Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. – Neale Donald Walsch
When’s the last time you did something outside of your comfort zone? Like, reallllly outside of your comfort zone? When I travel, I’m adventurous when it comes to food (I did eat grasshoppers and crickets on my trip to Mexico City) and am totally down to do a couple ‘soft adventure’ activities. But, I can’t say that I’ve ever gone on a trip that was dedicated solely to adventure. So, when this opportunity with QuébecOriginal arose for an adventure in Québec, I was all for it! Why? Well, while I’m more the luxury hotel, relax by the pool with glass of champagne in-hand type of girl, I’m also always up for new challenges.
So, at the end of August, I explored 3 regions of Québec (The Laurentians, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, and Outaouais) over the course of 6 days with 5 other creators (Bella, Isabelle, Brooke, Julia, and our photographer, Braedin). These 3 regions form the “Explorers’ Route”, a self-guided drive route within Québec that we did a portion of. I’ll outline exactly what we did on our 6-day, 5-night adventure in Québec and you can find a map outlining our route below.
I knew I’d walk away with awesome memories, experiences, and new friendships, but I didn’t expect to leave with a greater connection to myself and to nature! Québec boasts “an incomparable ability to connect” as its culture’s most prominent feature and experiences for visitors that are strong and authentic – and that’s genuinely what I felt I got from this trip! If you’re craving a little outdoor adventure and disconnecting for the soul, this experience is definitely something you should consider!
Know Before You Go
- Québec is the largest province in Canada by area. It’s roughly 50% larger than Ontario. So naturally, there’s LOTS to discover outside of the more frequented Montréal, Québec City and Mont-Tremblant!
- There are several mountain ranges running through Québec, including the Laurentians and the Appalachians. So, there are many, many trails for hiking and other activities.
- The Laurentians region (Les Laurentides in French) takes its name from the Laurentian Mountains, which actually pass through that region and 6 other regions in Québec. Most people know this region for Mont-Tremblant, the popular ski resort town. However, with over 9,000 lakes and rivers in this region, alone, there is so much to do outside of just Tremblant!
- Abitibi-Témiscamingue (“AT” for short) is in the northwestern part of Québec, very close to the Ontario border (it’s about a 3-hr. drive/straight line east from Timmins, Ontario). AT is actually two regions in one and contains a watershed divide, where water travels north to James Bay on one side, and on the other, it flows south and drains into the St. Lawrence River. This region has over 22,000 lakes and rivers!
- Outaouais is south of AT, also on the western side of Québec, bordering Ontario. Its major city, Gatineau, sits directly across the Ottawa River (Rivière des Outaouais in French) from our nation’s capital, Ottawa.
- If you set out to do the Explorers’ Route, you will definitely need a set of wheels. There are a couple long drives, particularly between The Laurentians and Abitibi-Témiscamingue (over 5 hours) and between AT and Gatineau (about 5.5 hours). There are many parts of the drive where you will not have any cell service. But I guess that’s part of the experience – to disconnect!
What We Did On Our Girls’ Adventure in Québec
Day One: From Montréal to The Laurentians
After arriving in Montréal from different parts of Canada, we drove for about an hour to our camping site in The Laurentians: Camping du Domaine Lausanne. We got there just in time for sunset over the lake, which was beautiful!
Camping du Domaine Lausanne has different types of accommodation, including floating cabins, regular cabins, and lots of other ready-to-camp options. We stayed in the super cute floating cabins. Each one had 1 queen bed and a bunk bed. Below is a graphic I put together (especially helpful for non-camping folk, like me) which shows the amenities you can expect to find at the campsite.
Day Two: The Laurentians – Parc National du Mont-Tremblant & Nominingue
We got up before sunrise on day two. There was a thick cloud of fog over the lake that was super magical! We explored the campsite before having breakfast and hitting the road for an action-packed day of adventure!
First up was Parc national du Mont-Tremblant! Covering over 1,500 sq. km, it’s the second largest and oldest national park in Québec. There are over 400 lakes and 6 great rivers within Parc national du Mont-Tremblant and many different trails for hiking. We hiked La Corniche, which is a 3.4 km round-trip hike with an Intermediate difficulty level (although the more experienced hikers in our group thought it was easier than that). The summit offers stunning views of Lac Monroe.
Fun fact: Mont-Tremblant gets its name from Mont Tremblant, the mountain and one of the highest peaks in the Laurentians. The name was derived from the Algonquin indigenous people who called it “trembling mountain”.
As we worked up quite the appetite from the hike, we stopped for lunch just outside of Tremblant Village at Restaurant Pub Au Coin inside Hotel Mont Tremblant, where we got our first taste of some Québec comfort food.
To get a quick snapshot of the area, while also doing a fun activity, I recommend Géo Explora. Géo Explora is a self-guided “scootrek” on e-scooters, which takes you through a series of clues and quizzes that lead you to your next stop, if you answer correctly. This definitely appealed to my inner nerd!
From Mont-Tremblant, we headed about 45 mins. northwest to Nominingue, where we retired for the evening at our next campsite: Les Toits du Monde.
This, my friends, is truly ‘roughing it’. The whole purpose at Les Toits du Monde is for people to escape the stress of everyday life while respecting the beauty of nature, so there are minimal amenities. A graphic is below outlining what you can expect.
Les Toits du Monde translates into “roofs of the world” and I found this to be one of the most interesting places I’ve ever stayed – also one of the most rustic! The property is deep in the forest (you have to walk at least 5-10 minutes to get to each accommodation) and offers 5 different accommodations: 2 treehouses, a hobbit home, a traditional Mongolian yurt, and a teepee. There is a big focus on sustainability and the property was built by the owners, Sylvain and Dior, using local, renewable and ecological materials. You can tell they put their heart and soul into building this property, and the passion they have for Les Toits du Monde really shines through along with their hospitality! I’ll never forget the constant look of joy on Sylvain’s face, and felt personally connected to his story. He left his corporate job to pursue his dream of starting this property and to live a simpler (happier) life.
One of my most memorable experiences on this trip was our sunset hike up Rocher Capitaine, led by Sylvain and his fearless guide, Yuka! Once we got up to the viewpoint overlooking Lac Nominingue, he had prepared a little picnic for us – nothing elaborate, just some watermelon, hummus, chips, beer, and rosé. But in that moment, it was just perfect and exactly what we needed.
Day Three: Nominingue to Amos & Rouyn-Noranda
On the morning of day three, we hit the road for our second region: Abitibi-Témiscamingue, located about 5 hours northwest from the Laurentians region (give or take 30-40 minutes to account for stops). Our first stop was in the town of Amos, the smallest of 3 primary towns in AT (including Rouyn-Noranda and Val d’Or). There, Refuge Pageau is the major attraction. The Refuge is a sanctuary for wild animals (including birds of prey, wolves, foxes, bears, coyotes, moose, owls, raccoons etc.) who are taken in because they’ve been injured, abandoned, or kidnapped. The goal is to rehabilitate them to release back into the wild, where possible. Although, some that are born or who have become accustomed to life at Refuge Pageau may not be able to return, and are instead given long-term accommodation.
Feeding some of the animals is possible, including the adorable porcupine “Chewbaka”.
From Amos, we headed an hour southwest to Rouyn-Noranda, the largest town in AT. We checked in to Quality Inn and I cannot tell you how happy we all were to see a hot shower, king-sized bed, and in-room coffee maker!
Dinner was at Le Cachottier Bistro Bar and was absolutely delicious! It’s a tapas-style restaurant and we feasted on dishes like, beef tartare with confit garlic, pulled pork poutine, smoked bison pastrami tacos with chimichurri sauce, and grilled shrimps with Adobo sauce. Yum! Right next door to Le Cachottier is Le Trèfle Noir microbrewery – and while we were all too tired for the brewery tour, they were kind enough to send us off with a variety of their craft beers to enjoy at our next campsite!
Day Four: Abitibi-Témiscamingue – Parc National d’Opémican
From Rouyn-Noranda, we made our way to Ville Marie in Témiscamingue for a quick lunch at Chez Eugène. All the food here is scratch-made and the menu consists of soups, salads, and sandwiches using local ingredients.
After lunch, it was time to explore Parc national d’Opemican, which is one of the crowning glories of Témiscamingue and newly opened as of this year! With brand new facilities (including a healthy WiFi connection at the service centre!), it was pretty neat that we were amongst some of the first to visit and stay in the park!
In terms of the facilities, we stayed in ready-to-camp Étoile, full-comfort camping tents inside Opémican. These had everything we needed to make our stay extra comfortable, including bunk beds with pillows and linens provided, a small kitchenette with fridge, dishes, an electric cooker, electricity, heater, and dining room table inside (complete with a deck of cards provided on top). Here is a graphic outlining the amenities.
Opémican offers an array of activities – everything from a number of different hiking trails to water activities, like paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking. We spent some time down by the dock just before sunset. While there, we spotted a beautiful bald eagle, and after a short rainfall, a rainbow appeared across the sky. It was wonderful! At the end of the night, we had another bonfire and it was the perfect way to end the day.
Day Five: Témiscamingue to Gatineau
Leaving Opémican was bittersweet because I enjoyed my time there so much, but I was also excited to move on to our third and final region in Québec: Outaouais! The drive was about 5-5.5 hrs. and we had actually crossed the border into Ontario for the majority of it.
Our lunch at Biscotti & Cie was a standout. Located in Chelsea Village in Gatineau, what was once a small coffee shop has become a full-service bistro. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner here and have a good selection of soups, salads, pizzas, and sweet treats. I especially loved my Kale salad (I opted to swap the tofu for chicken, but the tofu I sampled was also very tasty) and the homemade focaccia bread they served with marinated olives and garlic.
They also put together a special platter of desserts, which included vegetarian and gluten-free treats for some of the members of our group. Chelsea Village is super cute and I wish we had a bit more time to spend there. But I will definitely return in future!
To get the legs moving and work off some of our lunch, we made a quick stop at Pink Lake in Gatineau Park. We did the Pink Lake Trail Loop – a 2.1 km loop around the lake with lots and lots of stairs (good for all difficulty levels)!
Pink Lake is not actually pink – it’s named after one of the families that settled in the area many years ago. What makes the lake so cool is that it’s meromictic, meaning its upper and lower layers of water never mix, as most lakes do. Pink Lake has a bright green colour, depending on the time of day, because of the growth of microscopic algae. And since it took over 3,000 years to change from salt to fresh water (normally it takes only a few decades), there are salt water fish that have adapted to fresh water living in it, in addition to a prehistoric anaerobic organism. The lake reminded me of Plitvice or Krka in Croatia.
From Pink Lake, we made our way to Montebello to check in to Fairmont Le Château Montebello, a highlight of the trip for me! Apart from having access to our own private rooms, and all the usual luxury amenities of a Fairmont hotel (perfect way to end the trip, right?!), what makes the Fairmont Montebello special is that it’s the largest log cabin in the world!
We were greeted with a small champagne and appetizer reception by the Fairmont team in the courtyard, which was a very nice touch. I’ll never say no to a glass of champagne…or two!
From there, we had some time to enjoy the property before our barbecue dinner on the terrace, overlooking the Ottawa River. Fairmont Montebello hosts this barbecue dinner every evening in the summer and let me just tell you how AMAZING it is! There was a huge selection of grilled meats, seasonal vegetables, seafood, salads, and side dishes, and we all filled our platters with a mountain of food (twice, in my case!).
Day Six: Leaving Outaouais and Québec!
On our last morning, Isabelle and I opted to order breakfast to our room, and I’m so glad we did. We had a delightful spread of eggs benedict, pastries, and fresh fruit.
It was another bittersweet departure from Fairmont Montebello, and not too long after, time to head home.
I had such a wonderful time on this adventure in Québec. It was a great opportunity for me to let go of everyday stresses and push myself to try new things! Special thanks to QuébecOriginal for organizing this trip. I feel so inspired to go on more adventures and explore more parts of Québec now! Have you ever gone on an adventure in Québec?
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Photography by: Braedin (where indicated) and Yours Truly