Travel Guide to Canada
THE GREAT WATERWAY TAKES YOU
TO UNEXPECTED PLACES
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).
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.