Southeastern Quebec's sprawling country roads, deep blue lakes and fantastic local cuisine make it one of Canada's coziest (and tastiest) getaways
Just an hour and half east of Montreal lies a swath of idyllic villages and towns, collectively known as the Eastern Townships. Not only is this region filled with breathtaking scenery and charming accommodations, but it's nearly entirely self-sufficient with its many boulangeries, fromageries, cafés, breweries and vineyards. If the zombie apocalypse actually happens, I'm heading to the Eastern Townships. I could very happily live in Compton with their award-winning cheeses and tiny environmental footprint.
Apocalypse aside, the Eastern Townships is an amazing destination to visit and easy to tour around, with signs and conversations readily available in English and French. The smallest village has a population of only around 50; the largest, Sherbrooke, 155,000. Most are somewhere comfortably in between, though all are impossibly quaint, dotted with multi-generational farms, organic gardens and farmers' markets.
Keep reading for the most delicious places to visit in the Eastern Townships...
Where to eat
Catherine TseBISTRO WEST BROME
My favourite full-service meal in the Eastern Townships was at Bistro West Brome at the Auberge & Spa West Brome (128 Rte 139, West Brome, QC). Elegant and charming, this restaurant is located just outside of Montreal and was a spectacular culinary introduction to this region. It specializes in using fresh, local ingredients, many of which come from the organic garden they maintain in the back, providing 80 different kinds of vegetables to the kitchen.
Flavours are rich and earthy here. Chef Ugo-Vincent Mariotti does not shy away from Quebec's tradition of embracing bold ingredients. The homemade black pudding was mildly spiced yet robust and perfectly tender. The Brome Lake duck confit was gently gamey and delicately textured. The sous-vide Atlantic salmon was perfectly, satisfyingly flaky. And, of course, the vegetables—from our smoked vegetables amuse bouche to the heirloom tomato salad—were spectacular. I would have happily ordered an entire vegetarian meal here.
FROMAGERIE LA STATION
Fromagerie la Station (440 Ch de Hatley, Compton, QC) is a cheese shop and fourth generation working farm where, if you look at the field across the street, you'll see the happy Holstein cows that supply the raw, organic milk that goes into making the award-winning cheeses. Try a few samples before making a purchase—the Alfred le Fermier, Comtomme and raclette are particularly popular. And for immediate gratification, you can order a grilled cheese sandwich. Group tours are available where you can meet with the farmers and cheese makers; just contact them in advance.
LE GROS PIERE ORCHARD
They're known for their wide selection of fresh, crisp apples at Le Gros Pierre Orchard (6335 Route Louis S. Saint-Laurent, Compton, QC) in particular the Primgold, Honeycrisp and Passionata (which can be hard to find). Get your hand-picked apples here as well as an assortment of apple goodies including homemade apple pie, fresh raw apple juice and sugar-free apple chips. If you can't wait for a taste, take a seat on their patio and admire the orchard from above while you tuck into one of their famous apple "bundles," made with a whole caramelised apple stuffed with dark chocolate ganache then wrapped in puff pastry and baked to golden perfection.
MUSÉE DU CHOCOLAT DE BROMONT
Yes, is technically a museum, but don't overlook this gem as you make your way through Bromont. Forty thousand people visit Musée du Chocolat de Bromont (679 Rue Shefford, Bromont, QC) every year and this museum sells 10,000 kg of chocolates to them. The main entrance serves as a decadent storefront selling chocolates from around the world and a fresh selection made in-house. In addition to the chocolate shop, there's a café inside where if you order nothing else, you must try their drinking chocolate.
But for any chocoholic history buff, the museum is the goal. This rabbit hole is filled with memorabilia dating back over a century, carrying rare items that are both mesmerising and educational. If you're a fan of design or advertising, note the framed display of chocolate boxes through the decades.
Where to drink
Catherine TseUNION LIBRE
Stop by Union Libre (1047 Bruce Rd,Route 202,Dunham, QC) for a tasting of their famous Fire Cider. Made by the fermentation of heat-concentrated apple mash, the concentrated nectar is then aged in oak barrels, producing an apple cider of serious deliciousness. Tastings and tours are available as well as cider and cheese pairings (contact them ahead of your visit).
The Dunham Valley is Quebec's wine-producing region and l'Orpailleur Vineyard (1086 Rue Bruce, Dunham, QC) makes for a lovely stop in this scenic area. Their tasting room downstairs is spacious, complete with a screening room (for guided tours, $10), and the vineyard itself is beautiful with rows of vines undulating for acres. Their wines are highly respected and are at an excellent price point, starting at $16, including their wildly popular (and perpetually sold out)—if you can find it, buy it.
MICROBRASSERIE LA MEMPHRÉ
Microbrasserie la Memphré (12 Rue Merry S, Magog, QC) has the best spot in Magog, along the main street, across from the lake with a view of the docks. Grab a seat out back on their patio for a fabulous view; there's a sweet, nostalgic summer camp vibe happening during summer months that turns more aprés-ski in the winter. The relaxed and friendly ambience will instantly make you feel at home, and if you order the duck wings and IPA, you'll fit in like a local. But if you prefer to sample, I highly recommend their beer flight (seven, four-ounce pours, $12), as their range of beer is really diverse, many with quite distinct personalities.
Where to stay: charming inns
Catherine TseAUBERGE AND SPA WEST BROME
At the Auberge & Spa West Brome (128 Rte 139, West Brome, QC), accommodations are located in separate buildings, not far from the main house. Converted from condos, guestrooms are extremely spacious with multiple windows and patios that offer stunning panoramas of the surrounding 200 acres of picturesque farmlands.
Between the guestrooms and main building, you'll find a large organic garden that supplies most of the vegetables served in the dining room. Beyond that, a massive field dotted with furry cows. Guests are welcome to explore the garden and while you're out there, look at the back of the main building, where the dining room is. You'll notice that it looks markedly different, weathered. While the guestrooms are all relatively new, the dining hall was actually built out from the original brick farmhouse that stood there in 1798.
HOTEL CHATEAU BROMONT
Hotel Chateau Bromont (90 Rue de Stanstead, Bromont, QC) is a picturesque chateau located in a lush valley at the base of Mont Brome. While this is beloved four-season resort, it's best known as an alpine ski resort, serving as home base for other nearby mountains Mont Spruce and Pic du Chevreuil.
The property is sprawling without feeling intrusive, thoughtfully ensconced into the forested surroundings. Spectacular vistas become the norm at every turn, on and off property. Take an easy walk or bike ride on the 15.1 km loop trail encircling Mont Brome (approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes). Then come back in time for a sunset toast on the patio—in the winter time this becomes even more magical as the nearby ski hill lights up for night skiing.
More photos below...
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