The most popular thing to do on l'Ile-aux-Coudres is to bike along the 23 km road (called Chemin des Coudriers) that goes around the island. It is by far the best way to see and appreciate the beautiful landscape that surrounds the island, nestled between the majestic St. Lawrence River and the mountains of the Charlevoix region. The southern part of the island is very flat and there are a few hills on the northern part, but nothing that will scare even the most inexperienced cyclists (to avoid the two biggest hills, it is best to bike around the island in a clockwise direction). You have to share the road with cars, but they are few and far between, and they are very respectful of cyclists. So what are you waiting for? Hope on your bike and discover l'Ile-aux-Coudres!
The first residents of the island often had to cross the river to the main shore to get food items that were not available on l'Ile-aux-Coudres. They often had to face harsh conditions, and crossing the river in a canoe often proved to be a very dangerous adventure. In 1815, famine struck on the island. To make sure this would not happen again, a water mill was erected in 1825, followed by a windmill in 1836. The two mills have been restored and are still in operation, and they are now open to visitors. The miller's house has been turned into a museum, where you can find out more about the history of the two mills, and you can then visit the mills to see how flour was traditionally made. During summer, it is also possible to buy home-baked products fresh from the clay oven!
The museum is open from mid-May to mid-October, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm ($8 for adults, $5 for children).
To make biking around the island even more interesting, the residents of l'Ile-aux-Coudres have come up with a heritage circuit. The circuit is included in the free tour guide that is available everywhere on the island (you can also print a map off the Website). It includes all the historically significant buildings around the island, as well as a few interesting legends that got carried through the ages. There are some information pannels in English and French at all the different sites. Here's your chance to find out about the water mill (1825) and windmill (1836) that saved the island's residents from famine, the legends of Caya's rock and of the crying rock, the pillar, the lighthouse, the church, and more!
The very first mass in Canada was celebrated on l'Ile-aux-Coudres on September 7, 1535, when French explorer Jacques Cartier planted a cross on the island to take possession of the land in the name of the King of France. Saint-Louis, the first parish of the island, was established at the beginning of the 1740s, and the church that now stands in the Saint-Louis area was built in 1885. The residents of the island are very proud of their beautiful church, which is open to visitors daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, from May to October. On both sides of the church, near the eastern and western limits of Saint-Louis, two small processional chapels can also be visited - Saint-Pierre Chapel was built in 1836, and Saint-Isidore Chapel was built in 1837. Near the church, visitors can also see the Virgin's grotto, erected in 1962, in memory of the Virgin's appearance to Sainte Bernadette de Lourdes.