Laval - A route along the river's edge

at 2022-06-28

Île Verte, Île aux Grues, the Bic islands... The islands in the St. Lawrence abound with tranquil beauty, fresh air and hidden corners to explore, and more and more people are discovering them. But there’s one island that, oddly enough, remains largely unknown: Île Jésus!

Even though it’s home to the third largest city in Québec—Laval—and in spite of the fact that hundreds of thousands of people drive to, from and across it every day, this island right next to Montréal holds a lot of mystery and boasts amazing opportunities for delightful excursions and walks in places where you’ll feel like you’re miles from the big city.

In the morning, head east of Highway 25 onto Boulevard Lévesque east. This is the starting point. As you approach the parish of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, you’ll already feel like you’ve left the turbulence of urban life behind. The neighbourhood has retained a village feel, with its magnificent church and, from there, you can start enjoying the many parks along the banks of the Rivière des Prairies. There are plenty of spots all along this route for admiring the shoreline and bird life, and taking some delightful strolls in utterly peaceful settings.

In fact before you start out, you should take the time to plan some stops along your route based on the sign posts created by the team at the Centre de l’Interprétation de l’Eau (C.I.EAU). This non-profit organization specializes in the interpretation and preservation of water resources, and it developed a Rallye des rivières, a route marked by information panels along the banks of the Rivière Mille Îles and the Rivière des Prairies, all around the island of Laval. These panels can be found easily using a mobile app.

So be sure to take the routes that lead you down to the water to learn more about these natural habitats. In the southeastern part of the island, most of the parks face directly onto Boulevard Lévesque and the further east you go on it, the more it takes on the allure of a country road, lined with woods and farmland. Trundle your way along right to the end and stop for a break at the Olivier-Charbonneau park. This is where the Rivière des Milles Îles meets the Rivière des Prairies, and you’ll get a good idea of the vast territory.

From there, as you continue the route along the northern part of the island on Boulevard des Milles-Îles, you’ll feel as though you’re in the countryside. The peaceful landscape dotted with pretty ancestral homes contrasts starkly with the notion of a bustling suburb. How fabulous to be able to enjoy an outing in the country just minutes from the city! A visit to the Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François is a must. Check out the animals, have a snack at the picnic tables and of course buy some cheese. And be sure to admire the lush farmers’ fields via the Montée du Moulin, Boulevard Sainte-Marie and Avenue des Perron, on your way to the Ferme Vaillancourt —a veritable institution in the area.

West of Route 335, you’ll come to the end of Boulevard des Milles-Îles, which turns into Boulevard des Laurentides for a few hundred metres. To continue your bucolic journey, stay on Avenue des Terrasses, which will get you back onto Boulevard Sainte-Rose a little further along. On the way, stop and enjoy the Berge de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier and Berge de Plage-Idéale parks.

After all these little stops and visits, you’ll feel like you’re “returning to civilization” as you roll into the pretty neighbourhood of Vieux-Sainte-Rose. Take the time for a stroll and admire the beautiful and very well preserved built heritage. Some of the ancestral houses feature interpretation panels produced by the Association des citoyens et amis du Vieux-Sainte-Rose, telling the history of the village’s old homes. As you explore the streets in this neighbourhood, you’ll find plenty to eat, whether you decide to stop in at a restaurant or shop for some picnic items to enjoy in a waterfront park. Don’t miss a visit to the gourmet shop Les Minettes, showcasing Québec’s regional products, or to the friendly Brûlerie du Vieux Sainte-Rose, for a good cup of coffee and a variety of gourmet products. A little further west, on Boulevard Curé-Labelle, you’ll find the famous Boating Club restaurant, a venerable Laval institution nestled in a 19th century building that continues to stand the test of time. Be sure to tour the Centre d’interprétation de l’eau, mentioned earlier, to see the permanent exhibition “Le chemin de l’eau : de la rivière à la rivière” and learn more about protecting waterways.

As you continue your journey along the water, you’ll come to the Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, the high point of the excursion, bringing you into direct contact with the river. This urban wildlife refuge is always a pleasure to discover. You can rent canoes and kayaks to explore the archipelago. Not only does this reserve provide access to the river, it strives to actively safeguard natural habitats. The on-site Exploration Centre features the Believe It or Not! permanent exhibition to help you better understand this well preserved jewel, which is home to the greatest biodiversity in the entire metropolitan area and Laurentides region. It’s a must-see stop on your itinerary and you’ll want to go back more than once!

Leaving the park, you can continue on Boulevard Sainte-Rose west towards Laval-sur-le-Lac. Along the way, you’ll find a number of other parks with access to the banks of the Rivière Mille Îles, including the Berge Camille-Barbe park and the L’Orée-des-Bois woods. The latter is managed by CANOPÉE - Le réseau des bois de Laval, a citizen organization that promotes Laval’s woodlands. Check out their website to learn more.

No excursion by the water’s edge would be complete without a stop at the beach! And that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Berge aux Quatre-Vents park, at the western tip of the island. This well-kept secret—even to many a Laval resident—is a delight to discover. Yes, Laval has its very own beach! And a lovely one at that. You’ll even find lounge chairs for lolling in the sun. If swimming is prohibited, you can always enjoy digging your toes into the sand or have fun building a sand castle.

And there are still many more places to explore on Île Jésus. As you can see from this tour of the island, this huge suburb created from the merging of several parishes forms a colourful mosaic full of hidden corners. One thing’s for sure, if you really want to feel like you’re on a journey far from home, there’s no better way to get on or off the island than aboard the Paule II ferry that connects to Île Bizard. There’s nothing like a boat ride, no matter how short, to make you feel like you’re on an adventure.

OTHER STOPS ON YOUR ROAD TRIP THROUGH LAVAL
 Recommended by Tourisme LAVAL

Cosmodome2150 Autoroute des Laurentides, Laval, Québec H7T 2T8

Explore space like nowhere else with a visit to the Cosmodome, Canada’s only world-class museum devoted entirely to space sciences. The Cosmodome’s activities include an exhibition on the solar system and its planets, and three virtual missions that take visitors into orbit or allow them to join the first mission to Mars. The Cosmodome is also where you can get a look at one of the only two moon rocks in Québec.

 

Clip ’n climb2929 Boulevard Saint-Martin West, Laval, H7T 2Y8

In Laval, you can work out and have fun at the same time! Clip ʼn climb offers the perfect activity for climbing and having a great time. With its 34 climbing walls up to 10 metres high, Clip ʼn climb will blow your mind with challenges that meet your expectations and skills.

 

 

Crédit photo: Sébastien St-JeanMaeva Surf2005 Boulevard Daniel-Johnson, Laval, H7T 1H8

Soak up the warmth and enjoy the sound of the waves and tropical cocktails (and mocktails) in the heart of downtown Laval at Maeva Surf. In a seaside-inspired atmosphere, experience indoor surfing, a safe sport for surfers of all levels.

 

 

Centropolis1799 Avenue Pierre-Péladeau, Laval, H7T 2Y5

An exceptional destination for thousands of people looking for thrills, unforgettable experiences and memorable times with family, friends or that special someone. Centropolis is known for its fine dining, lively patios, entertainment and shopping. With its pedestrian areas, it’s the ideal spot to cap off a busy day, enjoy the moment and savour a delicious meal and a tasty cocktail on a patio!

 

iFLY2700 Avenue du Cosmodôme, Laval, H7T 2X1

Calling all thrill seekers! Come with a group or with friends or family, and enjoy a unique flying experience. iFLY reproduces, almost to perfection, the free fall portion of a skydiving experience, in a safe environment that’s accessible to children as young as four years old.

 

Article produced in collaboration with Tourisme Laval, Tour du Québec and Bonjour Québec. Text and photos by Simon Jodoin.

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