THE GREAT WA­TER­WAY TAKES YOU

TO UN­EX­PECTED PLACES

2017 Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS

When some­where is known as “great” it broad­ens the spec­trum of pos­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ences. This is true in South­east­ern On­tario where rib­bons of me­an­der­ing lakes, rivers and bays of the ma­jes­tic St. Lawrence River, the his­toric Rideau Canal, Lake On­tario and the Bay of Quinte are known col­lec­tively as The Great Wa­ter­way—just a 90-minute drive from Toronto, Ot­tawa or Mon­tréal, and a quick hop from the United States at the Thou­sand Is­lands, Prescott-Og­dens­burg and Corn­wall-Massena bridges (www.the­great wa­ter­way.com).

It be­gins with wa­ter—sandy beaches and dune-lined shores, some of the world’s best fresh­wa­ter sail­ing, out­stand­ing dive sites and ex­plo­ration by kayak, power­boat or on a leisurely cruise. But not ev­ery­thing is on the wa­ter. Visit award-win­ning winer­ies, parks and hik­ing trails, golf cour­ses, com­mu­nity fes­ti­vals, mu­sic, theatre and slot in some time for fan­tas­tic down­town shop­ping.

BAY OF QUINTE

In the Bay of Quinte, get­ting out­doors is a way of life. Wall­eye abound for those with a pas­sion for lake fish­ing; area guides and out­fit­ters of­fer char­tered fish­ing tours or point fish­er­men to “wall­eye hotspots.” Cruising Ca­noes spe­cial­izes in wa­ter and na­ture ex­pe­ri­ences with small group kayak trips and camp­ing ex­pe­di­tions. GoAc­tive On­tario cus­tom­izes ad­ven­ture tours like stand up pad­dle­board­ing or snowshoeing.

The Bay of Quinte has earned its spot on the map as an ac­tive golf des­ti­na­tion. There’s a fit for golfers of ev­ery skill level, with some of the coun­try’s finest pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties and one of On­tario’s old­est cour­ses. Some have sweep­ing vis­tas over the Bay of Quinte and Picton Bay, oth­ers are tucked be­tween groves of trees, rolling hills and nat­u­ral grass­lands.

The Na­tional Air Force Mu­seum of Canada hon­ours Canada’s mil­i­tary avi­a­tion and its evo­lu­tion into to­day’s mod­ern air force. It boasts a world-class col­lec­tion of

air­craft, in­clud­ing one of a few re­main­ing WWII Hal­i­fax bombers, the Han­d­ley Page Hal­i­fax (www.bay­ofquinte.ca/tourism).

PRINCE ED­WARD COUNTY

“The County” has be­come a fast-grow­ing culi­nary des­ti­na­tion, renowned for ar­ti­sanal cheese­mak­ers, cideries, brew­eries, dis­til­leries and mar­ket stands. The Great Cana­dian Cheese Fes­ti­val is a nod to The County’s deep cheese­mak­ing roots pro­vid­ing tast­ing, buy­ing and learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. The pop­u­lar Taste Trail is a self-guided tour link­ing the pro­duc­ers of fresh-picked fruits and veg­eta­bles, lo­cally-raised meats, ar­ti­sanal cheeses, home­made baked goods, wines, ciders and craft beers.

Prince Ed­ward County is also known as one of On­tario’s top wine des­ti­na­tions, home to more than 40 winer­ies with an in­cred­i­ble di­ver­sity of vin­tages. Lo­cal chefs in­cor­po­rate lo­cal wines and farm-fresh pro­duce into their sea­son­ally-chang­ing menus.

Sun­bathers, wa­ter ba­bies, campers and na­ture lovers are drawn to the ex­pan­sive beaches and tow­er­ing dunes at Sand­banks Provin­cial Park. It is also a pop­u­lar spot for bird­watch­ers who come dur­ing spring and fall to watch the an­nual mi­gra­tions (prince-ed­ward-county.com).

LAND O’LAKES

A short drive from Kingston is a pic­turesque re­gion of some 5,000 lakes and rivers; a vast play­ground ideal for out­door play, ser­viced by mari­nas, lodges, cot­tage re­sorts, B&Bs and camp­grounds.

Cast a line or troll as your boat floats down the river. Fish­ing here is easy—even for young­sters and those new to the sport. The OFAH Tack­leShare pro­gram at Fron­tenac Provin­cial Park pro­vides free rod and tackle loan­ers. Ex­pe­ri­enced an­glers can choose from a menu of lakes, streams and rivers across the re­gion.

The semi-wilder­ness of Fron­tenac Provin­cial Park is a patch­work of Cana­dian Shield gran­ite out­crops, vast wet­lands and deep lakes—a hiker and pad­dler’s dream. This is cot­tage coun­try and a des­ti­na­tion for stargaz­ers with clear views of the night sky and the Milky Way (www.travel­lan­dolakes.com).

RIDEAU HER­ITAGE ROUTE

The Rideau Canal is the wa­tery link con­nect­ing small vil­lages be­tween the city of Kingston and the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, Ot­tawa. Towns along the Rideau—in­clud­ing Mer­rickville, Perth and West­port—are pop­u­lar stops for cot­tagers and daytrip­pers search­ing for unique prod­ucts, at­ten­tive ser­vice and an in­ti­mate at­mos­phere. West­port of­fers the per­fect lake­front set­ting; small back streets sprin­kled with unique shops, antique haunts, bak­eries, restau­rants and tea rooms. Pic­turesque Mer­rickville has worn the man­tle of Canada’s most beau­ti­ful vil­lage. The com­pact down­town is home to bou­tiques, stu­dios and gal­leries housed in many her­itage, Vic­to­rian-era prop­er­ties.

The his­toric 202-km (126-mi.) wa­ter­way draws the boat­ing crowd, from ca­noes to lux­ury house­boats. In all, there are 47 locks, most still op­er­at­ing the orig­i­nal hand­cranks to open and close the wa­ter cham­bers. To cel­e­brate Canada’s 150th this year, Parks Canada ad­mis­sions are free, as well as lock­age at his­toric canals and wa­ter­ways (www.rideauher­itager­oute.ca).

KINGSTON 1000 IS­LANDS

There’s no short­age of at­mos­phere in­side Kingston’s Fort Henry, one of the city’s top at­trac­tions. Be­hind the thick lime­stone walls of the largest for­ti­fi­ca­tion west of Québec City is a liv­ing mu­seum of 1800s mil­i­tary life, high­lighted by march­ing demon­stra­tions and the world-fa­mous Sun­set Cer­e­mony re-en­act­ment.

Kingston’s beau­ti­ful down­town streets are a show­case of 19th cen­tury lime­stone ar­chi­tec­ture. You can also ex­pe­ri­ence an authen­tic farm­ers’ mar­ket, a hop­ping culi­nary scene and unique one-of-a-kind shops.

There’s lots of ac­tion on the wa­ter too. A great way to ex­plore the heart of the 1000 Is­lands is aboard a scenic boat tour, me­an­der­ing through the beauty of the is­lands from the deck of a mag­nif­i­cent cruise ves­sel. Choose from a har­bour cruise along Kingston’s his­toric wa­ter­front, a sun­set din­ner cruise or longer voy­age through the

heart of the Is­lands. Lake On­tario’s re­li­able winds at­tract sailors, wind­surfers and kite surfers. Down­town slips are filled with bob­bing wa­ter­craft, es­pe­cially dur­ing late sum­mer when Kingston hosts the an­nual Cana­dian Olympic-train­ing Re­gatta Kingston—CORK (www.vis­itk­ingston.ca).

GANANOQUE 1000 IS­LANDS

The soul of Gananoque is a main street lined with his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural sites, in ad­di­tion to a pop­u­lar wa­ter­front that is a ma­jor gateway to the scenic 1000 Is­lands.

It is pos­si­ble to ar­rive by boat to take in a play or con­cert at the in­ter­na­tion­ally­ac­claimed Thou­sand Is­lands Play­house, one of the re­gion’s most ac­tive the­atres, con­sis­tently named one of the top sum­mer theatre fes­ti­vals in the prov­ince.

Gananoque vis­i­tors get out on the wa­ter —kayak­ing ex­pe­di­tions just steps from down­town, throw­ing in a fish­ing line, rent­ing a house­boat or get­ting aboard one of the pop­u­lar is­land boat cruises. You can also ex­pe­ri­ence the quaint vil­lage of Rock­port via a scenic drive along the 1000 Is­lands Park­way. While in Rock­port en­joy a scenic cruise that vis­its the fa­mous Boldt Cas­tle.

Not far from down­town, hop aboard a he­li­copter for a bird’s-eye view of the is­lands (www.1000is­land­s­tourism.com).

BROCKVILLE 1000 IS­LANDS

Down­town Brockville is home to the Aquatar­ium, a dis­cov­ery cen­tre with in­ter­ac­tive ad­ven­tures and ex­pe­ri­ences telling the story of the sea­far­ing his­tory, cul­ture and ecosys­tems of the 1000 Is­lands. This sum­mer will mark the grand re­open­ing of Canada’s old­est rail­way tun­nel, at the Rails to Trails Fes­ti­val in mid-Au­gust. The his­toric tun­nel was com­pleted more than two decades be­fore con­struc­tion of the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way even broke ground.

Along the 1000 Is­lands Park­way, the new Sky­wood Eco Ad­ven­ture is Canada’s largest aerial ad­ven­ture and zip-line park, with tree top ad­ven­tures in­clud­ing zip-lines, canopy tours and aerial games for all skill lev­els.

Brockville’s wa­ter­front is also a pop­u­lar de­par­ture point for tra­di­tional and high-speed cruises of the 1000 Is­lands, in­clud­ing stops at both Singer and Boldt cas­tles, din­ing cruises and unique out­ings aboard a tall ship.

Scuba divers can ex­pect world-class fresh­wa­ter div­ing, thanks to ex­cel­lent wa­ter clar­ity and an abun­dance of ship­wrecks. Lo­cal dive op­er­a­tors pro­vide a full menu of train­ing, sup­port ser­vices and equip­ment rentals (www.brockvil­le­tourism.com).

CORN­WALL AND THE COUN­TIES

En­joy­ing the out­doors is easy along the Wa­ter­front Trail, a ded­i­cated cy­cle/recre­ational path along Corn­wall’s St. Lawrence River shore­line. Cy­clists, run­ners and walk­ers can en­joy wa­ter bot­tle re­fill sta­tions, plenty of park benches, na­ture trails and pic­nic ar­eas.

In Corn­wall, there’s a rein­vig­o­rated down­town core filled with bou­tique shops and unique eater­ies. Fes­ti­val­go­ers mark their cal­en­dars for events like the an­nual Corn­wall Ribfest and the renowned Glen­garry High­land Games—one of the world’s largest High­land Games.

Lo­cal mu­se­ums track area his­tory. The fur­ni­ture and arte­facts at the Corn­wall Com­mu­nity Mu­seum tell of life from 1784 to the com­ple­tion of the St. Lawrence Sea­way Project in 1959. The in­ter­ac­tive, his­tor­i­cal Up­per Canada Vil­lage por­trays life in the 1860s. Cos­tumed in­ter­preters cre­ate a “liv­ing his­tory” where vis­i­tors can step into a work­ing bak­ery, sawmill, black­smith, school­house and small cheese fac­tory (www.corn­wall­tourism.com).

As an authen­tic des­ti­na­tion, The Great Wa­ter­way shouldn’t be missed. From a place to ex­plore on (or un­der) the wa­ter to a hub for cul­tural events to a dis­play of rich his­tory, this wa­ter-in­fused des­ti­na­tion thrives and takes vis­i­tors to un­ex­pected places.

1000 IS­LANDS • THE GREAT WA­TER­WAY

PRINCE ED­WARD COUNTY • THE GREAT WA­TER­WAY

GLEN­GARRY HIGH­LAND GAMES • THE GREAT WA­TER­WAY

SKY­WOOD ECO AD­VEN­TURE • THE GREAT WA­TER­WAY

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