Whether you’re looking for a pampered resort experience, a cottage by the beach or a rustic one-of-a-kind camping experience (all with the added bonus of showing your French speaking kids just how awesome their bilingualism is!) Montebello Quebec and Quebec’s Outaouais region has something for everyone!
Here’s how you can choose your own family adventure in Montebello Quebec…
Step One: Where to Stay
We started our adventure at the rustic luxuriousness of the Fairmont Château Montebello.
Within seconds of being in the largest log structure in the world, our family fell in love with the resident dog “Monte” and the exceptional Fairmont service, but in a relaxed family-friendly way you would expect in a log cabin.
With two swimming pools, golf, tennis, hiking, mini putt, play equipment, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding and even supervised movies just for the kids at night (which means date night for mom and dad!), everything you need for a relaxing family vacation can be found at the Château Montebello.
For a beach house vacation, the Centre Touristique du Lac-Simon is a short 1-hour scenic drive from Montebello. Located in the heart of the Outaouais region, this Quebec provincial park, offers camping, cabin rentals and even Hékipia tent rentals with real beds and a mini-kitchen.
Our 2-bedroom cabin was basic but very clean and came with everything you could need including a beautiful view of the 2km beach.
The kids had a blast joining into the organized activities, playing on the can’t-believe-it-until-you-see-it beach-front play equipment and swimming in the perfect-for-kids, clear water of Lac-Simon.
To take your adventure one step further, book yourself a few nights at Parc Omega, a safari-type park full of beautiful Canadian animals that also happens to offer hike-to Wii and Prospector Tents (and even a house on stilts) for rent.
Step Two: What To Do
If you’re staying at the Château Montebello there are so many on-resort and walkable activities, forget about needing your car. You can easily stroll to the historic Manoir Papineau and the town of Montebello where you’ll find Camp Explora.
Picture the whole family treasure hunting by electric (and super quiet) quads with iPads and a series of directions, questions and treasure hunt items to search for in the woods and back roads of Montebello.
To say Camp Explora was “cool” is an understatement – the views, the history and the interactive family fun was by far one of our (many) favourite Montebello adventures.
Even if you’re not staying at Parc Omega, the Canadian safari is not to be missed! Your drive-thru-safari experience includes elk and deer who gladly come right up to your car window to feast on carrots from your kids as well as viewing of wolves, bison, caribou, moose and bears with lots of places to get out walk, picnic and run around in the play areas and the ropes course.
The highlight of our adventure was the bear boardwalk. The bears were very active and curious about the children above them and we even had an once-in-a-lifetime view of a momma bear nursing two little cubs.
Speaking of bears, up your adventure and add a Kenauk Nature reserve bear watching expedition on your must-do-list! After discussing with the Park Ranger how important it is for the kids to be quiet and calm during the 2-hour expedition, our kids ages 6, 7 and 11 loaded into the safari-type bus.
Being able to observe bears (including a rare blonde bear!) in their natural habitat with a guide answering the children’s many questions was an incredible experiential learning opportunity.
Of course, if you’re looking to take your adventure level down a notch or two, our beach-filled days at Lac-Simon were days filled with nothing to do but build sand castles, roast marshmallows and swim in the lake – something that every family needs to relax and re-connect.
Step Three: What to Eat
No matter where you eat in and around Montebello, the pride in local, fresh ingredients is hard to miss. Our absolute favourite meals were the five star outdoor BBQ at the Château Montebello, the $11 cheese platter from Fromagerie Montebello (that fed me and the 2 girls for lunch – with fresh baked baguette, cured meat and especially the Tête à Papineau cheese my daughters loved) and poutine and homemade hamburgers at Delice Champetre.
When it comes to beverages, my husband highly recommends you take your Fromagerie delicacies to go, and walk down the street to Les Brasseurs de Montebello for a wide selection of local craft beers. My kids, however were introduced by the Québécois kids at Lac-Simon to a Quebec “delicacy” called the Potion Magique (aka: Magic Potion), a concoction of slush, ice cream, flavoured syrup and gummy bears.
Step Four: Choose your Level of French
Like many Canadian parents, we decided to register our kids in the French school system and raise bilingual children. We knew this would mean a strong commitment from both of us (and especially my husband who doesn’t speak French) but what we didn’t anticipate was the realization that our Franco-Ontarian children almost never have the opportunity to speak French outside of school or the little bit they get at home from me.
Our family vacation in Montebello and the Outaouais region came with a high expectation that our kids would speak French the majority of the time, but my English-only husband would be able to manage on his own if needed. Montebello and the Outaouais did not disappoint!
Almost all of the staff we encountered were fluent in English and were thrilled to speak with the children in French.
The best French experience for the kids was playing with the other children staying at Lac-Simon. Many of these children were not fluent in English but eagerly included my kids in their games despite not always being able to understand each others accents or slang.
Throughout Montebello and the Outaouais region, Anglophone parents will have absolutely no trouble at all conversing with locals, ordering from menus or inquiring about a specific craft brew, but as you venture off into the region, it’s time to put your bilingual kids in charge of these things (well maybe not the beer part!).
A big huge MERCI to Tourisme Outaouais for giving our family the opportunity to experience so much of what Montebello and the Outaouais region have to offer – which is tons!
Image Credit: The photo above of the Chateau Montebello lobby was provided by Chateau Montebello. It’s a big, beautiful, impressive yet cozy space that is difficult to photograph (although I tried!). All other photos included in this post are my own.