A couple of weeks ago my extended family hosted a small family reunion in the tiny town of Montebello, Quebec at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. It was a perfect weekend weather-wise, and the perfect location to host such an event.
The resort itself is truly unique. It’s sits on the banks of the Ottawa River and was first built in 1930 as a private club. What sets it apart is it is entirely built from log timbers. The main building has three levels, boasts a massive central lobby rotunda which is dominated by probably the most impressive six-sided fireplace I’ve ever seen.
Inspired by Swiss-American Hubert Saddlemire, and supervised by Victor Nymark, a Finnish master-builder, the Chateau was erected in four short months, using over 10,000 red cedars transported from British Columbia via CP rail. All cut and set by hand! It’s truly and awe-inspiring site.
The rooms are small-ish, compared to today’s luxury standards, but they are beautifully decorated with, you guessed it, a log-cabin theme. But it’s sophisticated, not kitchy. The bathrooms are also very small, but fully updated. My favourite thing about the room was that both the room door and bathroom door still have the original latch hardware. I wish I took a picture!
The resort is truly a year-round destination. In the winter, it has skating, curling, dog-sledding, cross-county skiing and a whole host of other winter activities. In the summer, due to its riverside setting, it has its own marina and non-motorized water sports, including kayaking, SUP and pedal boats. There was so much to explore and do, two nights was almost not enough.
On the first evening we walked the short trail into the town of Montebello, with the lovely trilliums on full display. The next morning we took some bicycles (free, as part of the daily resort fee) and explored some of the 5km of trails that weave through the forests around the resort. We also played badminton and mini-putt. In the afternoon, we tried out the kayaks, which was an excellent way to explore the riverside. There are also stables on the grounds that, for an additional fee, offer guided two-hour trail rides. Naturally, we felt feeding the horses grass was a little more in our price range.
The list of activities seemed endless; croquet, tennis, volleyball, a children’s playground, bonfire pit, you name it. You can even sign-up for off-road adventure driving or helicopter tours, right from the resort itself.
The outdoor pool wasn’t yet open but we did check out the indoor pool. What a delight! It was huge, and though you can’t really tell from this picture, the entire ceiling is rather intricately painted, a nod to its heritage. I also liked that the pool temperature is posted.
The only part of the resort that was somewhat disappointing, was that there was no coffee shop, or spot to grab a quick bite to eat. The main restaurant/bistro was really the only option available but its sit-down dining, which with two active kids, we really didn’t want to do in the middle of the day. Same with breakfast. Fortunately, a short ten-minute walk into Montebello offered a couple of great homestyle-breakfast options.
It’s an an easy drive from Ottawa (1.5 hours max) or Montreal ( 2 hours max), but take note, it is on the pricey side of hotels and there is also a daily resort fee that needs to be factored in too. But all in all the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello is a fantastic weekend get-away destination both for couples or for families – you’ll always find something to do, even if it’s taking a leisurely stroll and just soaking up the atmosphere.