Île d’Orléans

In the middle of the mighty St. Lawrence River, but within sight of Quebec City, sits Île d’Orléans, an entire island that is a designated historical district. The traditional Quebec countryside is preserved here in this, the cradle of New France. Visitors can delight in the island’s plentiful (and flavourful) agricultural heritage nestled amid gorgeous scenery.

Inhabited for thousands of years, Île d’Orléans has a diverse tourist offer that is second to none. During your visit, you will meet agrifood producers rightfully proud of their wares, sample farm-fresh products, admire the gorgeous scenery and explore the island’s historical and cultural heritage. Many pleasant surprises await on Île d’Orléans—it’s up to you to find out what they are!

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Nature lovers will delight in the bucolic landscape stretching out before them on an island once known as Minigo, the enchanted isle. Located between the Laurentian Plateau and the Appalachian Mountains, and the St. Lawrence Estuary and the river narrows, Île d’Orléans is nearly 190 km² (76 sq. mi.) of breathtaking vistas comprising lush greenery dotted with impressive buildings and monuments.

Geography

Île d’Orléans is an oblong island with relatively flat terrain and a microrelief. Three physiographic regions (Canadian Shield, St. Lawrence Lowlands and Appalachian Mountains) and three bioclimatic domains (maple to linden, maple to yellow birch and pine to yellow birch) converge at this geographical location.

The entire coastline of Île d’Orléans is formed of terraces and steep escarpments that slope inland, forming a slightly higher peak running the length of the island. The villages at each end of the island (Sainte-Pétronille and Saint-François-de-Île-d’Orléans) are noted for their rocky relief and escarpments.

Depressions in the landscape mark the passage of small rivers flowing down to the St. Lawrence.

How the landscape influences life on the island

The geographical features and location of Île d’Orléans have significantly influenced the lifestyle of the island’s residents.

The range of soil types on Île d’Orléans accounts for the fact 90% of the island is farmland. Different crops tend to be concentrated in specific areas, depending on the soil type. For example, the crops grown in the clayey soil to the north of Saint-François-de-Île-d’Orléans are not the same as those grown in the sandy soil to the south. If the land is unsuitable to crop farming, it is put to other uses. Groves of sugar maples are found on bedrock outcrops, and pine tree plantations are located in depressions filled with poorly-drained organic soil. Even today, life on the island is predominantly agricultural and rural, with agritourism being a major industry.

The range of soil types on Île d’Orléans accounts for the fact 90% of the island is farmland. Different crops tend to be concentrated in specific areas, depending on the soil type. For example, the crops grown in the clayey soil to the north of Saint-François-de-Île-d’Orléans are not the same as those grown in the sandy soil to the south. If the land is unsuitable to crop farming, it is put to other uses. Groves of sugar maples are found on bedrock outcrops, and pine tree plantations are located in depressions filled with poorly-drained organic soil. Even today, life on the island is predominantly agricultural and rural, with agritourism being a major industry.

Given its geographical position, Île d’Orléans is affected by the tides and a local microclimate. Both of these factors influence how life unfolds on Île d’Orléans and where certain grops are grown. For example, most of the orchards are along the northern coast, because the hot spring sunshine on the southern coast would cause the apple trees to blossom too soon, and the late frost would prove equally damaging to the trees.

A cutaway view of the island’s geography can be seen by driving along chemin Royal on the North Shore, which runs parallel to Île d’Orléans.

The historical borough of Île d'Orléans celebrates Québec's rural tradition with its gorgeous scenery stretching along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, only a few minutes from Québec City. Visitors are encouraged to experience the rich and vibrant culture of this island jewel, which is the birthplace of New France. Inhabited since time immemorial, Île d'Orléans has a diverse offer of first-rate attractions.