7 Best Sights in Cote de Beaupre, Side Trips from Quebec City

Basilique Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré

Fodor's choice

Named for Québec's patron saint (the mother of the Virgin Mary), this small town is on Route 138, east of Québec City. It attracts more than a million pilgrims each year who come to visit the region's most famous religious site.

The French brought their devotion to St. Anne (also the patron saint of shipwrecked sailors) when they sailed across the Atlantic to New France. According to local legend, St. Anne was responsible for saving voyagers from shipwrecks in the harsh waters of the St. Lawrence. In 1650, Breton sailors caught in a storm vowed to erect a chapel in honor of this patron saint at the exact spot where they landed.

The present neo-Roman basilica, constructed in 1923, is the fifth to be built on the site where the sailors first touched ground. The original 17th-century wood chapel was built too close to the St. Lawrence and was swept away by river flooding.

The gigantic structure is in the shape of a Latin cross and has two imposing granite steeples. The interior has 22 chapels and 18 altars, as well as rounded arches and numerous ornaments in the Romanesque style. The 214 stained-glass windows, completed in 1949, are by Frenchmen Auguste Labouret and Pierre Chaudière.

Tributes to St. Anne can be seen in the shrine's mosaics, murals, altars, and ceilings. A bas-relief at the entrance depicts St. Anne welcoming her pilgrims, and ceiling mosaics represent her life. Numerous crutches and braces posted on the back pillars have been left by those who have felt the saint's healing powers.

Réserve Faunique du Cap Tourmente

Fodor's choice

Recognized as a Wetland of International Significance, this nature reserve protects a vital habitat for migrating greater snow geese, and sees more than a million fly through every October and May, with tens of thousands of birds present every day. The park harbors hundreds of other kinds of birds and mammals, and more than 700 plant species. This enclave also has 18 km (11 miles) of hiking trails; naturalists give guided tours. It's on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, about 8 km (5 miles) east of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré.

Atelier Paré (Economuseum of Wood Sculpture)

Two centuries of wood sculpture tradition are showcased at this "economuseum," a combination workshop and store. Visitors can watch artisans at work, tour an outdoor museum, see a 13-minute video presentation (in English and French), and learn about key characters in Québec's history and culture through the Legend Theatre Workshop.

9269 av. Royale, Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, G0A 3C0, Canada
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free; guided tour C$5, Closed Mon. and Tues. Oct.–May.

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Chapelle Commémorative

Across from Basilique Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, this chapel was designed by Claude Bailiff and built in 1878. It was constructed on the transept of a church built in 1676, and Bailiff made use of the old stones and foundation. Among the remnants is a white-and-gold-trimmed pulpit designed by François Baillargé in 1807 and adorned with a sculpture depicting Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Scala Santa, a smaller chapel next to this one, resembles a wedding cake. On bended knees, pilgrims climb its replica of the Holy Stairs, representing the steps Jesus climbed to meet Pontius Pilate.

Chute Montmorency

The river cascading over a cliff into the St. Lawrence is one of the most beautiful sights in the province—and at 27 stories high, the falls are almost double the height of Niagara's. The Montmorency River was named for Charles de Montmorency, viceroy of New France in the 1620s and explorer Samuel de Champlain's immediate commander. A cable car runs to the top of the falls in Parc de la Chute-Montmorency (Montmorency Falls Park) from late April to late October. During very cold weather the falls' heavy spray freezes and forms a giant loaf-shaped ice cone known to the Québécois as the Pain du Sucre (Sugarloaf); this phenomenon attracts sledders and sliders from Québec City. Summer activities include three via ferrata trails built onto the cliff, as well as a zipline that shoots across the canyon, in front of the falls.

The park also has a history. The British General James Wolfe, on his way to conquer New France, camped here in 1759. In 1780, Sir Frederick Haldimand, then the governor of Canada, built a summer home atop the cliff. The structure burned down in 1993, however, and what stands today, Manoir Montmorency, is a re-creation. Offering a stunning view of the falls and river below, it's open year-round, with a restaurant and terrace open in summertime.

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La Halte Miel

Things are buzzing at this workshop and store devoted to bees and honey. An exhibit explains every aspect of honey production, and you can taste honey and honey ice creams, chocolates, and snacks made by bees that have fed on different kinds of flowers, including clover and blueberry. It's a 10-minute drive east of Montmorency Falls.

Réserve Faunique des Laurentides

The Réserve Faunique des Laurentides wildlife reserve, which incorporates the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier and hundreds of lakes, is approximately 60 km (37 miles) north of Québec City via Highway 73, which leads to the Saguenay region. It has great hiking trails and camping spots, and good lakes for canoeing and fishing (but you should phone 48 hours in advance to reserve a fishing time.) From July to September, you can join bilingual guides to observe black bears in their natural environment from the safety of the park's observation towers. In winter, the park is a popular venue for sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.