Before you get going, check our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.


 

There's something about spring that gets us in our feels every time. Be it the longer days, the warmer temps, the smell of fresh flowers or the sound of the birds returning after a long winter, spring is truly a season like no other.

Spring may be reason enough to get outdoors, but the benefits of being in nature extend beyond the immediate feel-good factor.

Thriving amidst the pressure of modern life is a real challenge, which is why Mazda consulted with Stress Coach and Wellness Educator, Nicole Porter. According to Porter, connecting with nature reduces stresses, strengthens immunity, betters eyesight and improves focus, productivity and sleep.

"There are less dings, pings and rings from our devices... there is less stress on our nerves, our nervous system and our brain when we connect with nature," she tells Narcity.

"Being in nature is like putting your foot on the brake, and when it comes to our health, our bodies are relying on us to slow down more often," she says.

And it's not just a feeling, either. A 2021 survey commissioned by Mazda revealed 65% of Canadians say that nature has as big an impact on their mental health as on their physical health.

In a world where we're constantly browsing through apps and — lately more than ever — the news, there's no doubt we could all use a little R&R courtesy of the great outdoors.

And whether you've got a busy schedule, have been deterred by the cold weather of days past or simply lack motivation, spending time in nature is a whole lot easier than you think.

Just picture yourself cruising down the open road, en route to the nature-filled destination of your dreams. To make that vision a reality, these nine weekend getaways from Montreal are a good place to start.

Mont Saint-Bruno (ETA: 40 minutes)

Address: 330 Rang des Vingt Cinq E., Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, QC

Why You Need To Go: Mont Saint-Bruno is only a few kilometres from Montreal, making it a short drive until you're among the idyllic views and tranquil waters of this national park.

Whether you rent a canoe or bring one of your own, paddling the waters of Lac des Bouleaux will have you feeling refreshed in no time.

If walking is more your speed, you can also hike up to 27 kilometres of trails encircling the area's five lakes. With over 200 bird species, among other wildlife, just be sure to bring your binoculars (and a camera)!

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Eastman (ETA: 1 hour 15 minutes)

Address: 407 Rue Principale, Eastman, QC

Why You Need To Go: In the Eastern Townships of Quebec (otherwise known as Eastman), you may just feel like you're in an episode of Gilmore Girls. Aside from its quaint small-town vibe, there's plenty of nature scenes to discover. Stroll or bike one of the area's many trails, including the renowned Louise Portal Trail, or take a dip in the nearby Lac d'Argent.

For the more adventurous types, there's even a treetop aerial course that spans the shores of Lac Mégantic. Talk about views and adrenaline!

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Mont Orford (ETA: 1 hour 30 minutes)

Address: 4380 Chemin du Parc, Orford, QC

Why You Need To Go: Less than an hour-and-a-half from Montreal, Mont Orford truly has a little something for everyone. With its five lookouts, you'll be awed by panoramic views of towering mountain ranges and lush greenery as far as the eye can see.

Afterwards, kick back in the comfort of your car with a bag of popcorn at Ciné-Parc Orford and bring a little something of nature to your movie-watching experience.

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Lac Morency (ETA: 1 hour 30 minutes)

Address: 42 Rue de la Chaumine, Saint-Hippolyte, QC

Why You Need To Go: Whether for a day trip or a weekend getaway, Lac Morency is a popular destination for outdoor sports and nature enthusiasts alike. In fact, don't be surprised if you end up adding it to your list of getaway repeats because, with so much to do, Lac Morency promises a good time, every time.

From water sports like wakeboarding and whitewater rafting to biking and hiking, Lac Morency is a must for those who want to combine a weekend of thrill with the perfect amount of chill.

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The Appalachian Foothills (ETA: 2 hours)

Address: 25 St-Jacques E., Princeville, QC

Why You Need To Go: More commonly referred to as the Foothills, this mountainous destination is surrounded by picturesque ranges that are perfect for all nature lovers.

To get the full experience of this gorgeous area, be sure to explore the area by car first since the Foothills' 240 kilometres of hilly terrain makes for breathtaking viewpoints.

When you've found a place to park your car, there are dozens of hiking trails for all skill levels. Have your swimsuit at the ready — waterfalls and rivers happily interrupt most paths, making it a great spot to picnic while dipping your toes.

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Pink Lake (ETA: 2 hours 30 minutes)

Address: 33 Chemin Scott, Old Chelsea, QC

Why You Need To Go: Pink Lake, renowned for its turquoise waters, is located in Gatineau Park — just under three hours' drive from Montreal.

Boasting a 2.3-kilometre trail loop and a lookout of its very own, the lake is actually named after the Pink family who settled in the area all the way back in 1826.

Pink Lake gets its signature green waters from microscopic algae, but you don't need to be a history buff or a science nerd to enjoy the natural beauty it has to offer.

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Lac Memphrémagog (ETA: 1 hour 20 minutes)

Address: 455 Rue MacDonald, Magog, QC

Why You Need To Go: Another notable spot in the Eastern Townships, Lake Memphrémagog spans a whopping 100 square kilometres, stretching across parts of both Quebec and Vermont.

Whether you sail, paddleboard or fish, nothing instills a sense of calm and tranquillity like a day on the water. When you're ready to turn in, Lac Memphrémagog has plenty of places to stay including cabins nestled in the woods and charming Hobbit-style houses.

Plus, the area is surrounded by mountain ranges, which make for serene views and great photo ops!

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Green Mountains Nature Reserve (ETA: 1 hour 45 minutes)

Address: Mansonville, QC

Why You Need To Go: Only an hour's drive from Montreal, the Green Mountains Nature Reserve is truly a sight to behold. It's actually the largest privately held conversation in Quebec with ranges running through parts of the U.S. as well.

With 20 species of at-risk plants and all kinds of wildlife, from peregrine falcons to moose, you'd be hard-pressed to get closer to nature than here.

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Lac Pohénégamook (ETA: 4 hours 45 minutes)

Address: 1309 Rue Principale, Pohénégamook, QC

Why You Need To Go: Brace for wanderlust when you see Lac Pohénégamook, which is ideal for a weekend (or even a week-long) getaway. In fact, getting there is half the fun.

Roughly a five-hour drive from Montreal, nothing says road trip like a relaxing playlist to get you in the zone for Lac Pohénégamook.

With a cycle path that loops around the entire lake, a forestry road and even a beach, once you get there you may never want to leave.

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Who knew there were so many breathtaking natural getaways to explore just a leisurely cruise from the city? The knowledge that a weekend of relaxing and recharging is this close by is a soothing thought in itself. The next time you feel wrung out and in need of some me-time, having a break is as easy as getting in your car and taking off.

For more stories, check out Mazda's Seeking Nature series.

To learn more about getting back to nature with Mazda, check out their website or follow them on Instagram and YouTube.