The Eastern Townships (in French, Cantons de l'Est) is a region of Quebec nestled between northern Maine and New Hampshire and Vermont. Settled by Loyalists fleeing the United States during and after the Revolutionary War in the 18th century, the Townships share a climate and architectural and cultural heritage with much of New England.
The region also got a lot of Irish immigration in the 19th century. One Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, was from this region and of Irish descent.
- 1 Ayer's Cliff — summer resort town at the head of Lake Massawippi
- 2 Bromont — tourist town with alpine and backcountry skiing, mountain biking,multifunctional trails and international horse shows, 45 minutes from Montreal.
- 3 Cowansville — an industrial town focused on textiles
- 4 Dunham — known for its wineries
- 5 Eastman — ziplines and a book festival, but not at the same time
- 6 Granby — known for its zoo
- 7 Knowlton — nice village that caters to tourists; it is also a major cottage destination for Montrealers
- 8 Magog — charming town at the head of Lake Memphremagog
- 9 North Hatley — the true treasure of the Eastern Townships, a popular summer destination that is not to be missed
- 10 Sherbrooke — university town and unofficial capital of the region
- 11 Stanstead — historic treasure; today a thriving border town
- 12 Sutton — a charming village with excellent year round outdoor activities and a strong artistic community
- 13 Lac-Mégantic — a small village on the Maine-Québec border, surrounded by mountains and two provincial parks
The region comprises counties that had been divided into townships after the traditional method of land grants of the original New England and New York settlers. Earlier French settlement along the St Lawrence River had divided the landscape into parishes and seigneuries. The tourist region now covers most of the region. The administrative region, officially called Estrie, is slightly smaller. The principal cities are Sherbrooke, Granby, Magog, and Cowansville.
The towns of Drummondville, Victoriaville, and Thetford Mines are part of the historical region. The region has summer colonies used by vacationing Montrealers and several ski resorts, including Mount Orford, Ski Bromont, Mount Sutton, and Owl's Head.
The first inhabitants of the region were the Abenaki First Nations. The names of many towns, lakes and rivers of the area are of Abenaki origin.
The region was part of New France until the 1763 Treaty of Paris which granted the region to the British. Shortly after the American Revolution, a few United Empire Loyalists, who fled the revolution in order to stay loyal to the British Crown, settled in the Eastern Townships. Most of the immigration from New England, however, happened in the early 19th century, thirty or so years after the Revolution. Most were farmers seeking new lands, something the townships had to offer.
English-speaking inhabitants remained a majority in the Townships until the 1870s. Today the region is heavily Francophone, with the notable exception of Lennoxville, which is about evenly divided between English and French speakers. It hosts the region's only English-speaking university, Bishop's University and the only English-language junior college, Champlain College - Lennoxville.
This has been one of the main English-speaking regions of Quebec, but French has always been spoken here and today it is the predominant language. Young people may be bilingual in French and English, though very few people over the age of 40 are fluent in English.
There is a minor airport just east of Sherbrooke, with only one flight departing, and one other arriving per day, from Toronto, Ontario. Service is assured by Air Sherbrooke. The price of a regular one-way ticket is 324$ plus taxes, though discounts are available for students and passengers flying to Toronto for a long weekend. Most tourists however, come in via Montreal's Trudeau International Airport.
Limocar and Veolia offer bus service to and from Montreal. Most buses stop in Granby and Magog, and all end in Sherbrooke, while two departures per day are local, thus making more than twenty stops along Route 112. From Quebec City, Jordez is the bus company that assures service, and Autobus de l'Or Blanc connects Sherbrooke with Thetford Mines.
By car, Autoroute 10 is the fastest way from Montreal and the new Autoroute 30 provides a link to Ottawa, while Americans coming from Vermont will want to take Interstate 89 or 91. Access from Quebec City, the Mauricie, and the Centre-du-Québec regions is done via Autoroute 55.
The easiest way to get around the Eastern Townships is by car. Bus services exist from Montreal to most towns and villages (such as Granby, Sherbrooke, Magog and Sutton) but it can be difficult to get from one village to another without private transport. The only rail service is a tourist train, the Orford Express dinner train between Magog and Sherbrooke, which moves very slowly as the track is in poor condition.
Automobile travel in summer is generally easy, you may want a car with air conditioning as the Québec summers can be on the hot and humid side. In the wintertime, any vehicle registered in the province must have winter tires between December 15 and March 15 . Vehicles registered outside of Québec do not need to follow this law, but winter tires are a very good idea when driving anywhere in Québec during the winter season. See winter driving for discussion. Autoroutes and major roadways are fully cleared by snowploughs relatively quickly, but back roads, side streets, alleys and other ways may be maintained poorly. Temperatures trend much lower than other regions south of the Townships, and frequent snowfalls mean a very high average seasonal snowfall when compared to, for example, southern New England.
- Granby Zoo, water park and amusement park. Home to nearly 1,500 animals from over 225 different species, among which are elephants, giraffes, gorillas, and tigers.
- Haskell Free Library and Opera House is an international library: a black line across the floor denotes the border between Canada and the U.S. that runs through the library. The opera has most of its audience seats on the American side, and the stage is on the Canadian side.
- Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux Arts) displays works of universal value and local flavor, focusing on the works of artists of the Eastern Townships.
- Yamaska National Park, Roxton Pond. A provincial park that protects a vast humid zone around the Choinière reservoir; it is sought out for its forest, beach, walking and biking paths, and boating; it is considered an important bird sanctuary. Boats, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, bikes, etc., available for rent.
- Bromont Ski Area, Bromont (13 km from Cowansville). A year-round recreational area with skiing, evening skiing, water park, mountain biking and multiuse trails. The largest lit skiable area in North America. The summer waterpark offers a heated wave pool, kilometres of water slides, and mountain alpine luges. The largest mountain biking area in Eastern Canada. Close to 40 km of multiuse trails for hiking, trail running, enduro or cross-country.
- Mont Sutton, Sutton. For downhill skiing and snowboarding Mont Sutton offers beautiful glade skiing at Quebec's third largest snow resort.
- Cross country ski and snowshoe enthusiasts are well catered for at pleinairsutton.coop half-way between Sutton village and mountain.
- 1 Abbaye Saint-Benoit-du-Lac (Saint Benedict Abbey), 1 rue Principale, Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, ☏ . Daily 09:00-17:00. A cheese factory, two orchards, a cider house and a shop where the monks' products are sold. Guided tours of the abbey are available by reservation.