Quebec’s beautiful Isle-aux-Coudres is a relaxing,
family-friendly vacation destination.

Hurry and hustle is far from a way of life on Isle-aux-Coudres, a small incredibly scenic island in the St. Lawrence River 90 minutes north of Quebec City. Lying off the mainland coast of the province’s Charlevoix region, this little gem is a remarkable, year-round vacation find for people looking for peace, tranquility, soft adventure and a great spot for a family getaway.

Discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1535 who named the island for the plentiful existence of hazelnut trees (coudres), Isle-aux-Coudres has a rich pioneer history that dates back to 1720. Understandably, life was hard for the early inhabitants who would surely be surprised their farming and fishing past has largely been replaced by tourism.

Today, the 2,954 sq. km island is dotted with small hotels, resorts and camping with plentiful opportunities for laid-back leisure activities. Moreover, as I recently discovered, getting to Isle-aux-Coudres is easy. A car and passenger ferry departs every half hour from the mainland community of Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive and the 10 minute ride to the island is free. I had a mere day to explore the landscape, attractions and amenities but quickly determined the island is one of those places that is clearly a stress buster in an environment that is not only awesomely picturesque but invites you to slow down and smell the roses.

I hardly needed to be told that one of the most popular activities is cycling. People on bicycles were everywhere on the 26-km-long paved road that circles the perimeter of the island. Moreover, bikes were not limited to two-wheelers. In fact, one of the rental bike companies (Velo-Coudres) has every choice known to man from a regular bicycle to a tandem for two, a quadricycle that accommodates up to six adults and two children, a four-wheeler for two adults and two kids, trail bikes plus motor scooters. In addition to Velo-Coudres, many island hotels are equipped with bikes for rent.

During my stop at La Roche Pleureuse, one of Isle-aux-Coudres’ largest hotels (87 rooms), I learned that in all likelihood former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau probably once biked on island roads. Several photographs on the walls of the hotel show him and his then wife, Margaret, together with their young children, holidaying at La Roche Pleureuse.

While the island has seen its share of celebrities such as the Trudeaus, it typically attracts a steady stream of ordinary folks that appreciate the absence of large cookie cutter hotels in favour of small charming inns, friendly personalized service, fresh salt sea air and an island dotted with unique things to see and do. “Some families have been coming to resorts on Isle-aux-Coudres for several generations,” says Francois Gariepy, international representative for Charlevoix Tourism.

Some simply come to relax and enjoy the scenery while others leisurely explore the island visiting interesting attractions such as the Cidrerie Verger Pedneault, an establishment whose main product is fine fruit ciders and other products including wines, jellies, syrups, honey and vinegars. The Cidrerie is one of only 30 Quebec members of the international society of Economuseums, an association of select artisan craftspeople and agro-food producers. A visit to this family-owned operation where there’s an extensive product boutique includes narrated tours and tastings. Moreover, like every other vacation destination on the planet the island has a spa facility.

Although it’s only open from May to November, Relais Santé Isle-aux- Coudres has a full menu of massage and body relaxing treatments.
Families can tap into island history during a visit to the seafarers’ museum (Musée Les Voitures d’Eau) that was founded in 1973.

Its collection includes many period nautical pieces, an interpretation centre and the Mont-Saint-Louis schooner is there for visitors to explore from helm to wheelhouse. Another island Economuseum that is also a historical site is Les Moulins de l‘Isle-aux-Coudres, the only one of its kind in Canada. It houses a fully functional 1825 water mill where ancient millstones continue to grind wheat into flour for bread and visitors to the premises can buy fresh oven-baked goods.

Just meandering around the island either on a bike or in a car is a large part of the attraction of Isle-aux-Course. Vehicular traffic is minimal and you’ll come upon places such as an artisan’s pottery gallery (Galerie d’art Poteries de la Vallée) or shops selling authentic Quebec and island art and crafts. There are also a number of churches, chapels and historical monuments to be discovered. Try turning family outings into a picnic by stopping at one of many small food shops along your route. Alternatively, the island has a proliferation of lunch spots that include informal snack bars, restaurants, and hotel dining rooms.

For people who want to get out on the water there are whale watching tours, fishing and kayaking. Tremendously popular with families is a creative idea spawned by Isle-aux-Coudres Tourism. During summer, families can go on a treasure hunt using clues given on a treasure hunt map widely available in island shops. Families that are good hunters and finders can win anywhere from $150 to $500.


For more information about vacationing on L’Isle-aux-Coudres go online at or call 1-866-438-2930.

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