Canada’s capital city is home to the National Gallery, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, and Parliament Hill. Its canals become famous skating rinks in the winter and summertime brings a slew of festivals. No one parties on July 1st like Ottawa. That said, there is plenty of culture and history to explore nearby. So grab a double-double to go and turn up the Bryan Adams, we’re hitting the road with these great day trips from Ottawa.
Car Rentals in Ottawa
Before heading out on one of these day trips from Ottawa, you’re going to need to secure a ride. Car rentals in Ottawa are best done in advance, and they can be easily picked up at the Ottawa International Airport. There you will find all the major rental companies offering all classes of vehicle options. Booking ahead allows you to see all offers in one place and compare them. With prices starting around $60 for a compact, the Ottawa airport is also the cheapest location to rent from.
- Spending the night? Check out the lowest hotel prices in Ottawa!
A short two-hour drive east on the Trans-Canada Highway and you will find yourself in the vibrant city of Montreal, Quebec. Not only will you be in a different Province, but one that predominantly speaks French. This makes for a unique day trip from Ottawa, one filled with diverse cultures and incredible food.
If you leave Ottawa early morning you can be in Montréal in time for brunch. Stop at Marché Atwater and stroll the fresh produce and food stalls or head to St-Viateur Bagel Shop for a Montréal style bagel.
Belly full its time to park the car and burn off that breakfast. Stroll the shops of Rue Rue Ste.-Catherine or hop on a Bixi bike and cruise the canals before strolling the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal.
- Spending the night? Check out the lowest hotel prices in Montreal!
Before hitting the road and heading back to Ottawa be sure to stop for some poutine or Montréal smoked meat. To me, there is no better place to get Montréal Smoked Meat then Schwartz Delicatessens. I have literally gone out of my way on road trips just to visit Schwartz and have even had it flown across the country. It’s that good.
READ MORE: My Favourite Montréal Must-Eat Dishes
Ottawa’s selection as Canada’s capital city wasn’t arbitrary. The original capital was Kingston however due to its close proximity to the United States, the capital was moved into the backcountry. One caveat of this move was to have an escape route should the city fall. This resulted in the 202 km Rideau Canal. Although you can skate it in the wintertime, in the summer you can follow it to the historic city of Kingston, our next stop on this list of day trips from Ottawa.
Clocking in at just under an hour drive southwest, Kingston makes this list as a great day trip from Ottawa for those interested in Canada’s roots.
- Spending the night? Check out the lowest hotel prices in Kingston!
Visit the Bellevue House National Historic Site, former home of Canada’s first prime minister, before taking a fascinating tour behind the scenes at Kingston Penitentiary.
READ MORE: A Peek Inside Canada’s Oldest Prison
From there, stroll Kingston’s very strollable downtown core. If you are a foodie you will be pleased with Kingston’s surprisingly great food scene. I suggest a walking tour with Kingston Food Tours for a great afternoon out sampling the best the city has to offer.
If taking this road trip from Ottawa on a Saturday, be sure to check out the Kingston Public Market. From there it is a short drive to the Fort Henery National Historic Site.
READ MORE: 3 Days in Kingston, Ontario
Thousand Islands, Ontario
Although technically there are over 1,800 islands, we won’t fault the name as The Thousand Islands are another great road trip from Ottawa. The 80 km stretch of islands runs from Kingston east on the St. Lawerence River. It straddles the US/Canada border and is a summertime favourite for water activities and cottage goers.
If you’re visiting on a day trip from Ottawa begin with a stop in Brockville. There you can stretch your legs and walk through Canada’s very first train tunnel.
From Brockville head west and hop on the Thousand Islands Parkway. This scenic stretch of highway follows the St.Lawrence and offers views of the islands and the activity that surrounds them.
Be sure to stop in at the Thousand Islands Tower for an aerial view before continuing on to the sleepy town of Gananoque. There you can catch a cruise through the Islands and to the incredible Boldt Castle.
This not-so out of place castle (you will pass several massive homes along the river) sat unfinished for 73 years after George Boldt’s wife passed away. Stricken with grief, George never returned to his project and left it as a monument to his wife. Thankfully the land was purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and opened up for all to enjoy.
Before making your way back to Ottawa stop in for dinner at the Ivy restaurant in Ivy Lea or catch a play at the Thousand Islands Playhouse.
Hit the Road
There you have it, three great day trips from Ottawa. From chasing Canada’s history to visiting French Canada, there is so much diversity within a couple of hours making Ottawa a great hub city to explore from.
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