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!
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.
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.
Cardinal / Prescott
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Land O’ Lakes
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.
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.
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.
Prince Edward County
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Destinations 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!