Notre Dame Island - A Visitor's Guide
It's hard to believe that Notre Dame Island in the Saint Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec, Canada didn't even exist 60 years ago.
The artificial man-made island was created in less than a year with 15 million tons of rock excavated for the Montreal Metro.
The original purpose of the island was to provide a unique venue for Expo 67. It achieved that admirably, but while the Expo 67 pavilions were almost all gone by 1975, the island remains and has developed a vibe all of its own.
If you’re paying a visit to Montreal, be sure to set aside a day for Notre Dame Island – an awesome example of what man can achieve. Here are some of the things you’ll find there.
1. Parc Jean Drapeau
When it hosted the Expo, there was much emphasis on Notre Dame being man-made. In the years since, its custodians have gone to efforts to make it look more natural. The island is now predominantly given over to parkland, at the centre of which you will find the stunning Jardins de Floriales, which cover more than 25 hectares.
The gardens are situated among a network of lagoons, which create their own microclimate. It means the team of gardeners who work here can cultivate plants that you would not usually expect to find in the harsh Montreal climate.
2. Montreal Casino
Over the past couple of years, online casino games in Canada have become big business. But long before the internet became such an important part of our lives, Canadians were enjoying the games in real life. Montreal Casino stands dominant on the island, and is the largest casino in Canada.
The Casino was created using the French Pavilion from Expo 67 – the last remaining. It has a unique look that must have seemed incredibly futuristic in 1967. Inside, you will find more than 3,200 slot games, over 100 table games plus keno and lotteries. If you’re not a gambler, it’s still worth visiting for the four restaurants, three bars and cabaret entertainment.
3. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
One of the most feared yet anticipated challenges on the Formula 1 calendar, this 4.3Km circuit has hosted the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978. Over the years, even the best drivers of their respective generations have pushed the boundaries too far and fallen victim to the famous Wall of Champions.
Of course, F1 comes to Notre Dame Island just once a year. During the rest of the year, the race track slumbers and is a magnet for runners, cyclists and other athletes wanting to train or simply visitors out for a stroll and enjoying the unique surroundings and the fabulous views across the Saint Lawrence River.
Other attractions on the island include the immaculately clean Jean Dore beach, which is ideal for family fun, and a choice of water activities from paddleboarding to rowing. There’s also an almost endless list of concerts and special events throughout the year,