Quebec City: Charm and History
With a picturesque Old Town that also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site and charming surprises down every winding cobblestone street, Quebec City is always a good idea for a day trip from Montreal. Myriad museums, incredible architecture, a scenic locale on the St. Lawrence River and a calendar full of festivals and fun events year-round ensure any day trippers will have plenty to keep them busy. Not only that, Quebec City is the only North American fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist.
Getting there: The easiest option for getting from Montreal to Quebec City is by taking the train. VIA Rail provides daily service between the two cities with a travel time of around three hours. If you prefer to drive, you can do so along Highway 20 with a travel time of three hours, depending on traffic.
Travel tip: Take a stroll along the charming pedestrian street of Petit‑Champlain, one of the oldest commercial streets in North America. Local shops, quaint cafes and great restaurants abound. In the winter, the street is illuminated with twinkle lights, further adding to its charm.
Ottawa: The Nation’s Capital
Canada’s capital city is worth a visit any time of year and offers something for every age and interest level. Home to seven of nine national museums, there are plenty of opportunities to soak up some culture here. Visitors will also want to spend some time along the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk or cycle along the banks in the warmer months and in the winter, the canal transforms into the longest skating rink in the world. In addition, the city is home to a burgeoning craft beer scene, great restaurants and numerous water-based activities on the Ottawa River.
Getting there: Your best option is to utilize VIA Rail’s frequent train service between Montreal and Ottawa, with a travel time of around two hours.
Travel tip: Don’t miss a stroll around ByWard Market, packed with independent shops, a local farmers’ market in the summertime, specialty food shops, pubs, galleries and restaurants.
The Laurentians: Outdoor Adventure
The Laurentians are located just north of Montreal and offer some of the best options for day trippers looking to spend some time in the great outdoors. During the summer months, you have your pick of watersports (with over 9000 lakes and rivers to choose from this is no surprise). There are also plenty of opportunities for hiking and cycling, as well as snowshoeing and cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter.
Getting there: Getting from Montreal to the Laurentians is easily done via a 1.5 to 2-hour drive.
Travel tip: Take advantage of the many Nordic spas in the area, which provide the perfect place to unwind in nature. These havens of relaxation offer some combination of saunas, steam rooms, hot and cold pools and areas for simply soaking up the beautiful surroundings.
Mont Treblant: Four-Season Ski Resort
Well-known as a popular four-season ski resort and national park, Mont Tremblant makes for an easy day trip from Montreal. Winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, ice climbing, snow tubing and much more. Once the weather warms up there are a wide range of summer activities including hiking, mountain biking, swimming, canoeing and stand up paddling. There’s also a casino here as well as a wide selection of cozy restaurants serving regional cuisine.
Getting there: L’Express du Nord offers transportation from Montreal to Tremblant in the morning with return in the evening every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (around two hours). If you prefer to drive, the trip should take around 90 minutes.
Travel tip: Keep your eyes peeled for public art. The Public Art Circuit features a dozen works of art in Mont-Tremblant’s parks and municipal buildings in the downtown area as well as in Le Village and the resort area.
Long Sault Parkway, Ontario: Summer Fun
Located just west of Cornwall, Ontario, the Long Sault Parkway is a series of 11 islands connected by road. There are two beaches here making it a great option for a summer day trip. In addition to swimming and sunbathing, visitors can canoe and kayak as well as head underwater for some fresh-water shipwreck diving. There are also many opportunities for hiking, fishing and wildlife viewing in the area.
Getting there: You can drive from Montreal to Long Sault Parkway in about 90 minutes.
Travel tip: Keep an eye out on the drive for authentic chip trucks, antique sales and other surprises along the way.
Eastern Townships: Local Food Galore
Quebec’s Eastern Townships offer everything from orchards and wineries to maple syrup producers, cheesemakers and microbreweries. So if you’re a foodie, this might be a day trip from Montreal you’ll want to think about. If you’re not hopping from winery to winery or picking your own berries at an orchard, there are museums to visit, great shopping, excellent dining options and an array of outdoor activities to try (from hiking to cross-country skiing). The Eastern Townships are also a popular destination for cyclists.
Getting there: Getting from Montreal to the Eastern Townships is best done by car, with a driving time of one to two hours.
Travel tip: You can download a map for self-guided tours along the area’s cheesemaker’s circuit as well as the microbrewery circuit.
Le P'tit Train du Nord: Scenic Cycling
Cyclers of all stripes (from casual riders to more hardcore bikers) will want to put Le P'tit Train du Nord on their day tripping list. This scenic route through the Laurentian Mountains was once an old railway line that has now been converted into a popular bike path and cross-country ski trail. The 232-kilometere path is the longest park of its kind in Canada and is also used by walkers and runners (just remember to stay on the left side of the trail). Picnic areas can be found at numerous points along the trail making it ideal for a day trip with a DIY lunch al fresco.
Getting there: There is regular train service linking Montréal’s Gare Lucien L’Allier with the P’tit Train du Nord terminus in St-Jérôme. From there, a shuttle service drops cyclists at various trailheads along the route.
Travel tip: Make time to stop off at various small towns and villages along the route to grab a meal at a cozy pub or restaurant (many with outdoor terraces).
Îles-de-Boucherville National Park: Nature at its Best
You don’t have to stray far from Montreal for a day spend in nature. Îles-de-Boucherville National Park consists of a chain of scenic islands in the middle of the St. Lawrence. Active travellers have the option for everything from hiking and biking (there are over 30 kilometres of trails) to canoeing, fishing, stand-up paddling and more. Winter activities include snowshoeing, winter hiking and cross-country skiing.
Getting there: Driving to the park takes around 35 minutes from Montreal making it an easy and time-efficient day trip.
Travel tip: If you don’t have your own equipment, you can rent canoes, kayaks, bikes, snowshoes, kayaks and more to use during your visit.
Granby Zoo: Fun with Furry Friends
The largest zoo and conservation area in Quebec, Granby Zoo is an ideal day trip from Montreal for families (or anyone interested in wildlife). The sprawling zoo is home to more than 1,800 animals representing 230 species from around the world. Animals are divided into four “loops” (the Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania loops) to make it easier to navigate what you want to focus your time on. There is also an animatronic dinosaur “zoo” featuring 21 full-scale animatronic dinosaurs.
Getting there: Granby Zoo is 50 miles (80 km) east of Montréal and is best reached by car via Highway 10.
Travel tip: In the summer months, visitors can cool off at the zoo’s water park filled with slides, water features, a heated wave pool and an adventure river.
Montebello: A Little Bit of Everything
Located around the midpoint between Montreal and Ottawa on the north shore of the Ottawa River, Montebello offers a little bit of everything. Stop by a cozy pub for a local meal or take the kids to Park Omega where they can see a variety of Canadian animals in their natural habitat. The park is also home to walking trails, picnic areas and a restaurant. Visitors to Montebello can also enjoy golfing, water sports, boating, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
Getting there: Driving is your best bet for travel between Montreal and Montebello, which should take around 90 minutes.
Travel tip: Day trippers with a sweet tooth will want to stop in ChocoMotive to pick up some artisanal chocolates and see chocolate being made.
Oka: Small Town Charm
The small town of Oka is a great jumping off point for a day spent exploring Oka National Park where there are many activities to choose from no matter when you visit. In the winter, choose from snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and winter hiking. While during the summer, there’s a large beach for swimming (lifeguards are on-site), picnic areas, pedal boats, and kayak and canoe rentals. In town, check out the many artist workshops and if you like cheese, head to the Oka cheese factory to taste some of their wares.
Getting there: Driving distance between Montreal and Oka is around 40 minutes and your best option for getting between the two destinations.
Travel tip: During the summer season on Sundays, make sure to stop by the Oka public market for an abundance of local, seasonal produce.
Sucrerie de la Montagne: Authentic Sugar Shack
A Quebec Heritage site, the Sucrerie de la Montagne is an authentic sugar shack that (unlike most) is open year-round. Located in the midst of a 120-acre forest of century-old maple trees, a visit here feels a bit like stepping back in time thanks to the traditional buildings and the fact maple syrup here is produced the old fashioned way. If you’re visiting during February, March and April you can enjoy some maple taffy on snow, while year-round visitors can visit the sugar shack and bakery and enjoy rides in a horse-drawn carriage.
Getting there: Driving from Montreal to Sucrerie de la Montagne takes around 40 minutes and parking is free.
Travel tip: Stop by the general store on the way out to stock up on maple products from syrup to taffy to butter. The also sell some local handicrafts.