One of the benefits of exploring beyond the tourist hotspots is the opportunity to discover not just places that are authentic and less trafficked, but the chance to find unique or quirky places to stay. Québec’s Eastern Townships region prides itself on being ‘off the beaten path’, and what Henk and I discovered on a recent visit was that they offer accommodations that promise the same. And two of the places where we stayed, a bonafide treehouse and a “Rectangle” in the woods, gave us the opportunity to get close to nature, too.
Quirky Places to Stay #1: A Bonafide Treehouse at Au Diable Vert
I’ve dreamed of living in a treehouse ever since I watched Swiss Family Robinson as a child, and I’m clearly not the only one, given the popularity of shows like Treehouse Masters that showcase incredible modern-day structures anchored in the branches of trees. So the chance to stay in a bonafide treehouse now that I’m a grownup was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.
Au Diable Vert (the Green Devil) is a 400+ acre property nestled between the Green Mountains of Vermont to the south and the hills surrounding Glen Sutton, Québec. In fact, its elevated location in the forest actually inspired the Green Devil name and logo because a topographical map of the area resembles the outlines of a devilish face.
Au Diable Vert offers everything you’d want when it comes to getting away from it all: a 1000-foot altitude vantage point offering great views of the surrounding mountains, a river flowing on the property if you want to kayak, paddle board or float down the river on a tube, plus there are acres of forest for hiking. With no traffic or noise pollution, this place invites you to unplug and enjoy its beautiful surroundings where you are more likely to hear cows lowing than car horns honking. (They raise organic beef here, too.)
When it comes to their accommodation options, the management at Au Diable Vert is as creative as they are with their logo: there are about two dozen options including airstream trailers, ground-level arched ‘pods’, and rustic cabins. But when it comes to ‘quirky’ places to stay, it was their treehouses that got my attention, and there are 8 on the property to choose from.
Settling into our Eagle’s Nest at Au Diable Vert
Our treehouse was The Eagle’s Nest, the first treehouse built at Au Diable Vert, and apparently one of the smaller ones. Yet Henk and I were surprised with the size of this lofted cabin that had 2 queen sized beds, one on the ‘ground’ floor (if you can call it that in a treehouse) and one in the little loft above. What was more impressive was that this solid little story-and-a-half cabin was suspended in the branches using a unique support system that doesn’t harm the trees (even Henk was impressed with the construction.)
Inside there was a wood stove that could be used for heating, cooking or both, and a battery-powered light to illuminate the interior at night. Solid construction and good doors and windows meant that these treehouses can be used year round, and as we found out, even when rain started pattering on the roof, our little treehouse stayed cozy and comfortable.
Actually the rain made it pretty romantic, as Henk and I sipped on grownup drinks with a fire going and the sound of raindrops on the roof. (Admittedly, the romance faded a little when those drinks necessitated a short walk to the outdoor toilet with an umbrella…take note, this may not be the accommodation choice for those who are ‘weak of bladder’!)
Notwithstanding the call(s) of nature, our overnight in our Eagle’s Nest cabin in the trees was the fulfilment of a childhood dream of staying in a treehouse, and the reality was even better – because it included wine!
TIP: There’s no need to have to cook on your treehouse vacation: the cute town of Sutton is only a few minutes’ drive away and they have some great restaurants like the Sutton Brouerie. But it’s always nice to have something in the morning when you wake up, so hit up the local grocery store like Henk and I did if you’d like a few things on hand in the treehouse for breakfast.
How’s This for Quirky: an Aerial Cycling Trail in the Trees!
If the treehouses aren’t quirky enough for you, Au Diable Vert also offers a truly one-of-a-kind activity: VéloVolant, the only suspended bicycle trail of its kind in Canada! If you like zip lining and cycling, this is the perfect love child of both, because participants get to hop aboard a recumbent bicycle and pedal their way through the trees on a 1-km circuit.
The bikes are suspended on cables that wind their way (literally) through the trees. The track itself is level (so the cycling itself isn’t difficult) but because of the hilly geography here, as the ground drops off below you, cyclists find themselves almost 5 stories up in the trees at some points.
Henk is notoriously not a fan of heights, (but in spite of that, he’s game for all kinds of high-flying adventures that I want to try), and even he could appreciate the cool factor of Vélovolant. I actually loved it, and made sure to go at my own pace to really appreciate the forest and the beautiful views. In fact, I would happily have gone around again.
TIP: Vélovolant is not for you if you are terrified of heights, and there are age and weight restrictions for riders, so be sure to check the website before you book.
Quirky Places to Stay #2: A ‘Rectangle’ in the Forest at La Station du Chêne Rouge
When owners Philippe and Hilda literally “bought a forest” in Québec’s Eastern Townships between Sherbrooke and North Hatley, they knew they wanted to share their tranquil piece of property with people in a way that would be as close to nature as possible. But they also wanted to offer a range of accommodations that would satisfy everyone from ‘glampers’ to traditional campers.
So they came up with a vision for La Station du Chêne Rouge that included structures that they called ‘Pods’, ‘Triangles’,”Saisonniers’ and ‘Rectangles’ to augment their traditional pitch-a-tent campsites. Their idea was that these permanent structures would not only be a unique place to stay but would offer different levels of amenities, depending on what type of back-to-nature experience and level of comfort you prefer.
This concept sounded perfect for Henk and I since we typically don’t pack tents or pots and pans when we travel, but love the idea of staying somewhere that allows us to hike, see dark skies and enjoy nature. So we chose to stay in a ‘Rectangle’, which offers the most amenities for people like us who are more ‘glampers’ than campers.
‘Rectangle’ Amenities at La Station du Chêne Rouge
Our little Rectangle was newly-built with a ‘modern-rustic’ design aesthetic and floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the surrounding forest from almost every side, while still offering plenty of privacy from any neighbours. We even had patio doors leading to a small deck if we wanted another place to sit other than around the fire pit.
Inside, our tiny house in the woods was furnished with a rustic table and chairs and a proper queen-sized bed with linens provided. There was a small kitchen area including a sink, a single burner propane camp stove and shelves stocked with cookware essentials, and of course a bottle opener and wine glasses (a must when glamping in my opinion – plus we were in Québec after all!).
Unplug and Unwind
All in all, Henk and I had everything we needed for a comfortable sleep in the woods that did not involve tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, or sleeping on the ground – perfect! The best part was that since our Rectangle had no electricity, we weren’t obsessed with finding enough plugs for our cell phones, chargers and cameras, something we regularly do when we travel. Instead, all we needed to do was unplug and recharge ourselves.
With no light pollution and a clear night filled with stars, we spent some time enjoying the view of the spectacular skies before finally going to bed. Nothing disturbed our peaceful night’s sleep, and we woke to the sound of birds and a view of the sun filtering through the trees outside the windows.
Talk about a breath of fresh air.
To Pee or Not to Pee
Getting close to nature is one thing, but the call of nature is a whole other matter. So one thing to know is that when it comes to ‘facilities’, none of Chêne Rouge’s accommodations include a bathroom, which means walking a fair distance. (And why does it always seem that the farther the distance to the facilities, the greater the need to pee? I might have to rethink the wine idea next time….)
TIP: If you want to be close to the main reception building which has full washroom facilities including showers and flush toilets, request the ‘L’Air’ Rectangle which is only about 50 yards away. Otherwise, there are temporary toilets located around the property that will be replaced with composting toilets soon. (La Chêne Rouge just opened in the spring of this year, so work is still ongoing.)
Up AND Off the Beaten Path
“Off the beaten path” is something so many travellers are seeking these days. And on our visit to the Eastern Townships in Québec, Henk and I took it to a new level with these quirky places to stay. Because not only did we go off the path for our stay in our little Rectangle – we went UP and off the beaten path, in our Eagles’ Nest Treehouse (and our VéloVolant adventure!)
As quirky and fun as this all was, Henk did make a suggestion that it might be time to implement a new Grownup Rule when it comes to where we stay: No having to get fully dressed just to go for a pee.
He might have a point…
But I’m not making any promises – especially where treehouses are concerned.
If you liked reading about these quirky places to stay, check out when Henk and I stayed in a ‘ball in a tree’ on Vancouver Island.
Special thanks to Tourism Eastern Townships who hosted Henk and I at these quirky places to stay in Québec.