Our Guide to the Perfect Weekend Getaway in the Outaouais

Photo by Landon Entwistle

Until recently, I knew nothing of the Outaouais, the region in western Quebec that abuts the next province, Ontario. From New York, a flight to Ottawa—which just across the river from the Québécois town of Gatineau—takes under two hours. This lively four-season region is perfect for everything from leaf-peeping to dog-sledding. Here’s how to plan your weekend getaway.

Where to Stay

View this post on Instagram

Niché entre les arbres, la forêt et la rivière des Outaouais, le Château Montebello se veut un havre de paix qui célèbre la culture canadienne dans toute sa splendeur, et ce, depuis maintenant 90 ans! Vous offrirez-vous l’expérience de notre château en bois rond cette année? Visitez le lien dans notre bio pour découvrir nos offres spéciales du 90e anniversaire. _____ Nestled between the trees, the forest and the Ottawa River, Château Montebello celebrates the Canadian culture in all it’s splendour – for already 90 years! Will you be experiencing our log cabin this year? Visit the link in our bio to discover our exclusive 90th anniversary promotions. 🎉 #FairmontMontebello #FairmontHotels

A post shared by Fairmont Le Château Montebello (@fairmontmontebello) on

Depending on how far you’re willing to trek from civilization, there are numerous luxe-but-still-affordable accommodation options in the Outaouais. The stunning Hilton Lac-Leamy boasts blown glass art installations in the lobby from master craftsman Dale Chihuly (as well as a year-round, heated indoor/outdoor pool, a spa, a casino, and a stunning view of Lac-Leamy Park. Less than an hour east, you’ll find the Fairmont Le Château Montebello. Constructed in 1930, this recently renovated hotel is the largest log building in the world. The main lobby’s towering central fireplace, with its multiple faces, makes this cozy and historic hotel the perfect place for a winter getaway.

Where to Eat

While you’re in Montebello, stop by ChocoMotive, a bespoke chocolate shop with handmade treats that will win over even the most hardened chocolate hater. Dinner at the Fairmont’s Aux Chantignoles, held in a sweeping dining room with stone accents, is a formal, delicious affair. Trout is sourced from the nearby Kenauk Nature Preserve, which runs a hatchery. In the town of Chelsea, enjoy superlative pizzas at the informal-yet-perfect Biscotti & Cie. Save room for dinner at Arôme Seafood and Grill, where you’ll be greeted by a meat locker filled with 70-day dry-aged beef, and where, on Tuesdays, all bottles of wine over $100 are half-price. In town, Le Cellier serves some of the most inventive and delicious tartares I have ever sampled, including a duck tartare studded with crunchy cornichons and a bison tartare amplified by sun-dried tomatoes.

What to Do

Near the Fairmont, you’ll find the endlessly impressive Kenauk Nature, which boasts 65,000 acres of land, including forests, lakes, flora, and fauna. The privately owned preserve offers opportunities to fish, hike, swim, canoe, and partake in any number of outdoor activities, irrespective of the season. Private chalets on the property can be rented for as little as a few hundred dollars a night. When you’re done climbing the four-season tower, or clay shooting, or dog-sledding, warm up in the floating sauna, which can be docked outside of any of the property’s accommodations for an evening—or longer.

Outside of Gatineau, you’ll find the one-of-a-kind Nordik Spa, the largest spa in North America. The sprawling space is home to indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, and steam rooms, as well as a Dead Sea-style salt pool so saline that it’s impossible not to float in it (there are only two pools like this in the world). Twenty minutes of floating, I’m told, amounts to three hours of sleep, so you’ll leave the pool feeling fully rested. Gatineau is also home to nearly 90,000 acres of gorgeousness at Gatineau Park, where visitors can hike around the unusually blue Pink Lake, a meromictic lake that gets its turquoise color from the presence of a specific type of algae. 

No matter the season, the Outaouais lives up to expectations. And it’s so close to New York, how can you not book a trip? This winter (and spring, and summer, and fall) wonderland is yours to explore.

Read more: Now Is the Perfect Time for a Weekend Getaway to Montreal