What’s the best way to shake off the doldrums of winter? Skydiving, of course, or zip-lining, or scuba diving. Or all of these 10 ways to raise your heart rate, each of which you’ll find right here in South Eastern Ontario.
1. Skywood Eco Adventure Park
Unleash your inner ape at one of the largest zip line and treetop adventure courses in North America. Whatever your age or perceived ability, you’ll find multiple ways to get your adrenaline pumping here. The eight zip line canopy tour, for instance, takes you through the treetops, over a limestone cliff face and 70 feet over the Jones Creek Marsh. The adventure courses lead you through bridges, swings, nets and zip lines as you move from one treetop platform to the next. And the Treewalk Village is a series of treehouses connected with elevated walkways. This is also home to the first permanent accessible zip line in Canada for those with special needs. Check out this Great Waterway story for 8 things to know before you go.
1278 Thousand Islands Parkway, Mallorytown
2. Skydive Gananoque
It’ll be tough to find a more adrenaline-pumping experience in the region than this one. And since Skydive Gananoque has been around since 1971, you can be sure these folks not only know how to make it a memorable experience but a safe one, too, whether it’s your first time throwing yourself out of a plane or your thousandth. Plus, since you’ll be free-falling high above Gananoque, you’ll get one of the two best views of the Thousand Islands. The motto here: “We believe that jumping out of an airplane isn’t just about throwing yourself at a planet; it’s about being part of a society that doesn’t back down when they call us crazy.” So go on, be crazy.
258 Airport Road, Gananoque
3. 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours
The other way to get the best views of the Thousand Islands is to take a helicopter tour. And at this operator just north of Gananoque, you have five choices: a 10-minute 1000 Islands Tour, a 20-minute Boldt Castle Tour, a 30-minute Two-castle Tour, a 30-minute Kingston Tour and a 1-hour The Works Tour. They’re all private and they’re the only way to truly get a sense of the size and the beauty of this 1864-island archipelago. You’ll also quickly see why this area is one of the continent’s most biodiverse. Minimum 2 passengers for dispatch. Maximum helicopter capacity is 3 passengers.
88 County Road 32, Leads & Thousand Islands (Gananoque)
4. Hell Holes Nature Trails and Caves
This is your spot if your idea of adventure is climbing down through a hole in the earth and investigating an underground cave. Millions of years ago the Salmon River flowed through this area about a half hour north of Kingston. It carved the limestone into overhanging ledges, mushroom-shaped rocks, caves, gullies, potholes and sinkholes. It’s one of the most unique geological areas in Eastern Ontario, and because it’s now empty of water, you can explore it on the 3.2 kilometre trail here. Your journey will take you over a natural stone bridge, through a mini rainforest, across a gorge and down into “Hell Hole Cave,” which requires a 7.5-metre descent and a flashlight.
5. Shannonville Motorsport Park
The customizable race track at this gearhead’s nirvana east of Belleville has hosted some exceptional car, kart and motorcycle races over the years. And sure, you can go just to watch the races. But you can burn some rubber too. There’s a one-day high performance driving school for novices run throughout the summer, for instance, and there’s a more advanced car racing school as well. You can also book the track for private use. If you get hungry, pull up a seat at the on-site restaurant, Papa’s Kitchen, for sandwiches and off-the-grill food.
7047 Old Highway 2, Shannoville
6. 1000 Islands Scuba Diving
It’s hard to beat the 1000 Islands when it comes to freshwater scuba diving. The waters in the Saint Lawrence River here are so clear divers can usually see 50 to 60 feet in front of them most of the year (60 to 100 feet in the fall). And what they’ll usually see is rich wildlife and the final home for ships from all over the world. Over 200 shipwrecks lie below the surface, some from the 19th century. No wonder scuba divers in the know call this place the “Caribbean of the North.” Check out my guide to scuba diving in the Thousand Islands for rentals, service, courses, charters and more.
7. General Splatters Paintball Park
You won’t find a better paintball park between Ottawa and Montreal than this one in Lancaster, which is about 20 minutes east of Cornwall. There are six distinct playing zones on the property, each with names like “Ewok Village,” “D-Day” and “Field of Screams.” They feature bunkers, foxholes, forts, a castle, trenches and bridges connecting the different zones. There are also two dense forests on the property. When you’re shot dead, head back to base camp where there’s a bathroom, barbecue, picnic tables and a viewing area to see who else gets painted up. Equipment rentals are available, as are plenty of paintballs.
6080 1st Line Road, Lancaster
8. WildCat Cruises – 1000 Islands & Seaway Cruises
Let’s face it: a meandering, peaceful cruise isn’t for everyone. Sometimes you just want the captain to put the throttle down. If that sounds like you, pick either of the WildCat Cruises offered by 1000 Islands & Seaway Cruises. The 2-hour “Castle Prowler AdrenIsland” cruise covers 48 miles and features views of Boldt and Singer Castles and three lighthouses. The 1-hour “Single Castle Express” travels 24 miles of the islands and offers up views of Singer Castle and historic Crossover Island Lighthouse. Both happen in a 54-passenger high-speed catamaran that moves at an average speed of 36 to 38 miles per hour — which is definitely fast enough to blow your hair back, by the way.
30 Block House Island Parkway, Brockville
9. The Boiler Room Climbing Gym
What was once the boiler room for a 19th-century woollen mill is now a state-of-the art climbing gym with Canada’s highest indoor ascent. If the 100-foot chimney climb sounds like too much, though, find your wall in one of two rooms, where there are 40 ropes and over 80 climbs to choose from whatever your skill level. There is also a new bouldering structure with a 17 degree wall, a 53 degree wall, an overhanging arête and a top out option for members. Beginner and advanced lessons and programs are available, as are change rooms, showers, lockers, equipment, and snacks and drinks. Open seven days a week.
4 Cataraqui Street, Suite 103, Kingston
10. Rideau Trail Canada 150 Challenge
Canada turns 150 this year, and what better way to celebrate than hiking 150 kilometres of the Rideau Trail? If you walk that many klicks of the 300-plus kilometre trail this year, you’ll get a free one-year membership to the Rideau Trail Association and a special commemorative badge. That membership will get you into special group hikes, discounts on gear from local outdoors shops, and association voting rights. The trail itself is the real reward, though. Stretching from Kingston to Ottawa, it meanders through farmland, forests, quaint villages and the rugged Canadian Shield. The hum of that natural and technological marvel that is the Rideau waterway is never far away. Trail difficulty: easy to difficult.
Head to The Great Waterway’s Adventure Tours page for even more ways to get your adrenaline pumping this summer!