Above: Sugar shack by the St. Lawrence river in Québec. Photo: Thomas-Charles, Getty Images.
Sure, you could spend spring break at an overcrowded beach watching inebriated co-eds do ridiculous stunts in bikinis…but you’ve been there, done that already. Try a new kind of spring break getaway with a trip to Québec, where maple sugaring season is underway now through early April. Make like a lumberjack of yore and tap a tree, then turn the sap into maple syrup at a cabane a sucre (sugar shack) or just enjoy the fruits of someone else’s tree-tapping labor at a sugar shack restaurant. Syruping is a seasonal rite of passage for Québécois that dates back to the 17th Century (and even farther back than that thanks to the Native American tribes indigenous to those lands). Step back in time at one of these sugar shack destinations for an inimitable vacation or dining experience.
La Sucrerie de la Montagne
Located atop Mount Rigaud approximately 50 miles west of Montreal, you’ll find Sucrerie de la Montagne, a 30-year old sugar shack founded by Pierre Faucher. This official Québec heritage site boasts 120 acres of forest with plenty of maple trees to tap. Once you’ve made more syrup than you could possibly consume, relax to live music, go on a horse-drawn wagon ride, sample maple taffy on snow, and indulge in bison paupiettes, rabbit sausage, wild rice, and maple mignardises at the on-site restaurant La bête Sauvage. Overnight accommodations are available in log cabins with wood stoves or fireplaces and full bathrooms with showers. Even if you don’t make it here for sugaring season, this is one of the few sugar shack locations that is open year-round.
Cabane a Sucre au Pied de Cochon
Cabane a Sucre au Pied de Cochon is on the decadent end of the sugar shack spectrum. Founded by Martin Picard, this cabane a sucre is where Canada’s “Wild Chef” serves everything from “duck in a can” to foie gras hamburgers as well as maple-flavored treats like maple toffee milkshakes and maple crème brûlée. Located 45 minutes northwest from downtown Montréal in Saint-Benoît de Mirabel, this taxidermy-adorned shack is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday from February through early May.
Maybe you’re not into the whole “roughing it” thing. That’s OK. Manoir Hovey, a secluded, historic manor, is offering a cabane a sucre getaway that takes place on your plate. If you think that all you can do with syrup is pour it on pancakes, you’ll be amazed at all the ways it can enhance cuisine. Inspired by the property’s birch trees, which are tapped to make syrup, the kitchen at Le Hatley will be dishing up grilled pork belly, maple and beer ham, maple meringue, birch syrup glazed carrots, and birch syrup doughnuts. In a luxe teepee, guests can also enjoy an apéritif along with birch and maple taffy on snow. Accommodations at Manoir Hovey include your choice of 37 bedrooms and suites that border 30 acres of woods, English gardens, and 45 kilometers of shoreline on Lake Massawippi.