Québec City rejoices in summer.
This is the season when animated crowds of tourists discover Old Québec for the first time, and restaurant patios fill up. Outdoor hang-out spaces pop up throughout the city, parks are shady oases and the cool waters of rivers and pools offer tantalizing escapes. Some spaces will allow you to exchange the stickiness of summer’s humidity for the stickiness of scrumptious eats or sweet cocktails. Others offer water sports and hiking, as well. Personally, I think a swimming crawl to the best beaches, lakes and rivers in Québec City is the best way to enjoy the season.
Here are the best places to dip your toes or go swimming in and around Québec City.
Picnic then swim in the St Lawrence at Plage Gagnon
Located at the end of Boulevard Champlain, just past the bridges, is Plage Gagnon, a small beach on the shores of the St Lawrence River. In the neighborhood of Cap Rouge, here you’ll find a fine sandy beach and pretty views of the south shore across the river. Bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic with a view of Québec terroir, then wade through the water or swim the afternoon away. Don’t forget a book to read and relax near the tree line for a little shade.
How to get here: Walk the length of Promenade Champlain, which begins in Petit-Champlain. You can also take bus 25 from Hôtel de Ville in Old Québec (rue des Jardins) to stop #2371 Pie-XII.
Luxuriate in summer at Marina Saint-Roch
In summer, Espace collectif Marina Saint-Roch is the epitome of joie de vivre. For many years, Piscine Saint-Roch, a public pool, was the only attraction of note here. Now, the Marina Saint-Roch is one of the best places to hang out in Québec City in summer. You can enjoy communal seating areas with views of the St Charles River, lounge in a hammock, do yoga and swim away the day in the pool. It’s a slice of local heaven.
How to get here: You’ll find the marina at 230, rue du Pont, a 30–40 min walk from Old Québec.
Dip your toes and sip a beer at La Cour arrière du Festibière
Many locals count down the days to when La Cour arrière du Festibière, steps from the cruise ship terminal in the Old Port neighborhood, opens for the season. A vivacious treat that’s open from 11am to 11pm, this place invites visitors to cool down by wading into shallow pools of cold water, sitting in colorful Adirondack-style plastic chairs and sipping on Québec craft beers and cocktails. This is a family-friendly spot, and dogs are welcome as well. Piling on the pleasures, there’s even a small taco bar on site.
How to get here: Bus 1 & 11 stop on rue Dalhousie. You can also walk from Old Québec in about 10 mins, depending on your starting point.
Get a taste of lake life at Base Plein Air Sainte-Foy
Located at Grand lac Laberge and Petit lac Laberge, Base Plein Air Sainte-Foy is a go-to destination for outdoor sports and activities near Québec City. The lakes here were once a gravel quarry operated by the Laberge family; in the 1960s, the quarry was filled in with water, and designated for recreation. Today, you can spend a day (or many days) basking in the sun’s warmth on the small beach or taking a swim in the lakes. You can also rent canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and wakeboards. When you want a break from the water, stay active by trying the slacklines or going on a hike.
How to get here: Take bus 1 from outside the ferry terminal in Old Québec to stop #1101 Dorchester, then transfer to bus 29 and get off at stop #2226 B.-Pascal.
Join the beach scene at Baie de Beauport
Baie de Beauport is another popping beach destination in Québec City, on the shore of the St Lawrence River in the suburbs. Swimming is a big draw here; based on water-quality tests and the weather, its open or closed status is posted on the website each day at 8am. If you don’t care to plunge in, you can also go dinghy sailing and paddleboarding. Hungry? Nibble on pizzas, tacos and paninis at Birra Baie, and drink beers and cocktails at Bar Corona. In August, Baie de Beauport hosts Cigale, a weekend music event with around 20 artists performing across two stages.
How to get here: Take bus 800 Chute-Montmorency, from outside Hôtel Palace Royal to stop #1756 Bardy. From here, it is about a 30 min walk.