdoor stone bread ovens and cellars – some of which are still used today. Stop at Chez Marie for ridiculously good bread, made from their outdoor oven. In Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, the grounds of the cathedral are absolutely stunning in autumn and a must-see.
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a popular destination on the Quebec pilgrimage trail, and whether you are religious or not, I recommend stopping here. Take some time to visit the shrine, or quietly wander around the grounds or inside the cathedral. It is stunning inside and out! Stop at Café Apollo for a coffee and walk through Premier cimetière de Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré (it is more pretty than it sounds). If you have time, consider a stop at nearby Spa des Neiges for a thermal soak or massage.
the route: avenue royale from quebec city (near montmorency falls) to sainte-anne-de-beaupré
make it a stopover: stay the night at les clos des brumes chalet (château-richer) or les chalets sur le cap (beaupré) and then continue to charlevoix or saguenay.
Located around 2 hours (122km or 76 miles) from downtown Quebec City, Isle-aux-Coudres is another island destination in Quebec that I love, especially for short road trips. This small island is known for its apples, but I am also a huge fan of its scenery. When it’s open, I pop by La Fabrique de l’Îsle for tea and sweet or savoury nibbles – the carrot cake is divine! When you arrive on the island, turn left and follow the road around it, stopping for local terroir along the way. Cidrerie Vergers Pedneault is among the first you’ll see. The stretch of road along the south shore of the island is my favourite part of the drive, and the view from Le Quai Saint-Louis is gorgeous when the fall foliage is at its brightest.
the route: hwy 138 from downtown quebec city towards charlevoix. as you approach baie-saint-paul, take route 362 to the ferry in saint-joseph-de-la-rive. the ferry to the island is free.
make it a stopover: stay the night at gîte du moulin or hotel cap-aux-pierres.
le bic + rimouski
I’m a little ashamed to admit that 2021 was the first time I spent time in Le Bic and Rimouski. How could I have been so foolish? They are both located on the south shore of the Saint-Lawrence River, about 17 km (10.5 miles) from each other. Park national du Bic is the main draw here, with its hiking trails and fat biking, among other activities. The town itself is small, and home to one of the best restaurants in Quebec, Restaurant Chez Saint-Pierre. I usually stay in nearby chalets (there are hotel options, too!) and drive into Rimouski to shop, eat, and pick up yummy eats to enjoy later at the chalet. Route du Quai and Route du Gulf-du-Bic are perfect for watching the sunset. In Rimouski, be sure to stop by the Onondaga submarine and Pointe-au-Père lighthouse.
Did you know Route 132 is the longest highway in Quebec? It begins in the town of Dundee near the border with New York and follows the south shore of the Saint-Lawrence River east into Gaspesie. While the drive between Montreal and Quebec City is quite lovely, my favourite stretch is L’Islet to Rivière du Loup. The towns are tiny, each one with its own beauty and charm. Stop by the marine museum or bird sanctuary in L’Islet, then shop for artisanal gifts in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. The church in Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies has a food truck, which is worth stopping at when it’s open, otherwise, make a point of going to Chez Mag in La Pocatière (I get hungry just thinking about it). La Fée Gourmande in Kamarouska has amazing chocolates, and Tête d’Allumette near Saint-André is a perfect craft beer stop.
the route: route/hwy 132 from quebec city to either montreal or gaspesie
make it a stopover: stay the night at motel blanche d’haberville (saint-jean-port-joli) or motel des mariniers (kamarouska) and then continue to le bic, rimouski or gaspé.
Petite-Rivière-Saint-François is a cute small town located between Baie-Saint-Paul and Quebec City. In autumn, I love to stop here and soak up the gorgeous fall colours. The town hugs the shores of the Saint-Lawrence River. Venture down to Quai Petite-Rivière-Saint-François for gorgeous autumn views of the town. The road through town winds its way passed the stop for the Train de Charlevoix and all the way to Club Med Quebec-Charlevoix. On a warm day, Parc des Riverains is perfect for an autumn picnic of Quebec terroir.
the route: hwy 138 towards baie-saint-paul to the exit for petite-rivière-saint-françois
make it a stopover: stay the night at ONИEA Hébergement & Spa or auberge le four à pain and then continue to baie saint-paul, saguenay or tadoussac.
Route 113 in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Northern Quebec, begins around 500 km (311 miles) from Montreal and travels northeast to the junction of Route 167 near Chibougamau. It’s a quiet stretch of road, and one of my favourites when road tripping back to Quebec City after visiting my family in Ontario. Typically, I spend a night in Val-d’Or, then get up before the sun and slowly make my way (always with a full tank of gas) through the wilderness towards Route 167. Sometimes, Northern Lights can be seen before sunrise, and once the sun is up the landscapes are bathed in gold and rusty orange. It is the slowest possible route to Quebec City, but the scenery more than makes up for the time spent driving.
Bonus: Route 167 south to Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is equally beautiful.
the route: avenue royale from montmorency falls to the town of beaupré
make it a stopover: stay the night at hotel forestel (Val-d’Or) or l’escale hôtel suites (Val-d’Or) and then continue to montreal or quebec city via Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.
stay tuned for more autumn road trips in quebec – there are so many options!