Just outside the city there’s an island to discover

Quebec is one of the best places to go for vacation for a hundred reasons or more, but with the weather becoming so mild, bike riding for 2012 ought to be near the top of your list for spring travel.  Read on because there’s a little known gem just outside the city limits that you’ll want to discover.

A small chapel was illuminated by the sun on the Ile d'Orleans, QuebecIle d’Orleans is  a 30km-long island just 5km downriver from Quebec City. Cradled between the Laurentian Plateau and the Appalachian Mountains, this “garden of Quebec” is a veritable patchwork quilt of agricultural delights. Riding and sampling the variety of wines, jams and jellies produced here makes for a wonderful day or weekend.

Depending on the time you have available, you can choose from 20, 32, 38 or 67km loops around the island. You owe it to yourself to do the entire 67 if you have time.

Sainte-Famille was built in 1743 on the Ile d'Orleans, Quebec

Sainte-Famille was built in 1743 on the Ile d’Orleans, Quebec

If you love architecture, you’ll delight at the historic churches and chapels that dot the island. The entire island is divided into six parishes, each with its own beautiful church and/or chapel building. Parc Maritime offers a glimpse into the seafaring history of the island’s people.

If you’re a foodie, ready your taste buds for locally grown and produced ciders, jams, jellies, and mustards at Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau and Cidrerie Domaine Steinbach. All around the island you’ll also find pick-your-own apples, strawberries and raspberries. You could sample all day and never need a meal.

If you’d rather a sit-down meal, there is indoor as well as outdoor dining, with or without entertainment, in buildings that date back to 1720. Wines run the gamut of reds, whites, port, mistelle, rose, fruit liquors and ice wines. Of course there’s a micro-brewery and a Belgian craft brewer.

Espace Felix-Leclerc

Espace Felix-Leclerc

Lovers of poetry will want to stop at Espace Felix-Leclerc where there are displays of his life and work inside, and hiking trails outside. Fans of sculpture will want to swing by Galerie et jardin de sculptures sur peirre Marc Cote to see his carvings as well as his garden.

Your first stop after crossing the bridge should be at the Tourist Information Center; 490, cote du Pont. Besides brochures and maps, their helpful staff can point you in the right direction for whatever adventure you seek. They even have a two audio CD audioguide of the island available. Contact them at their website: www.iledorleans.com.

If you find yourself in Quebec without your bike, no problem, steer into Ecolocyclo inc. on the island where you can rent bicycles, electric bicycles and tandems. They are located at 517, chemin Royal in Saint Pierre parish.

Farm field in Ile d'Orleans, Quebec

Farm field in Ile d’Orleans, Quebec

You can also rent bikes, dune buggies, & kayaks at Expedition Mi-Loup at 186, cote Lafleur in Saint Jean parish. In the winter, they also rent dog sleds, snowmobiles and snowshoes. Ile d’Orleans is a year-round fun center.

If you plan ahead and plan to bring your bikes, consider traveling the most eco-friendly way possible and come on VIA Rail Canada.  With their specially equipped baggage cars, you can load you bike for $20 and travel from any number of cities to Quebec in style. Even better, the entire rail corridor from Windsor, Ontario to Quebec City is covered by free WiFi service on their trains.

Bike Route of VIA Rail Canada

Ever been to Ile d’Orleans?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

If you are heading even further east in Quebec, Carol Home suggests a little known area called Les Iles de la Madeleine, situated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s an “archipelago really with a landscape that lends itself perfectly to cycling. Last summer the scents of the wildflowers and the excellent seafood, and the fun Quebecois or Acadian culture made it a rare and special destination. It’s a 5-hour ferry ride from Prince Edward Island (also an excellent biking destination with a tip to tip cycling trail).”

Other Quebec stories you might be interested in:

Quebec–you’ll wished you stayed longer

Festival d’été de Québec 2012 (Québec City Summer Festival) July 5 to 15, 2012

Bixi bikes – walk up, pedal away

Hotel de Glace (the Ice Hotel) in Quebec