Visiting Wakefield With a Dog – Quebec, Canada
One lovely summer day – last weekend to be precise – Dad sat across from Mom and I and said out of the blue: “Hey, why don’t we go to Wakefield?”
So we got in the car and off we went to be tourists in our own backyard.
You’ll find Wakefield in a splendid setting – a sort of throw back to the early settlements found along the Gatineau River.
It’s a tiny village of about 1,000 inhabitants that possesses a friendly, organic almost “hippie-like” atmosphere that will please anyone who loves nature, art, music and fine food. The bonus for us? This peaceful place is merely 20 minutes from our home – or 25 minutes from downtown Ottawa by car.
One of the first villages to be established along the Gatineau River, Wakefield was founded in 1830 by mainly Irish immigrants with the help of a few Brits and Scots. Yep – an Anglo-Saxon settlers village in Quebec! With its ideal setting on a grand river, Wakefield grew, thanks to the lumber industry, whose history one can visit at the Wakefield Mill, now restored into an award-winning four-star inn complete with fine dining and spa facilities (Mom and Dad are going to look into that – sadly no dogs are allowed on the spa grounds but according to the policies you can stay with your dog at the Inn!). With a working blacksmith, candle maker and, of course, all the nearby farmers, Wakefield is still alive and well.
You can find something for everyone in Wakefield. A bit bohemian in flavour, this village offers a variety of restaurants, a local farmers market, cafés, pubs, galleries and boutiques. Most important to us – Wakefield is remarkably canine friendly with dogs often spotted on the patios of restaurants and pubs! Something so rare in the area that Mom actually went back to make sure she had seen correctly and took pictures for proof, knowing our Readers might challenge this claim!
For the outdoorsy types, Wakefield is a four-season playground. You can enjoy all of the following:
- Alpine ski hills,
- Paddle-friendly Gatineau River,
- Gatineau Park, which boasts quite a few of the country’s best snowshoeing and cross country ski trails in winter and beaches, hiking and biking trails in summer (dog friendly!)
In addition, let us not forget Canada’s last remaining authentic steam-powered train!
Unfortunately the Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train excursions and activities are temporarily suspended because of damages to the railroad caused by heavy rains (until further notice) and the impact on Wakefield is felt. The train brings about 50,000 visitors to Wakefield every year and represents an 8 million dollar summer revenue. But there is a $5.8 million plan to restore the tracks and the train to its former glory!
The train departs from the station on Devault Street in Gatineau and follows the Gatineau River on a 64-kilometre round trip. The 5-hour excursion includes a two-hour stop in the town of Wakefield, where the 93-ton steam engine is turned back toward Gatineau on the last operating manual turntable in Canada.
- Built in Sweden in 1907, the steam engine is the last operating excursion steam train in Canada and seats up to 502 passengers.
- May through October, the train offers Scenic Excursions, Sunday Brunch excursions, and, during September and October, Fall Foliage Excursions. Friday and Saturday evenings in June, July and August, the train offers special Dinner Excursions.
- I would recommend making reservations. Sadly I have to report that at this time …the train is not dog friendly.
But Wakefield may be best known for its eclectic and lively arts scene most of it hosted at the famed Black Sheep Inn. Here many festivals occur including:
- Piggy Back Fringe theatre festival,
- Native Harvest Festival,
- Wakefest arts festival,
- Artists in their Environment Studio Tour,
- Gatineau River Festival,
- Dragonfest (Wakefield’s annual winter carnival)
Most people who visit this unique small town succumb to its charm and stay – Tommy Douglas, the “father of Canadian Medicare”, had his home there and Lester B. Pearson, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is buried in the MacLaren cemetery. If you spend a little time chatting with any of Wakefield’s residents, you’ll discover dozens of other less famous folks who dropped in for a visit once and were never able to leave.
In review: The park, the woods, the tiny dog friendly beach, the smells and friendliness towards my species, not to mention the possibility of eating on a patio with the bipeds, makes Wakefield a truly dog friendly place. I had heard it before, but now know it is true … to visit Wakefield is to fall in love with it.