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21 March 2022

5 Ways To Experience Ontario’s Rideau Canal This Summer

Jones Falls Lock, Rideau Canal National Historic Site. Photo by Louis Barnes/Parks Canada

What is the Rideau Canal?

Ontario’s Rideau Canal is a 202-kilometre waterway system connecting Ottawa and Lake Ontario (via Kingston). It was created 190 years ago and has the distinction of being the oldest continually operating canal system in North America.

Today, the Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an amazing place to explore over the summer months. It consists of a series of beautiful lakes and rivers connected by locks and canals to make one long continuous system.

What’s the best way to explore the Rideau Canal?

If you’re looking for ways to explore the Rideau Canal this summer, you’ve come to the right place. This scenic waterway can be enjoyed both on and off the water — read on to find out how!

Travel by luxury houseboat

Imagine lazy days aboard your own private houseboat as you cruise through the many scenic locations along the Rideau Canal. Wake up in your comfortable bed, head up to the deck with your morning coffee and take in the surrounding water views.

A rental from LeBoat is our pick for the best way to experience the Rideau Canal in the summer months. This is a fully customizable way to explore the region at your leisure and no prior boating experience or special license is required.

Canoe or Kayak the waters

You could easily spend an entire summer paddling the lakes and rivers of the Rideau Canal and surrounding watersheds and never get bored. From lakes and rivers to marshes and wetlands, the Rideau Canal is full of quiet and scenic places to paddle.

You could choose to do a day trip along any of the sections or gear up for a multi-day trip, staying in accommodations or camping along the way.

The Parks Canada page has some good suggestions for paddling routes to take and answers some of the most asked paddling questions such as how to get around lockstations in a canoe (you can portage around them)!

Also check out our post on scenic campgrounds near Ottawa for recommendations on local camping spots.

Ottawa Lockstation. Photo by André Guindon/Parks Canada

Visit the Lockstations

The Rideau Canal has 47 locks in 24 lockstations along its 202 kilometres. While fun to travel across by boat, the lockstations make for a great morning or afternoon trip on land as well. Spend a few hours visiting one of the lockstations and see how the historic locks operate.

Pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the tables as each lockstation has manicured lawns on which you can relax for a few hours and enjoy the view. For a list of the lockstations and their locations, visit the Rideau Canal site.

Town of Westport

Explore the Local Communities

Flanked on either end by the big cities of Ottawa and Kingston (both of which are worthy of a visit), the Rideau Canal also snakes its way past many lovely small communities. Spend some time this summer getting to know these incredible small towns and discover how they have been shaped by the construction of the Canal.

Take a stroll through Merrickville, voted one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, have lunch in Perth or spend the weekend getting to know the lovely village of Westport.

We have a wonderful 2-night stay at the delightful Cove Inn in Westport to start off your exploration.

Or head to one of our experiences in Kingston before or after your tour of small Rideau towns. Stay at the beautiful Secret Garden Inn and enjoy a private dinner for two or head for a waterfront stay with an included helicopter tour of the 1000 Islands.

Visitors at Hartwell Lockstation. Photo by John McQuarrie/Parks Canada

Hike or Bike the Rideau Trail

If you’d rather explore the Rideau Canal from land, you can take advantage of the beautiful hiking opportunities of the Rideau Trail, which closely follows the path of the Canal from Ottawa to Kingston.

It is the longest trail in Eastern Ontario and begins along the shores of the Ottawa River. Each part of the trail offers a different experience: from forests and country trails to urban pathways and the famed lockstations.

Cycling is not allowed on all parts of the Rideau Trail but it is available in some areas. You can download hiking trail maps and get more information from the Rideau Trail Association.

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