Lac-Mégantic was established in 1884 as a stop on a former Canadian Pacific railway line which ran from Montréal and Sherbrooke eastward across northern Maine to Saint John, New Brunswick. The region is 98% francophone and relies heavily on tourism from other French-speaking settlements such as Sherbrooke and Quebec City.
A small lakefront town in an isolated location on the Québec-Maine border, Mégantic was built largely on forestry and natural resources. Hunting and fishing have traditionally been popular locally. The region is mountainous and well known for its granite. The town's slogan was formerly « de la voie ferrée à la voie lactée », "from the railway to the Milky Way", a reference to a dark sky preserve and observatory based in a nearby provincial park.
Lac-Mégantic had a charming, historic downtown until a deadly overnight 6 July 2013 derailment of a runaway crude oil train incinerated much of the historic district and contaminated the rest with enough oil and benzene to force demolition of all but a handful of downtown buildings. The town's library and archives were obliterated; 47 townsfolk were cremated alive. The Musi-Café, then a main-street bar at the bottom of a hill where the tracks curved across the main street (rue Frontenac), sustained the most casualties. The village church, because of its hilltop location, survived - creating a surreal image of a statue of Jesus helplessly watching the downtown burn while firefighters from near and far grappled for two days to extinguish the inferno. While the rest of the town remained functional, the main street didn't reopen until 2016 - and then only as a collection of open spaces and new construction sites. A new library, supermarket and Musi-Café were built elsewhere in town, with a new bridge built to cross the Chaudière River at the athletic centre. Veterans Park and the marina eventually re-opened but a few central businesses, including the l'Eau Berge inn, never returned.
Even during the worst of the contamination from the 2013 trainwreck, the water of the lake itself remained pristine. All destinations outside the downtown, including area campgrounds, bicycle trails and two provincial parks, remained open throughout the lengthy local recovery process. The ecological damage to the city centre, the Chaudière River and the marina has now been cleared.
Visitor information may be obtained by calling +1 819-583-5515 or +1-800-363-5515.
The last passenger train through Lac-Mégantic ran in 1994; the "Atlantic" service from Montréal to Saint John was ended when the Canadian Pacific rails were sold to a short-line railway.
One can reach Lac-Mégantic from Sherbrooke (100 km, 60 miles) by taking Québec Route 108 east to the village-relais of Stornaway, then following Route 161 South through Nantes. Route 161 becomes the town's main street. From Quebec City (200 km, 120 miles), take Autoroute 73 to Beauceville, then Route 108 West to Route 161.
- 1 Autocars la Chaudière, 4323, rue Laval G6B 1C1 (Dépanneur du Coin), ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Operates a bus to Quebec City via Saint-Georges with stops in multiple cities. $41.16/person one-way to Québec.
- Marina Lac-Mégantic, 3535, boulevard Stearns, ☎ . Municipal marina with 115 reserved slips and five spaces for short-term visitors. Fuel, sewage pumpout, boat launch ramp, equipped platform for sailboat mast installation.
The "Mégantic" tourist region is not the town itself but a wide rural area 50km (30 miles) in radius encompassing a lake, two major provincial parks and a large amount of mountainous terrain. While there are good cycle paths (des pistes cyclables) in the area, this is a lot of ground to cover and an automobile will prove invaluable.
Rue Frontenac (Quebec Route 161) was closed at the edge of downtown but has now re-opened; boulevard Jean-Marie Tardif or rue Papineau are possible bypass routes to cross the Chaudière River.
Cycle trails and bicycle rentals are available at various in-region points, including Frontenac National Park.
- Taxi Mégantic, ☎ .
- 1 Astrolab, Mont-Mégantic National Park. Mountaintop astronomical observatory and Mount Megantic Popular Observatory at the summit of Mont Mégantic, includes access by shuttlebus. Guided tours. Events include the Popular Astronomy Festival, the Perseid Festival (August 10–14) and snowshoe hiking (raquette au flambeaux) in winter. $11-23/person plus park admission.
- Concerts Entre chien et loup. 8PM Thursdays, summer only. Weekly open-air show featuring local and emerging musical talent. Free.
- 2 Sainte-Agnès Church.
- 3 Maison du Granit, 301, route du Morne, Lac-Drolet G0Y 1C0, ☎ . 9AM-5PM daily, 10AM-5PM except Monday off-season. Museum in former granite quarry site, 20km north of Lac-Mégantic. $10.50/person.
- 4 Moulin Bernier (Bernier Mill), 100, rue du Moulin, Courcelles G0M 1C0, ☎ , fax: . May-Oct 10AM-5PM, closed Mon-Tue. Museum and old mill, conference and exhibition facilities, Internet access, park with former Quebec Central RR caboose and Expo-Train. $5/person.
- 5 Parc de la Croix-Lumineuse, rue Lafontaine, Frontenac G6B 1H4. A prime lookout point to view the region from the Rencontre au Sommet (signpost at 500m altitude); bring your binoculars. Picnic tables. Accessible by motorcar. Free.
- Route des Sommets. 157 km (100 mile) signed tourist route from La Patrie to Stratford through the mountains.
- 1 Centre Sportif Mégantic, 5400, rue Papineau, ☎ . Open skating, swimming and badminton. Arena for 1200 spectators, indoor pool and gym constructed in 2011.
- 2 Cinéma Mégantic, 1977 route 161, Lac-Mégantic G6B 2S1, ☎ , fax: . Two 3-D movie screens, English-language films shown Thursdays. From $5/person.
- 3 Club de golf de Lac-Megantic, 1039 route 161, Lac-Megantic G6B 2S5, ☎ .
- 4 Complexe Baie des Sables, 2370, chemin du Lac, G6B 2S5, ☎ . Beachfront park on the shore of Lac Mégantic. Cabins, camping, canoeing, kayak and pedal boat rental. Restaurant and bar on-site. Playground, picnic area, docks and boat launch. $9/car, $11/camper.
- 5 Le Vent du Sud, 254, rang des Grenier, Piopolis G0Y 1H0, ☎ . Equestrian centre. Lessons and one-week summer camp available. $30/person for 45-minute horseback tour.
- 6 Mont Gosford, Woburn, ☎ . 8AM-4PM (6PM Sat) info kiosk. Tallest summit in southern Québec, hiking and cycling trails. Camping $8-24, chalets $82-140. $2.50/person, $9/car.
- 7 Frontenac National Park, 177, route du parc de Frontenac, Saint-Daniel G0N 1S0, ☎ . Provincial park with campgrounds, boating, canoeing, snowshoeing, hiking and cycling on the shores of Grand lac Saint-François. Refuges for close to 200 bird species and over 30 mammal species.
- 8 Mont-Mégantic National Park, 189 Route du Parc, Notre-Dame-des-Bois J0B 2E0, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Provincial park with two mountains (Saint-Joseph and Mégantic) to climb on foot or by motorcar. ASTROlab astronomical interpretation centre on-site. Open year-round. Hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowshoe hiking, bird and nature watching. Park is 50km (30 miles) from Lac Mégantic village. park access $6.50/person, campground $27-38/night.
- 9 Théâtre de la première scène, 160 Route 263 South, Marston, ☎ . French-language live summer theatre. $22/person.
- Festival Chasse et Pêche, Nôtre Dame des Bois (near Mont Mégantic), ☎ . Hunting and fishing festival, live entertainment, first week in July.
- Grand tour du lac Mégantic, ☎ , toll-free: . Annual bicycle tour, early June.
- Traversée internationale du lac Mégantic, ☎ , fax: . Annual swim meet, early August. Competition between swimmers from around the world, entertainment for all ages, shows by renowned artists, fireworks.
- Marché Public (Public Market), 5400, rue Papineau (Centre Sportif). mid-June to end Sept, 9AM-2PM Saturdays. Public market with opportunity to sample local and regional produce, on sport centre grounds (or indoors in case of rain).
- 1 Aux Jardins Couverts (Fraisières et framboisières Carmen & Gaétan Roy), 1919, route 161, Nantes G0Y 1G0, ☎ . Pick your own strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in-season. Maple products and organic vegetables.
- 1 Auberge au Soleil Levant, 499, rue Principale, Piopolis G0Y 1H0, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Restaurant, pub and four-room country inn on waterfront, near snowmobile trail.
- 2 La Berge Glacée, 5600, rue Papineau, ☎ . Ice cream dairy bar with patio.
- 3 Restaurant Le Renato, 3423, rue Laval, ☎ .
- 4 Resto-Brasserie le Moulin, 3164, rue Laval, ☎ . 6AM-10PM, Sun 7AM-9PM. Steak, seafood, Greek and Italian foods, pizza and subs, breakfast.
- 1 Brasserie Laval, 4661, rue Laval, ☎ . Bar with patio, live music some weekends.
- 2 Musi-Café, 5601, rue Papineau, ☎ . Bar with live music, obliterated by the 2013 train derailment with much loss of life; a new Musi-Café opened on Papineau Street on December 15, 2014.
- 3 Resto-Bar Le Friand, 3280, rue Laval, ☎ . 7 days/week. Restaurant and bar. Breakfast, steak, seafood, pizza, pasta.
- 1 Au Ruisseau Jaseur, 337 Rang des Grenier, Piopolis G0Y 1H0, ☎ . Cottage rentals on the Lac Mégantic shore in Piopolis. $800/week.
- 2 Auberge et Chalets sur le Lac, 2000, chemin du Motel-sur-le-lac, Frontenac G6B 2S1, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Rooms and chalets for rent, refrigerators, boat docks on-site, outdoor pool. Whirlpool bath in some rooms. Additional charge for pets. $95-145/night.
- 3 Le Quiet, 3284 Laval St, G6B 1A4, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Check-in: 2-10PM, check-out: noon. 47 room hotel/motel, wi-fi, meeting facilities, restaurant adjacent.
- 4 Les Victorines du lac, 1886 Route 161 South, Frontenac G6B 2S1, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . 17-room country inn with dining room, meeting facilities for up to thirty people. $60-120/night.
The Lac-Mégantic downtown post office has been relocated to Carrefour Lac Mégantic (3560 Laval Street, ); Main Street post offices in Piopolis (415, rue Principale G0Y 1H0) and Nantes (1267, rue Principale G0Y 1G0) remain open. Wi-fi is available at McDonald's on Laval Street.
- 2 Médiathèque municipale Nelly-Arcan, 3700, rue Lemieux, ☎ . Mon 1-5 PM, Tue 10AM-5PM, Thu 10AM-8PM, Fri 1-8PM, Sat 10AM-4PM. New public library opened May 2014 with Internet, photocopy, computer lab.