Ottawa is well known for being a gorgeous city that has a lot to offer, no matter what the season! During the winter residents and visitors alike take advantage of the frozen Rideau Canal and explore her beauty from ice skates. In the summer, festivals bound and picnics are a popular pastime, while all year long there are attractions that appeal to children. There is no question that Ottawa is brimming with fabulous things to do within the city limits, but sometimes after a particularly busy week it is fun to escape the hustle and bustle of the city to explore some of the fantastic places outside Ottawa. Here are some of my favourite daytrips that are within a couple hours’ drive of Ottawa.
Just an easy 20-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, the village of Wakefield, Quebec, is ideally situated along the Gatineau River and offers something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking an outdoor adventure like hiking, horseback riding or dogsledding or craving a little culture like live musical performances, art galleries or theatre, Wakefield will not disappoint. The village also boasts an eclectic selection of independent shops, an incredible array of great dining options and even several charming inns, bed and breakfasts and hotels for those who crave an overnight escape.
Located about 100 km southeast of Ottawa along the St Lawrence River, the Lost Villages refers to an area that once housed 6,500 residents in 10 communities. In 1958, these residents were forced to relocate to planned communities so that the St Lawrence River could be expanded for shipping and a hydro-electric power station could be constructed. Over 500 buildings were also relocated from the now flooded towns. A visit to The Lost Village Museum in Ault Park near Long Sault, is an informative stop and features 10 heritage buildings that were moved and restored from The Lost Villages and surrounding townships. There are also some fabulous picnic spots in the area and in some locations you will be able to see remnants of sidewalks and building foundations under the water.
Located approximately 170 km northwest of Ottawa and 20 km east of Pembroke, Westmeath Provincial Park is situated along the Ottawa River and is home to one of the last big undeveloped beaches in the region. This untouched park is not managed so entry is free and if you’re up for a bit of a hike, you will gain access to a beautiful beach and a dunes system that stretches for more than a kilometre along the river. Perfect for picnics, this park is also a fabulous place to hike, bike, swim, birdwatch, canoe and kayak, and if you’re lucky, you might even see a turtle! Just remember, this is a rustic, unserviced park, where ATVing is not allowed. It’s ideal for those wanting to escape the busyness of crowds and enjoy a secret little piece of nature.
Transport yourself back to the 1860s when visiting Upper Canada Village, one of the largest living-history sites in Canada. Situated about a one-hour drive southeast of Ottawa and just outside Morrisburg, this village boasts over 40 historical buildings, including some homes, functioning mills and trades workshops from the Lost Villages that were moved to the site prior to the flooding. Visitors can easily spend a day exploring all that the village has to offer including farming demonstrations, ornamental gardens, weaving demonstrations, retail shops, wagon rides, a miniature train, unique shops and so much more. To top it off, you will learn about late 19th century social life, music, religion and politics from the knowledgeable staff dressed in clothing of the period.
Located about 1.5 hours southwest of Ottawa, the 1000 Islands Region plays host to an abundance of outdoor activities including golfing, boating, fishing, hunting, cycling, camping, birdwatching, hiking and so much more. Spanning across Southern Ontario and New York State, the Canadian side of the 1000 Islands is comprised of 21 different islands in the St. Lawrence River and three mainland properties on the 1,000 Islands Parkway, all of which are part of one of the oldest National Parks in Canada – The Thousands Islands National Park. One of the most popular activities in the park is embarking on a guided boat tour which takes visitors past dozens of islands, castles, mansions and lighthouses, as well as the occasional glimpse of wildlife. Tours leave from several communities in the area. No matter what type of activity you seek, the 1000 Islands Region is the perfect daytrip or weekend getaway destination from Ottawa.