Last Updated on February 27, 2023 by MacNaughtan
From the moment I drove onto L’Isle-aux-Coudres a few years ago, I have been in love. It’s small and charming and a popular spot during the summer months when Quebecers and tourists flock to the island for Quebec terroir, kite-surfing, family beach fun, and relaxation.
Located about 115km from Old Quebec City, the drive to L’Isle-aux-Coudres in the region of Charlevoix is one of my favourites in Quebec. Especially in autumn when the vibrant oranges and reds turn the island’s fall foliage into nature porn worthy of a XXXXXXXX rating. Yeah, it’s that good. Bring cigarettes to smoke afterward!
travelling around l’isle-aux-coudres
Named by Jacques Cartier during his expedition in 1535 due to its hazelnut trees (Coudres), the L’Isle-aux-Coudres was settled in 1728.
In the early days, the island was comprised of three small communities: Saint-Louis-de-France (changed to Saint-Louis-de-L’Isle-aux-Coudres), Pointe-des-Roches (changed to Saint-Bernard-sur-Mer in 1936), and La Baleine, before being merged into one municipality in 2000.
Similar to Ile d’Orleans, there is a central road, chemin des Coudries, which circles L’Isle-aux-Coudres. While you may be tempted to turn right onto this road, I highly recommend turning left.
begin at la fabrique de l’isle
It is no longer a secret, La Fabrique de L’Isle (women-owned) is one of my favourite places on L’Isle-aux-Coudres. It is a visual feast, as well as a café, restaurant and gallery, and I think I love it more than I loved my last boyfriend.
Stop for a cup of some of the best coffee on the island and a snack, pick up locally made souvenirs, and get ready for a thrilling day on L’Isle-aux-Coudres!
If you want to have a really good time on L’Isle-aux-Coudres, participate in the island’s treasure hunt! The cost is $10 to register and clues will take you through various local businesses.
While this treasure hunt has a cash reward for finding the treasure chest ($150 to $500 CAD), the true treasure is discovering the spirit of the island through its local artisans, producers and businesses. It is pretty genius.
Cidreries et Vergers Pedneault is the ideal place to stop next. While you can visit their boutique in Petit-Champlain and their stall at Le Grand Marché in Quebec City, nothing beats visiting their orchard. Sample some apple butter and sip their iced cider, pick up a bottle of apple cider vinegar or apple jelly.
Chemin de la Bourroche is a quiet road with a little beach area ideal for relaxing.
A stop at Le Corylus for a lobster roll or poutine can be yummy, their patio overlooking the Saint-Lawrence River is quite lovely.
The next 10 kms of road winds along the Saint-Lawrence River, through forested areas and by dark sand beaches. It’s a popular spot for paddle boarding, and kite-surfing when the conditions are good. Check out Suroît Aventures for lessons.
Driving around the big bend on the island, a small road will pop up on the left leading down to the boat dock. You may think, why go if I don’t have a boat? I love going down here to see the old wooden fishing huts, which are pretty to look at, but also act as an exposition on the history of fishing in L’Isle-aux-Coudres.
Back to the main road, turn right onto chemin du Moulin and spend some time at Les Moulins de L’Isle-aux-Coudres. This spectacular ecomuseum includes a watermill, windmill, and miller’s house. Honestly, I would plan to spend at least an hour here. You won’t regret it!
Driving back towards the main road, turn left at the stop sign and check out the house across the way on chemin du Ruisseau Rouge with its impressive amount of nautical treasures. The owner, Victorin Desgagnés, a retired sailor and rock sculptor is a kindly gentleman who enjoys sharing his passion.
Église Saint-Louis de l’Isle-aux-Coudres is small with seashell motifs on the doors. A charming church which first opened its doors in 1741. If the doors are open, take a quick peek, it is beautiful in its simplicity.
Boulangerie Bouchard is an absolute must. Because, croissants! And homemade pies. And fresh bread. And. So. Many. Sexy. Carbs. Still, have those cigarettes??
Deep slow breaths….
Doubling back a minute or two, turn onto chemin des Prairies, it’s a pretty drive, if that’s your thing, and will eventually take you back to chemin des Coudriers. And to another favourite spot of mine, Charlotte!
Charlotte (women-owned) is an absolute gem, a boutique selling pottery, clothing, jewelry, and art created by artisans in L’Isle-aux-Coudres. Truly one of the best places to pick up some beautiful unique souvenirs and gifts.
Safran Charlevoix (women-owned) is so tiny, that it’s easy to miss, so keep your eyes on the left side of the road. This lovely little shop sells syrups and preserves made with saffron grown on the island.
With a couple of jars of preserves sitting beside me from Safran, my next stop is almost always Auberge La Fascine, a resto-bar and hotel with a fabulous little boutique selling locally made products.
The resto-bar looks rough, but the food is quite good, and on a nice day the patio is almost always full!
Completing the circle takes us back to the road leading down to the ferry, and often has me wishing I had planned ahead and booked a room for the night.
There are, of course, more things to see and discover in L’Isle-aux-Coudres, all you need to do is keep exploring, chat up the locals for advice and be open to whatever adventures come your way.
how to get to l’isle-aux-coudres
Taking HWY 138 (and then HWY 362 Est), the route follows the Saint-Lawrence River and snakes around the Laurentian mountains revealing breathtaking landscapes.
Turn off HWY 362 Est the road travels down a steep hill into Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, where a ferry awaits to take you across the Saint-Lawrence River to L’Isle-aux-Coudres.
Note: Bring car snacks, the ferry can be quite busy in summer and you may need to wait a while to get across to the island.
Taking the Charlevoix Train and exploring the island by bike is another option. When you book your ticket, be sure to book a bike hook for an extra $5 as the train only has 5 hooks available.
From the train station, it is a short ride down to the ferry dock.
turn your day trip into an overnight trip
There are several accommodation options on L’Isle-aux-Coudres. Honestly, if you’re travelling in July or August, book a room in advance as you’ll have better luck finding a shirtless Idris Elba covered in glitter than a hotel room at the last minute.
Here are some sleeping options to consider.
- Les Chalets du bout d’en bas – 2962, chemin des Coudries
- Havre Musical de l’Islet – 71, chemin de l’Islet • women-owned + lgbtqia2s+ safe space
- Hotel Cap-aux-Pierres – 444, chemin La Baleine • lgbtqia2s+ safe space
- Hotel-Motel Les Voitures d’Eau – 1933, chemin des Coudries
- Gîte du Moulin – 15, chemin du Moulin
- Auberge La Fascine – 1064, chemin des Coudries
when is the best time to visit l’isle-aux-coudres?
Summer is when the island is at its absolute best, with everything open and ready for visitors. That being said, I’m a huge fan of visiting in September/October when the leaves have changed colour and Mother Nature is on the verge of being arrested for indecent exposure.
While many places close down mid-end of October, there are some places that remain open in winter and L’Isle-aux-Coudres is a sweet place to relax, participate in winter sports like dog sledding and ice canoeing, and intermix with locals.
Planning a trip to Quebec City can be quite fun, and honestly, there is a chance you’ll want to travel sooner rather than later. From our vibrant festivals to our intriguing history and culture, scrumptious food and friendly locals, it is easy to see why you’re planning a trip to Quebec City (and perhaps other areas of the province as well).
Here are some trip planning resources and recommended reads to help you plan a memorable Quebec City vacation!
Kindle Unlimited Membership: The guidebooks recommended on this website are available on Kindle. Whether you have a Kindle, or use the Kindle app on your iPhone or tablet, and this membership can be quite useful.
Michelin Green Guide to Montreal and Quebec City: Highlighting history and culture, the Michelin Green Guides are terrific for travellers who plan to road trip in Quebec, or planning city stops with a focus on history and culture. [2020 edition]
Fodor’s Montreal and Quebec City: Fodor’s is known for their local expert advice and offerings for all budgets. An ideal guide for just about any type of travel in Montreal, Quebec City, and their surrounding areas.[2020 edition]
Lonely Planet: Montreal and Quebec City: If you’re a budget traveller, then Lonely Planet is one of the best guidebooks you can buy. That being said, this guidebook was last updated in 2015, so some things may be closed. [2020 edition]