It is truly a Land of Lakes. Vast and compact; scores of them stretch from the Canadian capitol at Ottawa to Lake Ontario, nearly 130 miles. They provide secluded getaway retreats or campgrounds where well spaced RV’s have their own waterfront sites near boat docks and prime fishing waters.
Less than a tank of gas and seven hours from home, the Rideau Canal connects lakes and villages by a series of locks, so it’s possible to take a trailer or rental boat from lake to lake for prime bass fishing or nature cruising. Bird and wildlife sanctuaries nestle into the shoreline and evenings are punctuated by the lonely wail of the loons. Along the way, a visitor finds lakeside hotels, rental cottages and amazingly good restaurants.
Take your pick, but it will be hard to leave this nearby Canadian Utopia. Here are some ideas for a getaway stay. —Jay Lloyd
Sand Lake Campground
5 Powell Bay Rd.
Elgin, Ontario, K0G 1E0, Canada
Sand Lake is one of the more picturesque and navigable lakes about an hour from the Thousand Islands. The camp ground that bears its name offers a combination of rental cottages and well spaced RV sites, all with waterside views. Some guests park their RV’s here for an entire season to create a vacation community. Others stop for a week or weekend and travel on. We chose a cottage, shared with friends. For under a $1,000, we had 2 spacious master bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a full, kitchen, dining room, living room and outdoor patio with a provided grill. Rental fishing boats, canoes and kayaks are available or bring your own.
59 Kenney Rd.
Jones Falls, ON K0G 1E0, Canada
A combination of rustic design and elegant living, The Hotel Kenney is located at scenic Jones Falls on the southern end of Sand Lake. The locks here transfer boats between it and neighboring Whitefish Lake, a local attraction that’s just a short hike along a picturesque trail to Jones Falls. Accommodations include rooms in the main lodge or at lakeside and wooded cottages. Rates vary by season and lodging but are reasonable by U.S. standards.
Westport, ON, K0G 1X0, Canada
The Cove Inn enjoys a waterfront location on the Upper Rideau Lake (pronounced ree dough) and offers front door kayaking, canoeing and a beach for sunning and lounging. It is also at the heart of a walkable village that hosts shops featuring Canadian crafts and unique foods. The Inn and its popular outdoor dining patio and indoor pub is the social center of Westport and a relaxing stop whether you stay over or just pop in for some evening music, a drink and a chat with locals about the best fishing spots on nearby lakes.
If you’re not cooking up your own catch on a campsite fire or on a cottage grill, here are some of the restaurants that we enjoyed during a weeklong stay around the Sand Lake region.
4 Drummond St.
Newboro, ON, K0G 1P0, Canada
The inn occupies an easy to reach spot on the old stage coach route to Ottawa . The dining room has retained a 19th century feel with 21st century comfort. A braised lamb shank jumped right off the menu and I never got farther. Wow! Falling off the bone delicious. My friends tell me the rest of the carte was just as impressive roaming between Alberta beef and locally sourced fish and poultry. But the Stagecoach also goes to the exotic. Think Ostrich. Entrée prices range from upper 10’s to upper upper 20’s.
The restaurant offers locally sourced foods with a French flair on a selective menu of fixed price lunches and dinners. A lunch stop yielded a Montreal smoked meat Reuben for my wife while I tucked into a gumbo and a well seasoned classic chicken pot pie washed down by a crisp Sleeman’s Canadian beer. Lunches clock in at $16, dinners at $30.
We enjoyed lunch here twice, returning for the lakeside view along with the fish and chips. There’s a good beer selection and a list of moderately priced wines. Reasonable prices and a well varied menu draw a compatible crowd of locals and visitors.
A fascinating stop is Chaffeys Lock with an operating system that goes back to the 19th century and requires 2 lock tenders to crank the doors and flood gates open by hand. A constant parade of boats pass through this scenic piece of history in a vast Canadian Federal Park.
Rent a boat for fishing or just exploring the lakes at Brown’s Marina near Chaffeys Lock. They offer aluminum fishing boats and pontoon boats, popular on the lakes for stability and capacity. Daily prices range from $80 to $250 depending on size and type of boat.
About a 45 minute drive from our base at Sand Lake lies the bustling and colorfully named town of Gananoque. The Gananoque Boat Line offers waterway cruises in the Thousand Island starting at $20 for adults, $11 for children.
For nighttime action away from the tranquility of the lakes, stick around Gananoque for a tilt with the tables or slots at the OLG Casino.
Head straight up the Northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to I-81 north. Keep going until you cross into Canada at the Thousand Islands Bridge. Go west on Canada route 401 to route 32 north. Follow 32 to 15 north for your destination on the Rideau Canal. The trip will be about 365 miles and should take less than 7 hours, including a rest stop.
TIPS: You must have a passport to enter Canada. Top off you fuel tank on the U.S. side of the border. Canadian gas prices are outrageous.