10 Great 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!
Thousand Islands Cruising, Gananoque, Ontario
There’s nothing like a boat tour of this sparkling archipelago at the mouth of the St. Lawrence off Gananoque, an hour and 40 minutes south of Ottawa. You can take a quick one-hour tour among the islands or go for up to five hours and see 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 help you learn about 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 more about the lost villages of the St. Lawrence River.
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; Étienne Brûlé in Embrun; 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 has breathtaking views from high above a seemingly endless landscape of lakes and wilderness.
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Strolling in Merrickville, Ontario
One hour south of Ottawa is 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 Pot au Feu or 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. If you’re into live music, Wakefield’s famous Black Sheep Inn is a must-do.
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Whitewater Rafting, Beachburg, Ontario
You don’t need to fly to western Canada to do a river adventure. This town less than 90 minutes’ 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 fun and adventurous day out. And if you fancy staying overnight, try glamping at Elements Luxury Tented Camp and Nature Spa (closed due to COVID-19 until November 2021).
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Shopping & Antiquing, Hudson, Quebec
About an hour-and-a-half east of Ottawa is quaint Hudson, Quebec, a “fair-trade” designated town near Lake of Two Mountains. Although several galleries and unique shops continue to operate, Finnegan’s (above), the town’s huge antique and artisan farmers market, is sadly closed for the time being due to COVID-19. Normally, it’s open Saturdays from May to October, and you’ll want to bring a cooler to pack all of those freshly made local treats for the journey home. Definitely one to add to your 2021 bucket list!
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Rockhounding in Bancroft, Ontario
Less than three hours from Ottawa is one of the world’s most geologically unique areas. Although it was cancelled in 2021 due to COVID-19, the “Mineral Capital of Canada” normally 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.
Next, check out 10 great Canadian road trips you should take at least once.