Eastern Townships : 10 activities to do

Date: October 1st 2020
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A playground of endless possibilities. The landscape of lakes, rivers and mountains. English-inspired towns and villages. A population of warm and welcoming people.

The Eastern Townships is one of those regions that knows how to surprise and amaze, with each visit. Whether you come to relax, to discover or to venture out, the Townships are the guarantee of a memorable weekend in the country!

The English Townships

The Eastern Townships is a bit like Quebec's Little England. Unlike other regions of Quebec, the Eastern Townships were first inhabited by British Loyalists exiled from the United States after the American War of Independence.

In fact, even the term "Cantons" in French, is a translation of "Townships", the way land was granted by the British. French-speaking Quebec at the time used the French system of ranks instead.

A mixture of town and country

The Eastern Townships is definitely a balanced mix of city and country. Within minutes of the city, you can enjoy any activity you can think of! Skiing, hiking, water sports, golf: the possibilities are endless!

The region is known for its rivers, lakes, mountains and charming villages with English names like Frelighsburg, Cookshire and North Hatley. People come here for the outdoors, the wine industry, the beauty of the landscape or simply to recharge their batteries!

On the other hand, cities like Sherbrooke, Magog and Granby offer a multitude of more urban activities. After all, gastronomy, museums and attractions for the whole family are at the heart of the Townships' tourism offer!

Best times to visit the Eastern Townships

The Eastern Townships is a great destination any time of year. The region's abundance of mountains and waterways means there is always something to do, whether it's 20 degrees or -20 degrees.

Whether you're looking for a beach, a ski resort, a quaint village, great restaurants or a national park, you've come to the right place in the Eastern Townships, no matter the season!

Rent a cottage in the Eastern Townships

With its breathtaking scenery and huge playgrounds, just an hour from Montreal, the Eastern Townships is the perfect place for a cottage getaway! There are cottages by the water, in the mountains and in the woods that can accommodate all your guests.

Whether you're looking for a place to relax or a place to explore the region, you'll find the right cottage rental in the Eastern Townships!

What is there to do in the Eastern Townships?

1) Explore the gorges and rivers

Rivers are particularly important in the Eastern Townships. In fact, most towns and villages in the region are built directly on the banks of at least one river. These rivers have played an important role in the development of the region, supplying mills and hydroelectric power stations.

The Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook is definitely worth a visit! Built on the banks of the Coaticook River, the park offers 19 km of trails, an observation tower, a cave and a 164-foot high suspension bridge. You can go for a walk or ride a mountain bike.

At night, you must try the Foresta Lumina experience, also located in the Park! This impressive 2.6 km multimedia course is unique in Canada and has won Tripadvisor's Certificate of Excellence.

In Sherbrooke, the Magog Gorge Promenade allows you to stroll through the heart of downtown and admire the gorge from all angles. Bridges, footbridges and observation points allow you to admire the impressive dams built in the heart of the city. The Lac-des-Nations tour, linked to the trail, will allow you to discover the heart of Sherbrooke and visit its Marché de la Gare.

2) Take a cruise on the Memphremagog

Would you like to enjoy a unique view of the Eastern Townships? It's aboard the Grand Cru that it happens! A true floating gourmet restaurant, the ship offers several cruise options on Lake Memphremagog, departing from Magog.

In addition to admiring the lake in all its splendor, the scenery that awaits you is breathtaking. On one side, Mount Orford and Owl's Head. On the other, in the distance, the mountains of the Northern United States. Depending on the package you choose, you may even be able to admire the Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey!

Want to continue your visit to Magog? A stroll along the Main River will allow you to visit boutiques, cafés and nice pubs. A stop at the microbrewery La Memphré is a must for local beer lovers!

3) Going for a walk in the mountains

Outdoor activities are available almost everywhere in the Eastern Townships and hiking is no exception! No matter what your level, you will find well-maintained trails offering fabulous views of the region!

Mount Pinnacle is an excellent example! Located a few kilometres from Coaticook, the hike there is easy but offers a sublime view of Lake Lyster and the Vermont mountains. From the top of the mountain, you can even see a treeless strip on the horizon: it's the American border!

Mont-Orford National Park is another playground for outdoor enthusiasts! With over 80 km of hiking trails, the park is one of the best places to hike in the Eastern Townships! Also linked to the Sentiers de l'Estrie, there are more than 200 km of trails available to you!

4) A very Art-Déco Show & Dinner

In the heart of downtown Sherbrooke is the Granada Theatre. A true architectural gem, the building was built in 1928 and its architecture is strongly influenced by the Art Deco movement. Classified as a historical monument, the Granada is a splendid vestige of the Roaring Twenties, as few are left.

Still in operation, the theater sees a multitude of international artists come and go each year. Its dinner and show formula is a real step back in time to the era of cabarets and the jazz age!

5) Practice your Swing

With so much open space, it's not surprising that the Eastern Townships are a destination of choice for golf enthusiasts! The Royal Bromont is the perfect example! Between lakes and mountains, its course varies from 5181 to 7036 yards, which means that golfers of all levels will find what they need!

Near Lake Memphremagog, Owl's Head Golf Course is also a great place to practice your swing! This championship calibre site is located on the western side of Owl's Head Mountain and offers a panoramic view of the region.

6) Head down the Wine Route

The Eastern Townships are the cradle of viticulture in Quebec. Thanks to the microclimate found here, the region is ideal for wine production.

The Wine Route is certainly the most emblematic road trip of the Eastern Townships! Connecting 22 wineries in the western part of the region, it stretches from Farnham to Lac Brôme along 140 km of country roads!

Not only are there magnificent vineyards offering products of unsuspected quality, the circuit is also dotted with local businesses of all kinds. Bistros, bakeries, farms, public markets, microbreweries and many others.

One venture on the Wine Route for the love of wine or to feed one's gastronomic curiosity, or for both!

7) Visit the zoo

The most famous zoo in Quebec is located in the Eastern Townships. With 1500 animals of 225 different species, the Granby Zoo is unlike Joe Exotic.

Ideal for a family field trip, the zoo is home to some of the rarest species in the world. Some are even part of a survival plan for animals with precarious status. Divided into a circuit of four continents, the visit allows you to observe the fauna of Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania.

With its water park and amusement park, the zoo allows you to extend pleasure beyond the animals. Bumper cars, Ferris wheels and even a roller coaster: your kids will talk about the time they saw tigers and rode a ride on the same day!

8) Discover a great table

As you can see, living well is a value that is very dear to the inhabitants of the Eastern Townships! Eating well is no exception! With many great restaurants, a multitude of experimental restaurants and dozens of village cafés, the Townships have something for everyone!

Sherbrooke's Antidote Foodlab is an excellent example of inventive cuisine in a 19th century industrial setting. Located in a former textile factory in the heart of downtown, Antidote reinvents typical Quebec dishes with a unique creative touch.

Le Hatley Restaurant, on the shores of Lake Massawippi, is one of the Eastern Townships' finest restaurants. Offering menus inspired by local harvests and nature. Its famous birch syrup, made from the site's birch trees, is an excellent example. Its dishes of wild mushrooms picked on site are another way to pay tribute to the nature of the Eastern Townships.

At the other end of the spectrum, the La Shop café in Magog is one of the most casual places to go for a quality coffee. Famous for its grilled cheese made from local cheeses, La Shop is also located in a building reminiscent of the Eastern Townships' industrial era. 

9) Discover the history of the snowmobile

Probably the most famous inventor in the Eastern Townships, Joseph-Armand Bombardier lived most of his life in Valcour. It was in his workshop in this small town that he invented the snowmobile and a ton of other fascinating machines.

Today, the original workshop has been expanded into the J. Armand Bombardier Museum of Ingenuity. It features prototypes of Bombardier's first "snowmobiles", which have absolutely nothing to do with modern-day Ski-Doos! It also describes the evolution of the snowmobile from its beginnings to today.

An enriching outing for the whole family, the museum could even awaken the inventive flame of your youngest! Nostalgia is guaranteed for parents!

10) Stargazing in Megantic

Did you know that the Eastern Townships have the most efficient observatory in Canada? From the top of Mont-Mégantic, you can observe one of the starriest skies in Quebec at the ASTROlab of Mont-Mégantic Park.

The International Dark Sky Reserve of Mont-Mégantic covers a 50 km radius around Mont-Mégantic. Since the municipalities located in this radius have reduced their light pollution, we can observe from the top of Mont-Mégantic a breathtaking starry sky!

A visit to the ASTROlab allows you to discover everything about the solar system through exhibits, a cinema of the stars and educational activities. The highlight of the visit? Nightfall, when the immensity of the universe unfolds before your eyes like you've never seen it before!