Exploring Quebec’s Parks
Updated: Feb 10
Montreal is an amazing international city with so much going on that sometimes we wonder if we stay up later than New York city. We can, and have gone on at length about our festivals, arts scene and so on. But we don’t often talk about what the region outside of the urban centers can offer.
Canada is famous for its natural beauty and the area around Montreal is no exception. We have some truly breathtaking national and provincial parks open year-round within moderate driving range of the Island. If you are interested in renting a cabin or a maintained camp site, or are more adventurous and want to take a canoe and disappear into the wilderness for a couple of weeks, you will want to investigate these parks.
Park National D’Oka is our closest example. Located just off of the West Island this park is a popular spot for locals, particularly during the summer when Oka Beach opens. This is a great family camping location. Close to Oka where you can find a grocery store and other conveniences this park features plenty of hiking and cycling paths as well as children's activities, a climbing wall and more. Oka is perfect for a quiet afternoon in the country or a week of casual camping.
Mount Orford National Park is located about an hour and a half drive from Montreal in the Eastern Townships. This park is nestled in a valley in the Appalachian Mountains and covered in a verdant forest of Maple trees that, come fall, become a wonder of color. You can hike the mountains or rent a kayak and take a self guided tour of the park by water. There is also cycling and hiking paths for those who want to get around the park by land and two beaches for those who only want to go in half way.
Park national de la Mauricie is about three hours north of Montreal near Shawinigan. Here you can camp in cabins, motor homes, ready to camp tents (half tent, half cabin), and tents with and without electricity. This is a great family camping ground with a lot of activities, nice beaches and a few fantastic locations to spend the day. Our favorite is Les Cascades, a long string of shallow waterfalls broken up by natural pools perfect for relaxing in. Bring a lunch and make the short hike up the mountain. You will not regret it.
Thousand Islands National Park is on the Quebec/Ontario boarder about two hours from Montreal. This park is incredible. When they say Thousand Islands they really mean it. The best way by far, if a little more expensive, is to explore this park by house boat. These small vessels can be rented and require only a short training course to pilot. Equipped with bunks and a kitchenette you can travel from island to island roughing it in tents or chilling in your bunk. There is an incredible variety of wildlife in this park, particularly in the water. Fishing is definitely an option!
Algonquin Provincial Park is by far the furthest away on this list at about six hours away in Ontario. However, if you want to really get away from civilization this is the park for you. We do not suggest this for first time campers. If you are going to Algonquin prepare for an adventure. Rent a canoe if you don’t have one already. You can plan any route you like through the lakes and rivers of this park, stopping to portage between lakes and camping at rustic camping sites sprinkled everywhere.
You will see real wildlife here, loons and ducks, moose and deer, and yes bears. Like we said, this is not for the inexperienced camper. Incidents with wildlife are extremely rare but more than one camper has had to turn back early when an animal gets into their food and eats it all. (It has happened to me personally!)
Montreal has so much to offer, but when you need a break from the high paced city life remember that the tranquility of nature is only ever a short drive away. If you are attending college in Montreal don’t let the city be all you see of your new home!