Know What’s Happening in The Great Waterway.
*Listings last updated 6/26/2017.
*Listings last updated 6/26/2017.
Here at the Great Waterway we’ve explored some amazing locations together and told countless stories about the variety of things to do and places to see on dry land. However, it’s beneath the surface of the St. Lawrence River, that we discover an entirely different story. One that began as far back as when the Earth was forged, and still continues to unfold today. [Read more…]
Love it or hate it, winter isn’t going anywhere soon.
While some people tend to hunker down and hibernate the cold months away – others embrace the crisp winds of winter and take full advantage of the broad selection of things to do throughout Southeastern Ontario. Getting outdoors during the winter with friends and family is not only healthy, but a great opportunity to make an otherwise dark and dreary season into a collection of positive memories you’ll keep for life.
One of my fondest memories dates back to my childhood. Every March Break I would go up to Eagle Lake near Parham for a week of ice fishing with my grandfather. We would rip around on his snowmobile and spend hours in the fishing shack listening to old school country tunes. Usually, we would catch a whole lot of nothing.
I remember one momentous day when my grandfather triumphantly pulled a rather large whitefish out of the water, only to watch it fall from his eager grasp and right back down the hole. That was also the day I learned a few bad words, but that’s a different story altogether.
To help inspire your next winter outing, here is a collection of fantastic activities and events happening from Cornwall and the Counties to the Bay of Quinte this winter.
There’s likely nothing more distinctly Canadian, than hitting up an outdoor skating rink with friends and family, feeling the crisp winter’s breeze in your face until your cheeks tingle and finishing it all off with a cup of piping hot cocoa.
The City of Cornwall has 11 awesome outdoor rinks located throughout town. These rinks are maintained by dedicated community volunteers and are free for public use. To help you select which rink you want to visit, the City has a handy online map on their website.
Two Creeks Conservation Area offers a diverse selection of ecological points of interest spanning a beautiful 457 acres.
This wonderful network of natural spaces is accessible year round and maintained by both the South Nation Conservation group and local partners.
Among Two Creek’s newest offerings is a breathtaking 4.5 km marked trail that is prime for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking. This particular conservation area boasts a lush biodiversity, with several animal and bird species to observe; so don’t forget your binoculars!
Two Creeks also allow on-leash dog walking, so it’s ok to bring your puppy along for a romp in the wilderness.
Cornwall and the Counties is one of many premier destinations for anglers year-round.
The Annual Alexandria Ice Fishing Derby is an event not to be missed by any fishing enthusiast – especially with over 40,000 dollars in prizes up for grabs.
This classic fishing derby will also have an early morning brunch, and a 50/50 draw for some sweet prizes. The proceeds of this year’s draw will benefit the Optimist Club of Alexandria.
Saturday, February 18th, 2017.
Island Park, Alexandria, Ontario.
For full details visit: AlexandriaFishingDerby.com.
Nestled between Westport and Lombardy you will find a majestic destination for x-country skiing, and snowshoeing at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park.
Here, you will find over 20 kilometers of various trails, captivating scenery, and quaint chalets for warming up.
For a more rugged snowshoeing experience there are also non-groomed trails for that purpose. Murphy’s Point has two parking areas maintained during the winter months for day-use.
There are no equipment rentals available, so it’s a bring your own gear scenario. It’s also noteworthy that dogs are not permitted on the ski trails.
For full details, I highly recommend reviewing the Trail Info page over at the Tay Valley Ski Club’s website.
A Loppet is a fun winter skiing event that draws its roots from Scandinavian history. It refers to a particular route that a former King of Scandinavia skied over 500 years ago.
Today, the Tay Valley Ski Club keeps this tradition alive with a fun filled day of cross country skiing with an emphasis on fun and participation.
Date: Feb. 12th, 2017
Info, Contact & Registration: Tay Valley Loppet Online Registration Site.
The Cataraqui Trail is a former CN railway line that once connected Smiths Falls to Strathcona which is just North of Napanee.
During winter, and when snow levels permit – this sprawling trail is groomed for a variety of uses including snowmobiling, cross country skiing and more!
This beautiful trail is kept in operation thanks to proceeds gathered through donations and membership fees. If you go out and enjoy the Cat Trail – perhaps take some time to visit their website’s support page; to learn more about how you can help this great destination remain open for years to come.
As weather conditions permit, Brockville has two outdoor skating locations. The first is located in the city’s North end at Memorial Park (Laurier Blvd at Bridlewood). The memorial park rinks operate from January to mid-March.
The second outdoor skating venue is located at Rotary Park (King Street West at Gilmour Street.) It sports an artificially chilled natural hockey rink which is open from early December to the end of March.
Rotary Park also has an excellent synthetic rink for casual skating (hockey is not permitted) which runs from November to April. Additional information and contact details are available on the City of Brockville website.
Starting March 3rd, 2017 the Brockville Winter Classic Weekend will return once again to fill the air with a public celebration of hockey and good old fashioned outdoor Canadian fun.
2017 is the event’s third anniversary and will feature a smorgasbord of activities ranging from hockey tournaments, prize draws, community skating, and a headlining hockey game between Boston Bruins Alumni and a local all-stars team.
The full team of Bruin’s alumni isn’t fully confirmed yet, but such greats as Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton, and Al Iafrate are set to hit the ice.
For full details including ticketing information visit the Winter Classic Weekend website!
A scenic drive North of Brockville will bring you to Mac Johnson Wildlife area. This breathtaking conservation area spans over 500 hectares of wetlands, rolling fields, critical wetlands and scenic forested areas.
During the winter months, Mac Johnson Wildlife area becomes a sought after destination for outdoor activities and special events.
In addition to the traditional hiking, cross-country skiing, and skating options – Mac Johnson is also host to a great lineup of events this year. Below is a handy list including links to help plan your outing.
Every Saturday in January and February, weather permitting @ 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Saturday, January 28 (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
Monday, February 20 (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
Parks Canada says it best on the Thousand Islands National Park website: “Don’t let the chill of winter keep you cooped up indoors.” I intend to heed this advice and try snowshoeing for the first time this year.
Jones Creek Trails look like a good place to start out, as their routes vary in difficulty from easy 20 minute walks to more moderate hikes that can last up to two hours or more depending on experience.
To help determine your path, there is a handy downloadable map available on the Parks Canada Website.
In beautiful downtown Kingston, the winter months are brightened up each year by the opening of the outdoor rink at Springer Market Square.
It’s free to the public, and there are skate rentals, public restrooms and lockers available in the Market Wing of City Hall.
The best part is that Kingston’s fabulous downtown cafes and restaurants are all within easy walking distance to warm up and enjoy some nibbles after a glide around the rink.
The rink is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (closes in March, weather permitting). For full details check the City of Kingston website.
Since it’s inaugural event over a decade ago, Feb Fest has become a much-anticipated premier winter event in Kingston.
This year’s event kicks off on Thursday, February 2nd and continues until the 5th. As always, Feb Fest will feature a slew of awesome events.
Stay tuned to the Downtown Kingston! Website for news and updates about Feb Fest ‘17.
This guided night hike at Little Cat Creek is a perfect opportunity to bring the family for an outdoor adventure they won’t soon forget.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll see any coyotes or owls – you’ll likely hear them as they call out across the frosted twilight.
Cost is $2 per person plus regular gate fee. Registration for this event is required to ensure there are enough hike leaders. To book your spot on the hike visit: crca.ca/online-services.
Saturday, January 14, 6:30 p.m. weather permitting.
Join the crew at Little Cataraqui Creek for a novice level snowshoeing trek beneath a starlit sky. If you’re looking for a chance to try out snowshoeing, this is an affordable and guided trek.
This is a night hike, so don’t forget to bring a headlamp or flashlight. Hot chocolate and snacks will be available.
Registration is required for this event also. Registration forms are available at crca.ca/online-services. Registration closes Friday, February 10 at 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 11, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm.
Winter is an ideal time of year to visit Frontenac Provincial Park. Visitors can enjoy 11 kilometers of track-set trails that are perfect for hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and spotting wildlife.
After the hustle and bustle of summer, the forests and trails of Frontenac become a quiet and tranquil environment perfect for escaping the urban grind.
For details about activities and other helpful info, visit: OntaroParks.com/Frontenac/Activities.
For those of you with a bit more snowshoeing skills and savvy, the 2017 Dion Frontenac Snowshoe Race is something to consider competing in.
The race takes place over a 6.5 km route that follows a rugged, broad and single track that traverses variable terrain with a combination of potentially deep snow and packed sections of trail.
Chances are, that if you’re participating in a snowshoe race, you already have your own gear. If you do not, there are limited rentals available.
January 14, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Race day registration from 8:30 – 9:45 a.m. at the Park Office
Location: Frontenac Provincial Park – at Park Office
For full Details & Online Registration visit: HealthandAdventure.com.
Last year, the Town of Greater Napanee combined the annual Winter Chill Festival and Family Day to create one huge day of fun.
This year’s event has been confirmed for Monday, February 20th to coincide with this year’s Family Day.
One burning question remains, however. Will the chili challenge be back? Stay Tuned to The Town of Greater Napanee website to find out!
Ice fishing is an activity that has made this list more than once. It’s a great outdoor activity and a staple in Canadian culture.
Each season, the Bay of Quinte becomes a sought after destination for winter anglers from all over. It is, after all, one of the best places in the world to hook some serious Walleye.
To help give you an idea or two, and for some handy links to licensing and other info for anglers in Ontario, check out this post on our blog by Jordan Whitehouse.
For travelers looking for a mild winter stroll, Presqu’ile Provincial Park offers a relatively flat level of terrain making it accessible to seniors, or novice hikers.
It’s also a prime spot for birdwatching in peak seasons, and the trails are perfect for a relaxed walk or cross country ski among nature.
Enjoy a fun-filled and educational day at Presqu’ile, which involves birding, animal tracking, plant and fungus identification and more!
After the day’s activities visitors can enjoy a hot bowl of soup or hot chocolate. Cost is 5.00 per person or 8.00 per family. Prices include park admission.
February 11, 2017 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Registration is required. Call: (613)475-1688 ext. 2
For details visit: OntarioParks.com/events
Situated roughly 15 minutes north of Trenton, Batawa Ski Hill is a well-known destination for families and anyone looking to enjoy outdoor winter fun.
Batawa is a non-profit operation and offers a range of activities including alpine skiing, hiking, and snowboarding. There are also camp programs, and special events including, concerts and more!
Make sure you visit the County January 27th & 28th for an epic two days of fun at the Milford Winter Carnival!
There will be a great collection of winter activities, a pancake breakfast, hot dogs and hot chocolate (a winter classic) and more!
Some of the activities depend on weather conditions so stay tuned to the event page on the County’s website for details!
Jan 27 – 28, 2017
Macaulay Mountain is a popular summer destination for hikers and picnickers. The conservation area features over 400 acres and trails offering easy hiking in the lowland area, and more advanced trekking on the escarpment portion.
When winter arrives, and a good layer of snow blankets Macaulay Mountain – it becomes a favourite place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s also a good place to bring your toboggan or sled to shred some hills.
Enjoy an outdoor skating session at Wellington’s outdoor rink. Located at 266 Main Street Wellington (across from the library).
The Wellington outdoor rink was generously donated by local entrepreneur Michael Hymus, in memory of his late father.
There is a limited amount of skates available (40 pairs total) that range in size from children’s small to men’s large. The skates are available for free to anyone who wishes to borrow a pair.
The rink is open to the public seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Details and other information are available on the rink’s Facebook page
Sandbanks Provincial Park is easily the most iconic attraction in Prince Edward County. Winter is an especially beautiful time of year for the park.
Winterfest is a great activity which takes place on Family Day (Feb. 20, 2017). The event is free and includes all the expected outdoor activities in addition to live music and kids activities.
If you’re musically inclined – make sure to bring a musical instrument and join the “Kitchen Party Jam!”
Feb 20, 2017 12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
After compiling this list of epic winter activities, I can safely say that I will be spending far less time on the couch this year. With such a wide range of places to visit and things to do, I can hardly wait to get out there and show winter who’s boss.
Yes, I get it. It’s cold out there, but trust me. Once you get outside, take in a deep breath and embrace winter’s beauty, you’ll feel a certain warmth in your soul that even Jack Frost can’t nip away at.
Get Out There & Enjoy Winter!
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Click Below to Learn More About Our Destinations
One of the most fascinating aspects of Southeastern Ontario is the diverse number of ways to immerse one’s self in history. From the earliest days of Upper Canada and beyond the echoes of our past are everywhere you look- ranging from stunning architecture, charming villages, art, industry and more.
This particular story collects a sampling of locations throughout The Great Waterway that are open year-round; allowing visitors to see, feel and even taste a dynamic culmination of activities that are both fascinating and uniquely local. Whether you’re a history buff or even mildly interested, these locations are prime stops on your next autumn road trip.
The Bethune-Thompson House serves as an intriguing example of the tried and true building methods of both the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The house presents a marriage not only of timelines but also cultural influences; featuring both French Canadian and British attributes.
Once the home of two prominent figures in Canadian history, this house is synonymous with a pivotal era in our heritage. The first Presbyterian Minister in Upper Canada: Rev. John Bethune purchased the house 1804. He was a Scottish-born military Chaplain before being posted to a Loyalist Battalion and eventually becoming one of a few Scottish ministers in Upper-Canada before 1812.
In 1815 the house was purchased by David Thompson: a famous cartographer and explorer for the North West Company. He is credited with exploring and mapping out a great deal untamed wilderness that is now Western Canada.
Situated along the world-famous Rideau Heritage Route in Smiths Falls, the Heritage House Museum stands today as a pristine example of Canada’s industrial coming of age. The original owner was a businessman from Athens who later came to own two mills located in nearby Sly’s Rapids.
Built during the 1860’s and strategically placed between the railway and the nearby mill it allowed proximity between them – and made the movement of raw materials from the mill to the nearby trains easier and more cost effective.
The house remained inhabited by various residents for nearly a century before being purchased by the Town of Smiths Falls to be restored as a museum. Today, visitors can have a picnic on the houses beautiful grounds which feature a picturesque gazebo and gardens. The museum also hosts several different special events ranging from new exhibits, historical workshops, kids programs and art shows.
Heritage House Museum
The Brockville Museum is a fantastic stop for the whole family boasting a fascinating collection of exhibits. ‘From Carriage to Car’ provides a look at Brockville’s once thriving carriage manufacturing industry and subsequently fleeting automotive legacy. On display is a pair of vintage Briscoe automobiles – and some wonderfully preserved carriages.
The exhibit is a nice segue into ‘Made in Brockville’ which showcases an assortment of products once manufactured right in town which included cables, metalworks, and even Stetson hats. Another exhibit of interest is Brockville’s Rail Story, which provides an intriguing illustration of how the advent of trains shaped and influenced Brockville’s development.
A fascinating brand new exhibit has made its debut as of September entitled: Brockville’s River Story. It provides a comprehensive look at Brockville’s waterfront and how it has changed over time from an industrial epicenter to the residential and commercial area we see today.
The Brockville Museum
Brockville’s waterfront has undergone many transitions over the past two centuries. Once the site of a series of mills that saw prominence in the mid to late 1800’s, the area was at one time a bustling hub at the dawn of the industrial age. The Robert Shepherd Grist Mill in Brockville is a grand monument to that pivotal era – and one we nearly lost.
The mill itself and surrounding lands were purchased and repurposed as a coal depot for the rail lines which replaced the mills near the turn of the century. Later, it was used as a storage house. The City of Brockville came to own the property in the 70’s – and by 1984 the mill was slated for demolition.
Rather than see this important piece of history lost forever, current owner Peter Hoogendam won a bidding competition and set to work repairing the derelict mill. Over the course of nearly a year, the mill was gutted and painstakingly renovated using as much of the original materials as possible. Today, The Mill Restaurant serves up a delectable selection of genuinely local dishes with a Mediterranean flare. All three stories of the building contain spectacular areas for dining, special events, and live entertainment.
For 37 years the Frontenac County Schools Museum has been providing visitors an experiential glimpse into Canada’s educational history. Within this impressive stone structure is an impressive collection of school records, texts and other items of intrigue which date from the pioneer era right up to the turn of the century and beyond.
Most notable is a recreated classroom modeled in the fashion of the 1900’s-1930s. The fun and interactive classroom has everything you’d expect complete with desks, books and the famous great, great, grandfather of the iPad: otherwise known as the slate.
Frontenac County Schools Museum
Not far from the museum – in beautiful downtown Kingston is a unique pub with a genuinely historic edge. In fact, this charming restaurant has a direct line to our nation’s Confederation. The namesake for the pub is in no need of lengthy introductions. From 1849 – 1860 the building was once the law office of none other than our first Prime Minister: Sir John A. MacDonald.
Sir John’s Public House sports a warm and inviting atmosphere reminiscent of the taverns and tap-houses of the mid-nineteenth century. The menu even features dishes that are inspired by and prepared using the ingredients and techniques of the period.
Take a Trip Through History
The L&A County Museum & Archives gives visitors an astonishing glimpse into the lives of those who lived during the late 18th to 19th centuries with exhibits, artifacts, and stories centric to Lennox & Addington County. The museum has a modernized reading room, genealogical research materials in addition to regular programs throughout the year.
L&A County Museum & Archives
Take a Look
Built in the 1880’s Glanmore National Historic Site is a superb example of the Second Empire style of architecture made popular in the later 1800’s. The house’s official name is the Phillips-Faulkner House, which is partially derived of home’s original owner: John P.C Phillips. Glanmore remained a family residence until 1971 when it was sold to become a museum.
Today, the home’s interior is lavishly furnished with both original components of Glanmore itself, as well as different collections of artifacts and curios of the timeframe. Visitors can tour the home and get an in-depth look at upscale life in a bygone era.
Glanmore National Historic Site
Take a Look
The building which now houses the Trent Port Museum is an important piece of Trenton’s municipal heritage. First erected in 1861 it served as the inaugural town hall for what is now Quinte West. It has been the sight of a courthouse, a market and was once home to the police station until the 1980’s.
In addition to the museum’s exhibits, visitors can sit and enjoy a coffee and baked goodies in the Heritage Café. Staffed entirely by volunteers this quaint little café offers a lovely place to relax and enjoy the wonderfully restored town hall. All proceeds from the café go to support the Trent Port Historical Society – and the museum itself.
Trent Port Museum
The Tweed & Area Heritage Centre is a one-stop introduction to the rich heritage, both past and present, of the Tweed area.
Amid the charming warmth of Tweed Ontario is a popular destination for history buffs and travelers alike that exceed the expectations of a typical welcome center. The Tweed & Area Heritage Centre hosts a local arts and crafts gallery, a museum as well as a research area and archives.
While exploring this scenic region just north of Belleville this fun little stop offers an education time capsule of sorts and a glimpse at the history of those who built Tweed and the surrounding hamlets and villages.
Tweed & Area Heritage Centre
Take a Look
The scenic roadways and breathtaking driving routes along The Great Waterway run parallel with a living, breathing history that is both interconnected, and exceptionally unique with each and every town, village and city you unveil. It’s a remarkable series of tales told with great pride by the communities who keep it alive.
As always, thanks for reading! I hope this post has inspired you to experience everything the Great Waterway has to offer. To get started on planning your next adventure hit the link below!
Explore Ontario’s Heritage
The Great Waterway of Southeastern Ontario is world famous for its rich history. Home to two UNESCO world heritage sites and the place of several significant battles; we are constantly standing where a nation was forged – more often than not: in combat.
The story from then until now wasn’t always squeaky clean. There were times when public executions were not uncommon. Smugglers, cutthroats, and even the occasional pirate once stalked the St. Lawrence River. At one time an illness that is easily treated today – could be your undoing at the ripe old age of 35. Our forebears faced a daily gauntlet of ways to meet an early end. As a result, this entire region is a prime destination for paranormal enthusiasts.
Whether you’re a firm believer in the supernatural or a guarded skeptic, It will be hard to deny the icy chill you feel up your spine while exploring these fascinating and frightening locations.
In the 1800’s the justice system was a much different version of what is in place today. In addition to murderers, thieves, and other villainous criminals – jails were also a repository for the insane, mentally disabled and other unfortunates that society would deem undesirable.
In addition to this – women and children of similar disposition were thrown into the mix. The ‘Gaol’ as it was called then, was often over-populated. Suicide, horrific diseases, and violence were rampant within the confines of incarceration.
The Cornwall Jail opened in 1834 and was in operation until as recently as 2002. Today it is open to the public as a museum. Needless to say, this is an alleged hot-spot for paranormal activity. The jail’s current location was where an army barracks once stood during the war of 1812. In 1826 it burned down while several soldiers and livestock were trapped inside.
Various unexplained encounters, sights, creepy sounds and even ghastly odours have been reported by visitors and staff. Phones that have been disconnected for years will often ring. Ghostly apparitions appear, and doors slam. Visitors even claim to have even been ‘touched’ by cold and unseen hands. Over the years, these chilling tales have inspired scores of ghost hunters and supernatural detectives to explore and investigate. Should you possess the bravery – this notorious building belongs on your itinerary.
The Lost Villages consist of ten hamlets, villages; and an entire farming community which no longer exist. These communities were not lost due to natural disaster – but rather they were authorized by the government to be ‘disposed of’ in the interest of expanding the St. Lawrence Seaway.
As a result, over six thousand people were displaced and lost their homes and very livelihoods. Today, they are commemorated at the Lost Villages Museum located in Ault Park on Fran Laflamme Drive, a short drive East of Long Sault, Ontario. Visitors can (seasonally) participate in Ghost Hunting sessions alongside a group of seasoned paranormal investigators. Perhaps you’ll make contact with some lingering earthbound spirits lurking within their former dwellings.
Fort Wellington was first commissioned during the War of 1812 by the British. The garrison’s construction was integral at the time, to guard a major artery of Upper Canada’s shipping and commerce.
Today, the fort is open for the enjoyment and education of the public. According to a study conducted by the Toronto & Ontario Ghosts & Hauntings Research Society: The historical reenactors aren’t the only soldiers who roam the fort today. Based on their findings and testimony provided by staff, there is a ghost who inhabits the second floor of the blockhouse. Reportedly a lost soldier from the War of 1812 by the name of Terrence Anderson, this alleged spectre is known to slam doors, startle staff members and is particularly active during fife practice.
Fulford Place is a turn-of-the-century Edwardian (1901) mansion famous for its lavish décor and rich local history. It is an incredible edification to Canada’s industrial elite. Originally built as the summer home of George Taylor Fulford, this illustrious manse was designed by then-famed Architect: Albert W. Fuller of Albany New York. Today the home is a museum featuring original furnishings, rare antiquities, and the stories of her former inhabitants.
Mr. Fulford was the proprietor of a drug store and later came into pharmaceutical fame after patenting Pink Pills for Pale People. Mr. Fulford’s wife Mary (nee Mary White) was reportedly fascinated with spiritualism and the occult. It is said that many séances were hosted by Mrs. Fulford after her husband’s untimely death in a car accident at 53 years of age.
Mary was close friends with Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King – who was a well-known paranormal enthusiast. King attended the home to participate in several of Mrs. Fulford’s séances. Along with their own personal mediums King and Mrs. Fulford would ‘commune with the dead’. In fact, Mr. King was known to stay at the residence long after Mary’s death as a close friend of the family.
Does the lonesome spirit of Mary Fulford roam the mansion’s grand halls in search of her lost husband? The presence of once cherished furnishings and belongings within the house – coupled with the history of spiritual communication certainly make this a must-see location. Several of the paintings seem to watch your every move – especially a portrait of Mrs. Fulford on the grand staircase. It’s unimpressed facial expression and dark eyes seem to stare right through you.
For over 170 years the Blinkbonnie has stood as an icon of 1000 Islands culture, heritage, and the subject of local legend. The property was first inhabited by Charles MacDonald who was a prominent businessman and co-founder of the town itself. Later, in 1920 the house’s owner William; son of Charles II died of an unexpected heart attack. He left no will behind – which left his father suddenly displaced from his own ancestral home.
In 1923 a local schoolteacher: Rebecca Edwards bought the home and turned it into a lavish hotel. Charles II begged her to allow him to live out his remaining years in the home. She agreed and ensured that the 86-year-old MacDonald was made comfortable. She re-purchased some of the home’s original furnishings in order to please the aging progenitor of the home. He remained at Blinkbonnie until his death in 1928.
The house has been visited by psychics, and there are theories that Charles II never left his beloved family home. There have been accounts of disconnected taps running, slamming doors, unexplained footsteps, and other odd occurrences.
Today the Blinkbonnie sits vacant with only the dust and echoes of her long and near-mythical history within. The future may be bright for the house, however. A recent article in the Gananoque Recorder reports that the house has been purchased with the intent of restoring it into a bed & breakfast or pub. It would appear that soon this house could be a prized landmark attraction once more.
It should come as no surprise that the Limestone City is a hotbed of paranormal activity – with generations of stories and testimonials from residents and visitors alike. Topping Kingston’s list of haunted places is Fort Henry. For over 170 years this fort has stood guard over Kingston and was never once attacked. Over the years however, the fort has been the site of hangings, and even a prisoner of war camp.
The fort was even featured on an episode of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters. In the episode, staff members were interviewed, and the team recorded convincing evidence to support the countless tales of the Fort’s supernatural incidents. From summer to early September the Fort is also included in the Haunted Walk’s roster of tours.
Visitors who want to be truly scared out of their pants should check out Fort Fright; an annual event which begins outside the fort and ventures into the darkest bowels of this ancient fortress. There, visitors will be treated to what is inarguably the most horrifying funhouse ever created.
The official name of this location is McBurney Park. However, the grisly nickname stems from a rather dark and macabre history indeed. The park that today hosts a playground, wading pool and basketball courts was once a massive cemetery with over ten thousand graves. Established in 1814 it was one of the City’s first and largest graveyards.
In 1864 the cemetery was closed and left more or less derelict. Over the next thirty years, reports of skeletal remains surfacing in the park and complaints of a horrid stench forced the City to eventually ‘clean up’ the mess. Grave desecration and robbery were also rampant at this point in history – as medical students attending Queen’s University were made to provide their own cadavers for exams.
Headstones were bulldozed and the only the bodies transferred to another cemetery were those whose families could afford it. Otherwise, over ten thousand corpses were left in the now transformed grounds. Human remains are still discovered occasionally to this day and what remains of gravestones can be found in the grass if you look close enough. There are several reports and witness accounts of supernatural incidents including terrifying dreams, strange visions, ghostly mists, and even physical apparitions.
The Haunted Walk of Kingston is most certainly a must do for any paranormal enthusiast to visit the city. For over two decades this interactive and fun tour has operated and has remained a popular and educational attraction ever since. The good news is that there is still time this season to get in on the ghastly goodness. Tours still run until the end of November. The Fort Henry tours run until September 4th.
Now home to a trio of pubs, this former hotel was once the home of the Herchmer family during the 1800’s. Their daughter Lily is said to have had a love affair with a rum smuggler and would leave a lit lantern in the window to signal for him. One night this caused a fire which set the building ablaze and claimed Lily’s life.
Her ghostly figure has been seen staring out her third-floor window looking for her lover. Also, during the buildings operation as a hotel – there are stories of cleaning staff encountering bizarre incidents such as radios turning on, whispers and more. Apparently, a former employee of the Tir Nan Og pub abruptly quit after a frightening encounter, according to an article in the Queen’s Journal.
Few urban locales send shivers up one’s spine quite like Kingston’s beautiful and infamous Rochleau Court. This picturesque series of alleys and carriageways is accessible from either Princess, Brock Street or King Street East and lead to the courtyard proper where Chez Piggy Restaurant and the Toucan Pub are located today.
The eerie tale tells of a woman named Theresa Ignace Beam who was strangled to death in the carriage-way by her lover (John Napier) in 1868. During a secret meeting; Theresa informed him that she was pregnant. Being a prominent entrepreneur, he was overcome with anger and panic.
In a fit of rage, he murdered and later dismembered Theresa, burying her remains in random locations throughout the courtyard and alleyways. Some claim that her remains are buried in the basement of an adjacent building. Despite past efforts, her remains have yet to be discovered.
The alley is featured in the Haunted Walk tour and was also in a segment of Creepy Canada (Skip to 30:36). Does Theresa’s restless spirit wander the shadowy back alleys of Rochleau Court, eternally in search for her unceremoniously disposed of remains?
The Hochelaga Inn is another of Kingston’s most popular paranormal buildings. Originally built in 1879 by a relative of Sir John A MacDonald, and later used to house travelling Bank of Montreal employees – The Hochelaga Inn was opened as a bed and breakfast in the mid-80’s.
There are a series of stories from former guests that describe the ghostly apparition of a woman in black sitting in their room at night, an unearthly wailing baby and even mischievous child-spirits who throw objects and turn on televisions. One particular TripAdvisor review entitled: “I think it’s haunted” only adds to the intrigue surrounding this quaint and historic inn.
Allan Macpherson was a prolific entrepreneur and member of Napanee’s budding society in the mid-1800’s. Today his former home is a landmark for local tourism and potentially a spiritually active building.
The mansion, which is now a museum – has been investigated multiple times by at least two paranormal groups. The Canadian Haunting & Paranormal Society (CHAPS) conducted a search in 2014 which rendered ‘inconclusive’ results. Another group: Bytown Paranormal investigated MacPherson House around the same timeframe.
One thing I can say for certain is that this house has always given me the creeps. This could be partially due to the fact I lived next door to it while in high school, and while arriving home at night I’d always get an uneasy feeling as though I was being watched. Maybe it was the cardboard cut-out of Sir. John A MacDonald blankly staring out from the upstairs window that overlooked our driveway… You be the judge.
Photo Credit: The Paranormal Seekers
As far as freaky ominous buildings go; they don’t get much freakier than abandoned government asylums. Technically, the Prince Edward Heights facility was not an actual asylum – but that doesn’t make this place any less scary. Originally a military barracks and then converted to a “hospital for the mentally disabled” in 1971 the building and images from within invoke spine-tingling reactions.
There are several unconfirmed stories of patient abuse and even fatalities while the hospital was in operation. Supernatural investigators: The Paranormal Seekers visited the complex in January 2014, and their gallery is full of menacing images of the derelict asylum’s interior. Another group by the name of PROO(f) TV conducted an extensive event – which they posted on YouTube.
Today, Prince Edward Heights is an ideal destination for paintball enthusiasts more than ghost hunters. Current tenant: PRZ Paintball has turned this massive complex into what is undoubtedly the most epic competitive paintball arena ever. So if you want to shoot your friends, while being simultaneously scared out of your wits, this is the place for you.
As always, thanks for reading! The Great Waterway possesses a venerable bounty of opportunity to immerse one’s self in our nation’s history – in addition to the wide variety of other activities there are to choose from. Whether it’s hiking, dining, or tracking ghosts our activity planner can help you get started!
Plan Your Trip Today
I am always amazed by the sheer number of remarkable places here in The Great Waterway that are often hidden in plain sight. While touring the staple routes and attractions, it’s easier than you think for some truly captivating locations to slip right by.
While some readers may be familiar with a few of these, there are some that even I hadn’t heard of and – it’s inspired me to want to find them all. For now, here are over a dozen great places to check out during your travels!
1 Prehistoric World
Minutes away from Upper Canada Village is a primordial playground that owns a piece of my childhood. Prehistoric World has been captivating the imaginations of kids for thirty-five years now. Technically, they’ve been doing this since before Jurassic Park was even a thing.
This attraction offers a lovely walking trail through the surrounding forest where adventurers will come face to face with life-sized dinosaur statues. The statues are all designed by the owner and fashioned from wire frames with moulded cement bodies. It’s eerie how they loom among the trees and ferns which blanket the ground as you traverse the stone path.
This is a great place to take the family. Immediately upon entering the park, you’re greeted by the coolest sandbox ever – where kids (and adult bloggers) can dig around for fossils. Also in the central area is a series of picnic tables where you can relax and enjoy lunch in the company of giants. Be sure to have cash handy though, because the gift shop and admission counter do not have debit.
2) Doran Bay Model Ship Museum
Having opened in September of 2011, the Doran Bay Model Museum is a rather new gem along the waterfront route. Arranged within the beautifully restored 1880’s house is a marvellous collection of model ships.
This private collection is the largest I have ever seen in one place and also has a vast collection of hand painted military figurines featuring soldiers throughout the ages. Kids and adults alike will find this to be a fun and educational detour as they explore the 1000 Islands region.
3) Battle of the Windmill Historic Site:
Close to Prescott’s famed Heritage site: Fort Wellington – there is another site of significant historical value: The Windmill. In November of 1838, a group of nearly two hundred insurgents consisting of Canadians and Americans attempted to invade Prescott.
The invaders were confident that the locals would support their goal of ending British tyranny, only: they were wrong. It wasn’t long before a particularly bloody skirmish broke out between local militia and British soldiers – resulting in the eventual surrender of the would-be invaders.
The windmill, in which the attackers were holed up in and fought from over the course several days still stands. The windmill also withstood a lengthy bombardment from Navy gunboats which lasted over two hours.
Today, visitors can go inside, explore the windmill and learn more about this pivotal event in our nation’s history.
4) The Brock Trail
The Brock trail stretches out over six kilometres and is a prime cycling route for the family. The trail is also part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere and presents plenty of opportunities to observe several bird species, and explore several historical points of interest along the path.
The trail works its way north from Brockville’s waterfront and through the downtown area as it hugs Buell’s Creek. The terrain is mostly flat and ranks as an ‘easy’ trail – so it won’t be intimidating for kids or people who want a long but non-strenuous walk.
5) Brockville Railway Tunnel:
While exploring the Brock Trail – make sure you check out Canada’s first railway tunnel! Constructed between 1854 and 1860 the tunnel completed a crucial link for the fledgeling Brockville & Ottawa Railway Co.
The addition of the tunnel had a profound effect on the town’s overall development. It’s proximity to the downtown area and waterfront makes this a really cool historical stop while exploring Brockville.
6) Old Stone Mill National Historic Site
North of Gananoque along County Road 42 lies Delta Ontario, a town famed for its annual agricultural fair – and a restored and fully functional stone mill. Originally built in 1810 this marvel of construction and engineering still works today!
During the summer months, the mill grinds heritage wheat flour using the original millstones that are over two hundred years old. Visitors can take tours and learn about the advent of Canada’s industrial transition. While a bit of a detour – this is most certainly worth the trip!
7) Rock Dunder
South of Jones Falls along Highway 15 is a visually stunning loop trail named Rock Dunder. Once the property of Scouts Canada the area was purchased in 2005 by Rideau Waterways Land Trust and has been available for hiking since.
There are three trails of varying skill level, but each is sure to offer some fantastic views, opportunities to observe local wildlife and take photos.
8) Sculpture Park (Confederation Park)
Mere steps away from Downtown Gananoque is a great little destination of the artistic variety. Located within the town’s Confederation Park is a collection of amazing sculptures.
After a scenic cruise or perhaps after dinner, this park is a great place to spend time and unwind. Share a romantic walk among striking artwork and picturesque fountained ponds as swans swim around like something out of a fairytale.
9) Canada’s Oldest General Store
Trousdale’s General Store in Sydenham makes for a nice detour while exploring the emerald and blue wonders of the Land O Lakes region. The store first opened in 1836 and has been owned by a member of the Trousdale family ever since!
This old-fashioned epic store has everything you would expect. The creaky floors, and the layout and décor of a lost period. The shelves are packed with interesting items ranging from old style toys and games to socks, soaps, and snacks.
10) Land O Lakes Rescue Petting Farm
The team at this dedicated animal rescue are happy to welcome visitors to their petting farm for tours. Here you’ll meet and interact an assortment of adorable creatures including ducks, rabbits, pot belly pigs, Llamas and more!
This remarkable rescue farm also depends greatly on the generosity of donors, and the funds gathered by their entry fees. A trip here will not only promise a lasting memory for your kids, but also continued hope for the animals under the care of the staff and volunteers.
11) Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area
Along the Loyalist Parkway between Amherstview and Bath, you will find Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area. This emerald parcel of land is an ideal destination for hikers, anglers and in the winter; cross-country ski and snowshoe enthusiasts.
There are two entry points; one located off Taylor Kidd Boulevard – and the other is off Bath Road. It’s important to note that this is a conservation area so stick to the marked trail to avoid poison ivy and the occasional patch of wild parsnip.
12) Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park
Referred to by the Mohawk Nation as the “Altar of the Gods” – the Lake on the Mountain presents an awe-inspiring if not enigmatic example of nature’s artistic design. While there are geological explanations for the lake’s formation – it remains a sacred and surreal place of spiritual significance and respect.
The park offers picturesque views of Lake Ontario to the south, as well as picnic areas and a lookout point. Motorized boats are forbidden on the lake. However, guests can bring a canoe should they wish to explore the lake.
13) Wellington Rotary Beach
While Sandbanks Provincial Park is likely the County’s best-known and popular summer destination, Wellington Rotary Beach offers a great alternative that is also fully accessible.
Wellington features a boardwalk which extends the length of the entire beach, and a parking area offers ramp access making this particular beach an ideal alternative for visitors with mobility challenges.
Photography enthusiasts will also enjoy the opportunity to take some amazing panoramas here as well, in addition to great swimming and relaxation on this charming beach only steps away from Wellington’s shopping & dining area.
14) Honey Pie Hives & Herbals
This quaint apiary was recommended by chance while visiting the County for this very article. (Thanks @TheCounty!) It also goes without saying, that if you’re allergic to bee-stings, you might want to pass on this one. If you aren’t, and have no fear of bees – the delicious mead(s) are more than worth your time.
Honey Pie’s parking area is flanked by a metropolis of bee hives arranged like little skyscrapers. It’s a surreal experience to stand among thousands of honeybees as they come and go about their various routines.
Inside the house is a lovely shop reminiscent of a bygone era with a certain Victorian atmosphere. Here you can taste their lineup of delicious meads – and browse their selection of herbal teas, herbs, lotions, and of course pure, unpasteurized honey. For more info – check out their website.
15) Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area
At the Southernmost tip of Prince Edward County is a secluded and fantastic wildlife reserve that is teeming with life. During migratory season this place offers a bounty of birdwatching opportunities, and also is host to a magnificent shoreline.
The sprawling pebble beach which embraces water’s edge is a fun place to have a picnic, search for fossils and explore. The water is so shallow and clear that it’s at times hard to remember that you are not somewhere in the Caribbean.
16) Little Bluff Conservation Area
East of Point Petre you will find Little Bluff; a great little conservation park which offers amazing views from an 18-metre high bluff made entirely of limestone. Also within Little Bluff is some great cycling, fishing, picnic areas and swimming. The waters are prime for a dip, but be aware that there are no lifeguards so be safe!
This list serves as but a small sampling of the near infinite list of things to do, taste and experience within The Great Waterway. To help you get started on planning your stay, our Activities Await page offers several convenient search filters to help plot your course.
Do you know of any hidden gems or favourite spots you would like to share with our community? Tell us all about it in an email, social media or hit up the comments below!
Scuba divers in the know don’t call the 1000 Islands the “Caribbean of the North” for nothing. Like its southern cousin, the waters around this 1864-island archipelago in the Saint Lawrence River are clear, fresh and the final home for ships from all over the world. Over 200 shipwrecks are preserved beneath the surface here, each with its own story to show. Keep reading for a few of those tales along with info about other dives, conditions, underwater life and where to go for rentals, service, courses and charters.
Although the zebra mussel is an invasive species in the Saint Lawrence, it has helped clean up the river. Divers can now generally see 50 to 60 feet in front them most of the year, and 60 – 100 feet in the fall. And because there usually isn’t a thermocline here — i.e. a transition layer between warmer surface water and cooler deep water — the surface and deep waters are usually within a couple of degrees of each other (68 – 75 F).
All of this is good news for shipwreck divers and those just wanting a sharper, different picture of this natural wonder. Remember that the 1000 Islands are actually billion-year-old mountain peaks, so there’s much more to see below the surface (think granite walls and 100-foot chasms). Remember, too, however that currents can be strong in some areas; beginners may want to stick to open water dives.
The Saint Lawrence River has been the main shipping route between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean for centuries, and you can see that history in the ships that line the bottom. From wooden schooners to War of 1812 battleships to modern-day freighters, over 200 vessels met their fate here. Here are three of them:
The Rothesay: Novice
A 193-foot wooden twin sidewheel passenger steamer that sank on September 12, 1889, when she collided with a tugboat. Found just west of Prescott, there is a change booth onshore and a guide rope that will take you out to the site at a depth of 20 to 30 feet. A great night dive. More info. Map
The Muscallonge: Intermediate
At 128 feet long, the “Muskie” was the largest tug on the river when she sunk in 1936 just east of Brockville. Although she was engulfed in flames and then exploded, breaking in two and settling in 90 feet of water, the boiler, winches, engine and other ship parts are still there to see. More info. Map
Henry C. Daryaw: Advanced
Built in Le Grand-Quevilly, France, in 1919, this 219-foot-long steel freighter hit a shoal on November 21, 1941, tearing a gash in her starboard side. The mechanic was the only one not to make it ashore as she sunk in 90 feet of water. The surface current is quick here, but lessens close to the bottom. More info. Map
The shipwrecks are what draw most divers to the 1000 Islands, but there are plenty of other popular sites throughout the region that’ll satisfy the non-nautical, too. Here are three:
Brockville’s Underwater Sculpture Park: Novice
Canada’s first underwater sculpture park is just off Centeen Park in Brockville. The focal point of the site is six standing human figures looking up surrounded by benches at an 18-foot radius. There are also two sturgeons pointing north at 35 feet out. More info. Map
Lock 21 and the Lost Villages: Intermediate
This legendary and somewhat eerie surface dive near the Long Sault Parkway takes you through what’s left of Lock 21 and the Lost Villages, which were nine villages and hamlets flooded to make way for the Saint Lawrence Seaway and power generation projects in the late 1950s. More info. Map
The Daryaw Drift: Advanced
Discover the changes in the river bottom on this drift drive that starts at the Henry C. Daryaw shipwreck between Brockville and Mallorytown. Let yourself drift with the current over the rock ledge behind the wreck, and then take one of three courses that’ll move you over various rock formations and depth changes. More info. Map
This region is known for its rich wildlife, and not just onshore. While you’re exploring those shipwrecks and lost villages, keep your eyes out for a few of the 80 species of fish that have been identified in the Saint Lawrence River — everything from bowfin and catfish to rainbow trout, pink salmon, yellow perch and largemouth bass. You might come across muskrats, otters and beavers, too, and if you’re lucky the at-risk Blanding’s turtle.
For a good overview of the flora and fauna you might see, stop by Brockville’s new Aquatarium, a state-of-the-art facility with an aquarium, interactive exhibits, wildlife displays and way more. There’s even a dive tank here and the remains of the Sir Robert Peel, a Canadian steamboat that was taken and burned by pirate Bill Johnston.
Where do you go from here? A good start would be these local businesses for rentals, service, courses and charters:
Dive Tech Training Centre (Mallorytown)
Equipment for sale or rent, equipment service, local info, courses
Dive Brockville Adventure Centre (Brockville)
Equipment rentals, equipment service, charters, local info, courses
RiverDiver Dive Charters (various locations)
Northern Tech Diver (Kingston)
Equipment for sale or rent, equipment service, charters, local info, courses
Kingston Dive Charters (Kingston)
Charters, equipment rentals
Explorer Diving (Kingston)
Equipment for sale, equipment service, charters, courses
Play a round (or two) of golf From urban nine-hole courses like Belle Park in Kingston to lush and sophisticated fairways like Black Bear Ridge in Corbyville, we have a golf course for you. Book your tee time now to avoid disappointment!
Go camping From car camping to backcountry and everything in between, we have the perfect campsite. Reservations at the popular Sandbanks Provincial Park may be hard to secure this close to the long weekend, but further east Parks of the St. Lawrence boasts hundreds of campsites, including gorgeous waterfront sites. Hardy campers will appreciate the peaceful backcountry at rugged Frontenac Provincial Park.
Go star gazing It’s hard to believe that just a short drive north of the 401 is a place so serene that the skies are very much like they were 100 years ago. The Lennox and Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area is a must-see for night sky photographers and lawn chair astronomers.
Build sandcastles at Sandbanks Provincial Park If you’re more a day tripper, grab your kiddos, a sand bucket and shovel and head to Sandbanks Provincial Park. It is the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation with three expansive sandy beaches that some say are among the best in Canada (and we tend to agree with those people).
Paddle the Rideau Canal Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal offers an unforgettable kayaking experience. Bring your own or rent one from local outfitters like Frontenac Outfitters or Trailhead Kingston.
Go fishing For some species, like Northern Pike and walleye, the fishing season opens the second weekend in May, which means you can head to the water in search of that famous Quinte gold. Most of the region is MNR Fisheries Management Zone 18, with the exception of Prince Edward County, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Wolfe Island and Howe Island, which is Zone 20. Remember to follow all fishing regulations, including having a valid Outdoors Card.
Cruise the 1000 Islands Cruising the St. Lawrence River is a classic Great Waterway Experience. With a variety of boats to choose from, like the Wildcat high-speed catamaran to the elegant Island Queen, there’s no better way to experience the river. Ports in Picton, Gananoque, Kingston, Rockport and Brockville.
Take a ghost walk…if you dare Haunted Walks of Kingston is an award-winning and bone-chilling walk through the city’s historic streets. Your guide tells ghost stories during your stroll and we’ve heard of ghost sightings too!
Visit a museum No matter your interests, there is a museum in The Great Waterway that will capture your imagination. Kids will love Brockville’s Aquatarium, learn about the region’s penitentiary history in Kingston and step back into the 1800s at Upper Canada Village.
Go skydiving Kick off summer by crossing this must-try off your bucket list. Skydive Gananoque is your go-to when visiting Southeastern Ontario
Have family-friendly fun at a festival In Kingston, Victoria Day celebrations kick off at Lake Ontario Park at 1 p.m., culminating in spectacular fireworks at 9:30 p.m. At Upper Canada Village, step back in time with Victorian-themed festivities (included cake that the Queen herself would find delicious).
Take a helicopter tour Seeing the 1000 Islands by helicopter is an adventure you will never forget. Soar above the waterways and castles with 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours.
Visit Fort Henry This award-winning UNESCO Heritage Site opens for the season May 21. Experience military life in the 1800s with the pomp of the Garrison parade, the boom of firing cannons and a muster drill.
Go to an art gallery In Kingston, head to the Agnes Etherington Art Museum, where in addition to their permanent galleries, Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo is now on display. In the heart of the downtown, check out eclectic Martello Alley, recently rated by TripAdvisor fans as the top attraction in Kingston. Arts Scene Spencerville is a fine art gallery and shop, which is brimming with pottery, glass and paintings from local artists.
Indulge in retail therapy Each town and city in The Great Waterway has its own unique collection of shops. Downtown Kingston has boasts upscale retailers and niche boutiques. In The County, expect to find stores full of perfectly curated vintage goods and candy shops. Westport and Newboro have lovely stores with everything from luxe kitchen wares and designer furniture.
Catch a concert or live theatre The place to be this long weekend is the region’s pubs and coffee shops, where local talent takes to the mic. Head to Picton to either The County Canteen or The Waring House Barley Room. On the long weekend, Thousand Islands Playhouse kicks off the season with A Closer Walk With Cline, a theatrical and musical tribute to Patsy Cline.
Try to escape an escape room Test your problem-solving skills at Kingston’s Improbable Escapes, a collection of escape rooms where you are pitted against the clock to get out of a locked room. Opening May 20 is Escape from Murney Tower, the historic and imposing limestone fortification on the shores of Lake Ontario. Book ahead!
Go on a wine tour Prince Edward County’s terrier is recognized throughout the world as being unique and the hospitality The County’s winemakers will make you feel right at home. Self-guided wine tours (remember your designated driver) or chauffeured options are available. Newcomer Scheuermann Vineyard & Winery in Westport is a must-see (or is that taste?).
Find a favourite food truck Think outside the French fry box. Our food trucks have fresh sandwiches, burgers, tacos and fresh salads. Bay of Quinte Tourism rounds up the best food trucks in Trenton, Belleville, The County and beyond each Friday, making it a great place to start your search for the perfect street food.
Pack a picnic of local food On Saturday, go to a farmers’ market and pack a picnic lunch of local food, such as breads, cheeses, honey, fruit and vegetables. Kingston’s Springer Market Square is home to the province’s oldest open air market and Belleville, Cornwall, Gananoque and Brockville all have markets a short walking distance from parks that you can sit down and enjoy the sunshine in.
Dine out with endless options everywhere Kingston has more restaurants per capita than any where in Canada, The County is a culinary gem, Gananoque is known for it’s eclectic cafes and Belleville and Trenton are home to Italian restaurants boasting fresh pasta made daily. We’re serious about food here, with chefs often sourcing local ingredients paired with local food, ciders and wines.
Tour a craft brewery Almost each town and city in the region boasts a craft brewery. Check out recently opened Wild Card Brewing in Trenton, Rurban Brewing in Cornwall and County Road Beer in Wellington. Picton, Bath, Kingston and Lake on the Mountain are home to Barley Days, Mackinnon Brothers, Stone City Ales and Lake on the Mountain Brewing, all offering flights and a bottle shop to take home your new favourite brew.
Go for ice cream In Bloomfield, grab a cone at Slickers, The County’s most popular ice cream shop, featuring fresh homemade flavours. Sundaes and soft-serve are a favourite at Brockville’s Cowan’s Dairy. Reid’s Dairy in Belleville is famous for their loonie shakes and yummy treat-filled hard ice cream. It’s a great place to stop on the way home, where you can let the kids burn off steam on the playground (after cones, of course).
Share your Victoria Day weekend adventures with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by tagging your pictures #greatwaterway or #noordinary weekend!
When a month kicks off with a week-long arts celebration throughout Kingston and ends with a four-day bluegrass jamboree in Prince Edward County, you know you’re in prime festival season. Especially when there’s a multicultural fest, world-class fishing derby, wine and food gala, and Queen Victoria’s birthday party peppered in between. Here’s the lowdown on 10 festivals you can’t miss across The Great Waterway this month.
The first week of May is National Youth Week, and to celebrate the youth-run theatre company Blue Canoe has organized K-Town’s first ever youth arts festival. Happening all over Kingston, The Juvenis Festival gives young people between the ages of 13 and 30 a chance to act, sing, dance, perform and showcase their talents, as well as take free workshops and masterclasses to develop their artistic chops. juvenisfestival.ca. (Photo: Louis Vest/Flickr CC)
Since 1981, this weekend salute to music, dance and food from around the world has been attracting visitors from near and far wanting to tap into what makes this country great. This year over 20 performers will take the stage, including Scottish dancers, an East Indian dance group, a Spanish folk art troupe and a Dutch choir. Kids under 5: Free. Students and seniors: $4.50. Adults: $5. brockvillemulticulturalfestival.com. (Photo: Brad Smith/Flickr CC)
This is your chance to catch the big one — and catch a big prize at the same time. Now in its 36th year, this derby and youth fundraiser on the beautiful Bay of Quinte is on most expert anglers’ lists, but as any fisherman will tell you: you don’t need the best gear to snag a winner. Prizes for the 10 biggest walleye and pike in senior and junior categories include boats, trips, gear and more. Adults: $50 (includes 1 kids ticket). Kids under 13: $15. kiwaniswalleyeworld.com. (Photo: Joe Rex/Flickr CC)
An annual showcase of County wine, food, artisan bread, preserves and more at Picton’s glass beauty, the Crystal Palace. Over 50 vendors will be there this year offering samples and a chance to learn the story behind the County’s bounty. Seminars will range from “Cooking with Wine” to “Beer Tasting 101,” and when you get full, dance it off under The Hayloft’s new music tent. Free shuttle from Belleville, Wellington and Bloomfield. Admission ($40 in advance, $45 at the door) includes 10 tasting tickets, a souvenir glass and all seminars. countyterroir.ca. (Photo: The Great Waterway)
The birds are back and chirping their sweet song, and at this yearly fest hosted by the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory you’ll get a chance to learn all about Prince Edward County’s feathered friends. The lineup includes guided walks and tours (including a nighttime adventure), a two-day boot camp for birders, a photo contest, and a talk by award-winning nature writer Steve Burrows. peptbo.ca. (Photo: Peter Miller/Flickr CC)
At the west end of Upper Rideau Lake near the village of Westport lays a small airport with a 3,000-foot grass runway. Stop in to see what happens there at this annual event where over 40 aircraft (and sometimes a helicopter) are usually on display. Enjoy a sausage on a bun breakfast, visit the hangars, and watch flights land and take off. Donations welcome. Contact Bill Green at 613-273-5282 for more information. (Photo: Martin Pettitt/Flickr CC)
For one weekend every year in May, the sleepy village of Frankford comes alive for two days of family fun. Both days this year will feature a midway, live music and a vendors’ village, while Saturday will also include brunch at Frankford United Church, balloon twisting, a petting zoo, a hula hoop fun zone, a dance demo and fireworks to end the night. Sunday’s big draw will be the classic car show. facebook.com/FrankfordRiverfest. (Photo: Frankford Riverfest)
The May long weekend is usually the unofficial launch of summer, but don’t forget: it also marks Queen Victoria’s birthday (May 24, 1819). Celebrate while stepping back to the Queen’s time at Upper Canada Village, a 19th-century replica village. Sing “God Save the Queen,” hear historical patriotic speeches, see grand military manoeuvres, lace up for the 1860s athletic games, and enjoy a piece of birthday cake. Adults: $19. Seniors: $18. Kids 6 – 12: $12. Kids under 6: Free. uppercanadavillage.com. (Photo: Alex Luyckx/Flickr CC)
Get out those dancin’ boots and brush up on your quick-step — local and regional bluegrass bands are coming down from the hills to put on a four-day jam session in Cherry Valley. Ten bands will be there, but if you want to pick too, the open mic is on Thursday evening. A barbecue will be onsite from morning to night, and if you want to camp, there’s plenty of room. Don’t forget your fishing rod and lawn chair. Various ticket options. quintebluegrass.com. (Photo: Quinte Isle Bluegrass Celebration)
Ever walked by a heritage site and wondered what’s behind the front door? Good news: you can find out (in the Brockville and Thousand Islands area, at least) at Doors Open, the annual festival that lets you explore some of the region’s most cherished buildings. There are 33 participating sites this year — six new ones — including lawn bowling greens, serene churches, armouries, railway tunnels and art galleries. Free. doorsopenontario.on.ca. (Photo: Fulford Place – Ontario Heritage Trust)
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