Take the Scenic Route

The Rideau Heritage Route follows the historic Rideau Canal as it winds its way through charming countryside from the shores of Lake Ontario in Kingston toward Canada’s capital on the Ottawa River. Cruise by quaint, heritage villages and through original canal locks on the UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal and Big Rideau Lakes. Take a drive and discover a variety of golf courses, boutique shops, galleries, and rustic cottages. The Rideau Heritage Route is a delight from lock to lake.

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Rideau Heritage Route at its Best

Lock Stations
Lock Stations
Cheese Factories
Cheese Factories
Small Town Charm
Small Town Charm

One of Ontario’s Marvels

One of the highlights along the Rideau Heritage Route are the Rideau Canal Lockstations. These are managed by Parks Canada and are a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Site of Canada. These fascinating locks are a series of advanced engineered structures that were designed to create a slack water system for naval trade and military supply. The Rideau is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America.

It is a delight to stretch your legs and explore each station as you boat through. Visit the on-site exhibits, hike the self-guided trails and have a conversation with Parks Canada staff about the unique stories of each lockstation. Bring your camera while you explore the locks to capture this unforgettable experience while you connect with our nation’s history. Lockstations also offer great picnic opportunities.

Navigating the Locks
The locks are open for transient boaters from mid-May to mid-October. Paddlers can either lock through or portage around the locks at most stations. Each portage trail is marked from the water at both the top and bottom of each lockstation. It is important to note that portaging is not allowed at 4 Lockstations (Merrickville, Old Slys, Smiths Falls Combined and Smiths Falls Detached) due to dangerous highway crossings. There is no locking fee for paddlers at these sites.

Parking and Launching
The Rideau Locks are among the top highlights of paddling the canal system. You can launch from every lockstation on the canal. Parking is free at most sites however some have a small fee. Parks Canada has installed new paddling docks at most lockstations to improve access for paddlers. The paddling docks are 8’x8’ cedar platforms that sit low in the water, allowing for easy loading and launching.

A Paddlers Paradise

To kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts, the Rideau Heritage Route is a “paddler’s paradise,” due to its calm, clear waters and natural sights. Kayakers and canoers of all ages and skill levels can get out on the water and paddle the 202 km stretch from Kingston to Ottawa. Access is very easy at any of over 30 launch ramps and most lockstations. Those traveling the length of the canal have the option of “locking through” the locks or portaging past them. Those camping will find it convenient at the many campgrounds or at the lockstations. Those wishing to enjoy a more decadent trip may wish to stay in B&Bs along the route. With over 1,091 km (675 miles) of shoreline on the Rideau, there’s so much to explore.

Best Time to Paddle
One of the best times to go kayaking or canoeing on the Rideau is in May/June and September/October. During these months, there are fewer powerboats out on the water and more moderate temperatures in the region. Fewer visitors also mean more availability (and sometimes better prices) when it comes to accommodation along the route.

If you wish to paddle during the height of powerboat season (July and August), the trip can still be fantastic. Unlike powerboats, canoes and kayaks do not have to follow the channel. In fact, most paddlers prefer to follow the shoreline and take a less direct route from one lock to another, away from the noise and wake of powerboats, and closer to interesting sights on shore. You may even decide to portage into one or more of the canals numerous feeder lakes and rivers.

Best Direction to Paddle
If you wish to travel the Rideau in its entirety or to paddle a large section, the best direction to go is from Kingston to Ottawa for two reasons. First, the prevailing southwest winds blow in that general direction. There is nothing worse than tackling a large lake such as the Big Rideau and paddling for miles into a stiff, rough south wind. Second, as you approach Ottawa, the current becomes a factor to a small extent. Get your adventure underway with a visit to Trailhead Kingston or Ahoy Rental for daily kayak or canoe rentals, as well as fishing and camping gear. No matter where you go along the Rideau, civilization is always within easy reach. With over 1,091 kilometers of shoreline, make sure you take the time to explore the numerous colourful shops, gourmet restaurants and historical sites.

Sun & Sand Traps

Combine golf and history on the Rideau Heritage Route. Renting a cottage or houseboat along the 200 km recognized Rideau Canal system lets you try a different golf course every day of your golf getaway. Golf retreats give aficionados the excuse they need to mix sun and sand traps.

Most courses along the corridor offer power carts and fully equipped clubhouses offering a wide variety of services such as pro-shops, beverage cart service, lessons and full-service dining. 

Finding a course along the Rideau Heritage Route is a click away. Take a look at the line-up we have here.

We Don’t Mind Being a Little Bit Cheesy

South Eastern Ontario has a rich cheese-making heritage.  During your visit to the Rideau corridor, stop in at one of these local producers and see how century-old traditions are still at work today in the making of quality Canadian cheese!

Forfar Dairy Ltd.

FORFATMaking Quality their Tradition since 1863, Forfar Dairy in Portland is the oldest and smallest independent cheese factory in Eastern Ontario, producing a variety of cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheeses.  Visit the factory store for fresh curds still warm from the vat, hand-scooped ice cream, cheese, gourmet food products and more!

Wilton Cheese Factory

WILTONLocated just north-west of Kingston in Odessa, this family-run Canadian company has been manufacturing cheese since 1925. Today they have a complete line of high quality cheddar and other cheese varieties.  Their old-world curing process creates old-fashioned, full-bodied, natural flavours.  See the manufacturing area and enjoy delicious samples.  Groups welcome!

The Jewel of the Rideau

Merrickville is renowned for its boutiques, which are filled with one-of-a-kind items made by local artisans. Their unique talents are on display at studios where craftsmen demonstrate their trade as well as sell their wares. You can buy the creations made before your eyes.  The village streets are lined with shops carrying such things as locally-made products, art of all kinds, antiques, collector’s items, specialty foods, and more.

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Considered to be one of Canada’s best preserved 19th century villages, Merrickville boasts uniquely restored and exquisitely maintained homes, all within an easy walk around town. Central to the Village is The Blockhouse, built in 1832 and now a museum of fascinating local artifacts. The locks of the Rideau Canal are fascinating to watch and operate today just like they did over 175 years ago.

An area called ‘Merrickville South’ is well worth the two block detour south of the main shopping area to see some world famous artisans like Kevin Robert Grey and Claudette Hart, the infamous “Gourd Lady” only a couple of the ‘must-see’ artists to be found there.

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