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The Hot Spot: Eastern Townships

The Hot Spot: Eastern Townships

Nestled along the Canada–U.S. border, the Eastern Townships, or Les Cantons-de-l’Est, blend English and French-Canadian culture with local food, wine, art and music. The Townships have long been a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and wellness seekers—visitors can luxuriate in surreal outdoor spa experiences, thanks to the area’s lakes, rivers and mountain ranges—but hip new wine bars and distilleries have transformed the region into a contemporary all-season haven. Here, a selection of standout spots to savour while exploring the Townships’ natural beauty.

An overhead shot of various foods on a picnic table.

Best Farm-to-Table Feast 

21 Chemin Taylor, Austin |

Natural wine and locally sourced ingredients reign at this farm-to-table jewel in Austin. Almost every bite comes from the restaurant’s backyard: crudités, seasonal vegetable dishes and wood-fired pizzas dotted with raw-milk cheese. The ethos extends to Parcelles’ gardens, where in the warmer months guests can enjoy an outdoor picnic among the flora.

Best Day Date

100 Chemin Lakeside, Knowlton

Knowlton’s wine-slinging coffee shop has become a favourite among in-the-know residents. Fair-trade coffee and classic espresso beverages are served in the morning, with natural wine and craft beer poured all day long. The menu includes a breakfast burrito with a smoked jalapeño sauce; vegan banh mi; and a classic grilled cheese for only $5. A tip for travellers: linger on the terrace with lunch or a latte. It won’t take long to feel like you’re among friends.

Where to stay: Best Splurge

575 Rue Hovey, North Hatley |

Built in 1900 on the banks of Lake Massawippi, this sophisticated lakeside escape has earned its reputation as a world-class wellness retreat with unparalleled charm. The Mount Vernon–styled estate features 36 rooms, suites and cottages (from $330 a night) that combine modern amenities—like L’Occitane skincare products—with classic country appeal. There’s a Quebec-inspired restaurant on-site, where chef Alexandre Vachon grows and forages ingredients for a hyper-local seasonal menu—try the Lake Saint-Pierre caviar or the eggplant with edible flowers. Outside, guests can enjoy beautifully landscaped gardens, forest bathing in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter.

Where to stay: Best Budget

1087 Rue Main, Ayer’s Cliff |

You’ll find casual comfort food and a cuddled-up rustic atmosphere at this humble auberge. The century-old building houses just 10 cozy guest rooms, starting at $105 per night, outfitted with locally sourced antique furniture and exquisite woodwork—a nod to its history as a former stagecoach house. The pub offers fare like salmon tartare and a smoked meat sandwich on bagnat bread. Guests can enjoy craft beer on the stunning seasonal terrace, with views of a wildflower garden.

Best Locavore Lunch 

41 Rue Principale, Frelighsburg

The frelighsburg brewpub is a wholesome yet cool community gathering place, serving rotating vegetarian and omnivorous options, most of which are harvested from the on-site vegetable garden. The dining room and seasonal patio transform from quaint café to convivial concert hall—this month, check out singer-songwriter Elliot Maginot and raucous rock trio Gros Mené.

Laiterie de Coaticook

1000 Rue Child, Coaticook

Quebec may be known for its butter and cheese, but skipping the ice cream would be a big mistake. This Coaticook parlour is one of the top ice cream makers in the province, largely due to its production sans modified milk ingredients. The facilities include a built-in milk bar where visitors can sample classic and rotating ice cream flavours—for a real Québécois experience, get the maple taffy. 

Best Spa 

883 Route Missisquoi, Bolton-Est |

The scenic splendour of the Eastern Townships is synonymous with high-end wellness. Set at the base of the Missisquoi River falls, this Nordic-inspired spa leans into the natural abundance surrounding the property with outdoor polar baths and riverside massages in heated yurts, scored by the soothing sounds of the river. Treatments include facials, body scrubs and pedicures. 

“​​On the shores of Lac Memphremagog is Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, a spectacular monastery where black-robed monks—whose vocation is award-winning cheese-making—sing services in Gregorian chants. There is, in the basement, a wonderful shop where religious objects sit cheek-by-jowl with cheeses and chocolates and home baking.” – Louise Penny, author  

This article appears in print in the October 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Buy the issue for $8.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $29.99.

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