The pandemic has affected everyone’s daily lives and has even deprived us of access to national, regional and provincial parks during the lockdown. From you to me, nature contributes to our physical and mental health immensely!
How can I, a Montrealer by adoption, recharge my batteries despite the closure of Quebec’s regional travel destinations and urban parks being stormed during the nice weather?
We often forget it, but Montreal is an island rich in hidden gems of nature where it is possible to disconnect from the stressors of city life. As a native of Réunion Island, I am used to touring the island on Sundays, picnicking and stopping wherever we want. So why do the same here, a not take a van tour of the island of Montreal?
¤ The Island of Montreal in numbers
- 137 km of public shoreline
- 114 small and large urban parks
- 4 urban beaches
- 5 river shuttles
- 30 boat launching ramps
- 18 marinas
- 21 docks
- 94 sites suitable for kayaking
- 119 km of bicycle paths
¤ Old Port of Montreal
We start this tour of Montreal in the chic neighbourhood where, granted, it is hard to find parking in a van. However, walking along the river through the pedestrian maze to admire the Ferris Wheel, strolling on the clock pier towards the marina while admiring the Jacques Quartier Bridge allows our minds to escape and breathe a little bit of river air.
This neighbourhood has a long park along the St. Lawrence River: Promenade Bellerive Park. A family park where you can walk, bike or fish. Moreover, in summer, a river shuttle leads directly to the Boucherville Islands where it is possible to go hiking or to practice water sports such as kayaking or stand up paddleboarding (SUP for short).
¤ Pointe-aux-trembles / Rivière des Prairies
The east of the island abounds in diverse landscapes ranging from marshes, beaches to nature parks. The Bout-de-l’Ile park is a privileged place to relax, enjoy the attractions of nature or practice outdoor recreation. Many city-dwellers come to take a walk or ride a bike in the Pointe-aux-Prairies Nature Park where it is not uncommon to come across some white-tailed deer. Finally, located on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, the Parc du Vieux-Moulin is an exceptional site, built around a windmill dating back to 1720, which is well worth a visit!
¤ North Shore of the Island
If we continue along Gouin Boulevard, there are many beautiful parks with direct access to the Rivière des prairies and beautiful sunsets as an added bonus. The most popular are the parc de la merci, parc Aimé Léonard and the parc nature de l’Île de la Visitation where it is possible to visit La Maison du Meunier and its small watermill. Lovers of kayaking, SUP or fishing will also find something to satisfy their passions! There is even a seaplane base conveniently located on the way.
¤ The West Island
Heading towards the West Island, we pass through the famous nature parks of Cap Saint-Jacques and Anse à l’Orme for those who want to sunbathe on the beach, hike or admire magnificent sunsets. A stop is required in one of the restaurants of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue for all lovers of fish and chips but especially Mahi-Mahi!
Finally, the city of Dorval is full of beautiful parks overlooking the water (Summerlea Park, Millennium Park, Edgewater Park to name a few) but also sumptuous houses to make more than one dream!
In my eyes, this is a often-ignored gem on the Island of Montreal! Lovers of water, walking, fishing, biking, sunsets and more will find their happiness! This bucolic neighborhood starts from the lock of the same name. As you walk along the Lachine Canal National Historic Site and the Lachine Fur Trade National Historic Site, you can see the marina and the René Lévesque Park in the distance, which looks like a peninsula with beautiful sculptures. Sailing enthusiasts will also be able to indulge their passion. Finally, what attracts Montrealers to this neighbourhood is the Lachine lighthouse, which almost makes us forget where we are!
¤ Verdun and the Southwest
Parc J. Albert Gariepy is home to Montreal’s new urban beach. Here you can swim and bask in the warm sand to get a taste of the experience of more exotic beaches! Ideal after a ride along the bike path along the river to the Parc desRapides in LaSalle. The more adventurous can go rafting there, nature lovers can photograph all sorts of birds or simply take a walk on the paths among the reeds.
¤ The City of Le Havre
Unknown to many Montrealers, Dieppe Park is a little gem accessible by car or bicycle that gives us a panoramic view of the Old Port, the Jacques Cartier Bridge and the Biosphere illuminated in the colours of the rainbow in Covid times. Surf enthusiasts come to practice their passion at the back of the park, some families come to picnic, while fishermen indulge in their hobby and couples take a nap in their hammocks. A small haven of peace that allows us to take a step back from the city we see in the distance and enjoy the moment.
What about you, have lockdowns allowed you to see your city in a new light?