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eastern quebec itinerary

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Hello everyone,

We are 3 friends flying to Montreal from Europe end of August 2010 for 16 days. We are looking mainly at hiking, canoeing/kayaking (just for 1 or 2 days), wilderness, whale watching etc (nevertheless would like to see Quebec City since it's said to be so beautiful) We would like to see Niagara Falls and the Cabot Trail but not sure what else is worth seeing on the way, and how much we can do in the time we have. We plan to rent a car.
Is Algonquin Provincial Reserve worth a visit (canoeing/wilderness watching)?
And the Madeleine Islands? PEI? Gaspe?
I would appreciate any advice!

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    In life, particularly when one travels far, one has a tendency to want to "do it all". However, even though 16 days is a good amount of time, I think you may have bitten off more than most people can enjoyably chew and will want to scale back something here and prioritize. Niagara Falls you're looking at a good chunk of a day driving westward from Montreal and then the same coming back (I'd put it at 7-8 hours, possibly worse given Toronto/Montreal traffic). Montreal to the Cabot Trail, you're looking at I'd say about 17 hours of driving each way. So that's about 34 + 16= 50 hours worth: not doing outdoor activity but driving. To me, that sounds like boring highway driving biting into your real interest: the wilderness, the hiking, the canoeing, the enjoyment of Quebec City, etc....

    Will you want to stay in Montreal a bit? I'd recommend at least 3 days. Does Toronto interest you (right on the way to Niagara Falls)? Again, 3 days will just give you a feel. For Quebec City, I'd recommend 2 days for the barest taste.

    Anyhow, I'd tend to prioritize a certain direction (east or west from Montreal) given your timeline. If you decide on east, sure head out to the Cabot Trail... stop in Quebec City, visit the Hopewell Rocks/Bay of Fundy, mosey along the South Shore of Nova Scotia a bit, move up to the Cabot Trail and then pass through PEI on the return. More driving than I'd like, but I think avid road-trippers would enjoy. If you stick with the western path, there's a lot of opportunities for what you're looking for (wilderness, canoeing): check out Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Kingston/1000 Islands, Niagara Falls, Algonquin Park, the Laurentians, les Monteregiens... there really is plenty for 16 days sticking to eastern Ontario and southern Quebec alone.

    The one thing I might consider dropping even if you go the eastern route are the Magdalen Islands. I have friends who've been to les Iles de la Madeleine and love them; however, the ferry is five hours from Souris, PEI each way and may not be how you'll want to optimize your time.

    Have fun whatever you decide! Daniel

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    Agreeing with Daniel, the area covered by your suggestions is huge for 16 days. You've expressed that your interests mainly involve outdoor nature activities. So - as lovely as Algonquin Park is, offering excellent canoeing, hiking and wildlife watching - I would prioritize Cape Breton at the top of your list. The Cabot Trail, especially through Cape Breton Highlands National Park is one of North America's most scenic tours. You'll find lots of nature activities, wildlife watching opportunities (e.g. Moose, Whales, Bald Eagles), hiking and canoeing/kayaking adventures in Cape Breton and in other parts of the the province of Nova Scotia. On Route (there or back), you could tour some of New Brunswicks Fundy Bay shore (highest tides in the world) with stops at Hopewell Rocks and maybe Alma/Fundy National Park.

    Whale watching can be done from a number of points - including the north end of Cape Breton. The Bay of Fundy is also known for spectacular whalewatching - out of either Brier Island, Nova Scotia or Grand Mannan Island, New Brunswick (both scenic, quaint and rather off-the-beaten-track places). Closer to Quebec City - the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park offers whale-watching excursions.

    Now, Cape Breton will take you a good long day and half to 2 days to drive to from Montreal. Niagara Falls is about a 7 hour drive in the opposite direction from Montreal (assuming the traffic is good - try to avoid rush hours near the big cities).

    The Gaspe also has some very scenic areas, but it is another long drive - and I would put Cape Breton ahead of the Gaspe.

    Quebec City is unique and charming - but part of its appeal is that there are few historic old European style cities in North America.

    Rethinking Alqonquin - seeing as it is only about a 5 hour drive from Montreal, you might consider it if you have time. However, touring from Cape Breton to Algonquin (or Niagara Falls) in 16 days would involve a lot of time in the car.

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