Although you are still on the island of Montreal, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue is located at the far west of the island, 30 minutes from downtown and it was,, until 1878, named Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l’ile “Sainte Anne at the end of the island”. The village became a popular vacation spot and is now a city and popular site for a nice getaway from the metropolis. There’s a bit of a romantic side to the sunset on a nice summer’s evening.
Be aware that reaching the village by public transport is possible but requires preparation.
Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue can be a one-day destination in itself or, if you don’t live too far away, you can split your visit into several short outings. Whether with family, friends or as a couple, strolling through Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is very pleasant.
At the conjuncture of Lac des Deux-Montagnes and Lac Saint-Louis and the mouth of the Ottawa River, maritime activities were the reason for the economic development of the region.
On the historical side, in 1677, the mission, then called Saint-Louis-du-Haut-de-l’Isle, was founded. In 1706, they worked to ensure a land route was created. In 1712, following the survival of a member of the clergy from a bad fall from a horse on the ice on the evening of a major winter snowstorm, the Abbé de Breslay prayed to Sainte Anne to save him. A chapel was later built to fulfill his promise. The village also renamed the parish for Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l’Isle. The first post office opened in 1835.
On the transport side, in 1816, the first lock was built and in 1840 it was enlarged. In 1855, the inauguration of the railway bridge and the line that connects Montreal to Belleville, Ontario was organized by the Grand Trunk Railway Company. In 1870, the construction of a second lock took place. 1925 was the year of construction of the first Galipeau bridge which connects the island of Montreal to Île Perrot and it was later, in 1963, replaced.
In 1917, the Canadian government chose Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue as a place of recovery for veterans of the First World War. Around 1943 the hospital was enlarged. In 1971, a new hospital was built and renovated in the 21st century.
There is a lot of life here. The rapids and the canal for life on the water, the ecomuseum zoo for the wildlife, the Morgan arboretum for plant life, the market for agricultural life, Sainte-Anne street for social life, the MacDonald campus for student life, the Sainte-Anne church for religious life, the aviation museum for life in the air and military life.
The Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal and its locks are now administered by Parks Canada. Initially built to circumvent the rapids and avoid the portage, today it is a place of pleasure.
The Sainte-Anne canal was part of the development of the Ottawa River canalization, the construction of which took place between 1816 and 1843. The Sainte-Anne canal was the last in service.
Different channels with different purposes and different administrations proved complex to govern. The Vaudreuil lock was for private purposes and only allowed ships from one company to pass. This lock was finally abandoned. Sainte-Anne was under the supervision of the provincial government for commercial purposes accessible between upper and lower Canada. The advantages of the location were recognized and it was selected at the expense of Vaudreuil for an adequate network of locks. The Carillon, Chute-à-Blondeau and Grenville canals had a military purpose under British governance but changed vocation while remaining available to protect the river from attack, should the need arise.
Faced with the choice of Sainte-Anne, the passage was difficult through shallow waters so changes were necessary. The first step was the widening of the channel which was completed in 1877, and then the construction of new locks. In order not to interrupt the passages, the locks of the new maritime corridor were built parallel to the existing ones but closer to the village. The work was completed in 1883.
Observing the passage of pleasure boats through the locks is one of the activities to enjoy in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.
For an aerial view of the canal, head to the lookout point via the spiral road leading to the top of the bridge.
Official site: https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_nhs_eng.aspx?id=714
A beautiful promenade runs along the canal and leads to the locks. You are walking parallel to rue Sainte-Anne. The boats patiently wait their turn to pass the locks or dock to take a break. You will, therefore, have a beautiful view of this beautiful landscape. The promenade is accessible from either side of the canal.
When you walk on the island of Montreal, the pedestrian passage has on one side, the canal and on the other, the restaurant terraces of Sainte-Anne Street. Access is via Lalonde Park and there are entrances between the commercial buildings on the street.
In summer, everything is flowery and offers benches for a break or to enjoy an ice cream. A beautiful atmosphere reigns there with music and sometimes entertainment.
It is possible to walk over the locks to access the southern part of the canal. The passage is made when the lock doors are closed and the metal footbridge allows access to the other side.
The pleasure of wandering on the promenade is directly linked to the temperature and the weather conditions. Great on hot summer days, ordinary on cool, cold or rainy days.
Main Street Sainte-Anne
The main street where you can drive is Rue Sainte-Anne. It runs along the canal and on the south side is a series of restaurants to satisfy a craving, have a beer or for a romantic dinner. There is something for all tastes and budgets. In addition, most restaurants on the south side have a terrace overlooking the canal. This is a very popular spot on a hot summer evening.
You will not find parking here but in the surrounding streets or unless you are really lucky, under the bridge.
In addition to restaurants, there are creameries and also shops. Be sure to visit the Magasin D’Aoust store at 73.
153 rue Sainte Anne
While the seigniorial regime still reigned, at 153 rue Sainte-Anne, a house was erected in the years around 1792-8 just next to the ferry to Vaudreuil. The exact date is not confirmed.
This is one of Peter Grant’s two homes on this street. The one located at 9 rue Sainte-Anne served as a fur warehouse. Peter Grant was then one of the partners of the North West Company and he had worked there since 1784. In 1793, trade was going well and a depot was opened at Grand Portage. Peter became a principal partner in 1797 but competition with the Hudson’s Bay Company was fierce. In 1802, he replaced an agent in Sault Ste-Marie, Ontario.
It is said that the Irish poet Thomas Moore would have stayed there in 1804 to compose “the Canadian Boat Song”.
In 1805, Peter Grant retired and moved into the house at 153 rue Sainte-Anne. He left Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in 1820 to settle in Lachine.
It was in this year, 1820, that Simon Fraser, also a partner in the North West Company, acquired the house after his was destroyed by fire. Attention, at this time, there are two Simon Frasers who were associated with the North West Company. The one who buys this property is not the explorer of British Columbia but the one assigned to Grand Portage. Born in 1760 in Scotland, he arrived in Canada and became a business partner of the North West Company in 1795. He retired in 1800 and in 1805 he gave up his shares of the company. In 1807, he bought the Bellevue fief from John Gregory. He lived there until the fire of his residence. He then acquired the house at 153 rue Sainte-Anne and remained there until his passing in 1839.
His wife, Catherine McKay, continued to live there until she died in 1846. Renovations were made there in 1892-93 to become a duplex. In 1901, the house was spared the great fire in the village. In 1906, the ground floor became a branch of the Bank of Montreal. In 1954, the bank changed location and it was Simon Fraser’s great-granddaughter who moved in. In 1961, the expropriation was almost imminent to make way for the new Galipeau bridge. Voices were raised and succeeded in classifying the building as a historic monument in 1962. The plans for the interchange were consequently revised, but the bridge is so close, it makes it a less pleasant place to permanently live. Thanks to the Société historique du Bout-de-l’Isle and the Canadian Heritage Foundation of Quebec, renovations took place in 1962 and the foundation acquired it in 1966 and continues to preserve it. Now, there is a café facing the busy street of Sainte-Anne.
Quebec government site (in French): https://www.patrimoine-culturel.gouv.qc.ca/rpcq/detail.do?methode=consulter&id=92666&type=bien
Town hall (Hotel de ville)
109 rue Sainte-Anne
This public building built in 1860 was originally the Pilon family home. It was bought by the city in 1907 to make way for the town hall. The functions of this establishment have changed over time to be a post office and a barracks but it is now again the town hall.
Magasin D’Aoust et cie and its mini-museum
73 rue Sainte-Anne
On the main street of the village, there is one of the oldest independent stores in Quebec. I was enchanted by the contemporary chic aspect paired with its cachet of yesteryear. Established in 1900, the old shop offers a beautiful range of clothing for men and women, accessories, items for the kitchen, décor items, furniture and a few gourmet options in an atmosphere that is very rarely found today.
Why remove the past when here we make it shine beautifully? The hardwood floors and wooden stairs set the tone for the old cash register and the antique items found in the basement, but I must admit what amazed me the most was the payment system. Via a system of rail and metal cable suspended from the ceiling, the salesman would put the money in a compartment with the bill and send it to the cashier, where he or she was on the 2nd floor. The cashier put the change and the box back on the overhead pulley system and the whole thing was returned to the seller to give to the customer. A centralized system was developed to reduce theft but is no longer used but the mechanism is still there.
Spread over three floors, the shop has survived the wars, the Great Depression, and the arrival of large chains and shopping malls because it has been able to adapt. The company offers quality products and has stayed abreast of trends to cover an area of 20,000 sq.ft. Their product offering also has evolved.
Right in the heart of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, I was amazed by this chic historic boutique that is still up to date.
Official site: https://gdaoust.com/
Sainte-Anne market at Lalonde Park
70 Sainte Anne
If you feel like it, merchants, market growers and craftsmen offer their products on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the summer season.
Maison de la Baie d’Hudson
9, rue Sainte-Anne
This house blends very well with the current style, yet it was built around 1799 and served as a fur warehouse for the North West Company, which became Hudson’s Bay Company around 1820. At the end of the 19th century, the building was converted into a resort hotel.
21125 Sainte Marie Rd
Sometimes you don’t realize there are discoveries to be made so close to home. The Ecomuseum Zoo is the only one of its kind on the island of Montreal and extremely rare in the region. I would tend to classify this site as an animal sanctuary open to the public rather than a zoo.
Indeed, the heart of this space is not a public animal exhibition or a tourist attraction. At the base, it is a permanent place of life for injured or orphan animals of the region who have little chance of survival in their natural environment. Here, we care for them, welcome them and house them, so we provide them with a protected environment in the climate in which the animal is familiar. We respect their adaptation time and their hibernation cycle. There is no question of buying, selling, trading, breeding or capturing these beings.
Even though they are local species, even a resident does not have the chance to see some animals in their wild natural environment. We are given the opportunity not only to see them up close but also to learn more about them.
Do not forget to visit the interior section where we can find amphibians and reptiles.
We liked the simplicity. The fact that they are native animals, the space offered is close to their natural environment with an area in the enclosure for the animal to hide and a place to hibernate. At the time of this writing in early March, the site indicates that it is not possible to see the black bear because it is hibernating.
The site is easy to walk with young children because it covers only 12 acres, and signs tell us more about the occupant.
There are mammals, reptiles, and birds including red fox and arctic fox, black bear, white-tailed deer, gray wolf, river otter, Canada lynx, fisher, owls, wild turkeys, eagles, frogs, ducks and more.
Depending on the season of your visit and the time of day, the animal activity changes. You will certainly not have the same visit but you must appreciate the natural character of the place.
We enjoyed visiting this site so much the first time that we returned a second time in the same year with other guests.
Official site: https://zooecomuseum.ca/en/
150 Rue Pine
The Morgan Arboretum is a massive 245-acre wooded lot located in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, which also straddles Senneterre.
The Morgan family donated the land to McGill University (1945) to improve knowledge and to have the space necessary to allow experiments and research. The site is associated with the MacDonald campus for agricultural students but is open to the public.
The trees are imposing and straight, the forest is mature, and there is a nice variety of trees on flat terrain, very easy to navigate. There are a few benches on the course. There may be mosquitoes so be prepared especially in the spring. Even if there are more than 20km of trails, some are only accessible in winter and on snowshoes or cross-country skis.
On your way there you will see the J. Marshall Radar Observatory which serves students of astronomy and oceanography.
It is understandable to have mixed feelings when visiting this large green space. On the one hand, there are so many free parks so why pay for this one? We are on the premises of classes and requiring an entrance fee can probably “naturally” limit the number of passages.
Also, in theory, this park should have some wild animals but again, I heard some birds but nothing more. A few feeders are installed here and there.
Dogs are welcome but must be registered.
Official site: https://www.mcgill.ca/morganarboretum/
The Macdonald campus of McGill University is a vast space to enable the teaching of agricultural, environmental and food sciences.
There is the only and last dairy farm on the island of Montreal for educational purposes.
Mr. Macdonald, a businessman in the tobacco industry and a great philanthropist, owned the site and donated it to the university.
Some of the buildings are rented to the CEGEP John Abbott.
20345, chemin Sainte-Marie
Stay tuned, this agricultural dwelling dating from the seigniorial regime is about to be restored. Michel-Robillard’s house, also known as Braerob Farm, is one of the few houses on the island with a long agricultural history, hence the interest in wanting to restore it and remind us of the context. Built at the end of the 18th century, it is not yet ready to receive visitors because it has suffered a lot of damage over time.