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 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. Weekday visitors to Sainte-Anne need not leave empty-handed though: 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 great fashion finds and accessories and B Factory, specializing in eco-friendly products.
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. If your interest piques more at the words "battered, golden, and fried", the long-standing Restaurant Basile offers a fish 'n chips plate that should suit you nicely. Pub fare goes hand in hand with 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 festive 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. Spanish-style tapas are a date night favourite and the town of Sainte-Anne has you covered with both Bacchus tapas & bar à vin and OLÉ, with both establishments offering a selection of small, shared plates and robust drink menus. A democratic coin-flip can decide which option to start with, but since the scientific method relies on data collection, you'll just have to go back to try both.
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!
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.
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!