We’re finally getting some spring-like weather and if it’s got you itching to get outside, why not go on an adventure and explore some of the area countryside and smaller communities around us? After all, aside from a bit of yard cleanup, there’s not much yet to do in the garden.
So, take advantage of the lull, enjoy the sun and warmth and head on a Sunday drive. Here are five nearby day-trip destinations to tempt you.
Wakefield, 30 km north of downtown: This quaint village nestled along the Gatineau River and next to Gatineau Park offers a wonderful balance of indoor and outdoor activities. While you’re there, check out (and photograph) the artisanal signs as well as the famous covered bridge over the Gatineau River. Pamper yourself at the Wakefield Mill & Spa and stop in at a few of the shops and cafés. For a bit of history, visit the gravestone of former prime minister Lester B. Pearson.
Almonte, 50 km west of downtown: Almonte is one of the most picturesque towns in the Valley. Built around the Grand Falls in the Mississippi River, which runs through the heart of the town, it boasts plenty of repurposed heritage limestone mill buildings, craft & antique shops, boutiques, museums, galleries, restaurants and more. The home of basketball founder James Naismith is just outside of town (there’s also the Naismith Sports Pub in town), and a fun stop is the old-fashioned Lee Valley Tools store downtown, called L.G. Lee & Sons. For a treat, be sure grab an ice cream cone at either Waterfall Delights or The Daily Scoop.
A little further
Westport, 115 km southwest of downtown (less than 90 minutes): Yet another quaint community, Westport is surrounded by lakes and situated at the west end of Upper Rideau Lake. Known as an arts and culture hub with some great shopping, it also offers superb fishing. Some things to try while here: Scheuermann Vinyard and Winery, Sundari Day Spa, the trails on Foley Mountain and the Artemisia art gallery.
Gananoque, 165 km southwest of downtown (less than two hours): Considered the gateway to the Thousand Islands, Gananoque is a key starting point for tours through the islands, including one that stops at the restored Boldt Castle, a mansion worth seeing if you’ve never been. But there’s more to this town than St. Lawrence tours. Gananoque also boasts the Thousand Islands Playhouse, offering great community theatre, including some day shows. You can take a self-guided heritage tour, go kayaking or canoeing, enjoy a meal (The Purple House Café & Riva Italian Restaurant are two good bets) or have a picnic in one of the many parks, all while enjoying the seaway views.
Kingston, 200 km southwest (two hours): Just down the road from Gananoque, Kingston was in the running to become Canada’s capital. Located at the eastern edge of Lake Ontario, where it meets the St. Lawrence, this historic city features a ton of 19th-century limestone buildings. There are plenty of official sites to see – think Fort Henry, the decommissioned Kingston Penitentiary, Bellevue House (the estate of our first prime minister) – but one of best might be simply exploring the waterfront, which becomes one of the liveliest parts of the city when the weather warms up. There are parks, cafés, shops and some of those official tourist stops, and you can tour it on foot, bicycle, tour bus or boat. Also be sure to check out Princess Street, Kingston’s main strip.
There are plenty of other communities around Ottawa to explore. You just need to get up and go!