Enjoying outdoor activities in Montréal during the summer season
Spending a summer in Montréal also means taking advantage of the warm weather to enjoy activities that are only possible a few months a year. And if you thought that escaping the hustle and bustle of the city involved a three-hour drive, think again: Greater Montréal offers a plethora of outdoor activities!
You really don’t need to go very far. Even though Mount Royal is hailed for offering a beautiful nature adventure in the heart of the city regardless of the time of year, I encourage you to be adventurous and look farther afield to take full advantage of summer in Montréal.
Enjoying the St. Lawrence and other rivers
First of all, nautical activities can be practiced in many places in Greater Montréal and each place has its own unique charms. The burden of choice is yours! There is the Rivière des Prairies (Montreal), the Lachine Canal (Montreal), the Rivière des Mille-Iles (Laval), the Boucherville islands (Boucherville) or the St. Lawrence River (Montréal or Île-des-Sœurs/ Nun’s Island). You can choose a destination depending on the mood and change of scenery you’re looking for and the distance that suits you best. Several rental service providers such as GUEPE, Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, or KSF offer nautical equipment rentals so that you can enjoy some time on the water, which is a great way to cool down on a hot summer’s day.
Though kayaking remains a classic, Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) is also quite popular and is a great alternative if you’re not afraid of getting wet. You can usually paddle board at the same places that allow kayaking, but paddle board rentals are more rarely offered, as not all rental providers possess a paddleboard fleet.
Finally, if you feel like experiencing a slightly more unusual means of water transportation, I recommend that you test your paddling skills aboard a Rabaska, a large traditional Native American Indian canoe that is paddled in groups. You can enjoy this group activity at the Boucherville islands and on the Rivière des Prairies (current circumstances related to COVID‑19 may unfortunately affect such outings due to the proximity of people to each other aboard a Rabaska).
Hiking or biking
Greater Montréal is home to a vast network of bike paths. You can download an updated map of bike paths from the Vélo Québec website or obtain a hard copy from various service points in the city.
Possible paths include a portion of the “Route verte,” which criss-crosses Quebec and is renowned for its layout and beauty.
As far as hiking is concerned, both the Hikster website and smartphone app offer an interactive map and provide an overview of the hiking trails available nearby.
In order to make the most of your outing, it’s important to be properly equipped, taking into account not only the weather, but also the fact that mosquitoes are prevalent everywhere in Quebec (including Montréal). As for clothing, I would recommend that you to wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothes and a hat to protect you from the sun. Don’t forget to pack a bottle of water, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent!
Trying out new activities
In some of the city’s parks, it’s common to find people practicing groups sports or activities that are usually performed indoors. As such, it’s a great opportunity to try out something new. At the Jean-Drapeau park, you can try your hand at rock climbing, And the Parcours Gouin, a network of parks and trails, also offers free weekly activities such as Zumba, Yoga and Qi‑Gong classes (registration required).
How to find parks in Greater Montréal
If you’re a nature lover, there are various park networks that guarantee a beautiful immersion into Quebec’s wildlife and vegetation: nature parks (found only in Greater Montréal), SEPAQ national parks (located throughout Quebec), and Canada parks (found across the country). All the information you need to plan an excursion in one of these parks is available on the websites of these three networks.
As for Greater Montréal, I personally recommend that you to try the following parks:
- Bois‑de‑Liesse (and if you have time, the Bois‑de‑Saraguay right next to it): accessible through public transport, ideal for walking in a completely preserved ancestral forest.
- Cap-Saint-Jacques: to enjoy the beach and the Lake of Two Mountains.
- Pointe-aux-Prairies: perfect for wildlife observation. White-tailed deer, birds, foxes, coyotes are very present there.
- Îles de Boucherville (Boucherville islands): to enjoy camping, biking, or kayaking.
Unfortunately, the reception chalets in Greater Montréal’s nature parks are currently closed due to the COVID‑19 pandemic, but access to the parks themselves is still permitted.
Being able to experience such a wealth of outdoor activities while studying in a city as big as Montréal is what surprised me the most when I arrived here. Access to nature is often emphasized and many activities and services are free or affordable so that as many people as possible can enjoy them. Needless to say, Montrealers love their parks too and enjoy them to the fullest. So, why not plan an excursion of your own into Greater Montréal’s great outdoors?