Autumn is the perfect season for a road trip and the Rideau Heritage Route, embellished with glorious fall colours, will please everyone in the car.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the route of about 200 kilometres follows Ontario’s Rideau Canal between Ottawa and Kingston. Completed in 1832, the canal links rivers and lakes with 47 hand-cranked locks.
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“This engineering marvel is something special to be celebrated,” says Jantine Van Kregten, director of communications for Ottawa Tourism, “and a real, tangible connection to our past.”
Most of the 24 lock-station sites welcome visitors with picnic areas, barbecue facilities and washrooms.
Dotted with traditional limestone buildings, “the small towns are quite wonderful,” Van Kregten says, and give city dwellers a chance to find “artisans, specialty food shops, country inns and a glimpse of another way of life.”
Just for starters — foodies can feast on flapjacks served up by maple-syrup producers, drop by orchards for apples, jellies and pies, sip local beer, cider and wine, sample the Rideau Lakes region’s cheese and shop the farmer’s markets.
Parents and kids can enjoy harvest demonstrations at the Heritage House Museum in Smiths Falls and pick their own pumpkins enroute, then finish at Fort Fright (a.k.a. Fort Henry) in Kingston, for Halloween festivities.
Paddlers can take their canoes and kayaks to dip into the waterways, birdwatchers can bring their binoculars to the Ferguson Forest Centre in Kemptville, and hikers can stop to stretch their legs on the 300-kilometre Rideau Trail, which winds in and out alongside the route.
Enduring attractions, says Van Kregten, are the museums — such as the Lockmaster’s House in Elgin “that delve into the history of the canal.”
You can easily drive the whole distance as a day trip, says Van Kregten.
- Visit rideauheritageroute.ca to order a route guide, find downloadable maps and an information booklet available in seven languages, check out special events and accommodations, or plug into guided or self-guided tours
- To learn about the Ferguson Forest Centre, visit eedlingnursery.com/trails
- To find hiking information, visit rideautrail.org