Ask a villager, or a tourist, why they love Wakefield, and they'll probably give you the same reasons: this picturesque little village of about a thousand people nestled between the forested hills of the Gatineau Park to one side, and the pristine Gatineau River to the other, is bursting at the seams with local colour.
A bit bohemian in flavour, this tourist destination offers a warm welcome with a variety of cafés, pubs, galleries and boutiques. For the outdoorsman, Wakefield is a four-season playground: alpine ski hills, the paddle-friendly Gatineau River, and Gatineau Park, which boasts some of the country's best snowshoeing and cross country ski trails in winter and beaches, hiking and biking trails in summer, are just a few of nature's attractions in the region. A multitude of restaurants and a local farmers market in summer appeal to food lovers. And of course there is the famous Steam Train whose locomotive and whistle delight kids and adults alike.
But Wakefield may be best known for its eclectic and lively arts scene. A home to many visual artists seeking refuge and inspiration in a tranquil rural setting, Wakefield gets put on the map again and again by the famed Black Sheep Inn, a "juke joint" that has hosted a diverse international collection of talent and launched the careers of musicians like alt country diva Kathleen Edwards. And then there are the many festivals: Piggy Back Fringe theatre festival, Native Harvest Festival, Wakefest arts festival, Artists in their Environment Studio Tour, the Gatineau River Festival, and Dragonfest (Wakefield's annual winter carnival), are just a few.
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. 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. With a working blacksmith, candlemaker and of course all the nearby farmers, Wakefield's history is still alive and well.
Most who visit this unique small town succumb to its charm and stay - Tommy Douglas, the "father of Canadian medicare", had his home here and Lester B. Pearson, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is buried in the MacLaren cemetery. If you spend some time chatting with 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. To visit Wakefield, is to love it.