Hotel Review: Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello

This rustic retreat on the Ottawa River is a four-season destination.

The lobby fireplace. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

The lobby fireplace. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

The Vibe: Nestled in the small town of Montebello, Quebec (a mere one-hour outside of Canada’s capital), is where you’ll find the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. The impressive log cabin (it is afterall the world’s largest), sits on the edge of the Ottawa River surrounded by the natural beauty of the region. But don’t let the rustic charm fool you, it’s a luxurious spot to get a taste of the elements. Expect to find yourself amongst families enjoying the plethora of activities and couples looking for a relaxing escape.

The Facts: This luxury hotel was originally founded as a private club in 1930. Its design was inspired from the chateaux of the Swiss Alps and constructed from red cedar logs transported all the way from Canada’s West Coast. Taken over from the Canadian Pacific Hotels in 1970, it quickly became known as one of the most luxurious hotels in the country.

Offering 211 rooms, including 6 with Jacuzzi tubs, the chalet-like details continue in the guests suites. Ranging from 210- to 305-square feet, the rooms are cozy and feature amenities including bathrobes, coffee makers, kettles, and mini-refrigerators. As with all Fairmont hotels, you’ll also find Le Labo toiletries in the bathrooms.

For eats you’ll find a variety of options (some seasonal), including their fine dining dinner destination Aux Chantignoles. The menu draws from the region with game meats and traditional Quebecois flavours. Vegetarians don’t need to feel left out either, there happens to be a vegan dinner menu to choose from too.

Daily breakfast is served either a la carte or buffet-style in the main restaurant and come Sunday is their ever-popular Sunday brunch ($48/adult) offering regional specialities along with your traditional breakfast favourites.

One of the most popular gathering spots is around the gigantic fireplace (the heart of the property), where you can order cocktails, hot drinks and nibbles as you watch the fire roar.

Winter activities include dog-sledding. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

Winter activities include dog-sledding. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

With 300 acres of property to enjoy year-round there are no shortage of activities. Summer favourites include horseback riding, canoeing, outdoor tennis, and golf. In the winter you’ll find ice skating, curling, snowshoeing, dog sledding, snowmobiling and more. Plus there are walking trails, an enormous indoor pool and sports complex.

Another bonus for being a Fairmont guest, is access to the nearby Kenauk Nature. Only a 10-minute drive away, this 65,000 acre nature reserve is known for its fishing and hunting (both can be arranged at a cost), with complimentary activities for Fairmont guests including canoeing, kayaking and hiking trails.

Last but not least is the on-site spa overlooking the marina and surrounding forest. Connected to the indoor pool and sports complex, the relaxing retreat features a large selection of treatments including massage therapy, facial treatments, manicures and pedicures, as well as treatments for couples.

The Experience: We arrived early Saturday evening by car after a leisurely pace thanks to a stop in Ottawa. Greeted at the entrance by a friendly doorman, he took our heaps of bags from the car while we parked the car in the nearby parking lot (valet parking is available for $22/day). The lobby was bustling with people, a mixture of conference guests, families, as well as couples, many who were enjoying the roaring fireplace, as we quickly checked in. In addition to our set of keys we were also given a map of the property and gently encouraged to look at the spa menu (we were already booked in!).

A guest room. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

A guest room. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

We beelined to our River View Room on the first floor — the layout of the hotel is designed with the fireplace being the heart and four main arms extending out that comprise the guest rooms. Our room felt cozy with a touch of rustic, with dark wood accents, plaid fabrics and nature-inspired decor (we spotted a cute bear lamp). The view just barely caught glimpse of the river — not high enough unfortunately. We also had a desk (which became our snack table), an empty mini-fridge, large front closet (with robes) and two Double beds.

Not ready to call it a night we headed over to Bar Le Foyer — the centre of the action — for a nightcap. The cocktail menu had a mixture of classic drinks and Montebello-inspired creations, plus a small selection of nibbles like a decadent cheese board. As if the timing couldn’t be any better, a staff member came to tend to the fire, bringing the flames back to life.

We started the next day with breakfast in Aux Chantignoles, enjoying the buffet breakfast option. We found there was a large variety of options (some better than others), but overall a little pricey for what you got.

Most of our visit was spent on the property — although we did spend one morning at the nearby Kenauk Nature, taking a hike and trying our hand at clay shooting. It’s a beautiful spot and we would highly recommend heading over there. We also walked the trails and joined in a complimentary beginner curling class.

The relaxation lounge at the spa. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

The relaxation lounge at the spa. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

To get into full relaxation mode, we also booked ourselves in for some spa treatments. The spa actually connects with the pool, which we weren’t crazy about mainly due to the lack of exclusivity and peacefulness usually experienced in a spa. While the change room had separate lockers for spa guests, complete with robe and bath amenities, there wasn’t much luxury about the rest of the space. From here we were asked to wait in the co-ed relaxation room, where there was some snacks, tea and infused waters to enjoy while we waited. The actual spa treatment rooms were quiet and cozy — the massage therapist who completed my massage was very friendly and accommodating, not to mention almost put me to sleep (which is always a good thing in my book!).

Post-spa afternoon was dinner at Aux Chantignoles. Sadly many of the dishes were lost on us, since neither of us eat much meat! However, we were pleasantly surprised to see a vegan menu. It was a pleasant fine dining experience and there was a solid wine list. The best value is really their coursed option, ranging from 3 to 6 courses — depending on your appetite.

The indoor pool. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

The indoor pool. Image courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

Overall, we were impressed with the variety of activities available on site, as well as the excellent service all-around. On the negative, some of the food here and there could have been a bit better, especially for the price and many of the activities you do plan on doing will cost extra. But the property does have a remarkable history that’s worth seeing yourself.

Room to Book: Being an almost century-old building, the sound-proofing isn’t the greatest. We heard children above us jumping around and a baby beside us crying. We would suggest either an upper floor or a corner unit if noise bothers you. The rooms aren’t overly spacious (blame it on its vintage nature), so if it’s in the budget consider a deluxe guest room.

Good to Know: There is an optional daily $25 resort fee that is added to your room rate that includes many of the basic amenities on site including the indoor pool, trails and fitness facility. Other activities outside of the list such as cross-country skiing, tennis and horseback riding, come at an additional cost.

Where to Find:
Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello
392 Notre Dame
Montebello, QB J0V 1L0
819-423-6341, fairmont.com/montebello