A DAY IN SAINTE-ANNE-DE-BELLEVUE
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.
Sainte-Anne is probably best known for its scenic canal, where boats fill the waterway and busy terraces line the boardwalk. For those of us who crave the open water, SkiWakeSurf and Navark are two Sainte Anne institutions committed to getting you out on the lake. SkiWakeSurf offers both individual and group lessons and activities for those who want to paddle surf, waterski, or wakeboard. Another option is to hop on a jet ski for a thrilling guided ride or rent one yourself with a valid license. For a calmer, more relaxing day on the water, set sail on an hour-long sightseeing cruise with Navark. The narrated tour, which boards three times daily on Thursdays and Fridays throughout the summer, explores the mysterious Dowker Island nearby.
If you’re keener to stay on dry land, the boardwalk running the length of the canal offers sights to take in from end to end. Starting a week into the summer calendar and continuing every Wednesday evening until late August, Wednesday concerts on the Boardwalk offer live outdoor performances starting at 7:30 pm from a host of Québécois musical acts. Keep your ears open on the weekends too, as the town opens the boardwalk's small stage to local musicians to showcase burgeoning talent. If you're a dancing queen, shimmy down to the open-dance party Salsa under the stars on Friday nights (which always starts with a short beginner's workshop to get us wallflowers moving). Check the downloadable PDF schedule put out every season; there's something for everyone down on the boardwalk.
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 Ste-Anne’s Market set up on the waterfront from 9 am to 2 pm every Saturday. Locally-sourced treats include fruit and vegetables from nearby farms (much of it organic), freshly baked breads, homemade jams, artisanal honeys, fresh eggs, cheeses, meats, and ready-to-eat hot and cold snacks. Alongside the edibles, other talented locals come out to sell their hand-crafted wearables and decorations as well. Special events, culinary workshops, and educational talks make it clear this market is more than a spot for a weekly grocery run: this is the heart and soul of a community.
Good news for the hungry when you’re visiting Sainte-Anne: your options are vast and varied. Day trippers can kick off with a weekday breakfast (or more involved 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. Pub fare goes hand in hand with happy hour at Cunninghams Pub, where you can often catch live music as night falls. For a more traditional sit-down dinner, try Indian food gem Tandoori Bellevue for equal parts food and ambiance, or go cheesy romantic at the famed Sainte Anne institution La Fondue Du Prince. Also known for its French cuisine is Le Surcouf, running strong since 1976. 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! 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.
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 610-acre forested reserve, or let your imagination soar at the historical Montréal Aviation Museum. As night falls, check for public stargazing events at the small observatory owned by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada located on the arboretum grounds.
Alexandra Gauthier is a young Montrealer who loves to eat, drink and be merry with friends in neighbourhoods all over the city.