People often think they know everything about the Laurentides region. Its Parc national d’Oka to the south, its Lac des Deux Montagnes, the Saint-Sauveur and Mont-Tremblant ski resorts, and the cities of Saint-Jérôme and Mirabel. But if you get off the main roads, you quickly realize that the Laurentides region abounds with all sorts of charming places and fascinating people.
It’s impossible to fully explore the Laurentides in just one visit. There is so much to discover and so many leisure activities awaiting you in the “Pays d’en-Haut.” For our excursion, we chose to explore the lowlands, an area that’s often considered the outskirts of Montréal, but that actually has a lot to offer to the curious traveller.
A slice of history
Armed with a cooler in your trunk, take one of the highways (the 13 then the 640, or the 15) that lead to our first stop, Saint-Eustache. Its old district, which has been revitalized in recent years, is home to the oldest working water-powered mill in North America. Set on the banks of the Rivière Chêne, which you can cross by way of a wooden bridge and walk along on a pretty little road, the Moulin Légaré still produces 40 tons of flour per year and is used by millers who’ve been working in the same way for 150 years. Old Saint-Eustache also offers free exhibitions in the Maison Chénier heritage home, themed history tours through its lively little streets and, in good weather, a public market. This makes for a great start to the day before getting back behind the wheel.
A breath of fresh air
As you head along Boulevard Arthur-Sauvé to our next destination, you’ll still feel the urban environment around you, but you leave this behind as soon as you step into the Michel Corbeil nursery. It features a series of lovingly landscaped themed gardens in the back, sure to delight anyone with an appreciation for plants, flowers and tranquility. Bring along a snack and enjoy a peaceful moment in one of the natural areas bursting with colours. Your stress will melt away!
Next up is the Bois de Belle-Rivière regional park in Mirabel. To get there, take Highway 148 West. Along this route, you’ll notice the houses giving way to fields, meadows and undergrowth. Soon you’ll take a right turn onto a dirt road. The park is just a few kilometres ahead and its size and quality facilities are sure to impress: beautifully designed, wooded educational and sports trails, swimming pool and family activities, dog park, astronomy observatory, rental cabins—a fabulous year-round playground! To make the most of it, we recommend eating on site. Two rural roads further on from the park entrance is a simple-looking butcher-charcuterie shop, Boucannerie Belle-Rivière, which makes sausages, delectable smoked meats as well as turkey, pork and beef jerky—its popular specialty.
The Lower Laurentians are known for their vineyards, maple groves and orchards, so it makes sense to include some wine-making and apple production tours on the excursion. As you leave the park, get back onto Highway 148 West and turn left on Rang Saint-Vincent. About 5 km down the road is Québec’s oldest organic vineyard, Négondos. In recent years it has received fewer visitors, no doubt because of the tremendous success of its products—you’ve got to try its sparkling orange JULEP wine, among the best in Québec—but if you do go, the couple operating the vineyard are sure to regale you with lively political or philosophical discussion.
From there, take Chemin du Grand Brûlé. The increasingly hilly roads will lead you to the pretty town of Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, where there are picture-perfect scenes everywhere you turn. It’s here, along Chemin Principale, that the La Bullerie vineyard was founded in 2017. The result of a partnership between a Dunham winemaker and event experts, this estate, dedicated primarily to the production of sparkling wines and to hosting groups of all sizes, boasts superb facilities and a mouth-watering gourmet menu using local products. Definitely worth a visit!
Along Chemin Principale are other wine, cider and spirits producers that are also worth the visit, such as the well-reputed Vergers Lafrance, known for its 100% Québécois Dandy Gin, a delight for mixology enthusiasts, and Les Vents d’Ange, a vineyard that also makes beer and pumpkin-based products. Here, you can admire the beautiful vines with a glass in hand!
Another discovery awaits you across from Les Vents d’Ange. The Tarterie du verger des musiques, named at the time because of the music of the wind in the orchards, looks, from the outside, like an extension of a private home. But inside, this tiny space expertly serves up delectable pies, crumbles, and fruit cookies.
With a snack in hand, head back up Chemin Principal, then up two Montées and along two rural roads, to Rang de l’Annonciation, where you can park in a large yard surrounded by orchards. This is Labonté de la pomme, a farm that produces apples and honey, but that also transformed the sugar shack concept into an apple shack with amazing results. You’ll love the charming old wood home with its adorable dining room and the general store. Here, you can enjoy brunch or lunch or pick up a beautiful picnic basket overflowing with homemade and local products. An address to remember.
A peaceful end to the excursion
Heading along a few more rural roads, you’ll come out onto Highway 344 West, which will take you into Saint-Placide, a small village on the Ottawa River. Park close to the church and walk down to the pier. The view of the river and shoreline is truly superb.
If these contemplative moments gazing out over spectacular scenery have inspired you, perhaps you’d enjoy capping off your adventure with a peaceful visit to the Oka abbey. We discovered delectable cuisine at its cozy Le Sacré bistro, nestled in amongst the stone walls of the monastery.
So have you taken good notes? Now it’s up to you… Enjoy your adventure!
Tourisme Laurentides suggests other stops
Microbrasserie L’Entêté – Drinks – 15400 Rue Charles, Mirabel
Microbrasserie l’Entêté offers a rustic bistro menu in a warm, modern ambiance in the country setting of Domaine Bonaventure.
Microbrasserie Dieu du Ciel ! – Drinks – 248 rue Godmer, Saint-Jérôme
Founded in Montréal in 1998, Microbrasserie Dieu du Ciel ! produces and bottles some of its best beers in Saint-Jérôme. The pub, which has a large window onto the brewery, makes some 20 beers available for tasting in a friendly atmosphere. The menu features local ingredients and smoked meats.
Shawbridge – Microbrasserie et Charcuteries – Drinks – 3023 Boulevard du Curé-Labelle, Prévost
You’ll feel right at home at Shawbridge – Microbrasserie et Charcuteries. They make great beer and tasty food, and you can take out too. A home-grown vegetable garden, fresh ingredients year-round, wood-fired beer crust pizzas, finger-licking tapas and more!
Le Baril Roulant – Drinks – 2434 Rue de l’Église, Val-David and 1885 Chemin du Village, Mont-Tremblant
Two lively, cultural pubs, two addresses! Wide selection of house beers, local spirits, ciders, light meals and tapas. Take part in the many cultural activities: shows, exhibitions, game nights, documentaries and travel lectures. In Val-David, enjoy the sunny patio; at the Mont-Tremblant pub, located on Lac Mercier, children are welcome!
Microbrasserie Saint-Arnould – Drinks – 435 Rue des Pionniers, Mont-Tremblant
Authentic microbrewery in the downtown area of Mont-Tremblant where you can taste original beers brewed on site. Relaxed atmosphere, heated patio, live show, beer specials during the week, lunch menu, children’s menu. You can tour the microbrewery and buy bottled beer to go. St-Arnould—the place to be!
By Sophie Ginoux