This beautiful stretch of Ontario is entirely linked by water – from Cornwall on the St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario’s Kingston and on to Belleville on the Bay of Quinte. There’s also the Rideau Canal and thousands of other lakes and rivers dotted throughout. With all this water, we’ve mastered how to have a whole lotta fun on it and in it.
The Great Waterway, known for clear blue lakes is set among vacation amenities and destinations; making South Eastern Ontario the best place for boating. Rent a boat and travel at your own pace. See history filled shorelines from a different perspective as you sail past. Houseboat rentals are all about relaxing on a broad deck in the sun and jumping into clear, fresh water to cool off.
Take a trip through history and cruise the 1000 Islands or the UNESCO-recognized Rideau Canal. If speed is your thing, pick up the pace and take-in the 1000 Islands Poker Run. The gusts off Lake Ontario make Sandbanks Provincial Park an ideal spot to trim the jib for some of the best recreational sail boating in Ontario.
No trip to The Great Waterway is complete without seeing the 1000 Islands on the water. The 1000 Islands – tiny tree-covered islets and mansion covered islands – are a place like no other. Set like jewels between Kingston and Gananoque, Ontario on the St. Lawrence River, they invite boaters to come and discover hidden coves and beaches where buccaneers once sailed. A must-see is the opulent Boldt Castle on Heart Island, worth circling past before docking to take in all the architectural features, including a stone arch and gazebo.
Friendly, tree-fringed marinas are all around and invite intrepid boaters to tie up for in-land sightseeing or an evening of socializing and dinner. If you’re unsure of your sea legs, Ontario boat rentals can be as simple as a ride ‘round the lake in a canoe or paddle boat.
You can enjoy the water this even if you aren’t on it or in it! Take a stroll or cycle on one of our paved waterfront paths or take a leisurely scenic drive and enjoy the views. Find a dock, throw in your line and see if the fish are biting. Stop for lunch at patio overlooking the water and bask in the cool breeze coming off the lake. After lunch you can get ice cream and sit waterside, watching as boats cruise by. Then during the evening head to Canada’s dockside theatre; The Gananoque Playhouse and enjoy a performance. There’s so much to explore waterside.
This regions endless waterways makes the sport of fishing extremely popular. Try to hook a walleye, muskellunge, perch, salmon, trout or bass. Take on a pike as they put up a great fight on the end of your line, even try to catch the elusive Musky.
The Great Waterway is a four-season fishing destination; some of the best ice fishing in Ontario happens here. Winter angling hot spots not to be missed are The Bay of Quinte (Canada’s walleye capital), where according to local anglers, reeling in a 10 to 12 lbs walleye is just part of a day’s catch. The Cornwall area is one of the region’s best kept secrets, with lots of spots to drop a line and catch a big one.
The Land O’ Lakes has over five-thousand lakes and rivers for anglers to choose from. You could fish in a different lake every day for 12 years and still not have dropped your line in every lake in this region. Whether on shore or by boat, fishing in this area will create unforgettable memories and even perhaps lead to a few great fish stories.
Outfitters and charters are ready to help you catch the big one.
Our abundance of lakes and rivers make this area a paddler’s paradise. No matter where you paddle, civilization is always near. Take a break and explore the colourful shops, restaurants and historical sites.
Kayak or canoe along the clear blue waters of the Rideau Canal. Its calm waters and natural sights make this an ideal route for all ages and skill levels. Traveling the whole length will take you between 6 and 10 days and carries you through lakes, open rivers, marshes and narrow channels. Experienced kayakers will recommend you travel the 202 km stretch of the Rideau from Kingston to Ottawa, as you’ll be travelling with the wind and currents.
One of the best times to go kayaking on the Rideau is in May/June and September/October. During these months, there are fewer power boaters on the water, cooler temperatures and a wider selection of B&Bs and country hotels with availability to stay at. Alternatively, if you feel like getting back to nature, places such as Murphy’s Point Provincial Park offer campsites right next to the water and kilometers of scenic hiking trails to stretch your legs.
Celebrate the warmer seasons with one of the many cruise options available. Whether you want to explore the region peacefully or with the wind whipping your hair back; the 6 cruise operators have the right ride for you. The 1000 Islands & the Rideau Heritage Route are two of The Great Waterway’s most popular places to set sail. Operators in Kingston, Brockville, Rockport, Gananoque and Merrickville offer a variety of experiences for you to choose from. Types of cruises span from sightseeing and entertaining to historic interpretation and stories of days gone by. Looking to explore historic islands by foot? We have island hopping cruises to that will allow you to do that too. Don’t forgot, more robust cruises even offer lunch and dinner options that are perfect for a romantic dinner or to add in a bit of musical entertainment and dancing.
Scuba in The Great Waterway has been said to be ‘the world’s best, fresh water scuba diving’. The hub of all things diving stems from the Brockville and the 1000 Islands region; nicknamed the Caribbean of the North because the waters are fresh and clear. This area offers, out of the ordinary opportunities to explore dozens of historic and archaeologically rich underwater sites, many of them century old shipwrecks. The wrecks are scattered along the St. Lawrence river bottom; which divers can ideally see in the 68-72 degree thermocline-free waters.
Read more about discovering a fascinating world beneath the 1000 Islands.
Aquatarium Adventure + Overnight Stay
Bay of Quinte Fishing Charters
Bay of Quinte Beaches + Overnight Stay
UNESCO Discovery Tour