The Best Day Trips from Ottawa
Seen and done everything our nation's capital has to offer? Add these great day trips from Ottawa to your itinerary!
The Best Day Trips From Ottawa
Thousand Islands Cruising, Gananoque, Ontario
One of the best day trips from Ottawa lies off Gananoque, an hour and 40 minutes south of our nation’s capital. From there, you can take a leisurely cruise of this sparkling archipelago at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, ranging from a quick one-hour tour among the islands or a five-hour journey to Boldt Castle (above) on Heart Island (it’s in American waters, so bring your passport). The Rhineland-style castle was built starting in 1900 by George Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Historic Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ontario
Just an hour and 15 minutes south of Ottawa you can time-travel to the 1860s. Staff dressed in pioneer-era clothing share the art of traditional farming, spinning, dressmaking, breadmaking and the social life of the time. Not far from Upper Canada Village is the town of Ingleside, one of the “Lost Villages” flooded in 1958 to create the St. Lawrence Seaway. Today’s Ingleside was rebuilt; the original village is deep under water. If you’re a diver, you can check it out.
Read the haunting story of the lost villages of the St. Lawrence.
Microbrewery Tours, Prescott & Russell County, Ontario
The small communities to the east, just south of the Ottawa River, offer craft-beer lovers lots of choice: there’s Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company (above) in Vankleek Hill; Cassel Brewery in Casselman; and more. If nobody wants to volunteer to be DD, sample the goods from a few of these microbreweries with tour company Brew Donkey.
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Trail Hikes, Algonquin Park, Ontario
Arriving in Algonquin Provincial Park (less than three hours from Ottawa) is like stepping into a Group of Seven painting. The towering white pines and the utter quiet are humbling. (And, depending on the time of year, you might be rewarded with the sight of a moose.) There are many trails, but Lookout (above), near the park’s east gate, is easy, and offers breathtaking views from high above a seemingly endless landscape of lakes and wilderness.
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Strolling in Merrickville, Ontario
An hour’s drive south of Ottawa, you’ll find this artsy, picturesque town dubbed by Communities in Bloom as Canada’s Most Beautiful Village. It has deep Loyalist roots, and strolling St. Lawrence Street is a trip back in time: the town of around 3,000 has more designated heritage buildings than any other Ontario town of similar size. Must try: homemade ice cream from Downtowne Ice Cream Shoppe. The menu changes, and its very long list of flavours includes Banoffee Pie and Chocolate Cayenne Ginger.
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Dining and Music, Wakefield, Quebec
Just 40 minutes north of Ottawa in Quebec’s Gatineau Hills you can rent a canoe and paddle the wide Gatineau River, or walk Wakefield’s iconic covered bridge (above). Then relax over a meal at The Village House restaurant. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, La Muse at the Wakefield Mill Hotel and Spa is an upscale option. Enjoy its huge stone fireplace and lovely river views.
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Whitewater Rafting, Beachburg, Ontario
You don’t need to fly to western Canada to enjoy an adrenaline-pumping river adventure. The town of Beachburg, a 90-minute drive west of Ottawa, has for some 30 years been the launching point for many a trip on the mighty Ottawa River. There are at least three great outfitters here (including OWL Rafting, above) that’ll give you a thrilling day out.
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Rockhounding in Bancroft, Ontario
Less than three hours from Ottawa is one of the world’s most geologically unique areas. The “Mineral Capital of Canada” hosts an annual Rockhound Gemboree, Canada’s biggest gem and mineral show, and Bancroft’s mineral museum is open year-round. Definitely worth a visit is Princess Sodalite Mine Rock Shop (May to October), which sells unique mineral samples and jewellery made with local gems, including amethyst, the official mineral of Ontario, and blue sodalite mined on site. You can even collect your own pretty pieces at the “rock farm” out back.
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Small-town Pleasures, Perth, Ontario
On the Tay River, historic Perth is less than 90 minutes southwest of our nation’s capital. You can canoe its waterways or hike the riverside trail. Spend a while exploring the shops of Gore Street, then pick up cheese and charcuterie from The Perth Cheese Shop (tip: the Highland Blue sheep’s cheese is a local favourite) and a treat from Perth Chocolate Works. Enjoy your picnic in pretty Stewart Park with its arched wooden footbridge.
Venturing a bit further than these day trips from Ottawa? Check out 10 great Canadian road trips everyone should take at least once.