Home to just a half-dozen heritage villages, Orleans Island measures 22 miles (35 kilometers) long and six miles (nine kilometers) wide. Located in the St. Lawrence River just downstream of Quebec City, this finger-like sliver of an island charms visitors with its expansive fertile farmland filled with vineyards, apple orchards, and sugar bush.
A bus tour from Quebec City is a great way to reach the island, which is connected to the mainland by the Orleans Island Bridge (Pont de l’Île d'Orléans). These tours usually take passengers around the island’s circular Route 368 road, making frequent stops at chocolate factories, wineries, sugar shacks, and ice cider producers so participants can sample local products. Active travelers can embark on a kayaking tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bundle up in winter. Orleans Island gets a lot of snow, and sub-zero temperatures are the norm from November through April.
- Temperatures rise in summer, so be sure to wear sunblock if kayaking or biking.
- Bikes are available for rent on the island.
- When returning back to the mainland, look out for Montmorency Falls, which can be seen from the bridge.
How to Get There
Orleans Island is located about 10 miles (17 kilometers) from Old Quebec. PLUMobile buses run between Quebec City and Orleans Island, Monday through Friday, though there are only a few departures every day. Because of the limited public transport options, it’s often easier to visit by car or organized tour.
When to Get There
Summer and early autumn are the best times to go kayaking or cycling around the island. During winter, the island is blissfully quiet, and there are cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities, but some attractions are closed. Sugar shack season usually takes place in March and April with maple syrup producers serving maple-themed meals and hosting live folk music and dances in their cabins.
Wine Tasting on Orleans Island
When French explorer Jacques Cartier stumbled across the island in 1535, he named it Island of Bacchus because of the vines that grew here. More than four centuries later, Orleans Island is well-established as one of Quebec’s leading wine regions, and is particularly well-known for its production of ice wine, a sweet wine made by pressing frozen grapes.