For the next chapter in our series of experience-driven stories, Heidi and I wanted to take full advantage of the longer days and warmer temperatures of late winter. All throughout South Eastern Ontario, there is a sense of excitement as the much-anticipated arrival of spring draws ever closer. [Read more…]
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.
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 9 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
Head to South Eastern Ontario’s Adventure Tours page for even more ways to get your adrenaline pumping this summer!
Sure, the crisp air and bright foliage may be enough to entice us off the couch in the fall, but for local or long-distance travellers looking for great places to visit in Ontario, autumn has way more perks to keep us happy: no summer crowds, better deals and some of the best local experiences of the year. From harvest-inspired food fests, to voyageur canoe tours, to 1000 Islands helicopter trips, there’s plenty of things to do in southeastern Ontario this season. Here are a few ideas in 8 areas across the region.
Bay of Quinte
Home to more than 200,000 people between Quinte West and Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, the Bay of Quinte region is known for its fishing and love for the cheese, veggies and other bounty its farmers produce. But insiders also know that Bay of Quinte is a hotspot for golfers, gourmands and theatregoers. Throw in an 85-kilometre waterway, 30 conservation areas, 12 crafter breweries and cideries, and you’ve got the makings for a fall trip for the ages.
2 hours from Toronto
3 hours from Ottawa
3.5 hours from Montreal
Bay of Quinte Fall Activities
Prince Edward County
Though recently dubbed the “gastronomic capital of Ontario” for its 30-plus wineries and gourmet eateries, the County has always been a hidden gem of Ontario travel. Why? Because of gems like Sandbanks Provincial Park and its three sandy beaches or The Regent Theatre and its ever-improving lineup of movies, music and festivals. Whatever your reason for going, expect tasty eats and drinks sourced from stunning local farms, a thriving arts community, and laidback rural island vibes.
2 hours from Toronto
3 hours from Ottawa
4 hours from Montreal
Prince Edward County Fall Activities
Fall Countylicious (October 28 – November 20)
Creepfest Film Festival (October 28 – 30)
From the Farm Cooking School Class
Wassail (November 19 – 20, November 26 – 27, December 3 – 4)
With over 5,000 lakes, almost 600 trails and a population scattered across small towns like Napanee and Tamworth, Land O’Lakes allows you to experience the best of the Canadian outdoors. And when you do, you’ll discover a few of the 356 native bird species, rolling farmlands and beautiful provincial parks that includes the 5,000-hectare Frontenac Provincial Park. Not the outdoors type? Hit up MacKinnon Brothers Brewing, the Lennox & Addington County Museum and Archives or the United Empire Loyalist Heritage Centre and Park.
2.5 hours from Toronto
2 hours from Ottawa
3.5 hours from Montreal
Land O’Lakes Fall Activities
Kingston 1000 Islands
Maybe you know Kingston as the home of The Hip or as Canada’s first capital or as the place to find Kingston Pen. The point is, this vibrant city on Lake Ontario, home to over 100,000 people, has been famous since before Confederation. Today, its world-class restaurants, bustling downtown and renowned arts hubs like The Grand Theatre, The Tett Centre and Isabel Bader Centre keeps it on the map.
2.5 hours from Toronto
2 hours from Ottawa
3 hours from Montreal
Kingston Fall Activities
Rideau Heritage Route
Stretching over 200 kilometres between Kingston and Ottawa and incorporating 47 locks, 16 rivers and 2 lakes, the Rideau Canal is a gorgeous marvel of engineering might. And up and down its banks you’ll find quaint villages and welcoming locals wanting to show and tell its story. At Fort Henry, for example, it’s the story of Canada’s beginnings up close. At Rock Dunder, near Morton, a snippet of the Canadian Shield’s four-billion-year-old tale. While Jones Falls Locks is a testament to the ingenuity that went into building this waterway.
3.5 hours from Toronto
1 hour from Ottawa
2.5 hours from Montreal
Rideau Heritage Route Fall Activities
Gananoque 1000 Islands
Called “The Gateway to the 1000 Islands” because it sits close to where the 1,864 islands begin, Gananoque is an ideal jumping off point for a cruise, hike, scuba diving trip, round of golf or even helicopter tour. And though it has a population of just 5,000, Gananoque boasts a surprising range of fantastic dining options, not to mention acclaimed theatre and musical productions at the Thousand Islands Playhouse on the banks of the Saint Lawrence.
3 hours from Toronto
1.5 hours from Ottawa
2.5 hours from Montreal
Gananoque 1000 Islands Fall Activities
Brockville 1000 Islands
With attractions like Canada’s oldest railway tunnel, Fulford Place and the Brockville Museum, you might think Brockville’s population of 22,000 is all about its history. But you’d be wrong — there’s far more. The “City of the 1000 Islands” also celebrates its present and future at places like the Brockville Arts Centre, which is one of the finest medium-sized theatres in Canada, and the new Aquatarium, a state-of-the-art, 27,000-square-foot learning centre all about the waters and wildlife of the region.
3.5 hours from Toronto
1 hour from Ottawa
2 hours from Montreal
Brockville 1000 Islands Fall Activities
Mac Johnson Wildlife Area Fall Festival (October 22)
Hike The Brock Trail
Escape Room (October 18 – 30)
Brockville Farmers’ Market
Brockville Country Club (Golf and Curling)
Brockville Tasting Tours
Haunted Walk on Temperance Lake
Cornwall and The Counties
Anchored by the City of Cornwall, population 46,000 and one of Canada’s oldest permanent settlements, this region includes six other townships: North Stormont, South Stormont, North Dundas, South Dundas, North Glengarry and South Glengarry. When taken together, they all show off the history of Upper Canada, the beauty of the Saint Lawrence and the vibrancy of small town Ontario. Highlights here include Upper Canada Village, a 19th-century replica village; Cornwall’s Waterfront Trail, a multi-use trail that spans the city’s entire waterfront; and the Glengarry Highland Games, the largest highland games celebration outside of Scotland.
4 hours from Toronto
1 hour from Ottawa
1.5 hours from Montreal
Cornwall and The Counties Fall Activities
McMaze Family Fun Farm
Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Seaway Food Festival Restaurant Week (October 13 – 22)
Martintown Haunted Mill (October 31)
Hike Glengarry Trails
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