Slowing down on vacation isn’t easy, but Nordic spas, eco-resorts and foraging excursions in the forest certainly help. We found all that and more in Quebec’s Laurentians region. —Katie Nanton
STAY & PLAY Two hours northwest of Montreal lies Farouche-Tremblant, a luxury eco-resort in picturesque Devil’s River Valley with seven cosy A-frame cabins (each sleeps a pair) and a central Farm Bar where guests can read, sip lattes (or natural wine) and shop for pickled beets, Quebecois cheeses and vegetables grown on-site. The resort provides paddleboards and e-bikes in the warmer months, snowshoes and skis in the winter and ready-made meals for guests to cook al fresco on grills. We loved returning to “camp” after a day of adventure for an at-dusk soak in the hot tub before bundling into woolly blankets and Adirondack chairs to sip regional microbrews under the stars. For a nature-driven property of a slightly larger ilk, check into Le Baluchon Eco-resort in La Mauricie region. With 88 rooms set across four inns and two chalets, the property’s 1,000-acre footprint acts as every guest’s playground, and includes many well-maintained trails, a spa and restaurants. Known for being an ode to the great outdoors, find your perfect savasana on a yoga pavilion overlooking the river; slow down during a scenic horse-drawn carriage ride; or get in your workout by, essentially, cross-country skiing out your front door.
SOAK & SPA Mont-Tremblant is home to the country’s first Scandinave Spa, which is a bliss-for-the-body, bliss-for-the-mind indulgence, sun or snow. Moving from big outdoor hot tubs to ice-cold plunges to cosy relaxation rooms, then repeat the circuit to raise your blood pressure and release toxins (note: no phones and no talking rules are, fabulously, enforced). We spent three hours hot-and-cold dipping, dozing in outdoor hammocks, sipping the chlorophyll-infused water provided and plunging into the cold river nearby for an all-natural reset with pebbles underfoot. As day turned to eve, heat lamps blazed on and couples curled up by outdoor wood fires; we were so blissed-out we had to ask directions to get back to the change rooms. For those looking for a similar experience in a different region, Lanaudiere is home to the mountainside La Source Bains Nordique, which has ultra-modern thermotherapy facilities and relaxation rooms built directly into the rock face to feel utterly at one with nature.
SAVOUR & SIP Take home edible treasures from the Quebecois forest by stopping at Gourmet Sauvage after completing the treetop walk at Le Centier des Cimes; it’s a five-minute walk away on the same property. The label sells 100-plus handpicked products that have been sustainably foraged following a strict code of ethics. Choose from umami-rich wild mushroom Dijon, marinated fiddleheads and sweet clover extract that can be used in place of vanilla. The current bestseller: chanterelle mushroom caramel, delicious over ice cream or brownies. Hungry? La Petite Cachée is the place to indulge in rich, French-inspired cuisine in a chalet-style room—think foie gras parfait, steak frites and key lime pie; try a bottle from the eatery’s Vins Zyromski while you dine.
FORAGE & HIKE Treetop adventure Le Sentier des Cimes is a 2.7-kilometre walk over a portion of the largest mixed (coniferous and deciduous) forest in Canada—and it’s accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, too. The route is punctuated by a panoramic tower with 360-degree views of the Laurentian region as well as a suspended net, 40 metres over the ground, for daring souls to walk over. Another must-visit natural mecca is Mont-Tremblant National Park; bears, wolves and white-tailed deer reside in these parts, but we only pass other happy hikers on the busy climb to La Corniche, a lookout with an elevation of 135 metres. It’s worth the sweat for the sweeping views of the burnt umber, green, and yellow treescape and scattered lakes below. For those who love views but aren’t into hiking, seek out Hydravion Aventure in Saint-Étienne-des-Grès for a 20-minute scenic float-plane ride that takes off on the St. Maurice River and soars above stunning La Mauricie National Park—the beginning of the Canadian Shield.