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Eastern Townships: A getaway to the good life

Canada’s Eastern Townships, with its charming towns and villages, scenic driving and cycling trails, vineyards and holiday resorts and spas, is a top choice for a getaway to the good life.

It is a place to discover the meaning of true relaxation and rejuvenation and to feel worlds away from everyday concerns.

Continental flair

The Eastern Townships consists of nine regions in the southeastern part of Canada’s province of Québec, just over the borders of New Hampshire, Vermont and Southern Maine. Featured in the New York Times list of 52 Places to Go in 2023, it was described as “Canadian New England with a French Style.” French is the official language of this bilingual province and infuses the culture, cuisine, history, and customs with a unique European flair and joie de vivre.

For good value, good food and opportunities to mingle with local people try some of the popular cafés du village. Plan at least one splurge meal of exquisitely presented gourmet cuisine at one of the top-rated restaurants, resort hotels or spas. The favorable exchange rate adds to the allure.

Here is just a sampling of what the region has to offer.

Bilingual and bicultural appeal

There’s a decidedly British influence here, as well. In 1783, Loyalists were granted land that was divided into British-style townships, hence the name. After the Civil War, wealthy American Southerners who wanted to bypass Yankee territory came here to escape the summer heat .

The result is a rich architectural heritage and charming villages now known for their farm-to-table cuisine, sports activities, art galleries, theaters, and boutiques. 

Spa Eastman: the art of living

The Eastern Townships is home to Canada’s top-rated wellness retreat. Spa Eastman is an all-inclusive gourmet heath and wellness haven ranked #1 for in the world for wellness and health in culinary travel. The first destination spa in Canada, it is based on six pillars of wellness— nature, aesthetically pleasing wholesome meals, physical activity, oxygen workshops, gentle self-care and education. World Spa Awards named Spa Eastman the Best Wellness Retreat 2022 in Canada.

Jocelyna Dubuc is president and founder of Spa Eastman and is a leader in promoting healthy vacations in Quebec. The Ministry of Tourism awarded her the Grand Bâtisseur (Great Builder) 2022 prize for her visionary leadership role in the province. 

The unique guest rooms and seven pavilions are part of a 326 acre compound. With nearly ten miles of trails and impressive views of Mount Orford, a stay is an immersion in the healing powers of natural surroundings.

Discover the power of thermotherapy. Experience the benefits of the infrared and Finnish saunas, hammam, Kneipp circuit of polar baths, indoor and outdoor pools and igloo shower.

Retreats focus on both the mind and body. They are led by a comprehensive range of professionals who offer guidance in defining and meeting personal goals for a healthier lifestyle. Learn to make simple effective changes in habits and activities to create better balance, increase energy level and improve physical and mental well-being.

Eight or more activities and conferences on topics like fitness, weight loss, stress management, nutrition, and renewal are offered daily. Massage therapy and aesthetic care are also available.  

La Cuisine Tonique

Jocelyna Dubuc discovered the medicinal healing properties of food on her own health. She has devoted her life to creating a program focused on scientific evidence on the importance of food on health and happiness.

Dubuc’s book, La Cuisine Tonique, includes recipes for increasing energy and reducing inflammation.

The colorful and artfully presented meals in her Tonique Cuisine Restaurant look and taste as good as they are for you.

The Tonique Cuisine™ served at Spa Eastman earned prestigious international acclaim. It was earned first place in the 2022 Global Culinary Travel Awards for Best Emphasis on Wellness & Health in Culinary Travel by the World Food Travel Association. 

Stay at least a few nights, preferably longer, to get the full benefit of the program and experience the art of living. The health immersion package includes three fine dining meals a day and a minimum seven night stay.  

Spa Eastman continues to evolve with more eco-friendly pavilions.  It received the Clévert Ecological Rating System 4 Green Keys for responsible and sustainable development.

The Townships Trail: Sutton

The Townships Trail runs along a marked tourist route of 31 towns and villages. Download the self-guided audio heritage tours for tablets and smartphones. Choose a circuit, drive the scenic back roads and bring history to life. 

Get a sense of local history —pioneers, trade and manufacturing, prohibition, and tourism. Or choose a theme like vintage homes or an English Tea Route. 

The Tourist Information Center has maps of the heritage tours. Take a walking tour of the Loyalist history. Stroll by the interpretive panels that are in both French and English.

Sutton is one of the 13 villages or Cœurs Villageois (literally village hearts) that are known for local products, exceptional services, and array of activities and attractions. This mountain village welcomes visitors with its colorful flower displays, boutiques and art galleries, microbreweries, and jazz and blues festivals.

Snag an indoor or outdoor table if you can at Mollie’s Café Dinette Buvette(snack bar), a local favorite. Works by local artists line the walls and hand-written signs announce upcoming events. 

The nearby La Rumeur Affamée offers everything you could want for a picnic—freshly-baked bread and pastries,  prepared foods, deli meats and what must be over 100 cheeses, mostly from Quebec. Add a tarte au strop d’érable (maple pie) to complete the meal. 

For more, cross the street to a chocolaterie. Stop by Chez Matis traiteur for take-out and French pastries.

Curious about curling? Check out the local club. 

Enjoy the outdoors on a trail at the Parc d’Environnement Naturel. Go wine tasting, enjoy a spontaneous romantic picnic or try the other experiences available at a unique nearby vineyard, Château Ste-Agnès, which has a castle and a chapel.


It is easy to see why Magogwith its beautiful Mont Orford and Lake Memphremagog, is a popular tourist destination. Principale Street is lined with flowers, shops, galleries and restaurants and is the hub of the lively downtown area.

Fish and seafood are specialties at Au Comptoir MarCel. Watch Chef Marco in action in the open kitchen or enjoy the water view from the three-season covered and heated terrace. His partner, Céline, from the south of France, will help you choose the right wine. Beer and cider are locally produced.

Check for a performance a the cabaret-style concert hall, at Le Vieux Clocher (The Old Bell Tower). It is in a former Methodist church that later served as  a meeting place for Freemasons. 

Visit Maison Merry, built in 1821 and the town’s oldest house.  Magog’s history from the time of the Aboriginal people is presented here.

Bleu Lavande’s fragrant lavender fields and soothing products are now located in Magog. Massage and wellness experiences are offered along with seasonal programming. 

Take in the view with a gondola ride at Mont Orford. Explore the walking path and a beach or two at Parc de la Baie-de-Magog. Hike a nature walk along the Rivière aux Cerises marshland trails. 

Opt for the bubbly, 3-course brunch or gourmet dinner cruise, both with musical entertainment aboard Escapades Memphrémagog’s Le Grand Cru. You may spot Memphre, the 40’ long sea serpent with a horse-shaped head who, according to centuries of legends, lives at the bottom of the lake.

Le Cep d’argent: the art of sabering

Drive to  Le Cep d’argent for an effervescent experience. Le cep is French for vine. Argent, or silver, refers to the shimmer on Lake Magog. 

This was the first Quebec winery to use the traditional method to produce sparkling wine. The Scieur family has been using this secret process for over six generations. Brothers François and Jean-Paul Scieur continue the tradition. 

Learn the secret of sabering a bottle of their finest bubbly. Then sit back and enjoy it in this scenic setting. 

Or stop by for a wine tasting, savoring the aromas and flavors of five products from among their red, white, rosé, fortified and sweet wines. Those fluent in French might also opt for Bubbles and Wine Tour experience, a guided walk in the heart of the vineyard,

At harvest time the Magog-Orford Grape Festival attracts over 80,000 wine and food enthusiasts.

Just outside Magog

It’s well worth the 12 mile drive outside Magog to enjoy the stunning setting overlooking the lake from the Abbaye Saint-Benoit-du-Lac. It was founded in 1912 by the exiled Benedictine monks from St. Wandrille, France. 

Take a tour and learn about the abbey, monastic life, and overnight stay opportunities Purchase cheeses and products made from their orchard fruit, made onsite.

For the ultimate in luxury, two renowned 5-star properties offer accommodations and exceptional fine dining. Ripplecove Hotel and Spa, in Ayers Cliff, now also offers villa accommodations. Manoir Hovey is a Relais & Chateaux property in North Hadley. It was originally commissioned in 1900 as a private summer estate, designed after Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Bromont: sports, culture and gourmet events

Bromont is at the foot of the largest illuminated skiable domain in North America and is well known for winter fun on the slopes. You can also be as active as you like year-round here with sports, cultural and gourmet events.

Bromont montagne d’expériences offers gondola rides to the breathtaking view from the summit. Get an adrenaline rush with the El Barracuda slide at the water park or go on an exhilarating hike. Go for a mountain bike or BMX ride.

Domaine Château-Bromont offers rental condos with mountain and water park views. It offers direct access to the Mont Soleil slopes.

Start the day with a bountiful breakfast buffet in the restaurant, 4 Canards. Complete it with a four-course dinner created by Chef Maxime Brouillette and the team. Pair each course with regional wines.

The beautiful 18 hole Le Royal Bromont is one of Canada’s most prestigious courses and is just a two minute drive away. Ranked four stars by Golf Digest Magazine in its “Best Places to Play,” the course provides challenges for all, from beginners to accomplished golfers. Take a lesson with Golf Professional Sébastien Néron. He has over 25 years of experience in golf professional training and was named PGA Canada’s 2017 Quebec Teacher of the Year.

Reserve ahead to be assured a table at the intimate Vieux-Village local favorite Le Chardo. Take in the culinary action from a seat at the bar or sit back and enjoy the friendly and attentive service in the dining room.

The creative and artistically presented dishes are composed from local game, fish seafood, vegetables and forest products. Beer is from the best Quebec microbreweries. Try the bison, deer tartar or warm oysters. Better yet, experience a culinary adventure with the five course tasting menu and the organic wine pairing.

Vignoble du Ruisseau

A covered bridge leads to a boutique that has it all—notable wines, liqueurs and spirits and dozens of related products at Vignoble du Ruisseau in Dunham.

This ultimate vineyard in an idyllic maple forest is at a sun-drenched altitude of nearly 1,000’. 

The organic gardens provide ingredients for store products and dining. In addition to their grapes, their apples and maple flavors go into the creation of fine spirits and bold liqueurs. Fir shoots, carrots, and raspberry leaves serve as sweeteners in unusual syrups. The goal is to create a bar supplied completely from the land.

Their patented world-first technology, a geothermal system that pulls heat from the ground, allows Vinifera grapes to grow abundantly in this cold climate. Geothermal energy also heats the winery, vats and cellars and provides air conditioning, as well. There is an impressive system of composting and recycling in all departments. The office is paperless.

Wine tastings come with a commanding view of the vineyards from one of the chic cocktail bars or with the relaxing sounds of the stream in the forested garden area. Tours include guided walks in the vineyard, a visit to one of the barrel cellars, tastings, and a short film about viticulture.

The  exquisite facilities include a vaulted barrel cellar and wine-cellar on two levels. The quality of the product and attention to detail is certain to please even the most discerning oenophile.

The setting and facilities are ideal for corporate or other events. Several modular rooms are equipped with AV equipment to accommodate up to 80 people. Add in guided tours, tasting with a sommelier, a meal inspired by the terroir, and you have an experience to remember.

The bistro is open on weekends. Brunch and supper dates are listed on the website as is information on the sugar shack and its products. Check for information on the monthly Vinifera Experience.

Vignoble de l’ Orpailleur

Vignoble de L’Orpailleur was named by Gilles Vigneault, poet and friend of its founders. It likens the orpailleurs, or gold panners, to the winemakers who extract the goodness of the grapes from the earth. Vignoble de L’Orpailleur’s liquid gold has won more than 140 gold and silver medals in a variety of international competitions.

Founded in 1982, Vignoble de l’ Orpailleur was Québec’s first winery and  is one of the best known in the province. In addition to being along the Wine Route it is part of a network of economusées, businesses that showcase their trade, share knowledge, and sell products made onsite.

Guided tours and wine tastings are offered. There is a restaurant, picnic area and boutique with specialty items. Descriptive panels along the interpretive trail describe the workings of this vineyard, from planting and maintaining the vines to bottling.

This was also the first enterprise of its kind to implement principles of sustainable agriculture to viticulture. There are nesting boxes for the tree swallows and bluebirds that help with insect control. Pheromone traps attract male insects, reducing reproduction. 

For their ice wine, grapes must be harvested and slowly pressed at freezing temperatures. The yield is only about a fifth of that of grapes from the autumn harvest. Their work in creating a perfectly balanced product, however, has won them dozens of international gold medals.

Weddings and workshops take place in Dame-Jeanne Hall, which has a sweeping view of the vineyard. It was named for the woman who inspired the large short-necked bottles now known as demijohns seen throughout the property. They hold the Angels’ Share, La parte des Anges, a wine named for the evaporated portion said to go to heaven.

The active route: cycling trails

Concerned about staying in shape while indulging in all this fine food and wine? The eastern Townships has you covered. 

Customize a cycling trail according to your interests and activity level. Bike at your own pace on the Véloroute gourmand while experiencing the local flavors.

Cross farmlands, stop at microbreweries, cheese factories, vineyards, farmers’markets, maple groves and some of the area’s finest restaurants.

From a sightseeing outing to challenging slopes, you’ll find it all here.

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