Canada

Finding the Most Charming Villages in the Eastern Townships, Québec

Full of farmland, soft rolling hills, crystal-clear lakes and mountains. It’s a nature lovers paradise- perfect for outdoor and sport enthusiasts. Not to mention the wineries and fruit orchards delighting any foodie traveller. But, best of all, are the most charming villages, known as Les Coeurs Villageois. Coeurs in French means heart, and these villages definitely have that!

There are 13 designated Les Coeurs Villageois dotted throughout the Eastern Townships. This entire area, made up of nine uniquely different regions, borders Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine in the US begins 80km southeast of Montréal

To earn the special title of Les Coeurs Villageois they have to be incredibly welcoming to visitors. They go out of their way to showcase the best of what they have to offer- from products to culture. Each one having something unique to offer to visitors. 

I visited 10 of the 13 Les Coeurs Villageois, as well as some other charming places and here are the best of the best for your visit to the Eastern Townships.

Dunham

Dunham is surrounded by picturesque rural landscape and wineries.

Population: 3,525 | Settled in 1796

Located in the Brome-Missisquoi region

Designated as a Les Coeurs Villageois 

At the centre of Dunham is a heritage building dating back to 1865. The former coaching inn has been restored into an artisan gallery and Dunham’s very own microbrewery. That, plus Dunham’s rich history and incredible scenic views of the mountains make this a must-visit village.

  • Where to drink: Dunham microbrewery and the surrounding wineries like Vignoble du Ruisseau, Domaine Côtes d’Ardoise, The Orpailleur, Val Caudalies, and Clos Ste-Croix
  • What to do: Visit the orchard – Domaine de Dunham – and pick your own fruit or stop in on their market shop
  • Where to eat: L’Épicerie-Café Dunham 

Frelighsburg

Population 1,100 | Settled in 1790

Located in Brome-Missisquoi region

Nestled at the foot of Mount Pinnacle close to the Vermont border sits the lovely village of Frelighsburg. The roads that lead you there are sprinkled with apple orchards. But it will be the church steeple peaking out over the trees that leads you to the town’s main hub. Once there, it becomes obvious why it’s considered one of the most beautiful small towns in Québec.

  • Where to eat: Café de Village, the once historic general store, is known for its specialty maple syrup pie or Beat & Betterave is part café and part cultural centre featuring local artists’ work
  • What to do: visit the historic Grammar School built in 1856 now serving as the tourism office
  • Where to shop: Oneka which features organic body care products

Brome Lake

Brome Lake is the merger of seven hamlets and villages – Bondville, East Ville, Foster, Fulford, Iron Hill, Knowlton and West Brome.

Population: 5,590 | Settled in 1792-1797

Located in the Brome-Missisquoi region

Designated as Les Coeurs Villageois 

Lac-Brome or Brome Lake is where art and history meet. The town served as the inspiration for crime novelist Louise Penny’s famous village of Three Pines. With its deep historic roots you will find many museums, self-guided historical trails and even an antique circuit. It’s also an area full of delicious eateries and gourmet shops. My favourite was Domenica – a little Italy Grocery shop. There’s no mistaking it, Brome Lake definitely deserves its Les Coeurs Villageois status. Don’t pass this one by.

  • What to do: Head to Douglass beach or Brome Lake or visit a lavender farm at Joie de Lavande
  • Where to eat: Le Relais Bistro, Bistro West Brome, Le Sapin or Quilliams
  • Best village and hamlet to visit: Knowlton! It’s a pretty little village that is a must-see
  • Where to drink: Leon Courville winery or La Knowlton Co. microbrewery

Sutton

At the foot of Mont Sutton, sits a typical alpine village. Sutton in Quebec is full of eateries and shops catering to outdoor enthusiasts. It’s a lively town, full of cyclists and hikers (in summer) and skiers (in winter) making it a resting spot for a quick bite to eat and relax.
At the foot of Mont Sutton, sits a typical alpine village. Sutton in Quebec is full of eateries and shops catering to outdoor enthusiasts. It’s a lively town, full of cyclists and hikers (in summer) and skiers (in winter) making it a resting spot for a quick bite to eat and relax.

Sutton is a mountain village, famous for its year-round outdoor activities, especially alpine skiing at Mont Sutton.

Population: 4,000 | Settled in 1792

Located in the Brome-Missisquoi region

Designated as Les Coeurs Villageois 

At the foot of Mont Sutton, sits a typical alpine village. Full of eateries and shops catering to all the outdoor enthusiasts who flock to this area. It’s a lively town, full of cyclists and hikers (in summer) and skiers (in winter). Sutton has a great selection of eateries and shopping for all your outdoor and sport gear.   

  • Where to eat: Le Pleasant Hotel & Café, La Gallette for their sweet or savory crepes
  • What to do: endless trails for cycling, mountain biking, hiking and cross-country skiing, plus downhill skiing at Mont Sutton
  • Where to drink: Auberge Sutton Brouërie, L’Abordage Microbrasserie, Vignoble de la Chapelle Ste-Agnes, Vignoble Domaine Bresee

Waterloo

Population: 4,600 | Settled in 1793

Located in the Granby region

Designated as Les Coeurs Villageois 

At the crossroads of three bike trails – Estriade, Campagnarde and Montagnarde, Waterloo is one of the main cycling hubs in the Eastern Townships. Beyond cycling, the real highlight is Artria Park – an outdoor art gallery. Amongst the French style gardens are large art sculptures from artists around the globe. With music piped into garden speakers and the backdrop of Lake Waterloo this makes for a pleasant leisurely stroll for a a couple of hours.

  • What to do: Heritage trail with 40 historic and architectural buildings
  • Where to drink: Robin – Bière Naturelle

Ayer's Cliff

Ayer’s Cliff was named after the Thomas Ayer who introduced the railway in 1799. The focal point for this village was the stagecoach inn that hosted American travellers passing through. This is one of the must-see villages in the Eastern Townships of Quebec
Ayer's Cliff is very scenic with its towering cliff over the beautiful Lake Massawippi.

Population: 1,130 | Settled in 1815

Located in Memphremagog region

Designated as Les Coeurs Villageois 

Ayer’s Cliff was named after the Thomas Ayer who introduced the railway in 1799. The focal point for this village was the stagecoach inn that hosted American travellers passing through. Still to this day, the village has a constant flow of traffic. As a result, it’s not as quiet and quaint as the other coeurs villages, but still does feature many beautiful heritage homes and the Stanstead County Agricultural Fair which is the oldest in Quebec.  

  • What to Do: Tomifobia Nature Trail is a 19-km easy bike and foot path along Lake Massawippi or Ayer’s Cliff public beach 
  • Where to eat: Café Folies, Le Riverain Restaurant at The Ripplecove Inn or Auberge Ayer’s Cliff

Eastman

Eastman, Quebec is surrounded by such pretty views of Mont Orford and the four nearby lakes. It is also home to Théâtre de La Marjolaine, which introduced French summer theatre to Quebec, as well as, the literary event, Eastman Correspondences.
Eastman is where arts & culture converge with natural surroundings.

Population: 2,070 | Settled in 1888

Located in the Memphremagog region

Designated as Les Coeurs Villageois 

Surrounding Eastman are such pretty views of Mont Orford and the four nearby lakes. It is also home to Théâtre de La Marjolaine, which introduced French summer theatre to Quebec, as well as, the literary event, Eastman Correspondences. Eastman is such a peaceful and tranquil place to visit, so it’s not surprising it made it on the Les Coeurs Villageois list. 

  • Where to eat: Café Bistro Les Trois Graces, Restaurant du Spa Eastman, La Station, or Dora’s Artisanal Bakery
  • What to do: Hiking and biking on the Heritage, Literary and Louise Portal trails; kayaking and fishing in the nearby rivers
  • Where to shop: Savonnerie des Diligences

Austin

Austin in Quebec is known for its panoramic views. It’s a bit unique in that it does not offer a lot in terms of eateries or cute shops, in fact it only has one general store. Instead, it’s the views that make this place worth the visit.
Austin in Quebec is known for its panoramic views.

Settled in 1793 | Population 1,500

Located in Memphremagog region

Austin is a bit unique in that it does not offer a lot in terms of eateries or cute shops, in fact it only has one general store. Instead, it’s the views that make this place worth the visit. At the crossroads of Nicholas Austin and Millington roads is the departure point for two scenic trails – a 4.7-km heritage tour and 2-km pedestrian walkway leading to Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. 

Saint-Benoît-du-Lac is considered to be one of Quebec’s smallest municipalities, and is often considered part of Austin. This entire area is to accommodate the Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey for Benedictine monks.

The Abbey is an impressive structure overlooking the western shore of Lake Memphremagog. It resembles a French chateau with its turrets, green copper roofs, and walls of stone. Sitting on a green hillside that slopes gently down to the water. Mount Owl’s Head, one of the three big mountains in the area, looms majestically in the distance. It is an stunning setting. 

A boutique shop at the Abbey is open to the public. It offers products made at the Abbey, mainly cheeses, ciders, jams, and apple butter. Visit during apple-picking season and you can join the monks in this annual ritual.  

North Hatley

Settled in 1897 | Population 700

Located in the Memphremagog region.

North Hatley is oozing with charm with a historic village centre. This tiny town sits on the shores of Lake Massawippi with the mountains in the background. Many of the century-old homes have been turned into lovely inns and B&Bs, as well as, cute shops, galleries, cafés and restaurants. It’s no wonder this place is considered the vacation destination of all of the Eastern Townships.

  • Where to stay (and dine): the Relais & Châteaux property of Manoir Hovey gained international attention when Condé Nast Traveler named it the top place to stay in Canada. Its restaurant, Le Hatley, is also a recommended place to dine at for a special dinner
  • What to do: stroll the boutique shops, be sure to visit Galerie Jeannine Blais featuring all types of art worldwide. Beach lovers head to Pleasant View beach. Watch out for the North Hatley covered bridge on one of the sideroads outside of town
  • Where to eat: Saveurs et Gourmandises

Stanstead

Population: 2,790

Settled in 1789

Located in the Memphremagog region

Stanstead is known for its architectural heritage due to the locally quarried Stanstead Grey Granite. This stone can be found in many of the buildings throughout this area, and is often referred to as the “Granite Capital of Canada.” Another unique part of visiting Stanstead the main street extends to the US border. CANUSA Street is divided down the middle by an international border. The Haskell Opera House is divided down the middle where the audience sits in the US, while the artists perform on the stage is in Canada.

  • What to do: Visit the Stone Circle, Colby-Curtis museum, or Ye Olde Blacksmith or Le Vieux Forgeron art galleries 
  • Where to eat: Café-bistro at the Auberge Le Sunshine

Masonville

Population: 1,820 | Settled in 1792

Located in the Memphremagog region

Designated as Les Coeurs Villageois 

The main attraction in Masonville is its historic round barn from 1912. There are only a handful of round barns still standing in the Eastern Townships, and this is considered the one to see. Due to the hilly roads near Masonville, this is a cyclists paradise. Many stop in on the village as they make their way either to or from Owl’s Nest – a popular area for skiing and golf. 

  • What to do: Visit Owl’s Head for alpine skiing, hiking and golf course. Watch out for the Pont de la Frontière, the covered bridge near Potton. Although not in use anymore, and there is a road built adjacent, it’s still worth a visit

Coaticook

Population: 8,900 | Settled in 1820

Located in region Coaticook River Valley

Designated as Les Coeurs Villageois 

One of the biggest attractions to Coaticook is Parc de la Gorge. Go here and you can walk across the highest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. It offers amazing views of the gorge below. Contained in the same park is Foresta Lumina, a multimedia nighttime experience along Coaticook’s Canyon. 

 
  • Where to eat: Laiterie de Coaticook where for 75 years they have been known for making its delicious ice cream and cheeses
  • What to do: ride the 15-km of bike trails winding along the river offering many scenic spots to stop
  • Where to drink: Microbrasserie de Coaticook, Microbrasserie Hop Station

Cookshire-Eaton

Population: 5,430 | Settled in 1795

Located in the Haut-Saint-François region

Designated as Les Coeurs Villageois 

Cookshire-Eaton’ main attraction is Parc des Braves where an arrangement of standing stones, the same found in Scotland. The legend is that they were believed to track the passages of the moon. Try and find the four bell towers, 3 of them in are churches and one of them is in Parc des Braves. Next, take the trail along the lovely Eaton River that leads you to the 1868 John Cook covered bridge.

  • What to do: Visit the Cookshire-Eaton Art Gallery 
  • Where to eat & drink:  Brasserie 11 Comtes

Where to Stay

You might be asking yourself what place makes a good home base to explore all of these villages? My recommendation is a tiny village in the Memphremagog region called Bolton-Est. It’s a central to almost all of the 9 regions in the Eastern Townships making it very accessible to enjoy the must-visit places listed above. And, why not stay in a cantilevered house in the mountains? Check out this architectural gem, the Bolton-Est house, staying here is a definite highlight of our trip. 

As a holidaymaker…

Although the Eastern Townships are the place to be for serious skiers in the winter, and boating, swimming, golfing, hiking, and biking take over in the summer. For me, it’s the charming Les Coeurs Villageois that drew me to this area. There is nothing better than day tripping to some cute villages set amongst the backdrop of the natural countryside, mountains and lakes that won me over. Not to mention the scenic drives to get from one charming village to the next are incredible. No matter the season, this region is beautiful.

47 Comments

  • Jenn | By Land and Sea

    These spots all look so charming! I appreciate all the recommendations you offer here on places to go, things to do and where to stay!

  • Wendy

    I’ve been to Quebec City and Montreal, but never thought about exploring the small towns of Quebec. Wow, they are lovely and really charming. Thanks for sharing!

  • Krista

    All of these villages look so picturesque! I haven’t heard of any before, but I’ll definitely save this for the next time I’m in Quebec.

  • sue

    These villages all look so pretty & charming. I love a road trip & exploring around this area sounds right up my street. I have never been to this part of Canada so maybe I need to plan a visit…

    • The.Holidaymaker

      You’ll love this part of the country. It offers something for everyone – from adventure to spa, winiers to orchards, scenic landscapes to cute villages and towns.

  • Alma

    I’d definitely be charmed by the villages on the east of Quebec. They look delightful and worth exploring!

  • Jamie Italiane-DeCubellis

    I have visited Quebec City many times and have always found it magical. Last time I was there I was able to visit the island north of the city and loved it. You have inspired me to take a road trip all around the area in the fall or spring.

  • Barry

    It must have been so difficult to chose the best ten out of the thriteen villages as they are all so picturesque and beautiful. I noticed that most seem to have been settled in the 1790’s so are actually quite old for Canada – they certainly show their history in the magnificent buildings. Great that you included info on where to eat and drink as I would be lost for that.
    Love the two sculptures in Waterloo – very creative and stylish.
    The Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey looks impressive, I’d love to wander around that and take in the views. How unique that the Haskell Opera House straddles the border between Canada and USA and the player and audience sit in different countries! Are you permitted to wander across the line in the Opera or the High Street?
    One thing surprised me for what is a French influenced area is that nearly all the villages had very English sounding names. Great read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the pics, as always, are beautiful.

  • JoJo Hall

    This is a great post! So many cute little towns and places to explore! I love exploring little towns and seeing what the area has to offer.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    It has been a long time since I spent any time in the Eastern Townships. But these 13 Les Coeurs Villageois would certainly be a dra. Love that they offer such local products to sample. And that each small town is so unique. We would definitely plan to do some of the local hikes when we visited this area. Need to wear off some of the great food for sure!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thankfully this area is known for its active lifestyle- so there are lots of activities you could do to burn off the indulgences you’re bound to eat/drink while here.

  • Sherianne

    I have visited Quebec and love the area but was not aware of the surrounding townships. I would love to visit North Hatley and relax next to the lake after browsing the shops. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Jason

    Wooow I can most definitely say I have never heard of any of these places but after this really well wrote blog I would love to visit. Cookshire-Eaton, Austin and Ayer’s Cliff really grabbed my attention for amazing buildings and the proper feel of the usa.

  • Umiko

    I like visiting small towns like these in the weekend. They make your weekend calendar full with day trips. The round barn in Masonville is truly unique, and I want to walk across the pedestrian suspension bridge enjoying the gorge below.

  • Natascha

    I love the name “Le Coeurs Villageois”. A great marketing idea I think – who would not want to go there? The all seem so charming. But looking at your pictures I would probably choose Austin and North Hatley for a first-timer visit.

  • Ambica Gulati

    They don’t look like villages at all! They look like marvellous architectural spots. I would love to see these beautiful places with their flowery environs and awesome buildings. I hope the people are as colourful with their stories.

  • Lisa

    I’ve never been to Quebec in Canada so would love to see this villages. Freighslighburg is so charming, especially the architecture. Austin is another I’d like to see. All of the cafes would be on my list too!

  • Kevin

    This is such a charming region of Quebec! It looks like it wouldn’t be that hard to get to from the US border. All of the towns are so pretty and unique, but Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey really caught my eye. It’s very picturesque, and the local treats from the bakery there sound so good! I’d want to check out the architecture in Stanstead and practice at least a little bit of French while exploring the different villages too!

  • Emma

    I love them all. What magical little towns. The pictures with the fall colours make me think even more of that region, somewhere I’d love to visit at that time of year. North Hatley certainly looks like a gem. But I’d happily visit any (or all) of them

  • Sarah

    These villages look idyllic. I hope to get back to Canada soon. I’ve only ever visited the big cities – I would love to see a different side. i can see a road trip coming up in the future.

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