What, you’ve never heard of Outaouais? Pronounced ooo-tah-way, it’s located at the southwestern tip of Québec along the Ottawa River. I started my journey in Montreal, taking a two-hour train ride on Via Rail Canada to Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, an easy jumping off point to the Outaouis.
Since I’d never been to Ottawa, I decided to spend an afternoon and evening, checking into Arc the.hotel. That afternoon, I explored Parliament Hill, went on a boat ride on the Rideau Canal and visited the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.
I also discovered that Ottawa is the birthplace of singers Paul Anka and Alanis Morrisette. Now that would be a fun duet!
On the nearby Quebec shore in Gatineau is the Canadian Museum of Civilization, with the largest collection of totems in the world. In the majestic Canada Hall, walk coast to coast from east to west, spanning the years 1000 to 2000 AD. The nearby Casino du Lac Leamy is the place to splurge for an elegant dinner. We dined at Le Baccara, featuring fabulous French cuisine. And ask your waiter to see the wine cellar, which houses 500 different varieties and 13,000 bottles of wine. There are also first-class stage shows at the casino (Zucchero is appearing September 29) and of course, gambling!
Outaouais is best enjoyed by car. But from May-October, you can ride the 1907 Wakefield Steam Train, one of Canada’s last authentic steam-powered trains. It journeys from Gatineau to Wakefield, with music on board. Wakefield is a picturesque village that’s home to artists and artisans. It’s also a destination for outdoor types, since it’s located in Gatineau Park. Plan to stay at the Wakefield Mill Inn & Spa. It features regional cuisine and a spa with outdoor hot tub and a pool nestled in the rapid waters of the LaPêche River.
Gatineau Park is glorious during autumn. It’s the perfect place to soak in the fall colors, with spectacular views of the surrounding region. Mackenzie King Estate is comprised of restored chalets and wooded trails, along with gardens and a collection of ruins that once were the pride of this former Canadian prime minister. The Moorside Tearooms is a nice spot for tea.
From here it’s on to Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, a rugged yet luxurious red cedar lodge chateau, and the largest log building in the world. Montebello is also home to the 1,500 acre Omega Park, a former hunting reserve that features 1,500 animals. It’s a “drive-thru” park so buy some carrots for sale at the park. Three very large elk came up to our car and were more than eager to chow down. Other animals include wild boar, wood bison, timber wolves, coyote and black bears.
Covered bridge in Wakefield; Wakefield Mill Inn & Spa; Gatineau Park; Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. Photographs by Sue Frause.