We took a six day road trip from New Jersey to Quebec City to Montreal and back! Here’s everything we did, things I would skip if I were to redo it and things I wish I knew before the trip.
Recently, I took a road trip up from New Jersey to Canada with my family. In total, we spent 6 days : 1 day driving up, 2 days in Quebec City, 2 days in Montreal and 1 day driving back home. Being my type A self, I planned out every single day and needless to say, there were some hits and some flops. A bunch of you asked me for links to the places, so here’s a the itinerary we followed and what was actually worth it.
Things to Know Before The Trip
- In most of places we visited, we were met with people who only spoke French or didn’t understand English. If you don’t have at least one beginner French speaker in your group, I would recommend learning a few basic phrases in French.
- Make sure call your service provider and ask about their Roaming Data Plan that will work in Canada because the minute you cross that border your home data plan will no longer be valid. If you don’t call and make sure you get on their global pass, you will likely be faced with a large bill. So, make sure to call as ask about their global pass in Canada.
- Set your expectations right. Going into the trip, I had expected this to be a jam packed, busy trip – boy was I wrong! The trip to Quebec & Montreal is best enjoyed if you are willing to go with the flow and take it easy. Relax and enjoy what the cities have to offer. Don’t be afraid to break from your itinerary!
- Book tickets for any of the activities you are thinking of going to ahead of time! Things get booked up the day of so read through the and get tickets to the things you might be interested in.
Day One : Drive to Quebec City
The drive up to to Quebec City from New Jersey was approximately 7-8 hours with no stops. So although we started in Edison, NJ around 8 am, we got to our hotel around 6 pm after all stops along the way. We grabbed our last Chipotle for a while on I-87 N and then headed to the Champlain / Lacolle Border Crossing. As of July 26th, when we crossed, Canada still had a mandatory ArriveCAN form we had to fill out within 72 hours of getting to the border. So, we filled that our on the way to the border and the actual crossing part was pretty simple, they just scanned the form we filled out, checked out passports and let us go. Once we were in Canada, it was pretty much a straight 100 miles to Quebec City. Along the way, we made a mandatory Tim Hortons coffee stop. I’m not sure what I expected, but Tim Hortons was pretty much comparable to Dunkin in terms of quality. That being said, the Iced Cappucchinos were very delicious!
Because of the crazy high prices of the airbnbs and hotels in Quebec City, we chose to stay in a hotel 20 minutes away from the city in Wendake, Quebec. It was a super convenient drive in & out and the Wendake neighbourhood was very serene and peaceful. Link to the Hotel We Stayed At
Day 2 : Old Quebec City
We spend the whole second day around the Old Quebec City area. We started by driving into the city and parking at Stationnement Indigo Québec, a parking deck across from the Museum of Civilisations. This was a short walk away form all the spots we visited and cam out to $12 a day. Then, we grabbed breakfast at Café La Maison Smith Notre-Dame, which was honestly a delight. I can personally recommend the Date Square and the Iced Caramel Latte!
There’s approximately 10 places to visit in Old Quebec, and if you’re not careful, you might make the mistake of missing a few. My advice – take it slow. Old Quebec is not about having a lot of things to do. Rather, this of it as a slow stroll through parts of the city and definitely take the time to chill and relax in the lawns across the attractions.
For lunch, we went to a place called Bello Ristorante on Rue Saint-Louis. The pizza was very delicious, especially the Pizza Al Funghi which had mushrooms, truffle oil and parmesan. Unfortunately. the pasta was not as good. So if you do visit, I would recommend opting for some aperol spritz and pizza!
The Places We Visited
Day 3 : Montmorency Falls & Île d’Orléans
For the third day, we decided to make a day trip to Montmorency Falls, which is only 15 minutes away from Old Quebec. Montmorency Falls is taller than the Niagara Falls and made for a fun hike! We parked at the Manoir Montmorency, hiked across the panoramic bridge and walked 487 steps for to the bottom of the falls. The trek back up the stairs is a steep one so I would recommend feeling up and dressing for the occasion – sneakers, athletic apparel, etc., This was a fun change of pace from the rather chill previous day spent in Old Quebec and took up half the day.
After the visit to Montmorency Falls, we drove to île d’Orléans for the rest of the day. Île d’Orléans is an island located in the St. Lawrence River and a short drive from the falls. The island is comprised of 6 villages : Saint-Pétronille, Saint-Laurent, Saint-Jean, Saint-François, Saint-Famille, and Saint-Pierre. The villages are connected by a single road that loops around the island. First, we stopped for lunch at Bistro du Hangar on the island. The food was pretty basic but reliable – we got the nachos, pizza and tried some poutine (a Canadian specialty). However, they had the Hungar Lemonade which has a really special flavor profile because of the Canadian Maple Whiskey. Afterwards, we stopped by a random farm on the road to get try some of the local strawberries. The island is known for its berry crop in the summer, so they offer strawberry picking as well as small batches for sale. The berries were very much worth the price and super sweet, unlike anything I’ve ever tried form a grocery store. The final stop on the island was the La Chocolaterie de l’Île d’Orléans which was a real sweet treat. The Chocolaterie is known for their freshly chocolate dipped ice cream cones and very decadent. I got the Salted Caramel Dipped Vanilla Cone and it was so delicious, but the last few bites were hard to get through because of the sugar rush. After this, we called it a day and opted to relax in out hotel room since we had another early drive to Montreal the next morning.
Day 4 : Drive to Montreal
The next morning, we drove from Quebec City to Montreal, which took about 2 hours. It was a pretty uncomplicated drive, with a single road connecting us right to the hotel we were staying at – Sandman Hotel. Conveniently, he Sandman Hotel is right next to the Longueuil Metro Station which connects you the rest of Montreal. Based on our experience, I would highly recommend getting around via the Metro as opposed to driving into the city. We got the Montreal 24 hour pass, which was $12 and got us around everywhere within the Montreal city area.
First up, we switched 2 trains to get to the Olympic Park. Here, we saw the Olympic Stadium, the Biodome and the Botanical Gardens. When we went the Olympic stadium was closed so we only got to see it from the outside. So, we decided to go the Botanical Gardens. At $20 per person, the botanical garden were very basic and similar to any other botanical gardens in any other city. Unless you’re a nature buff, I wouldn’t recommend spending your money there.
By the time we finished up the botanical gardens, everyone was starving so we took the metro to TimeOut Market. If you don’t know what TimeOut Market is, it’s basically a super upscale food court with representation from the city’s best chefs. The food was very overpriced but still delicious. Overall, I would say this is skippable but if you do end up visiting, you won’t regret it. The Iced Caramel Latte at the cafe was one of the best lattes I’ve ever had.
After grabbing some food, we walked around the area and took the time to chill at a nearby university. Everyone was pretty tired at this point so we didn’t end up visiting a lot of other places on our first day in Montreal. I wanted to do the jet boating on the Lachine rapids, but unfortunately we did not place ahead and there were no tickets for that week. If you are planning ahead though, be sure to check it out!
For dinner, we were able to get a reservation at Le Taj, which is an upscale Indian restaurant. The garlic naan was very delicious and the food was pretty good, but expect a large bill at the end. Then, we took a train back to the hotel and called it a night.
Day 5 : Montreal City
Just like the day before, we opted to travel around Montreal via Metro. This was one of the best decisions we made on the whole trip! It gave us the opportunity to travel the city more spontaneously without worrying about staying near the car.
We started the day by heading to Le Plateau Mont Royal to try the famous St. Viateur Bagels. If you grew up around New York City like me, you might scoff and wonder what’s so special about a Montreal bagel? Trust me, it’s very different. Unlike a New York bagel, a Montreal bagel is much thinner, chewier and lighter. They also have a slight sweetness that comes from being poached in honey water. There’s even a whole war of the bagels between St. Viateur Bagels and Fairmount Bagels for the title of best Montreal bagels. Anyways, after some research, we chose to try the St. Viateur bagels. There was a long line that draped outside the store by 10 am, so we had to wait a solid 45 minutes for our bagels. I got the Sesame Bagel toasted with garlic & herb cream cheese and loved it! But just a warning – if you like your bagels thick like a NY bagel, you might now exactly love this one. I personally like thinner bagels so this was right up my alley.
Then, we headed to Columbus Cafe across the street and the iced latte was simple not it. I’ve had a lot of iced caramel lattes over the years and that one was objectively the worst. So, I would recommend skipping it and heading to a different cafe for coffee instead.
After feeling up for the day, we headed to the Barbie Expo in downtown Montreal which is apparently the world’s largest such exhibition! We weren’t sure what to expect but it was pretty cool to see all the unique barbies from renditions of famous celebrities to an Indian wedding barbie to a whole fashion show of barbies. Overall, it was a cool experience but one you could definitely skip out on based on interest in the group.
We had booked tickets to the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit for later that afternoon, so we decided to use the interim time to grab some lunch. For lunch, we headed to Le Central on Saint-Catherine Street, for a fun food court style vibe. The street itself was super lively with lots of people, music and places to eat. You can easily grab a table at one of the many roadside restaurants. But, we decided to head into Le Central to try out the food court experience. There were so many options from Indian Street Food to Ramen to Crepes to Poke Bowls. I also got these churros with dulce de leche that totally did not disappoint.
After lunch, we headed to the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit. For context, the exhibit is not unique to Montreal and occurs in many different cities including New York City. We just decided, by chance, to visit it in Montreal. The tickets were very expensive, and as someone who does is not a big art buff, it was just not my cup of tea. It was pretty confusing to navigate through & we weren’t entirely sure what the exhibit was about. So if you do decide to check out the Van Gogh Exhibit, I would recommend rethinking it. If you are normally an art museum person, this might be your cup of tea. If not. it might be worth saving your money on.
After the exhibit, we headed down Old Port Montreal for the evening and spent some time walking in the area, There’s a very popular giant Ferris wheel here but we didn’t have time to hop on because we had tickets for the AURA exhibit at Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. The show was very fun and entertaining! It was approximately 25 dollar per person but definitely a worthy and unique experience. It’s essentially a light show, with orchestra music and displayed on the beautiful architecture of the church.
To wrap up the trip, we treated ourself to dinner at ChuChai, an upscale vegetarian/vegan Thai restaurant near le Plateau Mont Royal. They had such a wide variety of vegetarian options and cocktails, Of all the restaurants we ate at on this trip, ChuChai was definitely the best. We got the pad thai, chili fried rice and coconut milk tofu. Full after our big meal, we headed back to our hotel after a long day.
Day 6 : Drive back to New Jersey
Our last day was dedicated to driving back home. Since we have already driven 2 hours from Quebec City to Montreal, the drive back home was only 6 and a half hours. We grabbed Tim Hortons one last time for breakfast and made our way across the border. On the way back into America, there was no need to fill out the ArriveCAN forms. We were back home by the evening on our last day!