Montréal is one of those rare cities whose energetic vibe seeps into your soul. It’s a magnetic mix of French heritage and diverse cultures, non-stop festivals, and a culinary scene so compelling it’s reason enough for visiting. The largest city in the province of Quebec, Montréal sits on an island in the Saint Lawrence River. It’s picturesque neighborhoods sit alongside the old port and amble up to its namesake peak — Mont Royal — an idyllic swath of nature to experience the city in autumn.
Start your three- to five-day Quebec road trip by first finding out why Montréal is the gorgeous gateway to neighboring Eastern Townships and Outaouais regions.
Montréal is studded with pretty parks, urban gathering spots, and waterfront walkways where you can exhale amid the action. Once a farm, Parc La Fontaine retains its appeal as sanctuary in the city. Amble the trails under the glow of fall foliage, watching for birds, and be sure to check out landmarks like the fountain bubbling in the pond as well as the giant wooden slingshot, fashioned from a poplar tree.
At the end of September, artists from around the globe converge at the Pop Montreal International Music Festival. The five-day event features a cross-section of 300-plus artists headlining events, from film screenings and concerts to art exhibitions and fashion shows. For a slice of local life, go to Jardins Gamelin in the downtown Quartier des Spectacles Montréal. This cultural hub features free local entertainment, plus vibrant touches like community vegetable gardens and a local farmers market that’s open until mid-October.
These agricultural roots are undoubtedly why Quebec is brimming with some of the country’s most exciting cuisine, with Montreal at the vanguard of diverse dining experiences. Like Restaurant Manitoba, whose menu is the embodiment of nature. Dishes are inspired by elements such as wood, wind, forest, and rock. Find unexpected offerings like smoked eel paired with radishes, lamb T-bone steak with broccoli and silkweed, plus wild ingredients such as mugwort, Labrador tea, and sorrel.
Cocktails also get the star treatment, particularly at places like Terrasse sur l’Auberge. Here, drinks are served up alongside sweeping panoramas of the St. Lawrence River with classics like the Moscow Mule and Aperol Spritz. Located on the rooftop (it’s open until September) of the Auberge du Vieux-Port hotel, it’s a top-notch spot to savor the city with a nightcap before tumbling into bed.
Beyond the city — Eastern Townships
Brigham (52 miles/1.25-hour drive)
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to make wine, find out first-hand at Brigham Vignoble de la Bauge in Brigham. Spend the day with a winegrower, harvesting, crushing, and pressing the grapes. Then devour a hearty lunch of barbecued boar accompanied by wine. It’s a glorious way to embrace the season, surrounded by plump grapes hanging off vines transforming from green to color during the season.
A short drive east lies the historic village of Dunham (9 miles/15-minute drive), the birthplace of the Eastern Townships’ wine country, with more than a dozen places to discover during harvest season in September through October. Check out Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise, Quebec’s oldest operating vineyard, which also hosts a public sculpture exhibition called “Nature et Création” that runs until October 31. Stroll the vineyards to discover more than 100 masterpieces, as well as 60-plus smaller works on display throughout the property.
Mont Sutton (15 miles/30-minute drive)
Autumn glory continues at Mont Sutton, where a ski lift ride takes you above lush foliage. Weekends from mid-September to mid-October are even more vibrant during Mont Sutton Fall Festival. Get deep into nature at Parc environnemental naturel de Sutton (PENS), where 32 miles of hiking traverse maple tree groves, shimmering lakes, and mountain peaks. Get a fresh perspective of the park at night: go on a guided hike to Sommet des Hollandais during the full moon on September 14.
After all that invigorating activity and fresh air, relax at Auberge Sutton Brouërie, then stay the night. The inn has a series of two-level rooms just steps away from the on-site restaurant and brewery. Sip a Quebec-brewed pale ale or IPA accompanied by dishes like porter poutine or portobello mushroom and beet tartare, then stroll to your room for a restful sleep.
More adventure awaits when you loop back east to the town of Sutton, then drive south to Glen Sutton (12 miles/20-minute drive). An experience you won’t soon forget is VéloVolant, which translates to “canopy cycle.” Sit back on a suspended recumbent bicycle perched in the treetops (it’s like traveling a zipline on two wheels) and pedal through the canopy, getting sublimes views of Au Diable Vert, an alpine pasture. Continue the heady adventure by overnighting in one of Au Diable Vert’s cabins or treehouses, like Abenaki, situated between the branches of a 100-year-old maple.
Magog (12 miles/20-minute drive)
Venturing north once again, Highway 245 takes you to Magog, a city situated at the nexus of three scenic waterways: Lake Memphremagog, Rivière aux Cerises, and the Magog River. In early September, this vibrant community is awash with wine during the Fête des Vendanges, which is held on the lakeshore at Parc de la Pointe-Merry. Learn about wine in workshops with professional sommeliers and meet some of the 300-plus Quebec producers exhibiting their goods at the Pavillon des Artisans.
The harvest festivities don’t stop there. On weekends from mid-September to mid-October, check out La Flambée des Couleurs Magog-Orford for an array of activities and events that celebrate the season. Drink in more atmosphere — and beer — by heading to the summit of nearby Mont Orford. Here, more than 25 microbreweries take part in the Grande Coulée Festival de Bière.
Indulge even more at Ripplecove Lakefront Hotel and Spa, hidden in Ayer’s Cliff (11 miles/20-minute drive). The sprawling estate and a pair of chalets hold court on a private peninsula jutting into Lake Massawippi. Settle in for an evening at Le Riverain restaurant for the multicourse Discovery Menu. Dig in to dishes such as wild bass with bok choy and desserts like the classic Paris-Brest with cream. Sated, retreat to your room overlooking the lake’s calm waters. If you’re ready to return to Montreal the next morning, the direct route on Highway 10 takes you back to the city is just 88 miles, about a 90-minute drive.
Beyond the city — Northwest to Outaouais
Mont Tremblant (91 miles/1.75-hour drive)
A must-see area in the Outaouais region is stunning Mont Tremblant, located in the Laurentian Mountains. Drive northwest on Highway 15 to reach this majestic spot. Take a gondola ride to the summit, then elevate your experience on a zipline eco tour. Want less of an adrenaline rush? Explore on two wheels, cycling a paved pathway in and around the village. Revel in more fall colors and solitude in massive Parc National du Mont Tremblant, whether canoeing one of its 400 lakes and rivers, or hiking parts of its 51 miles of backcountry trails.
Nighttime brings a whole new layer of color to the Laurentians, with Tonga Lumina, an artful outdoor show that runs until mid-October. Take a night walk in the forest illuminated with lanterns, music, and more. In the shadows you’ll learn the legend of the mysterious sleeping giant who protects the area’s flora, fauna, and rivers.
Montebello (56 miles/1.25-hour drive)
For another immersive outdoor experience, push south on Highway 323 to Oméga Park, located in Montebello. This natural wonderland is open year-round, but autumn is an especially idyllic time to soak up your surroundings and spot wildlife such as bears, elk, bison, and wolves. You can even spend the night in the wolf cabin — if you dare.
When you’re done being awed by nature for the day, be wowed by your stay at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello. Built in 1930, the hotel was originally a private club and currently is still the world’s largest log cabin. Before turning in for the night, have a cocktail in Bar Le Foyer and nibble on a platter of savory snacks like olives, cheese, and charcuterie.
Gatineau (49-miles/1-hour drive)
Quebec’s fourth-largest city, which sits on the Ottawa River (across from the country’s capital) is hemmed in by nature, which makes it even more spectacular in autumn. Easily accessible from downtown, its namesake Gatineau Park hosts Fall Rhapsody weekends, which come alive with nature interpreters and artisans at work, among other events. In this biodiverse oasis, find respite among the sugar maples and birch trees while hiking to waterfalls and taking in views of the Ottawa Valley.
Get hands-on in the fields at nearby Potager Eardley, a 363-acre family farm, where you can pick squashes, pumpkins, and fruit. Poke around the market to see what’s been harvested and drink some refreshing homemade kombucha.
Be sure to save room for other gastronomic offering around Gatineau. Le Rustiek restaurant aims to be zero-waste and is dedicated to using local products in its dishes, such as country-style paté, heirloom tomato salad, and rhubarb tart. Brasseurs du temps is all about beer. Discover the Outaouais region’s brewing heritage in its museum (call a few days ahead if you want a guided tour), then sit on the terrace and sip what’s on tap, accompanied by a snack from the tapas menu.
Chelsea (11 miles/25-minute drive)
Another sublime sanctuary is a short drive east on Highway 105 to Chelsea. Relax at Nordik Spa-Nature, the largest facility of its kind in North America and brings wellness to new heights with its soothing saunas and 10 exterior baths, surrounded by a fragrant forest. Practice the 2,000-year-old Scandinavian tradition of alternating between hot, cold (take a dip in the river!), and rest. Get a Swedish massage in a wooden pavilion amid the natural setting, then recharge with some bites and beer on the terrace biërgarden. Round out your relaxation by checking in to the Nordik Lodge, which has amenities like a full kitchen and word-burning fireplace.
Vale-des Monts (34 miles/45-minute drive)
Drive north on Highway 5, then head east on Route 366 to get to Vale-des Monts, where Arbraska Laflèche delivers an array of thrilling activities. Start on the ground with a three-hour trek through the forest (you can also do a night hike to the base of Mont Pontbriand), then glide above it on a zipline. Next up, go underground in Caverne Laflèche. Take a discovery tour to explore hidden tunnels and mysterious rooms. And for an even more thrilling experience, sleep over in the bat cave.
Looking to plan your next Quebec adventure? Get information and inspiration on Tourisme Quebec's website.