Island of Orleans is only 15 minutes away from Old Quebec City!

The Island, 34 km long by 8 km wide, is linked to the main land (Quebec City) by its single bridge. The Chemin Royal, main road circling the Island, runs through 6 villages.


Jacques Cartier was the first to discover this forest covered island, which he immediately named "Isle de Bacchus" (Bacchus Island) after the wild vines that were growing everywhere. But well before the arrival of the Europeans, the natives were already calling the island "Ouindigo", an Algonquin word meaning "bewitched place". Still today, the islanders are sometimes referred to as the "Sorcerers of the Island".

As the years went by, the island was given a succession of different names. But it eventually came down to one of its original names, Ile D'Orléans, again supplied by Jacques Cartier, who, on May 6th 1536, gave it this name after François I, son of the King of France, Duke of Orleans.

Island of Orleans is one of the first settlements in Nouvelle France!

From the beginning of the colonization, the island was part of the vast domain of Beaupre. Most of the settlers called for to populate the island came from the Normandie and Poitou regions, in France. A census carried in 1685 counted 1205 inhabitants (and 917 livestock).

For a short period, in 1759, the island was occupied by the Englishmen, but few traces of that presence remain.

Witnesses to the past, more than 600 buildings are recognized by the Government of Quebec as being part of our cultural and historical heritage, including the oldest church in "Nouvelle France". Some bakeries dating back to the 18th and 19th century are still active today. Unfortunately, the dozen or so flour mills, tanneries, shoe-repair shops and saddle factories that made the islanders self-sufficient have all but disappeared today.

The Pont de l'Ile (The Bridge)

From the beginning of the colony, the islanders used boats and canoes to cross the river in the summertime. When winter came, ice bridges were naturally created between the island and the shore. Still today, snowmobile enthusiasts use the ice bridge to cross the river.

The bridge was built as part of a campaign to fight unemployment, during the Great Depression. It was inaugurated on July 6th 1935, and was originally named Pont Taschereau, after Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, member of parliament representing Montmorency and then Prime Minister of Quebec. Today, its official name is "Pont de l'Île d'Orléans" (Island of Orleans Bridge), but it is commonly called Pont de l'Île (the Island Bridge).

The Chemin Royal (Royal road)

In the 18th century, roads on the island were just dirt trails going from house to house and leading towards the mill or the parish chapel. By 1744, the Chemin Royal was completely circling the island. It is 67 km long (42 mi) and follows the rugged and jagged shore of the island.

All along, the Chemin Royal offers a breathtaking view on the river. In the background, Cap-Tourmente, Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, the Laurentians, (a precambrian mountain chain), and the Montmorency Falls are part of the scenery of the North shore of the river.

The South shore is not outdone with the Appalachians (another imposing mountain chain), the City of Levis and "Ile aux Grues" (crane island). Island of Orleans is also the place where the river widens considerably, opening the way for majestic ships.

Maritime History

The very first wharf on the island was built in 1855, at Sainte-Petronille. With this new link to Quebec, the island experiences an important economic expansion. The wharf is used as a pier for trade exchange as well as a landing dock for visitors now coming in growing numbers. By the turn of the century, the Saint-Laurent Shipyard (now a maritime information park with activities) became one of the most important industries in the region. In the summertime, they built wooden ships, and in the winter, the space was used to store schooners. And all over the place, between 300 and 400 "chaloupes" (rowboats) are built yearly by some twenty "chalouperies" (rowboat factories).