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lgbtq travel eastern townships

The outdoors (or at least looking at nature) is a big part of the appeal of the Eastern Townships. Credit: Ian Roberge/Tourisme Cantons-de-l’Est

Nestled between the St. Lawrence River’s south shore lowlands and the mountainous borders of Vermont and Maine, just south of Montreal, Quebec’s Eastern Townships are a collection of small communities that delight LGBTQ2S+ travellers with their culture, cuisine and comfort.

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What makes this area of Quebec, also called Estrie, so special is its proximity not only to outdoor attractions—dark sky preserves, rolling hills, Appalachian peaks and pristine lakes—but also to villages, many of them founded after the American Revolution. These charming throwbacks are full of the trappings of modern life, including LGBTQ2S+-friendly attitudes.

STARTING OUT IN SHERBROOKE

Central to this region’s appeal is the city of Sherbrooke, which has for decades been called the queen of the Eastern Townships. Located at the meeting of the Saint-François and Magog rivers, it is home to several cultural attractions, including the Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts (241 Rue Dufferin, Sherbrooke), which focuses on art from across the province, and the Sherbrooke Nature and Science Museum (225 Rue Frontenac, Sherbrooke), which has more than 65,000 objects and specimens in its collection.

Sherbrooke is also the queen as an LGBTQ2S+ hub. The city has hosted Fière la fête/Sherbrooke Pride (September 9 to 15, 2024) for more than a decade and is home to groups like GRIS Estrie, which promotes better knowledge of sexual and gender diversity (it hosts events like a special prom night each May for LGBTQ2S+ people). For a period of time there were even two gay bars in town, Les grands-Ducs de Wellington and Bar L’Otrezone, which closed in 2019 and 2022 respectively. These days most of the queer community hangs out at Boquébière Microbrasserie (50 Rue Wellington Nord, Sherbrooke) a downtown brewpub known as Le Boq that hosts live events such as DJs and improv.  

The city is also young and educated. More than 10 percent of Sherbrooke’s roughly 181,000 inhabitants are post-secondary students attending any of the eight institutions located in the city. This has resulted in a welcoming community that celebrates diversity, inclusion and creativity.

OTHER TOWNS AND VILLAGES TO TOUR

Along with Sherbrooke, there are three other communities you should visit while in the Eastern Townships that capture life in this corner of Quebec.

The first is Knowlton (part of the municipality of Lac-Brome), which is the inspiration for the fictional town of Three Pines, the stomping ground of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in the mystery novels written by Canadian author Louise Penny, who lives in the area. (The books have been adapted into a television series streaming on Amazon Prime starring actor Alfred Molina.)

Stop in at Brome Lake Books (45 Chemin Lakeside, Knowlton) to visit the story’s Three Pines corner, which is filled with copies of the novels and memorabilia.

Or sign up for guided excursions with Three Pine Tours, which May through October will take you to the real-life locations that were transformed for the novels.

Knowlton also has the Lac-Brome Museum (130 Rue Lakeside, Knowlton), which focuses on local history. If you’re that kind of gay, there are also several antique stores, including Peter E. Baker Antiques (14a Chemin St. Paul, Knowlton) and Lebel Objet Antique (7 Chemin du Mont-Écho, Knowlton).

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Nearby Sutton was founded in the 1800s by United Empire Loyalists, residents of the 13 colonies who remained loyal to the British during the American Revolution. Self-guided audio tours, available through the town’s website, can enlighten you on its rich history. But most visitors come to window-shop and visit the quaint shops, galleries and restaurants that line the main thoroughfare, Rue Principale Nord. Sutton is also home to Mont Sutton (671 Rue Maple, Sutton), a popular destination for winter skiing and other outdoor activities. During the summer, the mountain is a popular spot for hiking and biking—they have an onsite mountain bike school and rentals.

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Lennoxville, which is essentially a suburb of Sherbrooke, possesses a New England college town vibe and is home to Bishop’s University, a small but renowned English-language liberal arts institution with a campus worth touring.

The Uplands Cultural and Heritage Centre (9 Rue Speid, Sherbrooke), located in an 1862 Neo-Georgian home, houses historical artifacts and exhibits of local art and crafts. The centre showcases the diversity of the community and hosts a dainty high tea with a selection of scones, sandwiches and other treats

 Golden Lion Pub (2902 Rue College, Sherbrooke), founded in 1973, is a popular town-and-gown spot, and in 1986 it became the first microbrewery to operate in the province.

WHERE TO STAY IN THE REGION

Auberge West Brome (128 Chemin West Brome, Route 139, West Brome). This country hotel, spa and restaurant, set in rolling farmland, is a short drive from Mont Sutton and features 20 rooms split between three buildings.

They not only have a spa but also a sauna, jacuzzi, gym and indoor heated pool.

The restaurant, Bistro West Brome, is among the best in the Eastern Townships and features dishes made using local ingredients, including those grown in its onsite garden. Try the beet carpaccio with herbed cream cheese and walnut vinaigrette, or the maple and cider braised lamb shank with roasted garlic and mashed potatoes.

Hôtel Versō (1150 Rue Principale Ouest, Magog). This recently remodelled 54-room hotel is located on the shores of Lake Memphremagog—rumoured to be home to a mysterious Loch Ness Monster–like creature named Memphre. The mid-century modern space is decorated with retro records from the 1960s and 1970s featuring some of Quebec’s singing legends. The hotel is also home to Mediterranean restaurant Kóz, its menu inspired by traditional Greek and Turkish dishes. Innovative signature cocktails.

Le Pleasant Hôtel & Café (1 Rue Pleasant, Sutton). Founded seven years ago by a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, this spot has since received several awards.

The 10-room hotel is located in a Victorian home in the community of Sutton and features an onsite café that serves breakfast, brunch and gourmet treats using local ingredients and products, and micro-roast coffees and fine teas. The hotel has also partnered with several area businesses to offer stay packages, including with the local ski resort and Balnea Spa (319 Chemin du Lac Gale, Bromont), a lake-side wellness retreat with Finnish saunas, Turkish baths and outdoor hot tubs with salt water.

Grand Times Hotel Sherbrooke (1 Rue Belvédère Sud, Sherbrooke). A modern, New York City–inspired accommodation with views of the Lac des Nations. Guest amenities include a continental breakfast, indoor heated pool and gym.

WHAT TO DO

Explore the Eastern Townships by heading out on one of the scenic drives through the region. The Chemin des Cantons (Townships Trail) includes suggested routes that focus primarily on historic homes, round barns and covered bridges, or heritage tours of specific communities or regions. Audio clips available from the trail website or through Spotify provide information on topics including the traditions of the local Indigenous peoples, the Abenaki, and the effects of the First World War on the local inhabitants.

Les Route des Vins highlights different vineyards that can be toured by car or bicycle. Among the 22 vineyards on the trail is Le Vignoble du Ruisseau (4500 Chemin Strobl, Dunham), a winery that uses geothermal heat to extend the growing season of its grapes. More than half of the ingredients used by the winery’s restaurant come from its farm and gardens. 

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You can take in all things celestial at the ASTROLab (189 Route du Parc, Notre-Dame-des-Bois) in Mont Megantic National Park, about an hour’s drive east of Sherbrooke. The centre is located in a dark sky preserve and features multimedia exhibits dedicated to the stars.

There is no vehicle more synonymous with Quebec than the snowmobile, which was invented by Joseph-Armand Bombardier in the 1930s. He was born in the Eastern Townships community of Valcourt, which is home to the J. Armand Bombardier Ingenuity Museum (1001 Ave. J.-A.-Bombardier, Valcourt). It houses more than 3,000 artifacts related to the development of the snowmobile and its place in Quebec history.

Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac (1 Rue Principale, Saint-Benoît-du-Lac) is a Benedictine monastery founded more than a century ago next to Lake Memphremagog. Around 30 monks still live and work at the monastery, which is home to a store that sells locally crafted products, including cheeses, spreads and ciders. Guided tours are available.

Mont-Orford National Park (200 Chemin du Camping, Orford) has more than 58 square kilometres of mature forests, lakes and rolling mountains. Grab your hiking boots and hit the 80-kilometre network of trails that range from easy to difficult.

Les Løges (181 Chemin Tomifobia, Stanstead). Each of these thermal lodges is surrounded by forests and includes a personal spa space, dry sauna, hammam and cold-water waterfall where you can indulge in hot and cold treatments.

WHERE TO EAT

Restaurant Auguste (82 Rue Wellington Nord, Sherbrooke), in operation since 2008, is considered among the best restaurants in Quebec. Sit at one of its tables or at the bar and watch as your meal is prepared in front of you in the open kitchen. Mouth-watering menu items include the homemade black pudding and confit duck leg.

Mollies Café Dinette Buvette (9 Rue Principale Nord, Sutton) is the perfect spot to stop for lunch after a morning spent exploring. It’s known for filling soups and sandwiches, as well as fresh juices and made-to-order smoothies.

Bistro Kapzak (108 Rue Principale, Granby) often finds itself on lists of the best places to eat in the Eastern Townships, with its clever mix of Polish and Québécois flavours. The supper menu includes items like marinated herring in a beer vinegar. Lactose-free and gluten-free options are available.

With three locations throughout the Eastern Townships (3219 Rue Principale Ouest, Magog; 875 Rue Belvédère Sud, Sherbrooke; and 871 Rue Shefford, Bromont), Comme Chez Soi, or “like home,” is known for its comfort-food menu. Classics like lobster bisque, fried mussels in an assortment of sauces and braised lamb shank beg to be ordered. It is also bring-your-own-wine friendly.

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Luxury Travel Exclusive News PinkTicketTravel / When To Enjoy All The Things To Do in QUEBEC’S ? / By DEAN LISK / pinktickettravel.com/ Editing Text Travel Exclusive / Sedat Karagoz / Istanbul,New York Travel,Tourism News Office / Janbolat Khanat / Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office

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Luxury Travel Exclusive News PinkTicketTravel / When To Enjoy All The Things To Do in QUEBEC’S ? / By DEAN LISK / pinktickettravel.com/ Editing Text Travel Exclusive / Sedat Karagoz / Istanbul,New York Travel,Tourism News Office / Janbolat Khanat / Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office

This news has been rearranged and published with the pinktickettravel.com/press release subscription.

 

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