A perfect day in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue

Alexandra Gauthier

Alexandra Gauthier is a young Montrealer who loves to eat, drink and be merry with friends in neighbourhoods all over the city.

This article was updated on July 11, 2021.

The island of Montréal is host to many unique municipalities with vibrant local cultures. Among those is Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, home to McGill University's Macdonald Campus, where simple luxuries such as farmers' markets and waterfront dining are part of daily life. Accessible and inviting, the town's diverse array of activities and culinary offerings make it an ideal destination for family day trips and date nights alike.

Located at the westernmost tip of the island of Montréal, a mere 25-minute drive from the city centre, is the charming waterfront town of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. Nestled between Lac des Deux Montagnes and Lac Saint-Louis, at the confluence of the St-Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, there’s little wonder why the town’s name “de Bellevue” translates to “of the beautiful view”. Home to all manner of local artisans, farmers, historians, activists, academics and entrepreneurs of all ages, Sainte-Anne never fails to capture the hearts of those who visit it. Below are a few examples to showcase how this little town au bout de l’île has small and active culture—and tourist industry—all its own.

One of the more active ways to enjoy the town's eponymous beautiful view is right on the water. Enter Paddle Mac by McGill's Macdonald Campus, which offers hourly kayak and paddle board rentals and instruction. Team up for a kayak ride for two or explore Lac St. Louis on a solo adventure in a single boat. Up for some core-strengthening exercise? Take a paddle board onto the placid waters for an aquatic meditative experience, or up the ante with a party paddle board for the whole family. For the interested but inexperienced, never fear: Paddle Mac offers a two-hour introductory class on the basics for both individuals and small groups up to four people.

If it’s a weekend day trip you’ve found yourself on, you’re in for a treat. During the summer months, the many vendors that make up the Marché Ste-Anne set up in the waterfront Parc Lalonde from 9 am to 2 pm every Saturday. Locally-sourced treats include fruit and vegetables from nearby farms (much of it organic), baked goods, jams, local honey, fresh eggs, cheeses, meats, and ready-to-eat snacks. Alongside the edibles, you can find hand-crafted wearables and decorations by talented locals as well. Weekday visitors to Sainte-Anne need not leave empty-handed, either: the Mac Market operates its kiosks every day from July into November, selling seasonal goods harvested fresh from McGill's agricultural campus. Local merchants are dotted along Sainte-Anne Street—the town's main thoroughfare—where you're sure to find a little something for everyone. Among these businesses is department store G. D’Aoust & Cie, a time-honoured community staple that has served generations of locals since 1900! Sainte-Anne is also home to a Thrift Shop for NOVA, a volunteer-run, non-profit thrift store where proceeds go to social services; hunt for treasure and support a wonderful charity all in one visit. You’ll also want to check out Pragaï Couture for crisp fashion and accessories and B Factory, specializing in eco-friendly products.

Arrive hungry when you’re visiting Sainte-Anne, as your options are vast and varied. Day trippers can kick off with a weekday breakfast (or weekend brunch) by the water at Stoolies, or brunch on the charming cobblestone patio of Café Au Bout de L'Isle. Local favourite Café TWIGS perfects homey classics such as soup and sandwiches for lunch, and don't be surprised if you find yourself torn by the variety of dessert options. If your interest piques at the words "battered, golden, and fried", the long-standing Restaurant Basile offers a fish 'n chips plate that should appeal. Go for the pub fare and stay for the happy hour at Cunninghams Pub, where you can often catch live music as night falls. Finally, a late-night pitcher with friends is always made better with a lakeside view, and while the boardwalk has no shortage of options, beloved raucous mainstay Annies Sur Le Lac will get you in a party mood. For a more traditional sit-down dinner, the town of Sainte-Anne has no shortage of international options to suit any mood and palate. Indian gem Tandoori Bellevue Restaurant's sensory appeal is equal parts great food and charming ambiance, while diners seeking Thai cuisine will find thoughtfully prepared plates at Restaurant Chalet Thai for either takeout or dining in on the lakeside terrasse. Another among Sainte-Anne's waterfront establishments is pizzeria Violet Angel, offering an elegant array of Mediterranean-leaning options. Old school player Le Surcouf is known for its French cuisine, running strong since 1976, and famed local institution Restaurant La Fondue Du Prince dares you to come take a dip into the art of fondue. Sharing is caring with Spanish-style tapas at OLÉ which offers a selection of small, shared plates and a robust drink menu. We should also mention (or perhaps warn) that there’s no shortage of ice cream, frozen yogurt, or gelato (oh my!) along the Sainte-Anne main stretch—so be sure to leave some space for dessert!

Live music takes over the boardwalk from July to September with free Wednesday night shows which kick off at 7:30 pm. Weekend visitors can catch performances from 5 pm to 8 pm every Saturday of the summer as well, soon after the market vendors pack up.

Round out your day by getting closer to nature, starting with a visit to the animals at the Ecomuseum Zoo, the only outdoor zoo on the island of Montréal. Follow that up with a nature walk through the Morgan Arboretum, a beautiful 245-acre forested reserve. Are your interests less earthbound? Aeronautics enthusiasts—or anyone who understands aerial navigation is cool—are invited to peruse the newly reopened Montreal Aviation Museum.

Day or night, no trip to Sainte-Anne is complete without a leisurely-paced stroll past the bridge, across the historic locks, and all the way down to the tip of the newly-revamped upstream jetty. A National Historic Site, the view of Lac des Deux-Montagnes from the jetty is both serene and full of life, where you can watch an uninterrupted sunset, birds diving for fish, or the occasional personal watercraft courageously taking on the nearby rapids.

Simultaneously peaceful and vibrant, classic and eclectic, this lakeside West Island town is a treasure to all who know it. Accessible and welcoming, Sainte-Anne bids you bienvenue to the Bellevue!

Alexandra Gauthier

Alexandra Gauthier is a young Montrealer who loves to eat, drink and be merry with friends in neighbourhoods all over the city.

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