If your image of sleeping in a convent on a remote island calls up visions of narrow ascetic cells and meager rations, you might want to rethink that idea. Particularly if you stay at Domaine du Vieux Couvent, a former convent that’s now an upscale inn and restaurant on Quebec’s Magdalen Islands.
Here’s the scoop:
Built between 1914 and 1918, this stone building beside the sea was once a nuns’ residence and school for girls in the Iles de la Madeleine (as they’re known in French), a group of remote islands east of mainland Quebec. The nuns were training the island’s future teachers.
In the 1960s, the convent was converted into a retirement home and then a small hotel, before the current owners transformed the property into a boutique inn, catering to summer tourists. It’s located in Havre-aux-Maisons, near the center of the chain of islands, about three miles (five kilometers) from the airport or ferry terminal.
The 11 guest rooms are spread out over three floors, and while they vary in size and configuration — as you might expect in a historic building — the nicest units have expansive views of the sea.
Rooms have modern baths with bathrobes, Wi-Fi, and coffeemakers. If you want to relax on the sand, staff provide beach chairs and towels. And while the island is primarily Francophone, most of the inn’s staff speak at least some English.
The inn’s bistro, in a bright and open room facing the ocean, serves breakfast to guests and is open to the public for lunch and dinner.
Like many island eateries, the restaurant specializes in seafood, including lobster, clams, and mussels. Cheeses come from a local cheese maker, La Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent.
To drink, you might choose beer from the island’s craft brewery, À L’Abri de la Tempête.
And while the nuns might have looked askance, you can even opt for a Vieux Couvent beer that the microbrewery makes specifically for the restaurant — before you settle down in your room by the sea.
Double room rates at Domaine du Vieux Couvent range from CAD$210-295/night during the summer high season. Low-season rates start at $150/night.
Looking to learn more about the Magdalen Islands and other accommodation options? Check out our review of Auberge La Salicorne.
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. My stay at Domaine du Vieux Couvent was part of a tour of the Magdalen Islands organized by Québec Maritime and Tourisme Québec.