Quebec City has swimming pools aplenty

Category Staying active, Lifestyle in Quebec City Date 10/09/2019

Written byTaylor Ireland

Coming into Quebec City by air can be a breathtaking experience. From high above, the proximity of the city to the St. Lawrence River as it briefly narrows explains in a glance why the spot was such an ideal place for people to gather and eventually establish permanent settlements.

But a much more modern phenomenon also catches the eye from on high. Everyone always remarks about how many pools they see when you fly into Quebec. It’s not an illusion. Quebec City does indeed have a lot more outdoor swimming pools, either private residential or city-owned, than you’d expect in a place almost as well known for its short summers as its historic charm.

The statistics prove this out. In the province of Quebec, with a population of 8.4 million, there are more than 300,000 residential pools, with about 75 percent of them of the less expensive above-ground variety.  For years now, a consistent 40 percent of new pools built annually in Canada have been in la belle province. Quebec City, with less than one-tenth of the population of Toronto, has seen more pools installed each year than the much warmer neighbouring capital.

With an average of one pool for every 26 homes, the province of Quebec has more per capital than sunny California at 31.

There are a couple of theories why outdoor pools are so popular in Quebec, the most compelling one having to do with Quebecers’ penchant for sun-worshipping south of the border, particularly in Florida. Of the four million or so Canadians who visit Florida each year, more than a quarter are Quebecers. Having gotten the taste for the pool and sun lifestyle, many decided to transplant the experience in their backyards.

An ad campaign by a pool installation company back in the 1990s, pitching the affordability of pools, seems to have started a wave, and as one neighbour got a pool, others down the block decided to get into the swim. The timing was also advantageous in that Quebec began to emerge from a prolonged economic funk in the 1990s, and cities began to expand aggressively into suburban tracts, with residential lots big enough for pools.

The advent of above-ground pools, with mostly do-it-yourself installation, made a backyard oasis affordable for even people of modest income and provided a bit of the exotic tropical party life to the Quebec suburbs. Thanks to advancements in cement technology, such as pouring a seamless basin, the popularity of above ground and semi-sunken concrete pools is on the rise. 

For those who don’t have access to an outdoor pool – or that of a friendly neighbour – the city itself is an enthusiastic promoter of the outdoor life aquatic.  The city has no less than 36 outdoor pools, plus many wading pools and water parks with fun jets and mini-geysers. Located in all sectors of the city, there is one outdoor pool for an average 15,000 residents. By comparison, Montreal, with nearly five times the population of Quebec, has 74 outdoor pools, for an average of one for every 23,000 citizens. Toronto only has 58 civic outdoor pools – one for every 46,500 overheated citizens.

One neighbourhood in the city Ste. Foy-Sillery-Cap Rouge, has a very refreshing rate of one pool for every 7,400 residents. Plans are in the works to provide the most under-served district a new pool within the next two years. 

Not only are outdoor pools plentiful, but some of them are in incredibly scenic surroundings. For example, the pool at the Saint Roch Marina, mere steps from a busy commercial area, is situated overlooking the St. Charles River. A festive market-style area has been added in recent years to make the site even more attractive for folks seeking relief from the heat.

Another great site is the pool at Parc Notre Dame de la Garde on Blvd. Champlain, along the scenic St. Lawrence River waterfront. Not only can you take a dip steps away from the mighty river, you can challenge yourself by scaling the 400-step Escalier du Cap-Blanc, the longest in a city of many staircases, which leads to the Plains of Abraham park.

It almost goes without mention that access to all city pools is free.

There’s an even more spectacular riverside pool extravaganza in the works. As mentioned in a previous blog (July 2018) Phase 3 of the Promenade Champlain project envisions a complete redevelopment of a 2.5 km stretch of the St. Lawrence waterfront to provide direct access to the water, with a beach area. This will be no ordinary beach. 

When the huge $171 million project is completed in three years, citizens and visitors alike will be able to enjoy a 1,500 square-metre pool, as well as a 200-metre-long water “mirror” with jets, and, for those with a yen for a swim in the river, a large sandy beach.

Quebec City has countless attractions in the summertime. But when it gets hot and sticky in the town, one of its most refreshing attractions is its proliferation of swimming pools. Anybody for a dip?