See new sights on a road trip from Ottawa to Montréal

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

Depending on your idea of fun, a road trip from Ottawa to Montréal can be quick and easy, short and sweet, or stretched out and scenic. After all, even though the destination is a stellar one (you’re likely already dreaming about walking in Mount Royal Park with fresh bagels in hand), the stops along the way can make it all the more memorable. Here are a few ways to make your drive an adventure from start to finish.

Day trip ambling

Turn your drive to Montréal into a day trip by setting out early. Pack a picnic breakfast or pick something up on your way to the southern end of Gatineau Park – the 360 square kilometres park and some of its hiking routes stretch down to Hull on the Québec side of the Ottawa River. Take the forest-lined Gatineau Parkway to the welcome area near Pioneers Trail and find your perfect breakfast spot among the trees and fresh air.

Relaxed and ready for the road, take the Parkway over to the 148 for a quick way to Highway 50 (Autoroute de l’Outaouais) and across the Gatineau River. Edging residential areas outside the city, the 50 takes you through farmland and winds around the town of Buckingham, Québec on the Du Lièvre River. That’s also where you can opt for the real scenic route.

Riverside roaming

A two-lane highway, sometimes called “the old highway,” the 148 roams through small towns such as Thurso, Papineauville and Plaisance (turn south for the marsh and waterways of Parc national de Plaisance and north to see the Patrimoine et Chutes de Plaisance waterfalls). The 148 roams along with views of the Ottawa River and sloping farmland all the way to just north of Hawkesbury (about 10 km inside Ontario), where it goes inland a bit, letting the 344 become the riverside route.

Meanwhile, on the Ontario side of the river, Highway 174 is another scenic option, taking you through riverside enclaves and farmland as it turns into Highway 17. Stop for birdwatching and a stroll at Beckett Creek Bird Sanctuary east of Cumberland. Small and quiet, the Papanack Zoo in Wendover provides an educational introduction to wild animals. Continue on for poutine at Landriault Snack Bar or another of the many “casse-croûtes” in the Franco-Ontario town of Alfred, which claims itself the french fry capital of Canada!

Montebello moments

Whether you’ve taken the 148 or the 50 from Gatineau, you’ll want to take a break in Montebello. Here’s where you can stop to check out the unique upscale-rustic facade of the Fairmont Le Château Montebello resort hotel or step back in Québec history at the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site. Get your gourmet chocolate fix at artisanal chocolate factory Chocomotive located in the historic Montebello station, try Fromagerie Montebello’s cheeses, and pick up a six-pack at microbrewery Les Brasseurs de Montebello.

Another option near Montebello, especially if you make your kids’ day: take a turn north to the 323 up to Parc Oméga, a 12km safari that is home to wolves, caribou, bison and other animals, and also features a suspension bridge and short hikes in the woods, a restaurant and café, and seasonal sugar shack.

Three options towards Montréal

Ontario headway: Drive east on the 148, 50 or 17 to Hawkesbury, Ontario to get back to the Trans-Canada on the Ontario side and motor on to Montréal. Though, if you’re in the mood for a break, have lunch by the river in Hawkesbury or drive south of town to find Beau’s microbrewery in Vankleek Hill, where you’ll also find the Vankleek Hill Vineyard, the Higginson Tower old mill site and homemade pickles at Pickle Patch Farm. To see a unique piece of history, drive over to L’Orignal to see the L’Orignal Jail.

Scenic QC drive: Head to Grenville, Québec to take the slow and scenic riverside drive on the 344 on the Québec side. That will take you all the way to Oka, a beautiful Québec national park with a long sandy beach on the Ottawa River (check the park’s site for current entry fees). Nearby is winery Vignoble d’Oka. Drive on towards Montréal on the 344 or go on a water adventure on the seasonal Oka-Hudson ferry.

The northern route: Take the 50 all the way to the foothills of the Laurentians in Québec, just south of the town of Saint-Jérome, then take highway 15 through Laval down to Montréal (families might want to stop at Laval’s Cosmodome space adventure centre). Or opt to take the mountain route when leaving Montréal, giving yourself more time to stop in further afield small towns like Val-David and Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts on your way to Mont-Tremblant, Mont-Laurier and south to Maniwaki. On your way home to Ottawa, stop for dinner or to see the covered bridge in Wakefield.

Unwind in the West Island

If you’re coming into Montréal on the Trans-Canada, you’ll drive through Rigaud, where you can make a rest stop at Parc Chartier-De Lotbinière, a relaxing green space with a water park for kids, or take a walk in the woods of Parc Municipal De Rigaud right next door. Spice things up with locally made Peppermaster Hot Sauces or pick up a few bottles from Le Castor Brewing organic microbrewery. Heading east from there, stop at a beach or a farmers market in quaint Hudson, Québec.

Onwards, you’ll drive through the suburb of Vaudreuil-Dorion, across the Pont d’Ile Aux Tourtes bridge and onto the island of Montréal! Shortly after you cross the bridge, you can exit for the Ecomuseum Zoo and McGill’s Morgan Arboretum. Take the Trans-Canada through the West Island (stop at Ikea if you’re feeling a sudden need for new decor) and take the 15 (Decarie Expressway) towards Westmount and downtown if you’re in a rush. Or exit further along the 40 (what locals call the Trans-Canada) at the Boul. St. Laurent exit so you can stop at the Jean-Talon Market.

For an alternate route through the West Island, dip down to quaint Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue after you cross the bridge. There you’ll find a riverside boardwalk and marina, parks, restaurants and ice cream shops, and boutiques. Drive along Rue Lakeshore towards Beaconsfield to see the Saint-Lawrence River. Head back up to the 40 or take the 20 towards historic Lachine (home to the Musée de Lachine) and into the city. Now it’s really time to explore the sights and streets of Montréal!

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

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