For the past year and nine months, I’ve had the honour of travelling throughout South Eastern Ontario and writing stories about the brilliant variety adventures and experiences here. So far, we’ve explored The Great Waterway by car, on foot and upon the waves of the mighty St. Lawrence River. [Read more…]
I absolutely love playing tourist in my hometown.
Despite living in Kingston, Ontario for the better part of my life, I have always been blown away by the sheer amount of amazing activities, attractions and features that the Limestone City has to offer. From delicious culinary experiences to scenic nature walks and a fascinating history – it quite literally never gets old. [Read more…]
It goes without saying that 2017 was one for the history books! Not only was it a record year for tourism here in South Eastern Ontario, but it was also Canada’s 150th! It was a year of joyful celebration and absolute beauty throughout the four seasons.
To commemorate a wonderful year of stories, and vivid images – we took to our amazing Instagram community and picked our top 20 posts from 2017! It was a difficult process, with so many gorgeous #GreatWaterway tagged posts! We organized our selections to coincide with the seasons – which really showcases the year-round beauty of The Great Waterway!
Without further delay, here are our favourite Instagram posts from 2017!
Summer daze. . . #summer #bluesky #water cottagelife #dock #ygk #livefolk #wanderlust #travelphotography #kingstonontario #greatwaterway #islandstar #boat #landscape_captures #createexplore #exploretocreate #visualsoflife #visualarchitects #imagesofcanada #lightroom #AdobeRisingStars #explorecanada #perspective #symmetricalmonsters
“California dreaming, on such a winter’s day.” 🎶Mamas and Papas #countyup #countyallyear #pec #princeedwardcounty #visitthecounty #skyporn #skylover #twilight #imagesofcanada #lakeontario #landscapephotography #natgeo #natgeoyourshot #justgoshoot #weathernetwork #ipulledoverforthis #tourcanada #winterbeach #nikon #exploreontario #greatwaterway #mycanadianphotos #igers #igerscanada #naturephotography #frozenshoreline
Thanks for the Memories!
Don’t forget to keep tagging us with #GreatWaterway to share your adventures, and stories with us! We wish you all the best in 2018 – and can’t wait to see what the New Year brings!
In Kingston, Ontario – situated high upon a rather large hill, there lies a storied old fortress, forever standing watch over the Limestone City below. As the warmth of summer and colourful autumn come to pass – the old fort grows colder, quieter and lonelier as the winds of winter howl and whisper within its ancient stone walls. [Read more…]
As the wind grows ever colder, and the days shorter – there is an awakening of sorts in our collective psyche. For as long as recorded history, human beings have seemingly shared a common observation as summer turns to fall – and the long dark quickens its approach. [Read more…]
Here in The Great Waterway, there is a multitude of ways to have fun on the water ranging from paddling to boating, windsurfing, wakeboarding and beyond! [Read more…]
Not so long ago, I was writing a story about the incredible variety of adventures that take place beneath the 1000 Islands. Above the waves of the majestic St. Lawrence River, there is a venerable bounty of experiences to be had; both on the water, and dry land. From boating to camping, hiking, or cycling – there is no shortage of ways to plan a unique trip and forge memories that you will keep forever.
Lately, I’ve been truly inspired by the breathtaking panoramic landscapes and natural features that the 1000 Islands region is famous for. Seemingly endless emerald and blue vistas that stretch off into the distance like a world all its own. Sprawling forests, and gorgeous trails ripe for exploring. Scenic drives along the shoreline, and time spent out on the river. The wind in your face, the warmth of the sun and the sheer majesty of it all.
For this particular experience, we decided to create a custom day-trip and get a good sampling of the many ways to enjoy the 1000 Islands. My wife and I quickly set to work on planning a dynamic itinerary. Our primary goal with this story was to include some of the iconic attractions – while making sure to visit a few lesser known, but equally brilliant locations between Gananoque, and Mallorytown Landing.
Panache Bakery in Gananoque
Our trip begins in the Town of Gananoque, Ontario – the fabled Gateway to The Thousand Islands. Gananoque is a prime destination for vacationers, and a fantastic starting point to discover the captivating 1000 Islands region. Our first stop, was at the famous Panache Bakery to score ourselves a delectable déjeuner to go.
Upon entering this quaint storefront located on Gananoque’s main strip, you’ll be instantly taken by its small, bright and intimate format. It has an authentic “small town” feel with a classic and welcoming motif. After taking a few steps in, I was quickly drawn to the glimmering display case – behind which a sumptuous array of baked finery sat lovingly arranged.
Choosing from such a variety of tempting items was rather difficult. We chose a pair of delicious looking cheese croissants, as well as an apple turnover for Heidi – and a raspberry scone for myself. With our coffees and mouthwatering munchables in-hand we left the cafe and set out toward the 1000 Islands Parkway, and the next stop on our road trip.
A Peaceful Morning Picnic at Gray’s Beach
A short drive East along the parkway, and situated just past Gananoque is a picturesque little roadside park called Gray’s Beach. This rest area is an ideal spot to have a picnic and get a splendid first look at the St. Lawrence River.
This quaint little rest area sports a picnic shelter, tables and some great photo opportunities with a panoramic backdrop. On-site you’ll find a gazebo style picnic shelter and tables that overlook a gorgeous open area that leads to a natural stone stairway to the water’s edge.
After enjoying our breakfast and a short walk around Gray’s Beach, we were ready to get back on the road – to visit a particularly interesting location in Lansdowne, Ontario.
Explore a Natural Wonderland at Landon Bay Centre – Lansdowne
Landon Bay is a unique natural reserve that encompasses 225 acres of lush forested areas and brilliant walking trails that range in difficulty from easy to moderate. Nestled within the world famous Frontenac Arch Biosphere, Landon Bay is easily one of the best casual hiking areas I have ever visited.
There are five trails at Landon Bay, each of them unique in their way. The trail that we sampled was the Donevan Trail, which was marked by a mythical looking stone archway like something from the pages of a storybook. The arch was flanked by gorgeous flowers on either side and added to the already fantastic atmosphere.
From the Donevan Trail, we made a quick detour to the “Easy Trail.” The terrain was perfect for beginners, which lead to some fantastic views of the St. Lawrence River. Landon Bay would be ideal for spending an entire day exploring, hiking and enjoying the natural splendour at work all throughout this wonderful hidden gem.
I could have easily spent the remainder of the day trying to spot Osprey or large cargo ships from the lookout point – but it was time to continue our trip!
Feeling on Top of the World at The 1000 Islands Tower – Hill Island
Stretching 400 feet above the horizon of Hill Island Ontario is a familiar and world famous landmark known as the 1000 Islands Tower. I was particularly excited to visit this iconic destination because despite living in the area for most of my life, I had never actually visited the tower.
I had heard plenty of stories about the amazing views from the top – and now it was my turn to experience it for myself! I’ve explored the 1000 Islands from many angles over the years – but nothing would compare to what I witnessed after the quick elevator ride to the top of the tower.
As I stepped off the elevator and gazed out over the horizon, I was able to get a real appreciation of just how immense the 1000 Islands region truly is. Stretching in all directions for as far as the eye can see was a sprawling and vexing landscape that put it all into perspective. From up here, you can see exactly why we call this region The Great Waterway.
The tower has three observation levels – each offering some sensational views of the area in all directions. It was on the main observation level that we had the pleasure of meeting staff member John Raas, who was kind enough to point out key points of interest and share several fascinating stories about the 1000 Islands region that date back to long before Canada was colonized.
When the time came to continue our epic road trip, It was pretty hard to pry ourselves away from the tower’s spectacular view. After experiencing it first hand, I can say with confidence that a trip to the top of the 1000 Islands Tower is an essential attraction to visit – that gives you an authentic and awe inspiring introduction to this magnificent area of South Eastern Ontario.
Bodacious Burgers at Cornwall’s Pub – Rockport
After our exhilarating experience at The 1000 Islands Tower, we returned to ground level and made our way to the charming riverside hamlet of Rockport. Situated in the “Heart of the 1000 Islands”, Rockport is a very popular destination for travellers and boaters from far and wide. This historic village is a shining example of the storied St. Lawrence River lifestyle with a unique vintage appeal.
We were getting pretty hungry at this point, so we headed to Cornwall’s Pub post-haste, for a bite and a frosty beverage on their lovely patio. The menu at Cornwall’s Pub is fantastic, with a range of delicious choices and traditional pub favourites. We decided to each have a Boathouse Burger with cheese and bacon.
The burgers themselves were absolutely legit and certainly hit the spot. They were sourced from local Angus beef and made in-house. Nothing compares to a handcrafted burger made with local beef – and paired with a cold pint of craft beer. It made for a perfect lunch in the sunshine amid the bustle of travellers as they came and went from the cruise boats docking nearby.
Palaces and Palisades Cruise – Rockport Boat Line
With our appetites completely satisfied we made our way to the main event of the trip: a breathtaking two-hour sightseeing cruise with Rockport Boat Line.
The tour that we selected was the popular Palaces and Palisades Cruise; a stunning trip through the St. Lawrence River that would take us beneath the 1000 Islands International Bridge, around the legendary Boldt Castle and through a fabled stretch of luxurious cottage country known as Millionaire’s Row.
The Palaces and Palisades Cruise is nothing short of a photographer’s wonderland. From beginning to end, the tour is loaded with fantastic views from the water. It’s a thrilling sensation to stand at the bow (front) of the ship, feel the wind in your hair and be surrounded by absolute paradise.
Once we arrived at Millionaire’s row, the tour transformed into a cool marine version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Some notable properties were Zavikon Island, which is home to the world’s shortest international bridge. Of course, the star of this showcase of elegant properties was Boldt Castle. The history behind this illustrious Rhineland castle is the ultimate fusion of both beauty and tragedy.
What stood out for me the most during this amazing cruise, was the sense of community out on the river. The passengers of nearly every boat that passed our vessel were all waving hello. From other travellers on tour boats to house boaters, jet-skiers and everything in between, there was an overwhelming sense of: “welcome!”
After returning to dry land, we decided to take a brief walking tour of the village. Rockport’s history goes back 200 years and was once a thriving shipbuilding port. Noteworthy landmarks are, of course, the Boathouse Inn and of course the rustic Rockport General Store. The stroll through Rockport is visually striking, with ornate murals that depict various eras throughout the hamlet’s two-century timeline.
Heidi and I were absolutely smitten with Rockport. This beautiful little town has a huge amount of intrigue and is now officially on my list of awesome weekend escapes.
Kick Back and Unwind at Mallorytown Landing
The final stop on our incredible road trip was the Thousand Islands National Park Visitor’s Centre located at Mallorytown Landing. As we arrived, the centre itself was closing, so we decided to walk along the surrounding trails and explore the park area.
Hugging the picturesque banks of the St. Lawrence River, Mallorytown Landing is a great spot for picnics with family or friends. There are well-maintained coal BBQ’s on-site as well as picnic areas and a delightful stone gazebo.
Along the pathway that leads to the water’s edge are several outdoor exhibits including commemorative stone carvings that honour the First Nations, and other exciting educational points of interest.
After a long and eventful day of exploring the enchanting 1000 Islands region, we were overjoyed to find a pair of Parks Canada’s iconic red Muskoka chairs, positioned conveniently right at the water. In the end, as the sun began to dip below the horizon; we were simply content to recline in those chairs, and unwind from the day’s adventures.
It was a most fitting end, to a completely unforgettable day.
Experience The Beauty of the 1000 Islands!
There is an endless list of fantastic ways to experience South Eastern Ontario. This story is but a small sampling of the premiere attractions and amazing destinations to choose from! As always, we’ve included a handy Google Map of this trip. Feel free to download it, and try this experience for yourself. Or, customise your own exciting journey and make it your own!
Until next time, thanks for reading!
*Photos: Heidi Csernak & Mike Hector
Discover South Eastern Ontario!
Plan a Memorable Trip of Your Own!
The Rideau Heritage Route is a beautiful area that has become popular with millennials, as the entire region is completely Instagram-worthy. With stunning landscapes, unique local shops and amazing food, I highly recommend visiting this region.
We began our first day in the region with breakfast at Hotel Kenney, which is also where we were staying during our trip. Hotel Kenney is located in Jones Falls and right on the water. They have different rooms to suit your budget and a menu that changes every day!
After breakfast, we walked to the Jones Falls Lockstation, which is about a thirty-second walk from the hotel (probably not even that far!). There are two separate locks, which change the elevation by 18 meters. The lock system was handmade, which completely blows my mind! Another incredible aspect to this location is the hydroelectric power generation, which resulted in what looked like a very strong waterfall.
We also took a walk to the blacksmith’s shop, that’s just a stone throw’s away from the lock station and watched the blacksmith in action. He talked to us about the history of the building and we also learned about his craft. Scott and I even got to help a little bit!
The blacksmith suggested we stop in at Sweeney House; which was a defensible stone house built in 1841. Once there, we learned about the life of Peter Sweeney, who was the lockmaster from 1839-1871. Sweeney documented the early history of the canal operation in his personal diary and his life is now interpreted at the house. At Sweeney House, historical interpreters in period clothing take you back in time to the 1800’s when Peter Sweeney’s was at the lock station.
After all of the walking, we were a bit hungry so we headed to Westport for lunch! We went to The Cove Country Inn Restaurant & Boat Launch, which is beautifully located on the water. The menu was vast with lots of options, so everyone in our group found something to their liking! After exploring Westport a bit, we were off to Wendy’s Country Market.
Wendy’s Country Market is located inside a historic schoolhouse that was built in the late 1900s, and offers organic and locally grown produce from over 70 local farmers and artisans. There’s a wide variety of options, from fruits to cheese and everything in between!
We had a really unique experience while we were there, that was a lot of fun. Chef Mark, showed us how to forage for our own food, then that food was included in our Farm to Table dining experience! I learned a lot about which weeds could be eaten and the nutritional benefits of foraging. It was incredible and so tasty!
The meal had many different courses; starting with an incredible charcuterie board, an entree with boar and chocolates handmade by the chef. The entire experience is difficult to describe in words – it was magical. We sat outside the herb garden under a white tent eating this meal from the land around us. Wendy chatted about the renovations that her and her business partners are doing at Furnace Falls Farm, which is located across the road. They’re re-using as many of the old materials as possible, while still making it fresh. When they are finished, this cool space will be a B&B, with cooking classes! I’m excited for them to open and I’m definitely booking a night there.
We started the day by traveling to Merrickville, which is a beautiful town filled with unique and quaint local shops; many of them offering handmade items. Our first stop was Nana B’s Bakery, where we had some incredible butter tarts (I went back to get seconds a few days later). They were amazing and tasted like honey. My favourite was their plain butter tart, although there was nothing plain about the flavour!
After filling up on more butter tarts that we probably should have eaten in one go (so worth it!), we headed to Gray Art Glass Glassblowing for a glass blowing demonstration. We learned a lot about this art form and were amazed to see how talented these artists are! If you had a chance to see my Facebook Live video, you’d know that we watched an artist make a horse out of absolutely nothing! Needless to say, we were all stunned by what we saw.
Next stop: food! We headed to the Yellow Canoe Cafe, which was delicious. The food was incredible, tasted fresh and there were so many different options. Everyone loved their meals and their patio had a great atmosphere.
After lunch we jumped in the car, traveled to Chaffey’s Lock and hopped on paddle boards with Rideau Tours. We paddled in the area above Chaffey’s Lock and it was a lot of fun! I’m not the strongest swimmer, so water sports always make me a bit hesitant, but paddle boarding felt secure and steady. It took a bit to get the hang of it, partly because I was distracted by all of the fish and turtles that were swimming underneath but soon I was off! We finished with a “Flavours of the Rideau” gourmet picnic and guess what they included? More, butter tarts, yum!
We quickly went home to change and then headed to the Opinicon Dining & Resort for dinner. This restaurant has a beautiful ambiance, decorated very crisp and white and the food was amazing. After our meal, we went into the tiki bar area, where we played some board games, met some other travelers from Brockville and enjoyed our last night on this journey.
And sadly… that’s a wrap! We had a blast and I hope you follow in our footsteps and plan your own trip to South Eastern Ontario regions! You will not be disappointed.
I’ve never been to Cornwall before. I’ve driven through it multiple times on the way to Montreal and I’m glad I had the opportunity to check it out during this trip! Now, I not only have a place to stop through on my travels, but it is now one of my new destinations!
Before our “official” leg of the trip in Cornwall began, we had an amazing meal at Sheep’s Head Bistro. I have since been dreaming about the Reese’s Pieces cheesecake we had there and craving their poutine. It was by far the best poutine I’ve ever had; the cheese curds are mixed in with the gravy while it’s cooking so the cheese gets really soft and gooey. It’s amazing. If you’re a poutine lover, make sure you head to Cornwall to grab some poutine at Sheep’s Head Bistro!
In the morning we headed to Love Love Food Cafe for breakfast and man oh man, this was a fantastic way to start off a day. We had french toast waffles for breakfast, served with farmhouse sausage and maple syrup. Not french toast and waffles, but waffles that were dipped into french toast batter. They were incredible.
We then had a bit of a break until it was time for lunch at Mindful Cookery & Food Market. We’ve had so many wonderful meals during this trip and this restaurant didn’t disappoint. Everything was fresh, organic and wholesome. As a lover of cold press juice, it was a fantastic stop on our trip.
After lunch, we headed to the Historic Cornwall Jail. With a penchant for history, especially crime-related history, I was excited to learn about the inmates and hangings that happened at the jail. Built in 1833, the jail operated until 2002. Many areas of the jail are set up as they would be when it was a functional prison, such as the cell blocks and common areas. There were a few hangings that took place at this prison, the most notably of Peter Balcombe, who was the last of the hangings.
After a fantastic experience at the Cornwall Historic Jail, we travelled to Rurban Brewery. Rurban Brewery is an independent family owned small batch brewery. As Cornwall hasn’t had a brewery in over 100 years, Rurban Brewery brings unfiltered and unpasteurized beer into the community. My favourite beer that we tried there was “Sit, Russ” (say it fast, do you hear the dad joke?), which is an American wheat, featuring lime zest, mandarin orange and kumquat juice! I can certainly say that before drinking this beer, I don’t think I’ve ever had a beer (or any other drink) with kumquat juice. It was a perfect summer patio drink.
To finish the night, we headed to Truffles Burger Bar. This restaurant has such a powerful backstory. Within months of opening, the historic building Truffles was located in burned to the ground. The owners powered through and rebuilt their business from scratch, even adding an additional restaurant, Table 21, above Truffles. Truffles has some incredible burgers, most notably the Solid Gold Burger, which was beef and foie gras, with black truffle shavings, 23 carat gold dust (yes, actually!) and a glass of champagne. They even have some exotic burgers, such as rabbit, duck, llama camel, alligator, kangaroo, boar and more!
To begin our day, we headed to Nautica Grill and Wine in Dundas and Glengarry County. Located on the water, the patio offered a beautiful view of the area. Nautica is a family run restaurant, with a casual setting.
Before heading to Upper Canada Village, we toured the Long Sault Parkway. We stopped at a few different locations such as a park and beachfront and both were calm and serene.
Upper Canada Village, located in Morrisburg, had been on my to-do list for quite some time. I’ve been there a few times in the winter when the village itself wasn’t open, so it was amazing to be there when the lively village was in full swing. Time for another history lesson! In 1958, construction of Upper Canada Village began, which required the permanent flooding of ten communities now known as the lost villages. Upper Canada Village was part of the heritage preservation plan, and many buildings were transported directly from The Lost Villages. If you visit Upper Canada Village, any of the buildings that have an arrow on their plaques were moved to Upper Canada Village.
We started our day by having breakfast at Island View Restaurant in Rockport. We sat on the patio that overlooks the water and enjoyed the beautiful view. We arrived just after the restaurant opened, so it was peaceful and quiet. We then walked over to the Rockport Boat Line, which meant I was finally about to take the tour to see the inside of Boldt Castle! (If you’ve had a chance to read my Gananoque post, I’ve basically seen Boldt Castle from every angle – both sky and water – but haven’t yet been inside). The smooth ride to Boldt Castle took only 30 minutes on the Rockport Boat and I’m happy that it was a short ride because it meant we arrived at Boldt Castle quickly. If you’re not familiar with Boldt Castle, it is the physical memento of a tragic love story.
Time for a quick history lesson! Bold Castle was created by George C. Boldt, the millionaire proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. He loved spending time near 1000 Islands and as such he wanted to create a grand castle as a display of his love for his wife, Louise. Starting in 1900, construction began on the 120 room castle that would be six stories high. In January 1904, Louise passed away, leaving Boldt broken hearted. He couldn’t imagine his castle without Louise and commanded workers to immediately stop construction on the castle. From 1904 to 1977, the castle was left to be destroyed by vandals. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority then acquired the property and have put millions of dollars into rehabilitating Boldt Castle.
When we arrived at Boldt Castle, we quickly went through customs and finally were able to see the castle! It kind of felt like seeing the castle from Beauty and the Beast- it is incredibly majestic and beautiful. We walked into the castle and toured various rooms and reconstructions of the castle. It was interesting to see the contrast of the rehabilitated rooms of the tower, compared to the old rooms that had not been redone and were still covered in graffiti. I personally hope that the entire castle doesn’t get rehabilitated, just so everyone can see what the castle looked like compared to the rehabilitation. Both are beautiful, in different ways.
The ride back to Canada took us an hour, as the boat takes a different path to get back to Rockport. After docking, we quickly changed and headed to Skywood Eco Adventure Park, which was by far the most adrenaline-packed adventure of our trip!
Located in Mallorytown, Skywood Eco Adventure Park is Canada’s largest aerial adventure and zip line park. I had mistakenly thought Skywood only had zip lines, but it has so much more. It is basically an extremely fun obstacle course up in the trees. Being at least 15 feet off the ground navigating through the forest canopy on wooden planks or ropes is super fun (and for some less daring, possibly a bit scary). We started with the beginner course and made our way up to intermediate. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to conquer the advanced course, which means I’ll be heading back there soon! After the course, we zip lined back to the base. It was an incredible experience and I highly recommend checking it out with your family or friends. Pro tip: Take bug spray with DEET and water! You’ll need both, I promise.
After quickly freshening up, we headed to Tall Ships South Coast Grille for dinner, located above the Aquatarium in Brockville. Not only does this restaurant have a beautiful view of the water but the menu is incredible with lots of options.
I’m a huge animal lover, so I get really excited to see animals regardless of if they are land or water dwellers. It made my day when we started off the morning with a visit to the Aquatarium in Brockville. Scott and I raced on antique row boats (I obviously won) and then we began to explore the aquarium. There were so many creatures, but my favourite animals were the otters! They were incredibly adorable and it was a fun experience to watch them get fed. I would never have known, but the Aquatarium also has a high ropes course! At first, I thought it was designed for children as it was themed to resemble a ship, but as soon as I started climbing, I realized that it was actually fairly difficult! It was a good challenge. Similar to Skywood, it was a lot of fun and it makes you feel preeeeetty invincible!
After the Aquatarium we headed to The Brockberry for lunch. The Brockberry has a southern inspired menu, with items such as “Southern Fried Buttermilk Chicken”, “Memphis Pulled Pork”, “Low Country Cornbread” and more. They also have some fantastic traditional unsweetened iced tea that they make in house.
Then we were off to Fulford Place. We had driven by this beautiful mansion a few times and now we were finally able to go inside and explore. Another quick history lesson: Fulford Place was built by Senator George Taylor Fulford, who made millions of dollars from “Pink Pills for Pale People”. It was a patented medicine he created in Brockville and sold around the world. With his success, he was able to build the 20,000 square foot Edwardian mansion, Fulford Place, between 1899 and 1901.
The house is incredibly beautiful, with original tapestries, paintings and more items collected during their world travels. It’s very grandiose, with large rooms and expensive decor. Fun fact: The family often hosted many Canadian Prime Ministers in this house for dinner! And last, but not least, we ended our leg in Brockville by having a sneak peek of the railway tunnel. Man oh man, I had seen a few sneak peeks of this on Instagram before, but it was absolutely incredible. It felt like we were transported to a different world, and the lights and sounds were absolutely beautiful.
Canada’s first railway tunnel was built in 1860 in Brockville. It was completed 21 years before the Canadian Pacific Railway and was very controversial for its time. It is now being restored for access for the general public and act as a connection from the Trail at the city’s waterfront, through the Gorge, and to other sections of the Trail. Be sure to check out The Railway Tunnel!