It’s pretty easy to see why everyone loves the Rideau Lakes and all of its gem locations within it. It’s laid back, friendly, and quaint. You aren’t in a hurry, and you don’t want to be, no one else seems to be either! That’s why you’re there, to escape the city life and take in the beauty of the country.
Any trip through the Rideau Lakes region must include stops in Westport and Merrickville. For this Experience Blog, my partner and I ventured to Lyndhurst, Elgin, and Westport. Bursting with history, tasty treats, and waterfront charm, you’ll spend an enjoyable weekend exploring at a leisurely pace.
You may know Wendy Banks and Rick Trudeau from Wendy’s Country Market. A hub for the local food in the Kingston and Rideau area open year-round with organic, locally grown produce from over 70 local farmers and artisans. Furnace Falls Farm have added to that legacy with a cool new Bed & Breakfast located across the road. This B&B is an old farmhouse that was beautifully restored from the inside out. All the charms of old wood panelling, floors, artwork and even the furniture give the impression one hopes to experience when looking to spend a night in a rural B&B. For the weekend, we stayed in the Sunset Suite, a lovely spacious bedroom. The modern bathrooms are simply gorgeous with striking white tile work, and a cast iron tub and separate shower. Shampoos, body and hand soaps were provided by Berry Homestead Farm which was a lovely alternative to hotel soaps that made your skin silky smooth!
After settling in, we made our way downstairs to join Chef Mark in a farm fresh dinner which included local produce from across the road at Wendy’s Market. The kitchen is certainly a high point of this B&B. The open concept kitchen allowed us to interact with Chef Mark as he placed the finishing touches on dinner, bringing back that community feel of preparing dinner in a farmhouse setting. Our meal was unlike anything we had tasted before. Chef Mark incorporated edible weeds into each dish and it was truly an unforgettable experience. To kick things off we had grilled asparagus with cider vinegar gastrique, followed by a beet and lambs quarter salad with apple mint vinaigrette and wood sorrels, pan seared duck on celeriac puree, and for dessert, we had rhubarb pineapple weed upside down cake with Grand Marnier whipped cream! Are you drooling? Of course, you are.
After chatting with Chef Mark on embracing locally grown and made products it was time to settle in for the evening. One of the best parts of Furnace Falls is that there is no T.V! That’s right, no reason to get sucked into watching reruns of your favourite Netflix show. The freedom of no T.V. to fall asleep to gave us the perfect reason to cozy up with our books and have an early night in.
We had a busy itinerary planned out for our next day and the smell of freshly brewed coffee from ShaBean Coffee Roastery, made us run (not walk) down to the kitchen. There was fresh bread with Rhubarb Strawberry Jam, and a ham & cheese quiche all from Wendy’s Market. I’m not a big breakfast eater but with a spread like that, I made an exception. After breakfast, we chatted with Wendy and Chef Karen. The dedication Wendy and her team have put into their operation is incredible. Wendy and her team work extremely hard with their local producers and they strive to make a difference in their community. My partner and I were so caught up in our conversation that we were almost late for our first stop on our itinerary: Rideau Tours.
SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) is a full body workout through paddling and staying balanced on the board, it’s also quite relaxing. We had a great experience because of the calm waters you get to explore and the friendly owners you get to interact with. Anne-Marie and her husband Captain Luc showed us the warmest hospitality as they prepared us for our quest on the water. Ann Marie helps you get comfortable balancing on the board which helps you gain control before you head out. Not only was it a bright and sunny morning, but the waters were relatively calm and it wasn’t windy. This made it easier to stand up on the board and drift on the water, especially for this first timer! SUP is exercise, but it is also a tranquil journey to unwind. If I didn’t feel like paddling anymore, I could kneel, sit, or lie down on my board for a rest (some people even do yoga- woah!) By staying close to the shore and wading through lily pad marshes, there is a very good chance of spotting turtles and you can feed the fish (FYI they love whole wheat wraps.) SUP is the perfect combination of exercise and finding peaceful moments while exploring the great outdoors. Give it a try!
After our SUP adventure, we returned back to Furnace Falls and quickly got changed and headed our way over to Wendy’s Market. We took a nice walk along the outdoor garden and met Prince George the loveable pot belly pig and other animals. We stopped inside and I quickly spotted that they sold the famous Slickers Ice Cream from Picton! As a double bonus, they carried the Trip Advisor raved flavour ‘Campfire’- toasted marshmallow. Believe the hype, it’s wonderful!
Next up was Scheuermann Vinyard and Winery. After a long morning of stand up paddleboarding, we earned our treat (I’m talking about the vino, not the ice cream– that was a bonus.) Exploring the beautiful acres of lush vineyard, the Westport Sculpture Garden, and Sand Lake was a delightful way to wind down. The expansive grounds make for the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic, and visitors can feast both their eyes and taste palette with an elegant selection of wines and a delicious menu. The view of Sand Lake was the perfect backdrop to snap some photos of the beautiful sunset! I chose to sip on the Romatique- crisp, fresh and fruity where my partner chose the Pinot Noir – a light red with notes of strawberry. Both wines paired nicely with our smoked salmon plate and ‘Caliente’ wood-fired pizza. Oh yeah, by the way… they have wood fired pizza! Plus other incredible menu items.
The next morning, we made our way out for a Sunday drive to the village of Westport. Our first stop was to the Westport Bakery where we picked up some delicious butter tarts and strawberry tarts. We spent our morning walking around the Westport Harbour and taking in the views of Upper Rideau Lake. Upper Rideau Lake is absolutely stunning and you can see Foley Mountain Conservation Area on the left. What’s nice about the Westport Harbour is the layout and atmosphere. It has such close proximity to things you want and need, like the village itself, where you’ll find restaurants, eclectic shops, a grocery store, and ice cream parlours. It was a bit too early for ice cream but I made a mental note and commitment to stop into one next time I visit.
Once we got back to Furnace Falls, I purchased a charcuterie board of local meats and cheeses from Wendy’s Market. We made our way into the sunroom and nestled in a spot where we sat and ate some amazing artisan cheeses & meats and some of Chef Marks homemade chocolate. The best pairing for a warm summer day is delicious local food and a good book!
Later in the afternoon, we signed up for a Foraging Workshop with Chef Mark. At Furnace Falls, you can sign up for seasonal cooking classes and workshops all located on site. Chef Mark took us around the property and showed us how to forage for our own food. He helped us identify wild edibles and the best way to prepare them. Afterwards, Chef Mark prepared a mixed mushroom snack, using the same weeds identified outside!
To finish off what has been an incredible weekend, I booked a walking tour at Chaffey’s Lock and a 3 Lake Boat Tour with Rideau Tours. Our guide for the walking tour was by the lovely Anne-Marie. The walking tour was a great way to experience the areas cultural history while taking in the scenic views. Here is a brief history lesson I was able to learn. The Rideau Canal is a historic Canadian treasure, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and an engineering marvel that opened the doors to trade and commerce between Ottawa and Kingston. It took 5 Nations to build the canal (The British, First Nations, French Canadians, Scottish, and Irish.) The canal took 6 years (1826 to 1832) to finish and claimed almost 1,000 lives, most of which were lost due to accidents and disease. Today, The Rideau Canal is the oldest continually operated canal system on the continent! After our Walking Tour, it was time for the boat tour!
Indian Lake, Clear Lake, and Newboro Lake were absolutely delightful by boat! We came across loons and an osprey nest and got to watch a Rideau Canal lock in operation. It’s a wonderful engineering system that uses water, gravity, human muscle power, and a basic system of levers and gears to move boats up and down from one water level to another. If you venture out with Captain Luc for a boat tour you will also be treated to an interaction with Captain Mike. As Captain Luc approaches Captain Mike’s fishing boat, you’ll notice the Captain is at the front of the boat wearing a full captains coat and hat to match. He calls out to the boaters and tells a variety of jokes about the cove, his boat, and living on the water. He sets off a variety of fireworks from a captain’s pistol as well as a mock barrel of gunpowder. His high energy reminds you of a nautical Robin Williams and will have you rolling with laughter! The unexpected happiness that interacting with Captain Mike provides will have you smiling until Captain Luc waves goodbye at the end of the tour.
That concludes our trip! I’ve already put Rideau Heritage Route on my list of places I will return to time and again, and bring friends and family to. Can you see why? I hope you have the opportunity to head out and enjoy it too!
Take A Trip to Rideau Heritage Route!
We hoped you enjoyed our Experience Blog! Our mission and ultimate goal is to inspire you, the reader, to want to jump out of your seat and walk, drive, fly, (any means necessary) to your next adventure in South Eastern Ontario.
Located along the north shore of the St Lawrence River, the South Eastern Ontario region spans from Cornwall and The Counties to Ontario’s burgeoning wine and craft beer country known as Prince Edward County and the Bay of Quinte. Along the shores of these waterways, you’ll find fascinating history, quaint villages, inspiring art, live theatre and gastronomic delights. No matter how you choose to experience it, South Eastern Ontario offers some of the best places to visit in Ontario.