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. 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 list of what to do this summer along the Rideau.
Experience Rideau Lakes
What To Do
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 luxury houseboat with Le 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.
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.
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.
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.
Animals lovers will be overjoyed to visit this stunning ranch in Rideau Lakes this summer. Apona Healing Ranch has rescued horses and nursed them back to health so they can live out their lives in peace, and they have extended that peace to the public by offering equine-assisted therapy sessions and retreats to help heal the soul.
Grab a basket and get picking along the Rideau. The superhero of berries is grown in the region with Haskap (Honey Berries) available for your own picking 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.
Experience Canada’s first ever Sustainability and Reconciliation Centre located in Rideau Lakes at No. 9 Gardens. Visit this 40 acre facility to learn how to live a more sustainable lifestyle through hands-on classes that focus on growing and cooking organic foods, farming, gardening, connecting with nature and even eco-glamping!
Rock Dunder, owned by the Rideau Waterway Land Trust near Morton offers a 3.8 km summit loop that is 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.
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.
Hunt for hidden treasure at Aunt Molly’s Antiques, located in Crosby at the old Crosby General Store. There are plenty of beautiful and rare antiques to find, with products including furniture, comics, books, lamps, glassware, cast iron and lots more!
Having recently moved their shop to the historical Forfar Dairy, Sunflower Bake Shop has expanded itself to become a cafe and cheese specialty store! Their menu offers plenty of delicious options including creamy ice cream, and they also sell locally produced goods including sweet jams and tart mustards!
Explore North Grenville
What To Do
Lace up and explore North Grenville this summer through the Walking Tours of North Grenville. Marvel at local history and learn about local 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 through 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.
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.
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.
Try your hand at a new sport this summer when you visit the Ferguson Forest Disc Golf Course for a game of disc golf! Similar to regular golfing, you can tour 18 holes of various difficulty as you explore the 18 acres of beautiful landscape. Bring your pets along as the park is animal friendly!
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!
From domestic to exotic, Saunders Country Critter Zoo and Sanctuary has everything from singing dogs to kangaroos and birds of prey! Take a leisurely stroll around and experience the animals or take in an educational talk for free.
The perfect way to spend your Saturday this summer is at the Wildling Acres in Kemptville. Enjoy your tour of this century-old family run farm that specialises in growing specialty cut and wildflower blooms. You can spend the day arranging your very own bouquet, get a guided workshop, attend a yoga session and sip on some locally crafted wine while you visit.
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!
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.
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 fish! 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!
11. Venture Further & Explore Prescott
What To Do
Get Festive Outdoors – Give back while having fun this summer by attending the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, where talented actors and artists gather to bring back the humour and hijinks that Shakespeare has told in his plays. Experience some of Shakespeare’s most memorable work, performed outdoors against the stunning backdrop of the sparkling St. Lawrence River. Prescott’s St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival sets this enchanting scene rain or shine during the summer. The waterfront amphitheater at the town’s harbour plays a remarkable host to the growing professional festival. Look here for this years productions.
If you are planning on attending the festival, or would rather just enjoy the beautiful outdoors then head over to Shakespeare’s Gardens, located on the grounds of the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival beside the outdoor amphitheatre. You will find beautiful gardens lined with flowers, plants and Shakespearian quotes, an ice cream shop and a beautiful trail that takes you alongside the stunning St. Lawrence waterfront.
Prescott’s marina is known as one of the top boating facilities in Ontario and is referred to as the jewel of the St. Lawrence. Sandra S. Lawn Harbour and Marina sits beside a stunning lighthouse overlooking the harbour, and is just a few minutes away from the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival and Gardens. This 128-slip marina is highly regarded for its first-class service, with amenities such as a playground on site, lots of seating and shaded areas, as well as the Riverwalk Park and Heritage Trail adjacent to the marina. Head over to partake in splash-worthy activities including windsurfing, sailboarding, scuba diving and more! Get a cool ice cream treat here or make use of the facilities with showers and fuel and pump-out service available.
See and identify big ships on the Seaway! The Port of Call in Prescott in the The RiverWalk District offers an exciting vantage point to watch St. Lawrence Seaway shipping traffic. Stop by the Visitor Centre at 202 King Street West for resources to help you identify the passing ships and learn more about the history of the shipping trade in Prescott!
The patios of the RiverWalk District are waiting for you. Imagine eating lunch overlooking the St. Lawrence River, sitting and sipping drinks with friends to end the workweek, or even taking a minute to share a dessert with your loved one. The outdoor ambiance of patios transforms from day to night effortlessly in Prescott – always making sure you’re in for an outdoor treat.
Dip your toes in the St. Lawrence River at Kelly’s Beach! This sandy beach at Centennial Park in Prescott is a local favourite, with shaded areas, washrooms on site and a boat launch. Bring the family and some sunscreen to enjoy a classic day at the beach. If river swimming isn’t your thing, cool off at Centennial Pool adjacent to the beach and overlooking the St. Lawrence River. With lifeguards, swimming lessons available and more, make a day of it and hit up both! Have littles with you? Never fear – there’s a spacious and fun splash pad here, too!
At the Prescott Museum and Visitor Centre, discover the story of Prescott through intriguing displays from their founding to the present such as medicine through the ages, sports, Prescott’s military history and much more. Explore exciting events, and attractions, and then make your own mark on history and experience Prescott today!
If you or any of your loved ones are history fanatics, this is the perfect spot to go on your next road trip. Having been built in 1812 to defend the St. Lawrence River, Fort Wellington has something interesting to teach all ages. Kids from ages 6 to 11 can join the Xplorers Program, where they can complete experiences to receive a certificate or souvenir! Meanwhile, parents and adults can roam the grounds to explore shipwrecks, try on costumes and more.
The Prescott Golf Club is a recently renovated 18-hole golf course with banner views of the St. Lawrence River is a joy to play. Driving range available, as well. The Prescott Golf Club has a long history in the community, and has been in operation since 1939. Book a tee time or sign up your little one for junior golf camp, geared to all skill levels.
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 1000 Islands & Rideau Canal Waterways!