Île d’Orleans is considered one of the most historical districts of the Quebec region. With farmlands and accompanying stone houses dating back to the French regime, then it is not surprising that some elements of the island feel like taking a step back in time when you’re surrounded by such a rich heritage and preserved history. Visiting the Parc Maritime of the Saint-Laurent village is such a moment in time in which you feel you need to double-check the year on your phone once you step inside, to make sure you’re still in the 21st Century.
Being an ancient island surrounded by the Saint Lawrence River, a large river connecting Quebec to Ontario and further down to the state of New York in the US, then the maritime industry shapes a large proportion of the island’s heritage. The Parc Maritime is located on an old shipyard once known as the Chantier maritime de Saint-Laurent. The shipyard was run single-handedly by the Fillion family on the island and used to be one of the largest shipyards providing employment to over 100 people building up to 400 vessels per year at the height of its existence. It was a renowned shipyard for sailboats and later developed with the times to produce power-driven steel and wooden vessels.
Unfortunately, with the development of the modern road network in the Quebec region then like many other areas the trucking industry took over the river shipping industry and small coastal vessels like the ones produced in the Chantier maritime de Saint-Laurent were no longer in demand. This eventually led to the shipyard closing its doors in 1967, after over 50 years of thriving business on the island. However, during its time in high production then it was shipyards like this that promoted farming and other products on the island providing a way for the Islanders to bring their produce to markets in more central areas like Quebec City.
Whether you want to just soak up the island vibes and have a picnic with a view over the river or dive full on into the maritime history of Ile d’Orleans then the Parc Maritime is must stop on your tour of the island. The museum offers its visitors Je, tu… Île exhibit which allows you to choose how you view the space. Leading you from the authentic 19th-century row boat shop to the outside area along the banks of the river you will learn all about the workers and islanders that kept the maritime and shipping industry afloat for years. All while enjoying the beautiful Saint Lawrence breeze or dipping your toes in the water.