Drive 90 minutes southeast of Montreal and you’ll come to a magical kingdom dotted with storybook villages. The Eastern Townships is a place I never tire of visiting. It’s where I once celebrated a milestone birthday in the dead of winter. This time, it was the dog days of August. I was with a press group and our focus was soft adventure…outdoorsy! Glamping, star gazing, hiking and, of course, eating fabulous Quebec cuisine. Let me share with you!
Our first stop was Sutton’s Huttopia. Labeled a “Nature Getaway,” the site offered tents, tents with washrooms and chalets. It was perfect for families and offered an outdoor pool, play area, café (specializing in wood-fired pizza) and community space, plus daily summer programming for kids. I stayed in La Trappeur, a fully equipped tent on a wood platform with 2 double beds, kitchen (with sink, fridge and propane stove)/dining area, wood stove and washroom. Very comfortable! As a thunderstorm raged, I felt safe and snug in a very comfy bed with dreamy duvet. Especially great was the fact that bedding and towels were provided. So easy! Prices per night ranged from around $100 per night for a two person tent to $230 for a chalet that slept 6.
Next morning we headed to VéloVolant at Au Diable Vert. Unique in Canada (I did it once in Mexico), VéloVolant was a hanging pedal bike that wove through the tree tops. I loved it. I was able to stop and enjoy the scenery, including the distant Green Mountains of Vermont. Gorgeous, gentle and calming. I filled my lungs with oxygen and felt the tension in my upper back slowly dissolve. You can also stay in a variety of accommodations including treehouses, cliff cabins and Airstream trailers. We didn’t stay overnight, but it’s definitely on my list for next time.
In the village of Sutton we had a little time for shopping and exploring. The bakery offered amazing maple tarts (think butter tart, no raisins) and at Passion Herbale I loaded up on Wild Rose face cream, made from the proprietor’s own roses. Lunch was at Le Cafetier de Sutton and I chowed down on a grilled veggie sandwich with goat cheese. Eastern Township is chock-a-block with farms and I think everything on my plate was locally produced. The restaurant was a designated “Café de village.” Our guide, Danie, explained that these small establishments can be found throughout the region and they take pride in serving healthy, locally sourced food. “They are the heart and soul of their corner of the Townships,” she told us.
Spa time! Water can heal so many ills. At Spa Nordic Station, we hopped in and out of saunas, steam baths, hot pools, cool pools and a creek with bracing temperatures. Two hours seemed not be be enough time. When we left we were like limp spaghetti. It boded well for a sound sleep that night.
Dinner and accommodation was at Ripplecove Hotel & Spa, a luxurious Victorian-style inn. Dinner included an amuse profiterole with creamy cheese interior and a hint of hemlock (the non-poisonous Western variety), a generous disc of fois gras, melt-in-your-mouth halibut, Lac Brome duck and a delicate square of berry cake. The hotel sits on 12 acres in Ayer’s Cliff on lovely Lake Massawippi. I longed to go in for a dip, but no rest for the wicked.
At 9 p.m. we headed out to Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook to experience Foresta Lumina. Fairy lights and spooky music greeted us as we began the two km hike through the enchanted landscape. I was mesmerized by the bright flashes, holographic characters, and a storyline of forest sprites and monsters that would do the Brothers Grimm proud.
Kayaking on the Riviere-aux-Cerises on the outskirts of the village of Magog, it was hard to believe we were near an urban centre. Blue herons, ducks and turtles peeked at us from the cattails as we paddled by. Our group went under bridges and past marinas while our guide explained the area’s ecosystem. A lovely way to get up close and personal with nature.
Grilled cheese is my favorite food on the planet and La Shop, in a former Dominion Textile plant office in Magog, did not disappoint. I had the clubhouse, with chicken, cheese and bacon. Heavenly.
Mont-Megantic National Park is home to the ASTROLab, where we looked through telescopes (including a huge one that we had to get up on a ladder to see through). I saw Arcturus (very sparkly), Jupiter (yes, the rings are real), the Milky Way (so many stars) and without the telescope we witnessed shooting stars and the Northern Lights. This was an amazing place, within a Dark Sky Preserve. My only caution is that it goes late. We didn’t depart until almost midnight. Worth it, though. I am still marvelling at the majestic night sky which we see very little of in the city.
Our last accommodation was in a EXP cabin in the park. Very Scandinavian in style, it had two single beds, a toilet and shower, wood-burning stove and kitchen area with a small fridge. I was beside a small creek and heard all sorts of wildlife (who knows what, racoons?). I did see a couple of deer and some of the ring-tailed bandits the night before, so maybe they followed me home.
After this trip, I was reminded that the Eastern Townships are magical and must be visited often. I’ll be going back soon!