The eastern part of Ontario is dotted with lakes and full of charming little towns, each with its own personalities and unique attractions. If you’re looking for an excuse for a road trip, get out and see what each of these gems offers to brighten up your day.
**Kindly do not travel or visit these places during provincial COVID-19 restrictions.**
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This quaint capital of Lanark County draws a high rate of retirees due to the diversity of the shopping and the ease of getting around. With grand old stone buildings and lots of green space, you’ll enjoy the mix of urban and rural settings that make you feel like you’ve landed in a spot that has it all.
- Stewart Park is a divine oasis in the middle of the town, with creekside trails, accessible bridges and a statue in memory of Big Ben and Ian Millar, who won Olympic equestrian gold together.
- Last Duel Park marks the site of the final gun battle for honour and offers camping and geocaches as well.
- Gore Street is the main shopping stretch, with fantastic shops from high-end to thrifty options. Catch pub fare at the Red Fox Tavern or fine dining at Maximillian’s or Bistro 54 along the way.
- The Tay River Trail was worn into the ground in 1816 and still welcomes visitors in modern times.
Right at the south entrance of the St. Lawrence River, this town east of Kingston is picturesque and celebrates the artistic talents of its residents. Drop in to fish but stay to shop and bumble around to see its many gifts. Details
- Set aside time to see all the sights at Canada’s largest outdoor art exhibit in Sculpture Park, including herons, trees, and leaves all created by artists with their own twists.
- Hike at Marble Rock Conservation Area and take in fabulous views from two lookouts over the Frontenac Arch Biosphere.
- Take in a show at the impressive Thousand Islands Playhouse and engage a waterfront view during intermission.
- See how much you can win at the Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands, which has slots and table games.
- Go on a 1000 Island Cruise
For such a small place, this lovely town really makes the most of every inch of potential. With great shops, gardens, and a pretty setting for the boating locks of the Rideau Canal, it will impress you with what you discover on its streets. It was named the most beautiful town by Communities in Bloom. Details
- Birders will love the Rideau Migratory Bird Sanctuary nestled on the nearby Rideau River, hosting dozens of species and lots of accessible trails.
- Walk through the Victorian village and count on the plentiful and helpful wooden arrow signs to make sure you don’t miss a single art shop or sweet treat, especially along St. Lawrence Street!
- The Blockhouse Museum, a national historic site, will give you lots of history about the town and how it came to be the place it is today.
- Watch the boats go by at Rideau Canal Locks.
This busy hub is just a short jaunt from Ottawa, making it a great escape for part of a day beyond the big city. Set along the majestic Mississippi River, it invites you to admire its historic buildings then slow down and relax along the water. Details
- If you love to get out on the water, rent at boat or stand-up paddleboard or visit Canada’s oldest rowing club.
- The tree-lined Bridge Street will keep you looking in shop windows and admiring the brick facades of the vintage buildings.
- Watch for 14 murals, depicting business and cultural icons, such as Stompin’ Tom.
- Bring your bikes with you and explore safe trails of various lengths for the whole family.
Built on the shore of the Bonnechere River, this welcoming town has a relaxed pace and is easy to find just off Hwy. 17 at Hwy. 60. The scenery along the way is just part of the delight as you admire the rugged landscape around it. Details
- Get a thrill by crossing one of only three swinging bridges in Canada, just off Arthur Street.
- The McDougall Mill Museum celebrates the industrial past of the town with artifacts that will have you saying, “I remember that!”
- With a strong hockey history, you will find the Birthplace NHA/NHL Museum that traces the history of the sport from its early roots.
- Explore the town through 3.4 km long Renfrew Millennium Trail.
This open-aired town allows you to breathe in the fresh breezes from the Madawaska and Ottawa rivers while shopping and enjoying its sights. Just a jump off the highway from Ottawa, you will feel like you are in a completely different world here. Details
- To begin your decompression, follow Gillies Trail for 2.7 kilometres through Robert Simpson Park and along the waterfront.
- The regal clock tower signals you to drop into the kid-friendly Arnprior and District Museum for a short dose of history, with a colouring book for the kids to take home with them.
- From antiques to fashions, you can shop for hours along John Street, then catch a movie in the historic O’Brien Theatre.
Poised midway between Montreal and Ottawa, this town has great views of the Ottawa River and lots of places to keep its residents and visitors amused. Plan to spend some time outside walking or biking to really see the full community. Details
- Le Chenail Cultural Centre features art, dance, theatre, music and other forms of creative expression to brighten your soul.
- Go to jail, but just for the day. Canada’s second-oldest jail opened as a museum in 2007 and is definitely worth a visit.
- On the way from the west, meet the L’Orignal moose that greets everyone who comes into town and get a photo with this giant.
- Bring the kids and the dog so they can play in parks just dedicated to them, including two splash pads.
This pretty town just west of Kingston has a surprising number of ways to while away a day. The Napanee River narrows at town limits but the opportunities to entertain yourself expand when you land here. Details
- Tune into the Canadian Piano Museum and play a few chords on instruments created in the past 200 years.
- If you have a child that cannot climb or run, they will have a blast at the accessible water park created by the Rotary Club for every kid.
- Discover what life was like in pioneer times at the Lennox and Addington Museum and Archives.
- Once you get a taste of history there, head over to the former home of John A. Macdonald’s cousin Allan Macpherson to see how a mill baron lived in the 1800s.
- Take a walk along the waterfront or enjoy a self-guided historic tour of the town checking out imposing sandstone buildings, and heritage buildings.
Situated on the shores of the St. Lawrence, this town has preserved its history and has a tranquility in its setting on the water and within the peaceful countryside. Take a step back in time as you admire how early European settlers coped in their new setting so many years ago.
- Upper Canada Village showcases life in the 1860s, including the historic Battle of Chrysler’s Farm, and everyday life on the farm and at home.
- Take a cruise on an antique boat to enjoy the current sights while finding out how watercraft worked in the past.
- Learn about the legacy of the more than 100,000 British Home Children, who came to Canada between 1869 and 1948 as indentured workers, via the museum in their honour.
- Step back even further in time to tour Prehistoric World, a theme park based on dinosaur structures.
Tucked at the based on a mountain with a park on top and blessed with a waterfront and an airport, this tiny town is rich in experiences and friendly, welcoming residents. Perched between Kingston and Perth, it is worth the drive from any direction. Details
- You have to start with the greatest landmark, Foley Mountain Conservation Area with its great views and range of trails.
- Tour the local shops to see what unique treasures you’ll find at Jake on the Lake and Dancing Moon Gallery and Tea Room.
- Taste the vintages at Scheuermann Vineyard and Winery, including pizzas made in its wood-fired oven.
- The Rideau District Museum is set in a former blacksmith shop and shares the history of previous industries, such as the furniture and buckle factories that used to operate in the town.
This resort town has a golf course, ski hill, and a racetrack, making it a place to get your thrills in any season. Poised on calm Calabogie Lake, it is in the south end of Renfrew County at the end of Hwy. 511. Details
- Calabogie Motor Sports gives you a chance to drive a high-performance car or motorcycle on a closed track so you can safely pick up some serious speed.
- Calabogie Peaks Resort is best known as a downhill ski destination, but don’t skip its horizontal hiking trails and their spectacular views.
- The Madawaska Nordic Ski Club has developed 18 kilometres of trails based on old logging roads branching off from the initial Red Pine Trail.
- Drop into the Calabogie Brewing Company to refuel and recharge with food and beverages.
East of Ottawa, you’ll find a gem of a town that has created many fun, recreational experiences that anyone can enjoy. Details
- Paddle then picnic at Du Moulin Park along the Ottawa River for a great outdoor adventure (including the fun play structure.)
- The Clarence-Rockland Museum has nine rooms dedicated to sports, Inuit artifacts, war memorabilia, music history, art, francophone literature and much more.
- Walk around to see 40 points of historical interest via panels placed throughout the town.
- In winter, try out the skate path and toboggan hill in Alain Potvin Park on Docteur Corbeil Boulevard. (It has welcoming greenspace the rest of the year.)
This pretty town has been featured in several romantic Hallmark movies due to its stunning streetscape. It has lots of greenspace in all the right areas to give you a chance to rest between your explorations. Details
- Discover the charms of Mill Street and its boutiques and cafés but save room for ice cream at the kiosk at the site of the former ice-cream factory.
- The park behind the post office and a raised boardwalk offer the perfect vantage point to admire the roaring falls of the Mississippi River.
- Basketball fans can learn more about the origins of the game within the hometown of Dr. James Naismith, who invented it.
- Search for treasures at Canada’s first municipal geocache site in Metcalfe Park.
- The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum kindles the vital history of the woolen industry in this town and others.
This South Grenville town has been growing fast, adding more amenities and reasons to visit all the time. Just jump off Hwy. 416 to see what it has to offer.
- Take a farm tour that introduces you to alpacas, livestock or zoo animals at any of these five facilities.
- Hike along the dog-friendly waterfront trail for a nice jaunt of 2.3 kilometres.
- For a peaceful paddle, drop your canoe or kayak into Kemptville Creek for an outing between locks but giving you the chance to launch right in town.
Whether you’re arriving by boat or road, you’ll want to stop into the central lockside park to admire the boats as they go by, before you begin exploring the many treasures of this town. Just walking along the waterfront then among the heritage building storefronts of Beckwith Street, you’ll surely enjoy your visit. Details
- After watching the boats go by, slip into the Rideau Canal Visitors Centre in the stone former mill and find out more about the innovation needed to build and run the waterway.
- The Tweed Visitor Plant enlightens people about the history and modern cultivation of cannabis in the former chocolate factory now used to grow this plant. (No products are sold at this centre.)
- If you are fascinated by trains, you’ll love the exhibits and train tours at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario, in the former train station.
- See how the wealthy lived in the 1870s by touring the former home of the Bates family at Heritage House Museum.