loader image

Discover Ontario’s Champlain Route: Rideau Canal to Parry Sound

lire ceci en français

Follow Samuel Champlain’s epic journey and discover Ontario’s Francophone regions.

Many adventurers have explored Ontario, but as one of the first, France’s Samuel de Champlain holds a special place. The Ontario Champlain Route is based on Champlain’s great expedition in 1615 and is built around experiences involving French/bilingual services that reflect the famous explorer’s adventures and his legacy.

The route opened to the public in 2018 allowing visitors to follow Champlain’s footsteps and experience the local culture, heritage, natural beauty, and warm hospitality of Ontario’s Francophone regions. It is replete with products, experiences, and attractions, including services in French for local and foreign Francophone tourists.

The entire loop stretches all the way from Kingston to Ottawa and can be covered in a single trip. But to truly experience everything the region has to offer you’ll need at least 10 days. To help you navigate this incredible route, we have created three itineraries, like this 6-day trip that’ll take you from Rideau Canal to Parry Sound.


The South: Rideau Canal to Parry Sound

Experience wineries, museums and breathtaking landscapes and sip and savour your way through culinary powerhouses like Kingston and Prince Edward County and small towns that serve authentic fare along the way.

DAY 1

Rideau Canal

Your Route Champlain adventure kicks off in the Rideau Lakes. This area is home to an abundance of lakes and the famous Rideau Canal and Waterway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Rideau Canal first opened in 1823 and is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America.

Whether you prefer to explore the area on your own or go on a guided tour, you’ll need a full day to experience the historic sites, charming villages and quaint attractions along the Rideau’s 202-kilometre-long waterway. Fancy a gourmet picnic by the Canal, or charcuterie in a canoe for 2, or a UNESCO Discovery Tour by helicopter? Rideau Tours in Chaffey’s Lock offers some sweet signature experiences and custom tours, as well as bike, kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Rideau Tours (@rideautours)

Stay overnight in the beautiful and impressive John Draffin House (circa 1865) at Daffodil Acres in Newboro, just a short drive from Rideau Canal. Standing on 2.5 acres of landscaped grounds, this beautiful property is the perfect place to get some well-earned R&R. The stay includes a delicious continental breakfast.


DAY 2

Rideau Canal – Kingston

Leaving Newboro, take the 401 to Kingston, Canada’s first capital city. Break the hour-long journey by visiting one of two attractions along the way. The Aquatarium, a science and education museum located in Brockville, is a great place to spend a few hours getting up close with aquatic life and exploring the many species of fish and animals native to the St. Lawrence river such as otter. Drive further along and you’ll arrive at Gananoque, the gateway to the impressive 1000 Islands. Forged over millennia of glacial activity and known to the local Indigenous people as Manitoana or the “Garden of the Great Spirit”, this group of islands is arguably one of the most scenic places to visit in South Eastern Ontario. The Gananoque Boat Line offers a number of tours. On its one-hour Original Heart of the 1000 Islands tour, you’ll enjoy spectacular views while cruising along the narrow channels of the Admiralty and Navy group of islands.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Le Corridor Canada (@lecorridor_can)


Stay overnight at one of the many hotels, motels, inns, and B&Bs in Kingston’s downtown area. For dinner, head down to Diane’s Fish Shack and Smokehouse, a Feast On certified eatery serving classic East Coast and Mexican fare, just steps from the waterfront.


DAY 3

Kingston – Prince Edward County

There’s a lot to explore in Kingston’s pedestrian-friendly downtown core, so fuel up first with an Eggs Benny at Feast On certified Toast & Jam, a delightful brunch spot and a local favourite. After breakfast, take a stroll down the Waterfront Pathway which is accessible from the downtown core. On this 8km picturesque trail along Lake Ontario , you’ll catch a glimpse of the Kingston Fortifications, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spend the rest of the afternoon tasting your way through some of the best local restaurants and artisanal food shops in Kingston’s hip downtown area with a Kingston Food Tour.

Get back on the highway to Prince Edward County with a visit to Macaulay Heritage House in Picton along the way. Here you’ll find many points of historical interest, including the historic former Church of St. Mary Magdalene (now a museum), old St. Mary Magdalene Parish Cemetery and Heritage Gardens. Take a fifteen-minute walk to The County Canteen for some farm-to-table inspired apps and a chilled pint – they have 26 taps of Ontario Craft beer and an all-County wine list and are Feast On certified.

Spend the night at The Inn at Huff Estates. This elegant country inn is located next to Huff Estates Winery, with rooms overlooking the vineyard and the on-site restaurant serving authentic Italian wood-fired pizzas and of course, their award-winning wine.


DAY 4

Prince Edward County – Peterborough

When in the County, you’ve got to visit at least three wineries! Start with a guided tour of Huff Estates Winery.

Then, head down to Picton for another tour and tasting at Waupoos Estates Winery. Located on a stunning 100- acre waterfront property, it’s the first winery to open in Prince Edward County. Lunch at the winery’s farm-to-table restaurant followed by dessert from their chocolate and gelato store. Or take a 30-minute drive to La Condesa in downtown Picton for delicious, authentic Mexican food. Both restaurants are Feast On certified.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by La Condesa (@lacondesapec)

End your winery hopping tour with a glass of Pinot Noir or Chenin Blanc at Chadsey’s Cairns Winery & Vineyard. Named after an early settler, Ira Chadsey, who’s said to have built stone cairns at the back of the property to guide him home in the afterlife when he returned as a white horse, Chadsey’s is one of Prince Edward County’s original pioneer wineries.

Spend the afternoon exploring the spectacular sand dunes and long sandy beaches at Sand Banks Provincial Park (it’s known to have the world’s largest bay-mouth dune barrier formation, stretching 12km across Lake Ontario), or drive to Sager Conservation Area and climb the lookout tower at the summit of the short 1km trail for a dazzling view of the Trent River valley.

Before you end the day’s journey, make a quick stop in Trenton and visit Mount Pelion for a scenic view of Lake Ontario. Samuel De Champlain passed through this area in 1615 with a war party of 500 Huron Indians and scaled Mt. Pelion to survey the surrounding area.

Stay the night at Elmhirst’s Resort, a Feast On certified cottage resort retreat on the beautiful shores of Rice Lake.


DAY 5

Peterborough – Creemore

Start your day with a visit to the Peterborough Lift Lock, a National Historic Site located on the Otonabee River section of the Trent Canal. One of only two hydraulic lift locks on the Waterway, Lock 21 is the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world. Then, take a 30-minute walk to downtown Peterborough and enjoy a chilled (award-winning) local beer at The Publican House Brewery.

Next, visit The Canadian Canoe Museum. This unique national heritage centre showcases the canoe’s enduring significance to the peoples of Canada through the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft.

For lunch, experience Chef Tyler Scott’s culinary magic at Feast On certified Rare in downtown Peterborough. Fresh, local ingredients feature heavily on their menu.

Drive to Glencairn via Orillia, and check into Mountain Ash Farm Country Manor. Situated on a 200 acre country estate, the property includes basketball and tennis courts, a gym and a heated salt water pool where you can take a long, relaxing dip.


DAY 6

Creemore – Parry Sound

Just steps from Mountain Ash Manor, is the picturesque village of Creemore. The manor offers bilingual historic tours of the village where you’ll learn about First Nation history and Samuel de Champlain’s visit to the area (a historical plaque marks the site where Champlain spent the night in 1615), including the option to enjoy an escorted bicycle ride through the countryside to an off-grid private riverside maple sugar shack for a six-course luncheon featuring local farm-to-table ingredients.

Next, drive to Midland and stop at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. Located near the beautiful Southern Georgian Bay area, this living history museum is a reconstruction of the first European settlement in what is now Ontario and served as the main centre for the French Jesuit mission to the Huron Wendat people. Champlain spent two winters here (1615-1616) when he was injured in battle. Visitors get a unique opportunity to see early Canadian pioneer life through guided or self-guided tours.

As you follow the Champlain Route towards Parry Sound, make a quick stop at Windlee Farms to stock up on some delicious maple syrup. Family-owned and Feast On certified, this maple farm has been crafting maple syrup using traditional methods for over a quarter of a century.

Lunch on made-in-Muskoka fare and cranberry wine at Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery in Bala. This family-owned winery and working-farm grows Ontario cranberries on their 27-acre property and turns them into tart, fruity wine and jam. For a quintessential Canadian experience, book their Bog to Bottle Discovery Tour that’ll take you on a guided journey from cranberry bog to Muskoka in a bottle. And during harvest time in late September they offer fun activities like wagon tours, wine tastings and the Cranberry Plunge where you can wade in a sea of cranberries and take cool photos like the one below!

Get back on the highway and drive to Parry Sound – the last stop on this 6-day itinierary. But we’re not done yet! Hop on a float plane and enjoy aerial views of Parry Sound and the rugged beauty of Georgian Bay with Georgian Bay Airway’s Parry Island Tour or cruise through Georgian Bay’s famous 30,000 islands with Island Queen Cruise’s three-hour afternoon cruise package, before making your way back to the starting point.

Stay tuned for more trip ideas as we explore Route Champlain’s northern destinations!