A free, well maintained area to explore a wetlands in Magog, Quebec, in the Eastern Townships. The walk can be as short or long as you want and is on boardwalks all the way, and of course the price is right - free!
The abbey is near the town of Austin - just over 20km from Magog. We took Chemin des Peres along which there is a great panorama of Magog. Also, don't miss the view of the abbey from the road just before reaching Austin where you turn left on Chemin Fisher. The architecture is beautiful. The grounds look nice too but people are not permitted to wander around most areas.
There is a store in the basement that sells artisanal products made by the monks. The Benedictine blue cheese is a delicious mild blue cheese which finally made me like blue cheese. There are also other cheeses, apple ciders, honeys, cds of the monks' gregorian chants, etc.
The hall to the chapel? is beautiful. We went for the 5pm Vespers chants. I found it beautiful but very low so hard to hear well. They also have chants at 7:30am in the morning.
You can stay at the abbey too at very affordable rates but separate quarters for men and women.
Knowlton is a historic village on the south side of Lac Brome. It's about 40km from Magog - should take about 40 min to get there. Walk around the main street and see the historic buildings (I think there is a heritage route). The library looks really nice although we didn't get a chance to go in. But I am planning on going back just to while away some time there.
This is a lavendar farm in Fitch Bay - about 15 min from Magog. Fitch Bay is not available as a location so I'm listing it under Magog. The farm grows several varieties of lavendar for use as ingredients in edible and non-edible products. A tour cost us $5 each. There's a good film about how they set up the farm in this unlikely area as a labour of love. If you time it right, you can also see them stuff the boiler full lavender to get the essential oils out. Probably the best time to come is at the end of July when the lavendar is in full bloom. We saw partially cut lavendar on Aug 9 2008. You can also picnic here anytime. There is a store on location where you can purchase their products - moisturizers, spritzers, teas, honey, shampoo for your spoiled but soon to be fragrant dog, etc. You can also order their products online or get them at several retailers throughout Quebec, including the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau (across the river from Ottawa).
This is not really off the beaten path. This is actually another village 15km away from Magog but the location is not available at this time in virtual tourist. The drive should take 15min but took us an hour because I had to stop to take pictures along the way! It's a picturesque little place at the northern tip of Lac Massawippi. The downtown area is situated right at the tip and there are little shops here well worth a visit for local crafts and produce. There were some really funky cast iron tea kettles. Buy some gourmet baked goods, deli items, or get a freshly made panini at Saveurs et Gourmandises (the croissants and chocolatines are brought in from Montreal) and take it down to the waterfront park to eat. There are a couple of ice cream shops too. When we were there, there was a band playing in the park gazebo.
The 2 sides of the lake are lined with beautiful homes - we were told the east side is old money, the west side is new.
A great place to stay - although can expensive if you want the good rooms - is Manoir Hovey. It's a renovated old mansion right on the lake with a heated pool with barservice and beautiful gardens. We managed to get a lakeside room with large balcony. Beautiful views. Dinner and breakfast was included and should not be missed. The dinner was absolutely exquisite! The chef put together tastes that complented each other perfectly. Cheese cart was extra but worth it. This region makes excellent cheeses. Try the Benedictine Blue even if you don't like blue cheese - it changed my life. Service is excellent and gratuities included.
You can also use their kayaks and canoes for a paddle on the lake. For more land-based exercise, you can bike into North Hatley (10 min) and from there catch the Route Verte and head towards Lennoxville and visit Bishops University or if you're in shape, all the way to Sherbrooke. You can also bike back to Magog but we didn't do this route. If you get tired on the way, call the Velo Taxi (we tried this but they took too long to get to us so we ended up just biking back).
There are B&Bs you can stay at too in North Hatley - some even on the water.
For cultural entertainment, check out the Piggery Theatre http://www.piggery.com/. It's an English language theatre group in the area.
A two-hour drive from Magog will take you to the charming rural town of Dunham, best known for its award-winning wineries. Most of them are located along Route 202 and offer free tastings, gift shops and fine dining. My favorite winery is L'Orpailleur - their different wines have won several national and international awards, you should really give it a try!
A two-hour drive from Magog will take you to the elegant Victorian village of Knowlton, famous for its Loyalist heritage and Anglo-Saxon ambience. Enjoy a walk down Main Street; you will be impressed by the quantity and quality of its restaurants, boutiques and antique shops. Don't miss the Victorian days (Victoria Day weekend) and Duck Festival (early fall)!