Active living and sports are all the rage in Quebec’s most popular cottage regions, with such pursuits as hiking and mountain biking and, come the frosty season, alpine skiing and snowshoeing within minutes of many properties. But even if you’re immersed in a natural setting – thick woods, rolling hills and clear lakes – that can make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, the sweet reality is that you’re never far from picturesque towns and villages with such urban comforts as award-wining cuisine and cultural offerings (how about live theatre or music on a Saturday night?). Head to the chalet and get away from it all – but with a bit of the city, should you so choose, embedded in the experience. Here are three hotspots in la belle province.
Located within an hour’s drive north of downtown Ottawa, this forest-stippled area is punctuated with spring-fed lakes, many of which are ringed by sandy shores that make good swimming spots for the whole family and rich fishing grounds for the cottager hungry to catch a bass. The region is home to the easily accessible Gatineau Park, drawing cottagers and day-trippers alike looking to shake a leg, be it on a leisurely stroll down wide paths or a more hardcore hike up hilly terrain. While the Outaouais is mainly considered for summer cottaging, winter here has its draws, including Gatineau’s 200-plus-kilometre network of groomed cross-country ski tracks and snowshoe paths that crisscross Gatineau Park. What’s more, with Quebec being the self-proclaimed snowmobile capital of the world (the machine was invented in the province, after all), it’s no surprise the Outaouais alone boasts some 2,000 kms of skidoo trails. The pretty towns of Chelsea, Wakefield and Val-des-Monts – with restaurants for when you don’t feel like firing up the barbecue – are only minutes away by car.
A two-bedroom waterfront log cabin on Lac Simon might start at $150,000, while a five-bedroom year-round cottage on Lac Rheaume can have an asking price of over $500,000, with the added bonus that you’re only 25 kilometres away from alpine action at Edelweiss ski resort and, a little farther on, at Mont Tremblant. On Lac Gagnon, a relatively new three-bedroom sells in the range of $300,000 to $375,000. In general, multiply the number of bedrooms by $100,000, and you get a pretty good idea of how much you’d need to shell out here.
The Laurentian Mountains stretch in a west-east direction across much of the province, north of the St. Lawrence River. For the purpose of cottaging, though, the term “the Laurentians” is commonly used to indicate the specific geographic area that’s sitting in the hills an hour and a half northwest of Montreal, with Mont Tremblant the epicentre of property transactions. “A true four-season destination, Tremblant has champion-ship golf courses, cross-country-ski trails, mountain biking and downhill skiing. And with the town hosting the Ironman this summer, it’s about to become a destination for road biking, too,” says Amélie Galarneau, a real estate agent with Royal LePage Mont Tremblant. The area is peppered with lakes, including the large Lac-Tremblant-Nord boasting paddle boarding, canoeing and cruising. For those with restless-leg syndrome, the Parc National du Mont Tremblant offers beginner and expert trails for mountain bikers, as well as a network of hiking paths. A mecca for downhill enthusiasts, the Tremblant slopes are a big draw for cottagers from not only Montreal but also Ottawa, which is just over an hour and half away.
Sought after by high-rollers looking for a property with ski-in/ski-out access, Tremblant does have properties for every budget. “You can find a single-family house for under $275,000,” says Galarneau. “But if you want a lakefront close to the resort, you have to budget at least $500,000.” Half of the market for her office is from Ontario, and with direct flights from the Toronto island airport Torontonians looking for an escape are in a sense closer to a chalet in Mont Tremblant than they’d be if they had to drive from Toronto to a cottage on, say, the French River.
The Eastern Townships
Hugging the U.S. border just over an hour’s drive southeast of Montreal, the Eastern Townships is more of a family affair than Mont Tremblant. For the most part, the topography here resembles that of a pancake, with the odd mountain popping out of the flats, and there aren’t as many little lakes as north of the St. Lawrence. The bigger lakes, including Massawippi, Brome and Memphremagog, are the ones with the most attractive cottaging. Plus a property on Memphremagog , a glacial lake that stretches into Vermont, gives you the chance to spot wildlife that’s a bit out of the ordinary – Memphre, a giant, serpent-like monster, is reported to ply the waters. The area offers more than hundreds of kilometres of marked bike trails, some for adrenaline-packed downhill rides and others for more leisurely country cruising. There a water park and golf courses, as well as equestrian centres. What’s more, Quebec’s Wine Route, a road that links more than a dozen wineries, wends it’s way through the Townships, letting you pair your new discoveries with locally produced food – gourmet with a decidedly French accent. With a cottage in this area, you’re close to the makers of ice cider, Quebec’s answer to Ontario’s ice wine. Come winter, you’re close to no less than four ski resorts, including Ski Bromont, which offers night skiing every day of the week, making it the largest lit ski terrain in North America.
In Mégantic, you can get a winterized four-bedroom cottage for under $400,000, with lake access and proximity to an astronomy observatory for taking in the night sky. Over in Magog, a one-bedroom bungalow can go for under $100,000 if you’re lucky, but most properties with water access will set you back around $300,000 for a three-bedroom chalet.
Want to give Quebec a try? Search for a rental in The Outaouais, Laurentians, or Eastern Townships at CottageLife.com/Rentals.