Day-trip dreamin’

| July 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

Admit it: You need a micro-vacation. A few hours away from the grinding routine and a chance to savour new places, things and faces without the expense and trouble of a full-blown holiday.
A couple of day trips may be a perfect solution. We’ve rounded up some of what’s available. The websites will tell you about costs, as well as when you can visit, although some spots never close.
So, what are you waiting for?

Marché Ste-Anne
Founded in 1703 at the western end of Montreal Island, the village of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue boasts not just a pretty waterfront, generous green space and fine old buildings in the pitched-roof Quebec style, but also Marché Ste-Anne, a bustling Saturday outdoor market overlooking the St. Lawrence River. A couple of dozen vendors sell everything from cheese, fruit and vegetables to specialties such as pasture-raised guinea fowl and artisanal pasta. The emphasis is local and organic, and free samples abound.
Tip: Café T.W.I.G.S. on Ste.-Anne Street makes great sandwiches using local ingredients. The Morgan Arboretum, just north of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, is an oasis of quiet after the busy market.

Pretty Perth
Heritage buildings, including the 1840 Matheson House, also known as the Perth Museum, the free Stewart Park Music Festival in mid-July and the paved, 18-kilometre Tay Shore Trail through wetlands, forests and villages: They’re all tantalizing reasons to make the one-hour drive southwest to Perth.
Want to turn it into a two-day jaunt? Stay overnight in Perth and tack on a half-hour side trip to Sharbot Lake Provincial Park for swimming, fishing and hiking.

Catch your breath!
Not for the faint of heart, the Great Canadian Bungee lays claim to being the highest jump in North America — straight off a platform and 60 metres (200 feet) down to a limestone quarry lagoon. Not enough for your thrill-hungry spirit? Try the zipline over the lagoon, with an average speed of 85 kilometres per hour.
Since the bungee jump is in Chelsea, Que., you could add a hike in Gatineau Park, a trip to Nordik Spa-Nature, or an evening of live music at The Blacksheep Inn in nearby Wakefield.

Love interrupted

Boldt Castle on the Thousand Islands was built by U.S. millionaire George C. Boldt for his wife, Louise. When she died suddenly in her early 40s, he abandoned the project and never returned. (Photo: Courtesy of Boldt Castle)

Boldt Castle on the Thousand Islands was built by U.S. millionaire George C. Boldt for his wife, Louise. When she died suddenly in her early 40s, he abandoned the project and never returned. (Photo: Courtesy of Boldt Castle)

In 1900, U.S. millionaire George C. Boldt commissioned the construction of a 120-room Rhineland castle in the Thousand Islands as a gift for his wife, Louise. When she died suddenly in 1904 in her early 40s, the project was abandoned and Boldt never returned to his property.
A two-hour stopover at this monument to tragic love is part of a longer tour of the islands by Gananoque Boat Line (
Other treats in leafy Gananoque, about 90 minutes from Ottawa, include the waterfront Thousand Islands Playhouse, featuring professional live theatre.

Serving time
The historic L’Orignal Old Jail, 45 minutes east of Orléans on picturesque Prescott and Russell County Road 17, is a cogent reminder of how brutal criminal justice can be. Housed in a 19th-Century neo-classical building, the bleak, cramped institution was Canada’s second oldest functioning jail when it closed in 1998. Don’t be surprised if your visit incites empathy as you imagine the lives and dreams and dashed hopes of the incarcerated.
L’Orignal also features a walking tour of historic buildings and a public beach, while nearby Vankleek Hill boasts good tastes and tours at Beau’s Brewery.

Arts in Almonte
From Rosemary Leach’s unexpected paintings of sinks and wrenches to exquisite pieces at Kehla Jewellery Design Studio, Almonte has long been a haven for artists. Curious? Visit to find out more.
About 30 minutes from Kanata and with the Mississippi River anchoring it, historic Almonte also features boutique shopping, including L.G. Lee & Sons, a spin-off of Lee Valley Tools with specialty home, garden and workshop items such as Danish dough whisks and Canadian-designed hatchets.
Tip: The annual autumn Crown and Pumpkin Tour is another chance to see what artists as well as chocolate-makers and others create in the Almonte and Clayton area. Visit to explore in more detail.

The serenity of cemeteries

Former Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson is buried at MacLaren Cemetery in Wakefield.  (Photo: MacLaren cemetery)

Former Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson is buried at MacLaren Cemetery in Wakefield. (Photo: MacLaren cemetery)

We do ourselves a disservice by not visiting graveyards, especially small, rural ones. A few hours reading old gravestones, some so old they’re barely legible, induces serenity and a connection with those who preceded us. Check for local spots. Don’t neglect MacLaren Cemetery in Wakefield. Buried at this unassuming hilltop site is former prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who clearly understood that death is the great leveller.

A fresh take on wine
YogiWino. Yes, you got that right. You practice yoga while sipping wine. And you do it at the vineyard, in this case Domaine Perrault ( in Navan, a short drive from downtown. It’s another sign that area wineries are thriving and that a day trip to sample their wares is a day well spent. Google will point you to more local vineyards, including Smokie Ridge Vineyard ( in Mountain, south of Ottawa.

Fries, a forest, a museum and music
First, head west to Arnprior on Hwy. 417, including a pit stop at the incomparable Wes’ Chips stand at the east end of town and a visit to Gillies Grove old-growth forest ( Next, drive south on County Road 2 for 15 minutes to White Lake, where the Waba Cottage Museum & Gardens revisits the 19th Century in occasionally eccentric fashion ( Finish up with a 10-minute drive on County Road 52 for live music and wood-fired pizza at Burnstown’s Neat Coffee Shop ( A full and satisfying day.

Woodland sculptures
Still a largely undiscovered gem, the nine-acre Humanics Sanctuary and Sculpture Park just outside the Village of Cumberland features dozens of sculptures representing international faiths in a forested, nine-acre setting. The spot — a balm for the weary, 21st-Century soul — was created to promote non-violence, justice and peace in the world.
While in Cumberland, don’t forget about the scrumptious treats at Black Walnut Bakery and the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, where restored buildings showcase early 20th-Century village life.

Prime ministerial ruins
William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, liked ruins so much he built his own. Salvaging stones from the Canadian Parliament buildings destroyed by fire in 1916 and fragments from elsewhere in Ottawa and Britain, he built the Abbey Ruins and other idiosyncratic structures to beautify his beloved estate, now known as the Mackenzie King Estate, in Gatineau Park. The ruins, cottages, gardens and tea room are open to the public.

Indigenous perspectives
This one won’t occupy an entire day — in fact, just a couple of hours — and you needn’t go far to do it, but the Indigenous Walks guided tour is an eye-opener. It explores monuments, architecture, art and landscapes in downtown Ottawa through an Indigenous lens. Offerings include the Basic Tour, Parliament Hill Tour, Indigenous Women’s Tour and the Very Scary Tour.
Tip: You’re downtown for the walk, so why not stop by those places you keep meaning to visit, including the Bytown Museum at the canal locks, the Ottawa Art Gallery in its brand-new building and ever-restful Major’s Hill Park.

So good, it repeats
The Madawaska Valley Studio Tour, which runs in July and September, features painters, potters, glass artists and more. They include landscape artist Kathy Haycock, iconographer Janusz Charczuk and metal worker Mike Desrochers, who creates pieces using materials from abandoned farms and former industries in the upper Ottawa Valley. It’s a bit of a hike to places such as Combermere and Wilno, but the scenery — lakes, forests, old farmsteads — make it a memorable drive.

Historic delights and sausage rolls
About 50 minutes south of Ottawa, the 19th-Century village of Merrickville always merits a visit. Highlights include the stone Blockhouse Museum, which was built in 1832 to defend the Rideau Canal locks in the event of a U.S. invasion of Upper Canada, and now houses an admirable collection of local artifacts. The highly walkable village has boutique shopping, The Village Bean on St. Lawrence Street serves dependable coffee and light fare, and the decidedly unpretentious The Chip Witch on Main Street East rivals Arnprior’s Wes’ Chips for flavourful fries.
Tip: Return home via Kemptville so you can stop at Grahame’s Bakery on Clothier Street East for terrific sausage rolls and more.

Strictly for the birds
The 9,000-hectare Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary on the St. Lawrence River near Ingleside, Ont., includes a mature upland forest, wetlands and open water. Little wonder 200 waterfowl, raptors and other species call the place home, even if only while migrating. With more than eight kilometres of self-guided nature trails, the sanctuary is a natural treasure.

Interested in an overnighter? Book a stay at Robin’s Roost Treehouse with its wrap-around deck and room for six.

Patrick Langston is an Ottawa writer who loves few things more than pointing his car down a road and seeing where it takes him.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Category: Dispatches

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *