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31 January 2022

Exploring The Eastern Townships

Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey. Photo by Mathieu Dupuis

Located an hour southeast of Montreal, Quebec’s Eastern Townships (Les Cantones de L’est in French) are a collection of picturesque communities nestled among farmland, forests, lakes and gentle mountain slopes. Beautiful year round, this region has something for every type of traveller, from outdoor adventure seekers to families to food-and-wine aficionados.

The best way to explore the beauty of the Townships is through slow travel — the winding roads lead to discovery around every corner and each location begs to be savoured. Even though you will find beautiful panoramas and Instagram-worthy vistas throughout your visit, this is not the place to just snap a quick pic and move on. Quebec’s Eastern Townships are meant to be enjoyed, appreciated and experienced.

About The Townships

The Eastern Townships are made up of nine distinct regions, called territories, each offering something different to see and explore. If you’d like to learn about what makes each of these regions unique, click here. While it is possible to see all nine on one road trip, we like the idea of concentrating on two or three areas only and taking the time to experience them fully. This will give you time to linger over lunch, browse an interesting antique shop or take a side road to see where it leads you.

The main hub of the Townships is the city of Sherbrooke, which sits at the confluence of the Saint-François and Magog rivers. Other major towns include Bromont, Granby, Orford and Saint-Camille, but there are countless heritage towns and quaint villages to explore. Driving or cycling from one to the next — stopping to enjoy a meal, a beverage or a good conversation — is really the best part of visiting the Townships. You can get free maps from the local tourism board.

Promenade de la Gorge de la Magog et Sentier illuminé. Photo by Mathieu Dupuis

Stay

The Townships are full of interesting places to stay, from rustic cabins to luxurious hotels. We recommend the Jolivent Hotel and Domaine Nature located right on the shores of Brome Lake, one of the most picturesque in the region. At the Jolivent, you’ll have access to 112 wooded acres, an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and a relaxing atmosphere. With two onsite restaurants and direct lake access, you won’t have to leave the Jolivent at all if you don’t want to — however, its central location makes it a good home-base for further exploration of this beautiful area.

Although it is possible to do a daytrip here from Montreal, staying in the region means you’ll have several days to truly experience the magic of the Townships. Waking up to the peaceful beauty and relaxing sounds of nature is the perfect way to understand what life in the Eastern Townships is like.

Photo by André Quenneville

Eat

Good food and drink are at the heart of life in this bucolic region and you can’t say you’ve actually experienced the Townships until you’ve sampled at least some of the outstanding products made here. Surrounded by farms, the region is renowned for farm-to-table cuisine with many award-winning restaurants, bakeries and cafés dotting the landscape. If you come with the right attitude, every meal here is a celebration.

This is the province’s first and largest wine-producing region and there are many fine vineyards to explore. The Brome-Missisquoi Wine Route — the only one of its kind in Quebec — makes 22 stops along an extremely scenic 140 km journey. The vineyards along this route account for 60% of the wines produced in the province.

But wine isn’t the only thing to sample in the Townships. The area is also recognized for its cideries, microbreweries and, of course, its cheese. Follow the Cheesemakers Circuit to sample the products of 15 amazing cheesemakers. A must-try is the Bleu Bénédictin, an award-winning delicacy made by the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Benoît-Du-Lac. If you are not a fan of the blue-veined cheeses, head to the Fromagerie La Station de Compton for their renowned Hatley Road  and Alfred Le Fermier varieties.

Photo by Facing Waves

Play

With four national and three regional parks within its borders, the Eastern Townships has many incredible ways to reconnect with nature in every season. Adventure seekers will love the high peaks, which offer incredible hiking in the summers and skiing in the winters. The many local lakes and rivers are perfect for water sports, paddling, swimming and just lazing around the beach under the warm summer sun. Come fall, the region’s forests are transformed into a magical display of autumn colours that make hiking, cycling, mountain biking and canoeing a dream.

Photo by David Gunther

The mountainous landscape of the Eastern Townships come from four different sources: hilly extensions of the Appalachians, the Sutton Mountains, the Stoke Mountains and the Megantic Range. This makes for an incredible array of hikes, ranging from family-friendly (Mont Gale in Bromont’s Parc des Sommets) to more strenuous (the 14-km Sommets trail loop to Mont Singer). No matter which peak you choose to scale, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view. A favourite is the hike to the top of Mont Chauve, which has sweeping views over the surrounding area.

Mont Pinacle. Photo by Gaëlle Leroyer

Thinking of heading to the Eastern Townships in 2022? Reach out and we’d be glad to help! Or discover more to do in the province with our Quebec Stays and Experiences

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Category: Quebec
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