Just a few miles/kilometers downstream from Quebec City, the St. Lawrence River splits and the land between is Orleans Island, or Ile d'Orleans. Just 22 miles/35 kilometers long and 6 miles/9 kilometers wide, the island still evokes that pioneering spirit in its people and culture since it was colonized in the 17th century.
Orleans Island has six tiny delightful villages. Ste-Petronille is famous for its Victorian Inn, La Goelich, and has a dazzling forest of red oaks. St-Laurent was once the shipbuilding center on the island, the heritage of which is embraced at Maritime Park. St-Jean is filled with homes of creamy yellow “Scottish brick” facades, which came from the ballast of boats. Also here is La Sucrerie Blouin, where you can see maple syrup being made.
Just outside St-Francois you can take in sweeping views of the St. Lawrence River and the Laurentian Mountains. Ste-Famille is the oldest parish on the island; stop by Maison de nos Aieux for information on the island’s history. St-Pierre has the islands oldest church and the orchard Bilodeau, which produces fine regular and ice ciders, which make for perfect stop before heading back to Quebec City.
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Orleans Island is accessible from the mainland by ferry from Saint-Michel-de-Bellechasse and Quebec City or by car via the Île d'Orléans Bridge from Beauport. Route 368 is the sole provincial route on the island, which crosses the bridge and circles the perimeter of the island. It’s a scenic drive for sure; you’ll drive past picturesque houses and apple orchards, while taking in gorgeous views of river and mountains.