Ottawa is Canada’s capital city and cultural centre. A mixture of British and French cultures, the city has a cosmopolitan vibe that celebrates Canada’s achievements with historical sites, festivals, and cultural attractions. Downtown Ottawa houses Canada’s Parliament Hill, whose buildings may remind you of our British Parliament. In the summer you can witness the Changing of the Guard each morning and the free Sound and Light Show every night projects stories about the history of Canada onto the Parliament Buildings.
During my time in Ottawa I visited the National Gallery of Canada, housing the largest display of Canadian art in the world, including stunning Inuit and Aboriginal pieces. The Canadian Museum of Nature houses some world class galleries showcasing iconic mammals, dinosaur fossils, a blue whale skeleton, Arctic Gallery and much more. The Canadian Museum of History is situated on the opposite side of the Ottawa River and has lovely views. This beautiful modern building incorporates a 40,000 square feet History Hall tracing Canada’s history from the dawn of human habitation to the present day.
One of the highlights of my stay was cruising along the mighty Ottawa River and seeing the city from a completely different angle: brought to life by an informative commentary from our Capital Cruises guide. Another was a bike tour along the scenic Rideau Canal, a beautiful and interesting UNESCO world heritage site. I also visited By Ward Market where I tried Beavertails – a deep fried flat doughnut with a variety of toppings – and wandered around the market stalls, which sell various goods including maple syrup, lollipops, fudge, maple butter, soap and much more!
My next stop was Canada’s first Capital, Kingston – an easy drive of 120 miles from Ottawa. Situated on the St Lawrence River – where the 1,000 Islands begin – scenic boat tours are available that entertain visitors with stories of the region’s chequered past, as they glide through the calm waters.
The sightseeing hop-on hop-off trolley tour – with their experienced guides – is a great way of seeing the top attractions. I visited Historic Fort Henry – built by the British during the War of 1812 – and enjoyed a glimpse into the realm of 18th Century military life, with entertaining guides in period costume. Very interesting and highly recommended is Kingston Penitentiary which only closed in 2013 and now allows visitors a glimpse into a high security prison, in the company of the very guards that worked there But my absolute highlight has to be the helicopter tour over the 1,000 Islands, which gives you a completely different perspective.
As for outdoor leisure activities, there are 30 public golf courses in the area as well as kayaking, biking, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing opportunities and scuba diving among the many shipwrecks in the region. Lots to keep even the most active visitor happy!
This lovely town with its 19th-centry limestone architecture made me want to stay longer to explore its historical sites or just relax and enjoy the beautiful setting – a perfect place to ‘chill out’ after a busy flydrive itinerary.
Three hours away is Toronto, Canada’s largest city and most visited destination. There is too much to say about this vibrant city so it will have to wait until another time…
Time Difference: 5 hours
Currency: Canadian Dollar
Flying Time: 7 hours
· Canada has an excellent rail service from Toronto to Ottawa and you can break your journey in Kingston.
· Have a hearty breakfast with Maple Syrup straight from the tree in a Sugar Shack on your way from Ottawa to Kingston.
· Check the city websites for festivals and events so you can time your visit to enjoy the art and culture on offer.