The Eastern Townships is a region of Quebec known for its bucolic lifestyle. Scattered across nine regions, it boasts of charming towns perfect for experiencing the outdoors. Sherbrooke, one of the larger towns in the region, includes a trendy downtown amidst scenic lake views from Magog and St. Francis rivers. It is a great family destination that will cater to kids from babies to teenagers with activities such as kayaking and paddle boating at Parc-Lucien Blanchard and seeing a large variety of animals at Granby Zoo.
While planning our road trip through Quebec I learned of Eastern Townships, a tourist region to the east of the St. Lawrence River. Bordering New England, this province is known for its charming small towns and beautiful landscapes bordering on lake shores. It It was a midway stop over for us as we drove back from Quebec City to the Capital Region of New York with our three year old son and baby daughter.
Quebec’s Eastern Townships originated in 1796 when the British granted land to loyalists fleeing the United States after the American Revolution. Around 1820, Irish immigrants followed and established potato farming. The area became more Francophone after 1850, as French Canadians moved in to work on the railroad and lumber industries. Today the French influence is predominant through food and language. But large open farmhouses and small protestant churches nod to the region’s New England heritage.
When to Go
Eastern Townships is an all-season destination. Winter offers skiing and other activities in four major ski mountains: Bromont, Mont Sutton, Mont Orford and Owl’s Head. Summer is the busiest with the region’s focus as the biking capital of the province and visitors who flock to summer cottages along the lakes. Spring and autumn maybe the ideal to visit with less crowds and moderate weather. The temperature was in the 70s when we visited in early September.
Where to Go
You can choose between different towns such as such as Bromont (focused on outdoor activities year around), Knowlton (Colonial era resort town with old inns and antique shopping) or Magog (featuring sandy beaches on Lake Memphrémagog) depending on your interests.
We stayed in Sherbrooke, the town that bills itself as the Queen of the Eastern Townships due to its illustrious history of industrial significance. It offers a blend of cultural and outdoor activities. At present the capital city of the region seemed a bit lackluster and missing its economic dominance of yester years. But we could see signs revival with the downtown area experiencing a significant face-lift, with trendy restaurants and coffee shops now occupying once vacant buildings. We were impressed with the culinary diversity with restaurants featuring food from countries such as Thailand and Ethiopia.
What to Do in Sherbrooke
We enjoyed the downtown area for its many beautifully painted murals on the sides of buildings. You can follow a self-guided 3.75 mile tour of them, starting from the tourist office on Rue King. A phone app was helpful is guiding us on our drive that was a discovery of street art as well give us a feel for the city. It is also a good opportunity to grab a bite and discover the city’s culinary scene.
2.Visit Parc Lucien-Blanchard
Our three year old son could have spent the entire day at this nature haven. Located on shores of the Magog River, the Lucien-Blanchard beach is an area of open water swimming or in our case just wading. There was also a spacious children’s park adjoining the beach so it was great for picnicking and playing outdoors.
The park also has a nature center, Maison de l’eau, where we could view small live animals. The exhibits cater to little kids who could observe amphibians, reptiles and fish and ask questions from the very engaging staff members.
The Maison de l’eau also rents nautical equipment including paddle boats and kayaks. Though we rented a paddle boat, our adventure didn’t last too long as the boat did not have a harness for our son so we were very nervous despite his wearing a life vest
3.Go to the Granby Zoo
Located about 30 minutues from Sherbrooke, Granby Zoo is one of the largest zoos in Canada that also includes a water park. With more than 1000 different animals grouped into 200 species, you may need to block off an entire a day to experience all that the zoo has to offer.
If you only have a few hours to spare like we did, then focus on a key area of interest. Since our son was keen to see African wild animals we concentrated on Africa Land. Taking the tram across the zoo was a fun way to cover a lot of ground and get an aerial view of the ongoing action with little ones is tow.
Where to Stay in Sherbrooke
Delta Sherbrooke Hotel and Conference Centre: Though the hotel looks like just another corporate building from the outside, you will be surprised by the elegant décor in the inside. The hotel showcases dozens of paintings from local artists and it feels like you’re staying inside a gallery.
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The average cost for a room with two double beds is about $125. Wifi and parking are included.
The hotel is also conveniently located within walking distance from shopping and dining and only a few minutes’ drive from downtown and most of the area’s attractions (Sherbrooke Nature & Science Museum and Parc Lucien Blanchard).
The rooms were spacious with modern fixtures. The hotel also provided a pack and play at no additional cost. The room service menu offered a lot of variety including a children’s menu. There are also two additional in house dining options. Breakfast and lunch are served at Le Murville dining room and a more French influence menu at V.S.O.P. Bar in the evening.
We look forward to coming back to this region for another relaxing vacation focused more on the good food and wine. Have you visited Quebec’s Eastern Townships? If not be sure to include it on your next trip to the area.