What is often referred to by locals as the “garden of Quebec City”, the Island of Orleans is quite lovely to visit, at any time of the year. While I opted to go in the summer, I remember going there as a child for my family’s annual apple-picking trip, and for the odd winter getaway during Christmas break — although I now suspect it was merely an excuse to get away from extended family holiday parties and enjoy the welcomed break in winter heaven.
The island was one of the first parts of the province to be colonized by the French, and a large percentage of French Canadians can trace ancestry to early residents of the island. The island has been described as the microcosm of traditional Quebec and as the birthplace of francophones in North America, giving it a historical signification that simply cannot be rivaled. Regardless of when you go, Ile d’Orléans has indeed plenty to offer. For the truly wonderful things about the island are truly timeless.
Island of Orleans: Quaint Villages & Traditional Houses
One of the things I like the most about this island is not only how easy it is to get to and to navigate around (there are only 6 roads — 3 across and 2 around), but also the abundance of traditional New France houses. Few places in the province can boast holding such fabulously maintained properties, of which 600 are graded. My favorite is the one pictured below, in the lovely Saint-Laurent village, which, coincidentally, was named of of Quebec’s Most Beautiful Villages last year. Founded in 1679, it hugs the waterfront around a marine park that hosts a small historic flat-bottomed boats workshop.
Another great example of traditional New France architecture is the house behind the Sainte-Pétronille vineyard, just a few kilometers right from the main bridge onto the island. The green roof is so vivid, and such a nice contrast!
Island of Orleans: Amazing Food
Again with the whole “garden of Quebec City” metaphor — for a reason. The Island of Orleans is indeed a vast garden, which produces anything and everything from traditional agriculture like apples, corn, wheat and such, as well as having an important number of wineries and cider houses. I swear to you — if you can get your hands on delicious Orleans strawberries, which are much sweeter than their Californian counterparts, your life will never be the same. It’s also home to a quite unique blackcurrant farm, Mona & Filles, which not only produces blackcurrant wine, liquor and syrup, but also the most delicious poutine I have ever tasted. And that’s saying something, as I am quite the expert on the topic. Brace yourself for the picture below, which is a poutine served with duck confit and a blackcurrant sauce with locally sourced cheese curds. Yum, anyone?
Island of Orleans: Beautiful Scenery
But if architecture and food aren’t your forte, do not fret. The Island of Orleans offers far more than a feast for the cultural minds and empty stomachs. The scenery alone is worth the trip, with incredible views all-around. From the Quebec City panorama on the western tip of the island to the Montmorency Falls in Sainte-Pétronille, while not forgetting the gorgeous Laurentians mountains as seen from Sainte-Famille, there are plenty of photo opportunities. And very little circulation, making it easy to stop, snap, and go.
Island of Orleans: Good To Know
- It is absolutely essential to rent a car in order to visit Island of Orléans.
- The island is easily reachable from Quebec City in just under half an hour, according to traffic, which can admittedly get quite dense on the weekends, thanks to the two-lane bridge.
- If you make a daytrip out of it, do plan an entire day. Overnight stays are also possible, whether in B&Bs or cabins.
- There really is no “good time” to visit. Any time is a good time!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Quebec City tourism board. As always, all opinions are my own.