With the long weekend ahead of us, why not take the opportunity to explore our beautiful province and the wealth of experiences it has to offer? You don’t have to go very far to satisfy your travel cravings and experience gastronomy, culture and natural beauty at its finest. Here are some road trip ideas to inspire your next plans, within two-hour drives of Montreal.
A restful trip in the Eastern Townships
With its breathtaking towns and villages, upscale gourmet restaurants, farmers’ markets, spa stays and wine routes, the Eastern Townships are a great destination for those wishing to unwind, wine and dine.
The perfect itinerary:
Start your restful trip in the Eastern Townships with a full 24h detox program at legendary Spa Eastman. Nestled on 326 acres of land and forest, Spa Eastman was the first “destination spa” in Quebec and the idea here is to indulge in the full experience. Established in 1977, its reputation has grown because of the excellent quality of its services, fine dining offer, exclusive activity program, fitness activities and top-of-the-line spa treatments. The all-inclusive program allows you to fully disconnect while enjoying the spa facilities, the daily free activities, the healthy meal program and the refurbished rooms to spend the night on site and wake up fully refreshed and ready to retox.
After 24 hours well spent under the good care of the professional team of Spa Eastman, why not hit the road and enjoy a wine tour? The Eastern Townships produce more than 60% of Quebec wines and The Wine Route is a great way to make new and delicious discoveries. The only urban winery in the region, set in the heart of Dunham village, Le Clos Sainte-Croix, offers visits, tastings and the option to picnic on the fields. If you are not a wine person, Bleu Lavande also offers the visit, discovery and picnic options, this time in a lavender field. It is the perfect day trip idea before heading to North Hatley for the finest evening.
Manoir Hovey, member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association, is a must-see. In season, their gourmet table Le Hatley offers the option (by reservation only) to organize a private dinner on Beaver Beach, a small beach nestled on the majestuous site of Manoir Hovey. In the morning, enjoy breakfast and some fun and games at their outdoor pool overlooking the lake, try paddleboarding, kayaking or book an in-room massage. It’s whatever you want at this Quebec landmark and it’s definitely worth a visit while exploring the Eastern Townships.
Outdoor fun at Mont-Tremblant
Mont-Tremblant is the perfect getaway for those wishing to enjoy the great outdoors. The colourful pedestrian village is the perfect starting point to a great weekend of outdoor fun. With the mountain and the lake at your doorstep, Mont-Tremblant can offer family entertainment for days.
The perfect itinerary:
There’s a lot to do in Mont-Tremblant : paddleboarding or kayaking on the lake, hiking the mountain or downhilling the trails in luge but, after a full day playing outside, a hotel located at walking distance from everything is the thing you will be the most thankful for. There are a lot of accommodation options in the pedestrian village of Mont-Tremblant, but a few have been recently renovated.
The Fairmont Mont-Tremblant is one of them and offers a brand new lobby, lounge bar, restaurant, spa and pools. Good thing about the restaurants, because Mont-Tremblant may for long have had a lot to offer as a getaway destination, but the food offer wasn’t that great. With the opening of new Restaurant Choux Gras, there is now a great fine dining option in the village. Another great dining option in the area is Restaurant Altitude at Casino Mont-Tremblant, where the view is as good as the food. During your next trip to Mont-Tremblay, don’t forget to book evening activities as well and enjoy a show and some entertainment at the lively Casino or book your ticket for the Tonga Lumina interactive outdoor show happening in the Tremblant mountain every night until October. Mont-Tremblant used to be considered an overrated destination, but considering everything there is to do on site, it’s a great option for an outdoor fun getaway.
A foodie trip in Québec City
Québec City has a lot to offer to history buffs and those wishing to have a taste of Europe without having to cross the ocean. With its historic, vibrant streets and neighbourhoods, and its heritage sites, Québec City is a fun getaway option for a change of scenery, less than 3 hours away.
The perfect itinerary:
Before it’s too late, head to l’Ile d’Orléans to get a taste of Vignoble Sainte-Petronile’s Panache Mobile pop-up restaurant. Open every day until the first week of October, the winery offers visits, tastings and a nice outdoor terrace where you can enjoy the great wines of the renowned Quebec winery, accompanied by the Panache Restaurant refined cuisine, “picnic” style. On the way back to the city (only a few kms away), why not stop at the Parc-des-Chutes-Montmorency to digest before heading to the newly open restaurant Le Renard et la Chouette, a super casual new concept by those who brought us the delicious Le Pied Bleu.
The perfect night rest then starts at the one and only Auberge Saint-Antoine, where all 95 rooms are decorated in a different style, so every stay is different. Perfectly located in the heart of the Old Quebec district, the hotel is the choice accommodation for an unforgettable foodie getaway, considering they recently reviewed their entire restaurant offer. The new Chez Muffy restaurant, Artéfact Bar & Casse-Glace ice cream shop brings new gourmet-but-casual concepts to this spectacular Relais & Châteaux property. In the morning, try the new “all day breakfast” La Bûche sugar shack concept before some sightseeing in Old Quebec and, after walking the “Passages Insolites” public art circuit, end up at Bello Ristorante, an Italian eatery that is far from the tourist traps in one of the busiest streets of the historic district. And, on your way back to Montreal, don’t forget to stop by the brand-new Chez Boulay Comptoir in Sainte-Foy. Located in the Boutique Must, it’s the perfect lunch spot for an affordable gourmet quick fix before hitting the road.
Discovering what’s new in Gatineau/Ottawa
Gatineau and Ottawa are so close that we cannot talk about one without mentioning the other. While the country’s capital is not the first destination we think of while planning a getaway, there are a lot of new fun things happening that are not to miss. So why not head there for a couple of days and see what has changed?
The perfect itinerary
There is a new restaurant in Ottawa that wants to put Quebec on the plate. Led by head-chef Dominique Dufour, Norca Restaurant, located in the just as new Germain Ottawa Hotel, is creative, fun and distinguished. Considering the location and the Quebec hospitality touch behind the whole thing, are we surprised? If you prefer a more traditional stay, Fairmont Château Laurier is where you should set grounds. Staying in a castle is always magical, but it shouldn’t be an outdated experience. The historic hotel recently renovated their Fairmont Gold rooms for a more modern experience in addition to their lounge/tea area Zoe’s Lounge, also brand new… because you cannot visit Ottawa without having tea at the historic Château Laurier.
On the Rideau Canal, it is now possible to try paddleboard yoga or rent a SUP for an hour ride, or if you prefer to rent a bike, try the aptly named Rent a Bike that offers guided tours and customized routes to explore the city your way. Don’t forget to stop by the Sweet Jesus ice cream shop that just opened in the ByWard market and do drinks at the newest hotspot: the Andaz’s rooftop, for unbeatable views of the city. Mostly, take the time to rediscover this city you thought you knew by heart and give Ottawa/Gatineau another shot.
by Catherine Maisonneuve for MTL Times – firstname.lastname@example.org