If you are looking for a relaxed day outdoors with fantastic views of the streaming St-Lawrence river and Montreal city, this small island – Île Saint-Bernard is the place to visit. Located so close to Montreal, Ile Saint-Bernard is a small island facing Dorval across the St-Lawrence river (which is also called in this part Saint-Louis Lake). The reserve has a variety of eco-systems and it is offering 8km of groomed trails where visitors can enjoy observing animals in their natural habitat. Depending on the season, you can observe many birds, deer and foxes. Throughout the reservation, there are many bird feeding stations where you can observe many different bird species.
I was very impressed by how well organized and clear were the indications throughout the trail, the map and the nice staff at the entrance. During winter time, you can enjoy winter hikes and snowshoeing. On the weekend we visited, the trail was easy to walk without snowshoes.
During summer you can enjoy many picnic points along the way, apple picking at the local orchard and some nautical activities.
Address (Pavillon de L’ile): 480, boulevard D’Youville, Ile Saint-Bernard, Châteuguay, J6J 5T9, QC
Car: Drive 20-40 minutes from Montreal
Parking: free, in front of the main building ‘Pavillon de L’ile’
Opening time: all year 9-16
Daily Tariff: Adult 4.80$, Kid (3-12 years old) 3.35$, family with two adults 12.80$
Restaurants – Yes, depending on the season. The cafe is open all year at the main building next to the ticket booth. Bistro La Traite was closed during our visit
Rental of snowshoes, crampons and walking sticks is available on site
During winter, the walk can be possible with an all terrain baby stroller, not throughout all trails, worth calling the centre to confirm
The trails on the island are circular, 8km in total, and you can choose to do shortcuts to return to the starting point. All trails leave from the main pavilion building. The trail we did was reaching Pointe Nord (number 7 on the map) with a viewpoint of the Montreal skyline and return. It was not circular as we did not want to exceed 5km in total with the kids. Total distance was 4.8km, 2.4km each way.
Once we have passed the main gate (orchard on the left), we continued across the walkway, stopping from time to time to observe the birds. There were many visitors who looked very professional with binoculars and professional cameras. The signs ask the visitors to stay on the main path, and it is obvious, you really don’t want to fall into a frozen swamp along the way. After about 900 meters, you will reach a pirate boat playground for kids. It was covered with snow, but the kids enjoyed it very much.
We continued walking, passing the first junction, ‘Grande Digue’. We paused near ‘Point Ouest’, where the trail reaches the water. Towards point 7, there is a nice wooden walkway.
When the wooden walkway ends, there is another junction, option to continue to point 7 (Pointe Nord) or a right turn towards the Erabliere. Most people head to the Erabliere once they have seen the viewpoint and plan to do the circular trail towards points 8,9 and 10.
We were happy to reach Pointe Nord and to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the water and Montreal skyline. We have decided to head back the same way and not to continue the circular trail as it was a bit tiring for the kids and in total the walk was just under 5km. We were lucky with the weather, it was about 5 degrees, no snow or rain and just tranquillity.
Worth mentioning (and not to be confused with this wildlife reserve) the new Centre Ècologique Fernand-Seguin 10 minutes from Ile Saint-Bernard, where this forest is offering 5 km of trails for hiking, cross country ski, birds watching and sledding. We have not been there yet, we hope to visit the place soon.