Day Tripping in Wakefield

A July 2006 trip to Wakefield by girlfromals Best of IgoUgo

The Colourful PatioMore Photos

The Great Blackout of 2003 had a silver lining. My guests and I discovered this wonderful gem north of Ottawa.

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The Patio and Falls and Wakefield Mill
Looking for a way to spend our time during my unexpected days off during the Blackout of 2003, I suggested to my sister and now brother-in-law that we head up to the Wakefield Mill. What we expected to be a short trip out of the city turned into a delightful afternoon in a quaint town situated in one of the picturesque valleys in the Gatineau Hills.

Situated on the bank of the wide and slow-flowing Gatineau River, Wakefield is a charming town which will take you back in time at least 100 years. The original buildings and character of the town and surrounding hills have changed little since this area was settled by Scots, Brits, and Irish immigrants in the early 19th century. Wakefield's valley location also makes it a perfect destination for those hot, humid days when you desperately need to get out of Ottawa.

There is so much to see and do in Wakefield and its environs but here are a few suggestions.

One of the first commercial enterprises in the area, Le Moulin Wakefield Mill, has been converted into a hotel/spa/conference centre with a great restaurant. The restaurant features French/Québecois cuisine with a great patio overlooking the falls that used to run the mill. The hotel has recently added a glass section to the restaurant which extends out over the falls.

Just up the hill from the Wakefield Mill is located the MacLaren Cemetery. This cemetery, final resting place of the original immigrants and locals today, would probably have been forgotten and unvisited by tourists if it had not been for former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson who was buried here. You can visit the understated gravesite of this Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The Wakefield Confectionery, located across from the end of the train line has developed a great reputation for its home made products including its all natural fudge offered in a variety of different flavours. Anyone with a sweet tooth will need to stop here.

Café Pot-Au-Feu, located in the old train station, offers a reasonably priced meal with breathtaking scenery. The restaurant is located right on the river beside the old rail line.

Jamboree 740, a hundred-year-old restored general store offers gifts, home furnishings and garden ornaments. This is a great place if you are looking for a gift or something to take home with you.

Quick Tips:

The Gatineau Hills surrounding Wakefield are the star attraction and one of the main reasons why I love returning to this town. One visit to the area makes it clear why Irish, English and Scottish immigrants chose this area to settle: high tree-covered hills and deep river valleys enveloped by rain mist. The Hills are chock-full of hidden gems. All you need to do is get off the highway to discover them.

Covered bridges are common in the area. Highway signs indicate which side roads to take. Wakefield has its own covered bridge over the river. Unfortunately, it is a replica as the original burned in the 1980s. The bridge is accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

Fresh fruit stands are common on the sides of local highways. While you might find a variety of fruit on offer, the most common fruit to be found is the local wild blueberry. These blueberries are rather small, and a lot of work to pick, but they are very sweet and tasty. Look for the signs along the highways advertising blueberries or ‘bleuets'.

Also common in the area are antique dealers and artisans. They usually advertise with their own signage but you can also locate them by stopping by local tourist information offices. Wakefield has its own tourist information office on the north end of town.

If you are a thrill-seeker, you can make a quick stop at a bungee jumping operation located in a rock quarry. Visitors can try bungee jumping off the edge of a giant crane. Not for the faint of heart, (including me), I've skipped this stop on each of my visits to Wakefield. If you are interested, the quarry is located on highway 105 just before the turn off to Wakefield.

Best Way To Get Around:

Situated less than a ½ hour drive from Ottawa I believe the best way to get to Wakefield is by car. This allows you to depart and return at your leisure but also to stop at various sites along the way. How to get there from Ottawa: take the MacDonald-Cartier Bridge over to Gatineau (take King Edward from the Market area of Ottawa and stay in one of the 2 lanes to the left) - this is Highway 5. Follow Highway 5 north through Gatineau until it ends. The termination of Highway 5 is a bit strange - if you turn left, you'll end up back on highway 5 going back the way you came! So, turn right to get to the junction with Highway 105 - you'll see the junction as soon as you turn right. The signs at the junction will tell you where to go but you'll want to turn left (north) on highway 105 toward Wakefield. Follow highway 105 until you see a sign telling you to exit right to get to Wakefield. If you have any doubts, look for the Giant Tiger store at that intersection. In less than a minute, you will arrive in Wakefield.

An alternative method of transport, if you have time and the money, is to take the Hull-Chelsea- Wakefield Steam Train. It is only one of two steam trains which still travel along Canadian rails. This would be the perfect method of travel for those who love to take landscape and nature photography - driving a car while taking photographs could endanger your health! For more information, visit the bilingual website.

Sandwiched between the hills and the river valley, Wakefield is much longer than it is wide. The town is certainly walkable from one end to the other. You can park in one of the many parking lots and walk from there. Some businesses offer very small parking lots that are limited to patrons. There is a large lot beside the Confectionery with no limit on parking. The other option is to park at the tourist information centre almost across the road from the Confectionery.

Walking along the road can be a bit dangerous as there are not real sidewalks on both sides of the road the entire length of the town. The other option is to walk along the old rail line.

Café Pot-Au- Feu


The Colourful Patio
Thinking of what to do on a hot muggy Ottawa weekend a work colleague and I decided to head out to Wakefield for Saturday brunch. He promptly made reservations at Café Pot-Au- Feu located in the old Wakefield train station. On our drive up we were caught in a thunderstorm accompanied by a torrential downpour. We drove around Wakefield for about half an hour before heading to the restaurant. My friend told me reservations were required for the patio tables because of the restaurant's popularity.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly young woman who took us to our reserved table. There were only 3 other tables occupied at the time so there really was no need for a reservation. However, I think this had more to do with the downpour as the tables quickly filled up around noon. The square tables are decked out in cheerful blue and white tablecloths and are accompanied by green plastic chairs giving the patio a relaxed atmosphere. All the tables are lined up against the bright blue outer wall of the old train station so that every visitor has a view of the magnificent hills and the slow-flowing river. The patio is made even more cheerful by the pots of colourful flowers and the greenery and flowers growing along the rail line along the edge of the patio.

My friend and I ordered the cheese omelette with ham, cheddar, mushrooms, onions, and mixed vegetables for $8.25 CAD. The mixed vegetables included tomatoes, and green and red peppers. The omelettes were enormous and filled to the brim with the extras. The order came with two slices of toast in your choice of white or brown. They were very light and I suspect they came from the local bakery down the street. We also were given 3 generous pieces of fruit. The omelette was very tasty and did not require any salt or pepper. I chose raspberry jam from the selection provided.

The Wakefield Steam Train arrived in Wakefield from Hull at around 11:30. We heard the whistle of the old train long before we could see it on the track further down the river valley. At around 11:25, the old steam engine made it to the restaurant on its way to the end of the line. There were quite a number of passengers in the cars. The kids were waving at us and the adults rudely stared while we ate. They should have looked out the opposite side of the car at the lovely hills instead of us! The train stopped as the lines were changed and then made its way on to its stopping point.

Café Pot-Au-Feu makes a relaxed and charming destination for weekend brunch. If you time it correctly you too can welcome the train to town.
  • Member Rating 4 out of 5 by girlfromals on July 17, 2006

Café Pot-Au- Feu
794 River Road Wakefield, Quebec
(819) 459-2080

Wakefield Mill

Restaurant | "Le Moulin Wakefield Mill"

The Falls at Wakefield Mill
With the power out all across Ottawa we looked in our tourist brochures to see if there were something interesting to visit on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. We decided to make the 30 minute drive into the Gatineau Hills to the Wakefield Mill, built in 1838. We were under the impression from the tourist information we had that the Mill could be toured. Little did we know that in 2001 it had been converted into a hotel. We were slightly disappointed and it was made even worse by the fact that the road up to the hotel was difficult to locate. This has been rectified with the placement of a bright blue provincial highway sign indicating where to turn.

We decided to stay and grab a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant and we were very glad that we did. The food and the setting were a great way to turn around a day that had not started out so well. Originally built as a grist mill, and later expanded to include a sawmill and wool mill, the hotel is located on the banks of a set of chutes and rapids. The building looks like a hodge-podge of designs from the outside: 3 feet thick stone walls, a wooden-walled section, and a plaster- walled section, all decorated with enough flowers to make you think you were in the Alps!

When we walked inside, we were relieved to be greeted by refreshingly cool air. We headed in to the dining room to the left of the small lobby. We headed down the old staircase into the lower area of the dining room which looked like it was all decked out for a big party but it wasn't; all the tables had simply been set for supper. We then proceeded out to the deck and were greeted by a fantastic view of the waterfalls. We were promptly greeted by one of the serving staff who took our orders. The 3 of us laughed when we discovered that we ordered the exact same thing: the onion tart. It was absolutely delicious! The salad which came with it was fresh and crisp and the vinaigrette dressing I chose was great.

We stayed to relax for a while simply because we found the place so refreshing. The spray from the waterfall, the hanging pots of flowers, a cool breeze in the shade, combined with a wonderful meal and great service made this a great start to our visit to Wakefield.

The best vantage point for taking pictures of the Mill and waterfalls is just down the road from the Mill. Simply take the sidewalk in the direction of the road you arrived on and you'll be lead down to an area where a wall curves out into the water.

If you make a trip to Wakefield, be sure to stop by the Mill, if not for the food, at least for the waterfall and the refreshing atmosphere.
  • Member Rating 4 out of 5 by girlfromals on July 17, 2006

Wakefield Mill
60 Mill Road Wakefield, Quebec
(819) 459-1838

MacLaren Cemetery


MacLaren Cemetary
Most cemeteries are not tourist destinations, especially tiny cemeteries in small towns. But if you take a trip to Wakefield, I highly recommend you visit the small MacLaren Cemetery. Buried here is the late Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, perhaps the greatest statesman this country has every produced.

Prime Minister Pearson, after whom Toronto's airport is named, defined Canada's role internationally, a role which continues today. In the middle of the Suez Crisis with no apparent way out, Prime Minister Pearson suggested an international peacekeeping force, averting war and allowing the forces in the area at the time to withdraw their troops without losing face. For his ‘invention' of peacekeeping, Prime Minister Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the only Canadian to be awarded this honour. Canada takes its peacekeeping role very seriously; we are the only country in the world to have participated in every United Nations peacekeeping mission as well as numerous non-UN missions.

Located near the Wakefield Mill, the cemetery began as the family cemetery of the MacLaren's, the original owners of the Mill. The cemetery is small but offers a great sense of history nonetheless as graves date back to the original Wakefield settlement. Situated on the top of a hill, the cemetery offers a beautiful view of the Gatineau Hills. It would be a particularly spectacular view in fall when the leaves change colour or after a rainfall when the hills are surrounded by mist. It is no wonder Scottish immigrants chose this place as their home. Prime Minister Pearson, while serving with the Department of External Affairs, hiked in the surrounding woods with his friends and political counterparts Hume Wrong and Norman Robertson. Robertson and Wrong also chose to make MacLaren Cemetery their final resting spot.

Pearson's grave is almost as plain as one can get; no one would ever guess that this is the grave of a former Prime Minister of Canada. The only way you know that this is the final resting place of the Prime Minister is the Canadian flag and the commemorative plaque erected in Pearson's honour. I consider this a perfect illustration of Pearson himself as well as Canada's character.

To find MacLaren's Cemetery, head to the Wakefield Mill. Drive past the Mill and over the small bridge. You will notice a large red brick home on the right. Instead of following the road left, continue straight onto the small road which rises up the sharp hill. There is a very small street sign at this intersection but it can be easy to miss. This road will take you directly to the cemetery after only a few minutes drive.

To locate the grave of Prime Minister Pearson, head to the Canadian flag at the far end of the parking lot. There you can read about Pearson. Enter the cemetery through the gate on the left. There are markers with arrows located in the grass but these are very small and not easy to see.
  • Member Rating 4 out of 5 by girlfromals on July 17, 2006

MacLaren Cemetery
Wakefield, Quebec

Wakefield Confectionary
When we saw the sign announcing ‘chocolat,' we quickly pulled in to the parking lot. The Wakefield Confectionery is a charming little store located in a historic house along the main road through Wakefield. This store was opened in 2003 and is operated by a young couple who used to work in the kitchen at the Wakefield Mill Hotel restaurant, this place is a treasure of home- made delights.

The store is quite small, mostly one large room with a small room off to the back. When you walk in, look up at the ceiling. This store still has the old tin ceiling but it is painted red and is gilded with gold. In the centre of the room and around the outside walls are wooden shelves filled with goodies made locally: jams, jellies, honeys, mustards, and all other sorts of preserves. Have you ever tried dandelion jelly? I have not and I certainly was not brave enough to do so that day but you can find it on the shelf! You will also find all kinds of things for your kitchen, for example, place mats and oven mitts, all made by local craftspeople. I picked up some mulling spices to make mulled wine at Christmas and my sister picked up some preserves as a gift for someone back home.

The best part of the store, perhaps because I absolutely love chocolate, is the back counter. There you can find the fudge which the owners make themselves out of local and fresh ingredients. The owner told me that they use local maple syrup and real cream, no preservatives and no fructose or glucose. The fudge alone has lead to the reputation of this store. On my first visit there were three selections on offer including a new one the owners were testing. The chocolate fudge was to die for!!! The new one, a pepper fudge (yes, with black pepper) was an interesting combination of flavours. It tasted sweet to begin with but after it started to melt in my mouth I could taste the pepper. It became quite hot - I think I ended up with the last piece where all the pepper had settled! On my second visit, the flavour selection had expanded and the pieces were much larger. A thick piece of fudge of roughly 3 by 5 inches is $5.25 CAD including taxes. I chose chocolate pecan for the road!

I highly recommend dropping in at this lovely place. If you take the Steamtrain to Wakefield, it is located right across the street from where you get off the train. If you drive to Wakefield, there is a good size parking lot beside the store. Be sure to pick up some of the homemade fudge! Yummy!!!
  • Member Rating 5 out of 5 by girlfromals on July 17, 2006

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