Photo: Maridav/Shutterstock

Where to Stay, Eat, and Play in Quebec for the Fall Trip of a Lifetime

Québec Travel
by Hanna Ashcraft Nov 16, 2023

Fall is the best time of the year to head to Quebec — especially if you’re the outdoorsy type. The province is chock-full of opportunities to hike and paddle among some of the brightest, most colorful leaves out there. It’s also the perfect time to spot beluga whales on the St. Lawrence River and zipline above the multi-colored foliage of Charlevoix. And after all the efforts and excitement, you can reward yourself with local fall-focused treats: apple crêpes and a maple coffee, among other indulgences.

We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

How to get to Quebec

The easiest and quickest way to get to Quebec City from the United States is to fly directly to Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB). The first views of the fall foliage and St. Lawrence River from the air are almost as pleasant as the Canadian border agents at this smaller but well-operated modern international airport. Alternatively, you can fly into Montreal. It’s less than a three-hour drive or train ride north to Quebec City.

If you’re up for an adventure, you can ride Amtrak’s Maple Leaf train to Toronto and then ride Via Rail to Quebec City. It’s a little more involved than flying, but it’s also a great way to see the foliage.

How to get around Quebec

If you plan to stay in Montreal or Quebec City for the duration of your trip, you can use your feet, local public transportation, or Uber. However, if you want to access the outdoors and make your way to the stunning areas of Charlevoix and Côte-Nord, plan to rent a car. Make all the arrangements to rent a vehicle prior to your visit to be sure to get a car upon arrival — spontaneity is rarely your friend when it comes to car rentals.

What to do in Quebec for the outdoorsy traveler

In Côte-Nord: Go whale watching

A whale-watching expedition in Tadoussac, Quebec

Photo: Potifor/Shutterstock

The St. Lawrence River is a prime location for whale watching, in large part due to the beluga whales that inhabit its water year-round. From the village of Tadoussac, you might get lucky and see a whale from the shores, but to maximize your chance of spotting one, head out on a 2.5-hour expedition with Croisières AML. They have phenomenal bilingual experts on board who will do their best so you can observe a beluga, humpback, fin, minke, and even the extremely rare blue whale. And if you don’t spot anything, you get a free ticket for another whale-watching cruise .

To learn more about the whales you’ll see during the expedition, stop by the Marine Mammal Interpretation Center (CIMM) beforehand. This interactive exhibit features whale skeletons that you can touch (and even walk inside of) to better understand the majestic creatures of the St. Lawrence River. Catch the well-produced video about the curious and playful beluga whales and fall in love with these unique marine creatures before you even see them in the wild.

In Côte-Nord: Hike in the Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay

Parc National du Fjord du Saguenay, Quebec

Photo: jo Crebbin

Those looking to take in the views of the fjord for multiple days should consider a backpacking circuit in the Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay. With hut-to-hut, rustic camping, and lean-to options, you can plan out an epic route. For a day hike, consider Géant Lookout Hike (four to five hours and 6.3 miles) in the La Baie-Éternité Sector.

Walking small sections of the park without leaving Tadoussac is also possible by taking the short Pointe de l’Islet hike with boardwalks and views of the bay, or the Colline de l’Anse à l’Eau Trail to spot the roof of the Hotel Tadoussac through the fall foliage.

For more information about hikes in the Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay, including duration, elevation, and difficulty levels, check out this handy guide.

In Charlevoix: Climb a Via Ferrata and zipline through the fall foliage

Take a deep breath before you step off the roof of the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu and zipline through fall foliage. While you can certainly skip it, the Project Vertical zipline is one of the fastest ways to get to the start of their Via Ferrata. With a cable keeping you safe, helmets, and well-placed rungs, this Via Ferrata is the right challenge for the active adult. Those with a fear of heights should know there are a few sections with a steep drop, but conquering the course will feel that much more rewarding. Then, head directly to the outdoor heated pools of the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu to relax your muscles.

In Charlevoix: Hike around the Parc national des Hautes‑Gorges-de-la-Rivière‑Malbaie

Parc national des Hautes‑Gorges-de-la-Rivière‑Malbaie, Quebec

Photo: NicVW/Shutterstock

The rock face that you’ll see as you drive into the Parc national des Hautes‑Gorges-de-la-Rivière‑Malbaie is not only striking, it creates a microclimate within this valley where you’ll find that the fall foliage changes slightly slower than in the surrounding area. The national park is most often visited for the Acropole-des-Draveurs Trail (five to six hours and 6.9 miles round trip), which is a challenging trail with spectacular views but is closed by mid-October. For something shorter, consider the La Chute-du-Ruisseau-Blanc Trail (a 30-minute easy walk) that will take you through magnificent foliage and to a fantastic waterfall.

In the last few years, the park has tested out staying open through winter, offering everything from fat biking and ice skating on the river to self-guided ice climbing.

No matter the season, consider visiting the little exhibition inside the huts on either side of the bridge at the Draveur Visitors Centre to learn more about the wild lives of log drivers.

In Quebec City: Walk on a suspension bridge over a waterfall at Canyon Sainte-Anne

Suspension Bridge at Canyon Sainte-Anne, Quebec

Photo: Kin Fok/Shutterstock

Only 45 minutes outside of Quebec city, the Canyon Sainte-Anne has it all: a kaleidoscope of fall foliage, a rushing waterfall, three bridges that offer different views of the cascade, and the possibility to ride on board a unique zipline that has you flying high over the canyon. Perfect for families or multigenerational groups, the trails to all three bridges (two of which are suspension bridges) are less than two-mile-long with interactive stories and photo-ops along the way. Be sure to visit before the canyon closes for winter.

In Quebec City: Learn more about Quebec’s history on a walking tour

Quebec City is the oldest city in North America and, as such, visitors would do well to take the time to learn more about its past. But forget the history books, a walking tour of Old Quebec will do the trick and the Quebec 1608 guide service has many tour options to satisfy all your learning needs.

In Quebec City: Canoe and Hike in Parc national de la Jacques‑Cartier

Parc national de la Jacques‑Cartier in Quebec

Photo: Pierre Jean Durieu/Shutterstock

Nature is within arm’s reach with a quick 30-minute drive outside of Quebec City to the Parc national de la Jacques‑Cartier where you can hike, cycle, and paddle among the yellow birch and sugar maples. In fall, consider taking a rabaska canoe ride with a naturalist guide to see the bright colors of the foliage reflected in the Jacques-Cartier river. Alternatively, have a park warden guide you on the Rock Shelters discovery hike to find unusual moss as you scramble through rock crevices. If you prefer to take a self-guided hike, there are multiple trails in the park suitable for all levels.

In Quebec City: Bike Around the Île d’Orléans

Île d'Orléans, Quebec

Photo: Anne Richard/Shutterstock

Right in the middle of the St. Lawrence River is the Île d’Orléans, an idyllic island seemingly plucked from a rural setting where there are fields, farms, and artisans across six villages, each dotted with 17th-century ancestral homes. Just 30 minutes from Quebec City, across the Pont de l’Île bridge, you can drive around the island by car, which will take about an hour, or consider renting bikes for a guided or self-guided tour of this unexpected oasis.

In Quebec City: Learn about the First Nations people who have always lived here

End your trip to one of the oldest European settlements in North America by visiting and appreciating the people who lived there long before the first boats arrived from the Old Continent. The Musée Huron-Wendat aims to teach the history, culture, and arts of the Huron-Wendat people with a well-laid out museum and hotel. To bring the culture to life, consider doing one of the interactive activities offered, such as a guided tour of the museum, creating a talking stick, or listening to the Huron-Wendat myths and legends while sitting around a small fire in the longhouse.

Where to eat and drink in Quebec

In Côte-Nord: Café Bohème in Tadoussac

It’s good to have a little something in your stomach with time to digest before heading out on your whale-watching excursion. Have an extra early lunch at Café Bohème for seasonal French cuisine in a cozy setting. The mushroom and brie crêpe strikes the perfect balance of salty and sweet with apples, maple caramelized onions, and a poached egg on top. If you’re chilled, get the maple cream black tea, or the homemade sea buckthorn lemonade when temperatures rise.

In Charlevoix: L’Île Mystérieuse in La Malbaie

One part restaurant lounge with tapas, one part museum and local artisan shop, and one part submarine bathroom, L’Île Mystérieuse Restaurant and Lounge is a little tricky to categorize. Themed around the works of French author Jules Verne, best known for his work Around the World in 80 Days, the restaurant is delightful and quirky with a dark modern interior and vegetable-filled menu. Opt for the goat cheese and grilled veggie open-faced sandwich for something filling and delicious, or the English Tea service for something scrumptious.

In Charlevoix: Faux Bergers near Baie-Saint-Paul

At Faux Bergers you don’t get to choose what you eat. Instead, the seasons choose for you. With a menu developed seasonally with daily adjustments based on what’s ripening, this seven-course flavor phenomenon with wine pairing is an experience worth fighting for a coveted reservation. The restaurant seats 30 to 36 people nightly, with all tables tasting each course simultaneously after an introduction from the chef. They accommodate dietary restrictions seamlessly.

In Quebec City: Bistro Hortus in Old Quebec

Dietary restriction folks should head straight to Bistro Hortus in Quebec City. With rooftop gardens and beekeeping at each location, you could say they have a roof-to-table approach with plenty of fresh vegetables. The La Poutine Brunch is a hearty twist on the classic Canadian dish, and the vegetarian lasagna is enough to feed two people. Plan to take a long digestive walk afterwards.

In Quebec City: Le Bijou in Old Quebec

Le Bijou is a recently opened cocktail bar within the fun and funky hotel Monsieur Jean. Le Bijou is very chic and atmospheric with jewel-toned velvet couches, patterned wallpaper, painted ceilings, and an extensive list of specialty cocktails. The Passion Royale is a personal favorite, as are the truffle fries topped with parmesan.

In Quebec City: ARVI in the Limoilou Neighborhood

ARVI offers a five-course tasting menu that adapts to the seasons with a bit of a show. At ARVI, the chefs take center stage, making your meal right before your eyes in the middle of the restaurant. The teamwork is flawless, as is each expertly prepared course from Matsutake mushrooms in a miso-like broth, frothy almond and peas with fir, and melt-in-your-mouth meringue.

Where to stay in Quebec

In Côte-Nord: Hotel Tadoussac

Although it has been through many renovations in its near-160-year history, the Hotel Tadoussac remains at the center of town with its unmistakable red roof. Stay here for a connection to the long history of Tadoussac, comfortable rooms, and a central location where you can walk to your whale-watching excursion or microbrewery down the street. Or, for quieter activities try to spot whales from the wooden chairs on the front lawn.

In Charlevoix: Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie

Not technically a castle, the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu comes close. Designed in the traditional French chateau style, the property has 405 rooms and suites, four dining options, indoor and outdoor heated pools, and spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. There are luxurious touches everywhere in this hotel, from the in-room amenities (think plush robes, yoga mat, and Nespresso coffee) to friendly guest services, and a delicious buffet breakfast.

In Charlevoix: Le Germain Hotel & Spa in Baie-Saint-Paul

On the edge of Baie-Saint-Paul, Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa is a unique accommodation option. The multiple buildings on the property were designed to replicate farm structures with sleek lines to hold nine types of rooms, from dormitories to suites. The Spa Nordique Le Germain is worth the extra cost for a two-hour session in the hot tubs, dry and wet saunas, and body treatments. Plus, you’ll hear the adorable highland cattle as you sip a hydrating herbal tea from the outdoor hot pool.

In Quebec City: Monsieur Jean Hôtel Particulier

Monsieur Jean is not one to back away from bold colors and custom-designed furniture, that’s why the rooms at his hotel are spacious and visually exciting. They also feature fully equipped kitchens, and many offer views of Old Town Quebec from the beds, bathtubs, or even toilets. Don’t miss the Instagrammable lobby filled with artworks.

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