The Rideau Canal itself is almost unbelievable. Really. That a 202-kilometre long canal was built by hand almost 200 years ago with that much foresight and that much engineering is simply awe-inspiring.
The Rideau Canal communities dotting the landscape along the way share the many stories of the fabled canal and if those locks could talk, they would likely tell stories of grand boats locking through, communities evolving over time and the aspects of each stop along the way that makes the Rideau Canal so unique. From staying in a Lockmaster’s house to meeting some furry friends, here’s our second list of what to do this summer along the Rideau.
1. Meet Some Furry Friends
From domestic to exotic, Saunders Country Critter Zoo and Sanctuary has everything from singing dogs to kangaroos and birds of prey! Leisurely stroll around and experience the animals or take in an educational talk for free.
Visit another animal-focused farm that also takes care to the next level: Big Sky Ranch. It’s a safe haven in the Rideau region for all sorts of animals, giving horses, goats, donkeys, pigs, sheep, dogs, cats and more a chance to recover from previous lives or professions in a supportive and caring environment. It’s open to the public, but calling ahead is recommended.
Have a one-in-a-million small town experience: hang out with some donkeys! That’s right, Berry Homestead Farm allows visitors a unique educational donkey experience. These donkeys enjoy getting up close and personal. You’ll be in the pen with them, learning about their impressive skills, helping to brush them and then capturing the moment. They love selfies! Don’t forget to ask about the all-natural donkey milk soaps.
2. Anything But Traditional Terrior
Green Gables Vines is charming through and through. This country winery offers a select number of wines crafted in small lots to ensure quality and flavour. The original homestead is featured on-site – a traditional Victorian farmhouse complete with green gables and white gingerbread trim. Look for unique wine names like Dance with Me, Filled to the Rafters and Blushing Daisy. To make the visit even sweeter, tastings at the winery are free if a bottle is purchased!
Scheuermann Vineyard and Winery in Westport is on the shores of Upper Rideau Lake and offers tastings and dining events using its wood-fired grill.
3. Cheers To Local Food
The Rideau Heritage Route is a maverick in the local food sphere. The food and drink scene is being reimagined here and the opportunities are endless.
Grab a basket and get picking along the Rideau. The superhero of berries is grown in the region with Haskap (Honey Berries) available for pick your own at Berry Good Farms. This little berry packs a nutritional punch and is known for its rich antioxidant power. Berry Good Farms also offers pick your own delicious Romeo and Juliet dwarf cherries.
Local is at the core of everything they do at Wendy’s Country Market near Lyndhurst. A historic schoolhouse from the late 1800s is now lovingly resurrected as an old-fashioned country market – complete with animals to visit. This local food hub is also keen on organics, offering produce from more than 70 local farmers and artisans. Spend an afternoon in the country.
Furnace Falls Farm brought to you by the folks at Wendy’s Country Market, is taking farm-to-table to a whole new level, as a renovated farm house welcomes guests who are keen to experience local food, cooking classes, and luxurious rural hospitality.
4. Swing Into Summer
Polish those clubs and head to eQuinelle Golf Course to take advantage of that summer sun at this championship calibre course along the Rideau. The course’s stunning layout features five set of tees on each hole, strategically-sculpted fairways, large rolling greens and a recipe for the perfect day out. Rideau Glen is backed by tradition while still being a modern course. Built in 1929, this executive-style course has a long history of great golfing mixed with natural beauty.
5. Enjoy The Views And Vistas
Get out and explore the Rideau au naturel by hitting trails along the way. With lush greenery, rock outcroppings and pristine water, the Rideau Canal provides natural eye candy at every turn. Photo-ready scenes unravel before your eyes; this is nature at its best.
Rock Dunder, owned by the Rideau Waterway Land Trust near Morton offers a 3.8 km summit loop that is so worth the hike. Standing atop the rock at the summit gives a breathtaking view of the canal with water and treetops below stretching as far as the eye can see. Another unforgettable vantage point is near Chaffey’s Lock on a former train bridge, which is now a section of the Cataraqui Trail. The bridge dates back to the early 1900s and has recently been renovated for use with the trail. A short five minute walk through the woods from the lock awards visitors with an unforgettable view.
Foley Mountain in Westport looks out over Upper Rideau Lake from a granite ridge at Spy Rock. A three-minute walk from the parking lot gets visitors to the rock look out to see the lake and village laid out below.
The North Grenville Trail System links together 150 km of trails, roads, walkways and waterways throughout the municipality. The Sugar Bush Island Trail near Davis Lock also offers incredible views from high atop a rock lookout. It’s an easy hike among Butternut, Sugar Maple, White Pine and Bitternut trees. Be delighted by the abundance of bird life here and by finding stairs in the middle of the woods to help easily traverse some hills along the trail!
6. Discover Hidden Gems
There’s a hidden gem near Merrickville where you can wander at your own pace through lush greenery on more than seven acres of picturesque woodland – and even feed the koi! Let your imagination wander at Rideau Woodland Ramble and be inspired by grasses, conifers, magnolias, Japanese maples and perennials. This is a hosta lover’s dream: more than 400 varieties of hosta grow here. Be sure to look for the labyrinth, too!
Treasure hunting at an old stone house? Count us in! Stroll through the rustic summer kitchen, original log home and carriage barn at Country Side Antiques and be fascinated by primitives, lighting, artworks and lots of curiosities. You never know what you’ll find.
7. On The Water, Nature Is Calling
Explore the nooks and crannies of this paddler’s paradise! Make your own ripples along the Rideau and hit the water paddling. Calm, clear water and natural sights entice people of all ages to pick up a paddle and discover the intimate side of the Rideau. More than 30 launch ramps and most lock stations provide access to the canal and unlike powerboats, paddlers have the advantage of exploring bays and ponds to get a sense of the wildlife that calls the Rideau home.
Kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards can be rented at numerous points along the Rideau Canal and Rideau Tours out of Chaffey’s Lock even offers guided tours and luxury paddling. You may even get to see the famous Captain Mike. Morning paddlers are often greeted by loons and blue herons as the mist rises off of the lakes and evening paddlers can watch the sun go down over the water in a glorious blaze of colour.
Rent kayaks, canoes or SUPs through Drifters Outdoors, and paddle the south branch of the river. Opportunities are endless – paddle to downtown, dock at a trailhead or find the beaches and play all day. There’s no better way to get a feel for the Rideau! Be sure to explore the charming small towns, historical sites, ice cream shops and gourmet restaurants along the way.
8. History Buffs Unite
The Rideau Canal is awash in history with several surviving blockhouses, lockmasters houses, and community buildings that have been preserved.
Step back in time at The Old Stone Mill in Delta while witnessing a working flour mill, grinding grain with traditional equipment and methods used in the 1800s. The mill is a National Historic Site of Canada and the structure has been painstakingly renovated to give visitors a unique experience of flour-making demonstrations while also featuring many interactive exhibits and milling artifacts. It’s open to the public during the summer, and on special occasions the working millstones grind heritage, locally-grown grain into flour.
Lace up and explore North Grenville this summer through the Walking Tours of North Grenville. Marvel at local history and learn about culture, buildings, and interesting community facts. One intriguing hamlet is Burritt’s Rapids, which is the oldest settlement along the famed Rideau Canal. Its roots date back to the 1790s and it’s located on an island, need we say more?
Discover the Tip to Tip trail, which runs the length of the island along the Rideau River and allows visitors to see the historic Burritt’s Rapids lock station. The history winds along the Rideau Canal in communities along the way. See the Lockmaster’s House museum at Chaffey’s Lock, the blockhouses at Merrickville, Newboro and Narrow’s Lock, and the “whispering” Stone Arch Dam at Jones Falls, a jaw-dropping engineering feat for its time.
9. Lock In Some Fun
This is a true Canadian experience. With 23 lock stations and 45 locks (not including the two lock stations on the Tay Canal) spanning Kingston to Ottawa, boats of all sizes are able to lock through. Watch the lockmasters and crew hand crank boats through on this historic waterway.
Better yet, rent a boat and experience locking through first hand. Canal staff along the Rideau are friendly and willing to answer questions, and in some locations, such as at Kingston Mills, Chaffey’s Lock, Jones Falls and Merrickville, there are museums and visitor centres at the stations. Boat rentals are available at some spots along the canal; indulge in a rental to cross this experience off your bucket list.
The Rideau Canal is, by nature, a marvel through and through. But it’s also what is popping up all around it that makes for an unforgettable day trip or full-on vacation. Discover incredible beauty at every turn, coupled with unique community experiences all rooted in history along the Rideau Canal!