A Perfect Day in the Eastern Townships

Tucked in the countryside only an hour’s drive east of Montreal, the Eastern Townships offer all-season outdoor adventure. Preserving the area’s Loyalist legacy, this small-scale version of New England à la française – filled with picturesque towns of clapboard cottages, white churches at rural crossroads and covered bridges connected by scenic routes that run through mountains, valleys, organic farms and vineyards – allows for the perfect one-day getaway. Here’s your plan for a summer escape in the area.

July 7, 2020
A person holding a bowl of fresh strawberries from La Rumeur Affamée
La Rumeur Affamée.   Photo: La Rumeur Affamée Sutton
Tartlets, tea and an egg served at La Rumeur Affamée
La Rumeur Affamée.   Photo: La Rumeur Affamée Sutton
La Rumeur Affamée.    Photo: La Rumeur Affamée Sutton
Forests line the edge of the river in Sutton's Parc d’environnement naturel
Parc d’environnement naturel, Sutton.   Photo: D. Guilbert

 

Morning

Start the day off with some fruit picking at Au Paradis des fruits, a 40-hectare family-owned farm in Dunham – the Townships’ oldest town, erected in 1796 – in the Appalachian foothills. Walk through fields stocking up on giant raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, morello cherries and blackberries. Don’t forget to bring some containers, and even an icepack to keep what you harvest fresh throughout the day.

Following a morning in the orchard, head east into the mountain village of Sutton, dubbed one of the Townships’ 13 “Coeur Villageois” – enchanting hamlets that showcase the best the region has to offer, including its local produce. Stop by village hotspot La Rumeur Affamée, an 1860s-style general store and bakery – one can easily see why author Louise Penny drew inspiration from this gem for her bestselling mystery novels – where you’ll find a large selection of artisanal loaves, viennoiseries, local cheeses, cold cuts, pastries and fresh fruit pies. Grab a ham and cheese panini to go before heading for the nearby Sutton mountain range to hit the trails.

Offering over 50 kilometres of trails spanning four peaks, two lakes, ponds, several mountain streams and countless vistas, Sutton’s Parc d’environnement naturel is great for hikers of all levels. First-time visitors looking for a moderate climb should opt for the two-hour Boucle des lacs trail, with superb lookouts over the region, including Lake Spruce – the ideal setting to enjoy a pick-me-up sandwich and your freshly-picked berries.
 

Barrels of wine in the cellar of Vignoble du Ruisseau
Dark blue grapes from the Vignoble du Ruisseau
Vignoble du Ruisseau.   Photos: Vignoble du Ruisseau
The exterior of the Vignoble du Ruisseau main building
Vignoble du Ruisseau.   Photo: Vignoble du Ruisseau

Afternoon

For a throwback experience, head towards East Farnham to cross the Freeport bridge – the oldest covered bridge in the Brôme-Missiquoi area – which crosses the Yamaska River, connecting East Farnham to Cowansville. Built in 1870, the photogenic red barn-looking structure is a distinctive junction in the area. East Farnham was developed in the early 1800s by Quaker families, and remnants of old-world charm are still found in the quaint village today.

Next, drive south for 25 minutes for an afternoon of wine tasting at Vignoble du Ruisseau, a 7.5-hectare family-owned vineyard and winery nestled in Dunham’s hilly countryside – the grand white Georgian-style building with black shutters is known as one of the province's most charming estates. Thanks to a unique geothermal system that protects vines from winter frost, the Gaston family is able to grow noble grapes like pinot noir, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and riesling, among others. Double-check opening hours for the tasting room before going because you’ll want to spend the rest of the afternoon sampling (and buying) their latest vintages and relaxing on the outdoor terrace to the sound of the creek.
 

A glass of beer from Brasserie Dunham being held over a blue skull coaster
Brasserie Dunham.   Photo: Brasserie Dunham
An arched entrance to the BOHO Boutique-Hostel
BOHO Boutique-Hostel.   Photo: BOHO Dunham
Chic earth-toned bedrooms at the BOHO Boutique-Hostel
BOHO Boutique-Hostel.   Photo: BOHO Dunham
BOHO Boutique-Hostel.    Photo: BOHO Dunham

 

Evening

End your summer outing over a Northern shrimp roll and craft beers at renowned Brasserie Dunham, one of only three microbreweries in Canada to have made RateBeer’s international top 100 breweries list, for five consecutive years. Take a seat on their intimate courtyard patio, enclosed by tall brick walls and hanging vines and enjoy the old-town vibe while you sample a Pale Ale, an IPA or one of their fruit beers. Instead of making your way back to the city, call it a night at the brand-new BOHO Boutique-Hostel, conveniently located just above the brewery. The Cali-boho décor of the all-white rooms – in which serape throws and cactuses add a subtle colour splash – and affordable rates make it the perfect spot to unwind after a day of exploring in the Townships.

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