This article is part of the Montreal News section of the Best day ever daily news.
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City lights are enthralling, but not far from Montréal—about 2 hours’ drive away—are a handful of villages that will enchant you in a whole new way. When the need for a fun drive arises and you want to soak up some boreal forest vistas, pack up and set out for a daytrip of weekend getaway to the Outaouais, home to three beautiful villages packed with sights, shops, activities and adventures. The natural beauty you’ll enjoy on the drive is special—especially during the fall colours season.
This municipality officially founded in 1878 is probably most famous as the location of the Fairmont Le Château Montebello hotel and its golf course, but also for its charming village and its Main Street boutiques, food shops and breweries. Montebello is surrounded by stunning greenery, so make time for a fall-time hike (especially at the Plaisance Falls, to amaze at their 67-metre drop). Mountain bikers and kayak or canoe fans will also find their bliss in the area.
Fairmont Le Château Montebello is the world’s largest log cabin-slash-castle and a wonderful place to start, if only for a restorative signature cocktail enjoyed by its central 360-degree open fireplace (arguably the coziest place to chill out in the province). For an outdoor adventure, head to Parc Oméga—a drive-through zoo featuring Canadian animals in their natural habitat—or Kenauk Nature, one of the oldest and largest hunting and fishing grounds in North America, and a great spot to kayak, mountain bike and more. After a stop at the great local cheese shop (among the many gourmet delicacies) Fromagerie de Montebello and the absolute chocolate heaven of Chocomotive, refuel at the Brasseurs de Montebello microbrewery, makers of creative seasonal brews as well as classic beers, where you can also enjoy next-level food.
This village at the entrance of Gatineau Park (just 10 km from Ottawa, by the way, so make a little detour if you haven’t yet been) was founded in 1875 and mixes a solid dose of historical charm with its modern amenities. From art galleries to unique boutiques, cafés, breweries and eateries, Chelsea has got a cozy lifestyle vibe that’s great to explore after all the outdoorsy fun to be had in the kilometres of lush surrounding greenery. It’s a must-stop spot for lovers of hiking, mountain biking and adventure sports.
Start your Chelsea visit with a hike through Gatineau Park. Its 360+ square kilometres are used for all outdoorsy sports year-round; don’t miss the Mackenzie King Estate, Champlain Lookout and Luskville Falls on your trek. For a hit of outdoorsy adventure head to Camp Fortune, an aerial park and zipline play zone that’s full of thrills and spills—including a mountain coaster. After that, treat yourself to a chill session at Nordik Spa-Nature—it’s the biggest nature spa of its kind in North America, with 10 outdoor baths, 9 saunas, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, a restaurant (and even a beer garden). For a sweet dessert, Biscotti & cie is a lovely pastry- and coffeeshop where you can also get pizzas and sandwiches, and for a celebratory pit-stop, settle in for an evening at Chelsea Pub: this gastropub has a beguiling selection of home brews to accompany its hearty pub fare. (Try one of their mile-high burgers.)
This picturesque village was founded in 1830, which you can tell by Wakefield’s Old Town where the sense of historic heritage mixes with unique new spots to discover, including a rich arts and boutiques. The village is bordered by the splendid hills of Gatineau Park on one side and Gatineau River on the other, making it a kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, horse-riding and hiking destination.
After crossing the famous Wakefield Covered Bridge start your exploration in the great outdoors at Éco-Odyssée Nature Park, home to a 6 km aquatic maze that you can explore by kayak, canoe or paddleboat. Relax after your adventure with a spa session (or a meal at the restaurant) of Moulin Wakefield Mill Hôtel & Spa, a hotel located in a 1838 flour mill. Other food options include the Nikosi Bistro Pub, which offers traditional French-Canadian cooking with a modern Indigenous twist (picture blueberry Bannock grilled cheese and duck poutine), or, for sweets, La Confiserie Wakefield: they’ve got homemade chocolates, fudge, sponge toffee and more. For a shopping fix, Khewa is a boutique and art gallery featuring contemporary work by Indigenous, Inuit and Métis artists and makers.