The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon is the only marathon in Canada that straddles two provinces. But if you’re in town for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, there’s no need to limit your experience of the Quebec side to the few kilometres of Gatineau you’ll see on the course. Quebec has plenty of attractions, great restaurants, spas and recreational opportunities to check out while you’re in the Ottawa region, and many are just across the bridge. Why not take a day or two to enjoy them?
Those running the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon will only skim the surface of the wonder that is Gatineau Park, a 361-square-kilometre conservation area where visitors can hike, bike, rock climb, or simply take a stroll in beautiful, natural surroundings. It’s only 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, so take a half day to explore its many treasures: the Mackenzie King Estate, Lusk Cave, the view from Huron or Champlain Lookout, or the beach at Lac Philippe.
Ziplining at Camp Fortune
There’s nothing like flying through the forest on a zipline at one of the Outaouais region’s most popular ski areas. The Explorer Park has two full courses and the longest ziplines (allow two and a half to three hours). There is also a children’s park. Open weekends from May 4 to June 21 (or weekdays for group reservations) from 9 a.m. until dusk. Reservations necessary. Book online or call 819-827-5517
Canadian Museum of History
Formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization, this stunning edifice is right around the 25K mark on the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon course, just before you head back across the bridge into Ottawa. It is well worth a separate visit–even more so if you have kids, since it also houses the Canadian Children’s Museum, which is like a transcontinental adventure. Kids can get their “passport” stamped, play in a Pakistani bus, slay dragons, perform onstage in their own play, explore artifacts, and generally get lost in their imagination. No kids? The rest of the museum is pretty cool, too, from the spectacular architecture by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal to the jaw-dropping collection of totem poles in the Grand Hall and beyond.
Great patios, hidden galleries in Old Hull
Take a stroll through Old Hull and enjoy the area’s rich history and old-world atmosphere. Learn about Gatineau’s brewing heritage at Les Brasseurs du Temps, enjoy drinks and live music at Aux 4 Jeudis, and stop in at the atelier and gallery, La Filature, which is housed in the former Hanson Hosiery factory building.
Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea
Relaxation is strictly enforced at Nordik Spa, with cellphones and cameras restricted to the restaurants and silence observed in all the saunas. One of three Nordik spas in Canada (there is one in Winnipeg and another will open in Whitby, Ont. in fall 2019), Nordik Spa-Nature Chelsea offers a dizzying selection of treatments, from thermotherapy to yoga, various exotic body treatments to massage, and simple morning coffee to fine dining in your luxurious bathrobe (open to spa guests only). Even better, they are experts at treating athletes. Treatments are available in packages or à la carte.
About an hour’s drive east of Gatineau near the village of Montebello, Parc Omega is a terrific day trip for families. Explore the wildlife park and see the local fauna up close. Stay overnight in a cabin, tipi, wolf hut or stilt house, sleep near bears and wolves, or just come for the day and enjoy a picnic lunch. (There is also a casual restaurant.) Purchase tickets online in advance here.
Fairmont Le Château Montebello
If you’re interested in ending the day on a more luxurious note after visiting Parc Omega, consider having dinner at Château Montebello’s main dining room, Aux Chantignoles, open between 5:30 and 10:00 p.m. daily. (Reservations required and dress code in effect.) The hotel is about an hour’s drive east of Gatineau. Reservations are not required at the more casual Bistro La Seigneurie, which is also open daily between 5:30 and 10:00 p.m. Kids under 5 eat free, and there is a children’s menu. The hotel also offers spa and golf packages.
Slip away for a round at one of the numerous public golf courses on the Quebec side (of which these are just a few). All are reasonably close to Ottawa (with the exception of Mont Ste-Marie, which is an hour’s drive). And it’s worth a short detour to Wakefield for coffee and a croissant at Pipolinka Bakery in Wakefield.
Wakefield Mill Hotel and Spa
Indulge yourself with a visit to Wakefield’s historic mill beside the scenic Maclaren Falls. Book a weekend stay and spa visit or come for dinner at Muse (open daily for breakfast and dinner) or the Heron Wine Bar, which is open daily for lunch and dinner. Only 35K from downtown Ottawa. Reservations recommended.