While some road trips are all about the final destination, others are about the journey. With a province as large and varied as Quebec, it’s easy to plan both types of road trips. In this article, I share some of the cutest, most picturesque villages along Route 132. These towns aren’t necessarily destinations in and of themselves, but they’re fantastic places to stop for a stretch, grab lunch, or snap a few photos if you’re in the area.
Scenic Route 132 runs along the south shore of the St. Lawrence river, starting west of Montreal, all the way to Gaspésie where it loops around the entire Gaspé peninsula. The larger highway, Autoroute 20, is a faster and more direct way to travel this area, but Route 132 is much more scenic and worth the drive if you have a bit of extra time (you’ll add 1-2 hours per day of driving by taking Route 132).
We start just east of Quebec City, and make our way east along Route 132, towards Gaspésie. For your time in Gaspé, we have recommendations for 5 days in Forillon National Park, or take a detour up the Saguenay Fjord.
The marina area in Berthier-sur-Mer, about 45 minutes east of Quebec City, makes a great pit stop. This is right where the St. Lawrence river starts to widen, so you get a great river view across to the Laurentian mountains to the north. The marina has clean, public washrooms, and there’s a great picnic area with a BBQ food truck, Théo BBQ (open mid-June through mid-September).
If you’re in an RV or camper, you can stay overnight in the Halte VR.
L’Islet is a small village with a stunning church, Église Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, built 1768 and classified as an important historical building.
If you have time, you can visit the Musée Maritime du Québec.
Just a few minutes east of L’Islet you’ll cross the Trois-Saumons river. Get ready to pull over to admire the cascading river with historic water mill buildings.
Saint-Jean-Port-Joli is a beautiful village, with a red-roofed church, cafés, restaurants, artisanal shops and quaint bed and breakfasts. A few minutes west of the city is an architecturally significant observation tower (free to climb) across from the Musée de la mémoire vivante. After climbing the tower, walk across the street to explore the museum grounds where you’ll find the bakehouse and vestiges of a manor built in 1763.
The name Kamouraska comes from an Algonquin word meaning “where rushes grow at the water’s edge”, and it’s certainly fitting based on these photos. As we continue down the St. Lawrence river, the water becomes increasingly saline, so we encounter tidal salt water marshes in Kamouraska. The population is only 600, so Kamouraska is more about the seaside views than the amenities.
Pointe-au-Père was a town of 4,000 when it merged with Rimouski in 2002. Here you’ll find the Pointe-au-Père lighthouse, the second tallest lighthouse in eastern Canada at 33 metres tall. It was built in 1909 and features a unique construction featuring eight concrete buttresses supporting a central cylinder. It’s designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
On the same grounds are two worthwhile museums. You can purchase individual tickets, or combined tickets for a slight discount. Allow 1 hour per attraction.
The Empress of Ireland Museum recounts the history of the greatest maritime tragedy in Canadian history. The ocean liner Empress of Ireland collided with another vessel during the night in thick fog in 1914, only two years after the Titanic disaster. The Empress of Ireland sank in only 14 minutes, killing 1,012 people of the 1,477 on board.
The HMCS Onondaga in a Canadian navy submarine launched in 1965, decommission in 2008, and open to the public as a museum vessel since 2008. The submarine is nearly 90 metres long and 8 meters wide, and could dive down to 300 metres below the surface with a crew of 70. It was equipped with 8 torpedo tubes. During the Cold War, Onondaga patrolled the Atlantic for Soviet submarines and surface vessels. Later in its career, it patrolled fishing fleets.
Saint-Ulric is a small village of 1,500 people. Locals maintain a nice park with playground and clean washrooms in the centre of town where Rivière Blanche flows into the St. Lawrence river. A few blocks away, on chemic du Quai, is an area set aside for RV camping. Both areas feature great views of the river and amazing sunsets.
Close to Cap-Chat is Projet Éole, one of the most unique tourist attractions you’ll ever find. Nestled in the heart of an active wind farm with 76 wind turbines is a unique turbine with a vertical axis. It is a Darrieus wind turbine, and it’s the tallest vertical axis wind turbine in the world at 110 metres tall. It was designed in the 1980’s and was operational until 1993. Now it’s open to the public from June 15 through September 15, with guests able to enter the generator to see how the turbine operated, tour the grounds to see various turbines up close, and climb to the base of the turbine for amazing 360º views. And if you’re brave, you can climb the 19 ladders to the upper balcony (offered by reservation only, at 5pm and 7pm daily).
The municipality of Sainte-Madeleine-de-la-Rivière-Madeleine consists of a few villages with similar and confusing names involving Madeleine (Madeleine-Centre, Cap de la Madeleine and Rivière-la-Madeleine). There’s a historic lighthouse built in 1908 at the tip of Cap de la Madeleine, where you can also camp (RVs and tents both allowed). But the most unique feature of the area is the large sandbank, a perfect spot for swimming and fishing.
While Grande-Vallée might not be the most impressive town to drive through, it’s picture-perfect as you approach it from the west, driving east. Take a break at the highway rest top just before town for amazing views of the valley, town and river.
After visiting the tip of Gaspé and Forillon National Park, most people will backtrack along the St. Lawrence river (maybe after a quick stop to Percé). If you have some extra time, make the full loop of Route 132 and drive along the south shore of the Gaspé peninsula. Along the way, you’ll drive through Carleton-sur-Mer, notable for two large sandbanks forming a triangular coastal lagoon known as a barachois. The area offers swimmable beaches and plenty of camping.
It was hard to narrow this list down to just 10 (apologies to all the towns and villages omitted. Share your favourite villages of Route 132 in the comments.