7 Adorable Small Towns To Visit Along Canada’s Rideau Canal

The 125-mile long Rideau Canal is part of Canadian history and the UNESCO World Heritage Site that links the capital city of Ottawa to Lake Ontario, the Saint Lawrence River, and Canada's former capital, Kingston. The communities along the Canal have become tourist-oriented for those wishing to learn the history and see the living conditions at the location, with the seven most adorable towns listed below. 

Westport

Westport
Westport Village in Ontario.

Westport is known for its food-lover spots, such as the Lost Penny Pub and Vanilla Beans Cafe and Creamery. One will always discover something new during a repeat visit among the cute shops, like Jake By The Lake and the Lower Mountain Mercantile. Set on a picturesque spot of the Canal, the "proverbial hidden gem" town also comes with many outdoor pursuits, including biking, water sports, hiking, and golf. Exploring the delightful Westport includes a must-visit to its bustling marina, where one can spend the night on a boat. Another star attraction just a 20-minute stroll out of town is the scenically-set Scheuermann Vineyard, which offers a romantic dining option at sunset. Upon "conquering" the Foley Mountain, one will be rewarded with the views of the town and Upper Rideau Lake.

Opened in 1832, the Canal was meant to act as a defense and transportation aid for a possible war with the United States. Today, the communities along the shores have transformed into adorable small towns for pleasure boats and road-trippers eager to explore the naturally-rich and historically-significant destinations.

Delta

Old Grist Mill in Delta Village, Ontario
Old Grist Mill in Delta Village, Ontario.

Founded by a Loyalist settler from Vermont in 1796 named Abel Stevens, the quiet village of Delta is well-worth stopping at when driving along Highway 42. The Old Stone Mill turned into a beautiful heritage museum, built in 1810, is the most notable structure. The St. Paul's Anglican Church of 1811 is one of the oldest churches in the county, among other architecture from the 19th century. The annual events in town include the mid-April Delta Maple Syrup Festival and the end of July's Delta Fair. The latter was held for the first time in 1830, making it one of the oldest in the country. A Thanksgiving Festival is also held in Delta and is known for the opportunity to stock up on local produce, crafts, and hot apple cider. If lucky enough to be in town from November to December, one will witness the thousands of lights in the local park signaling at Delta's Celebrating the Season event.

Merrickville

Merrickville
Merrickville, Ontario, Canada.

Going by "The Jewel of the Rideau," Roger Stevens discovered Merrickville on the site known as the Great Falls, building a mill there in 1790. Three years later, the mill was taken over by a millwright from Massachusetts, William Mirick, who lived with his family as the first settlement of the future village. As a thriving community today, the town comes with quintessential arts and crafts shops and preserved stoned buildings for an afternoon of well-spent shopping and admiring the architecture. Exhibiting good craftsmanship, the functionally-designed famous Blockhouse acts as a lock defense, having been a military defense mechanism in the 19th-century, accommodating 50 men. Constructed near the lock station and the canal bridge, it is the largest of its kind just off the Rideau Canal.

Perth

Perth, Ontario
Perth, Ontario.

Having started as a military settlement for emigrants from Scotland, England, and Ireland, Perth was also where soldiers were discharged after the War of 1812. The story was told throughout the town's historical markers and plaques. Set 4 hours away from Toronto and just over an hour from Ottawa, the adorable Perth is a true road-trip gem, offering one to visit old-European sights in their own backyard. The well-preserved architecture from the past includes stunning stone buildings with surrounding natural parks that will attend to the taste of both historians and nature lovers. Everything in Perth, from the wandering vines to waterfront views, screams of European charm. 

Burritts Rapids

As one of the earliest settlements along the Canal, existing before the Canal itself, the town of Burritts Rapids was founded in 1793 by Colonel Stephen Burritt, when he and his three brothers and their wives journeyed down the Rideau River looking for a perfect spot to settle. Choosing the rapids for the potential of establishing a mill, they soon fell so sick that, if it weren't for the natives who rescued them along with their crops, their lives, and the hope for any future town, would likely have seized to exist. Since then, the town has been welcoming to the natives in the region. In 1826 when Colonel By visited, he witnessed a thriving village with running businesses. Although commercial importance lost relevance at the start of the 20th century, one can visit the lock station today and stroll down the Tip-to-Tip Trail of the charming village and the surrounding countryside.

Seeleys Bay

Seeleys Bay
Burnt Hills Rd at Dog Lake, Seeleys Bay Ontario, Canada.

With the name coming from the original landowner, John Seeley, the geographic bay was established upon a natural when the Cranberry Marsh was flooded during the construction of the Rideau Canal. Seeley's father and second wife were the first occupants of the area, with the bay later becoming a landing spot for steamboats, and by the 1850s, a regular stop for stagecoaches from Kingston to Perth back. As the first full-service community north of Kingston, the town continues to be a stop for travelers along the Canal, with many bed and breakfasts, cottages, and campgrounds for those who wish to take a break between Kingston and Ottawa. The ShaBean Coffee Roastery and Ridgway Confections fine chocolates are the primarily wholesale businesses in town, while Konez ice cream shop specializes in "freak shakes." 

Smith's Falls

Canal Lock at Smith's Fall, Canada
Canal Lock at Smith's Fall, Canada.

With the river dropping some 11 meters in a half-kilometer area before the construction of the Canal, the first land grant was acquired by Lt. Thomas Smyth in 1786, who capitalized on the falls and built a small mill. While the falls were a major obstacle to boat traffic on the river, the vibrant town grew around the mill. The mill was later purchased to be demolished and replaced by a 3-lock flight and a dam, and another lock upstream. Set right in the middle of the Rideau Canal, the town is the hub for exploring the Canal. It serves as the start and the endpoint to all Le Boat Tours. With the highest locks in the region, it is also home to one of the only three hydraulic locks on the Canal. All other Rideau Canal locks are manual "historic cranks," having to be filled, opened, and drained by the Park's Canada staff. The town also features several hiking and biking trails along the Canal for the active and plenty of eateries and shops downtown to diversify the stay.

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