Explore > Ontario > Ontario Spotlight
spotlight header

Places Welcoming You

gs logo Quinte's Isle Campark
Cherry Valley, Ontario
gs logo Woodland Park
Sauble Beach, Ontario
gs logo Scott's Family RV-Park Campground
Niagara Falls, Ontario


History lives in Canada’s former capital on the river

Boasting a rich and epic history that spans three centuries, including fleeting status as Canada’s capital city, it’s no wonder that Kingston possesses a certain air of grandeur. Sprinkled among elegant limestone buildings and residences are traditional galleries, fine restaurants and an excellent farmer’s market, all adding to the city’s cultural appeal. More infamously, Kingston is also the site of one of Canada’s biggest jails, the Kingston Penitentiary.

Kingston proudly wears the mantle of the “Fresh-water Sailing Capital of North America.” The city stands at the confluence of Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Rideau Canal. During the summer months, Kingston’s outdoorsy denizens take to the water for boating, fishing, swimming and wildlife watching. Facing the rather grand Kingston City Hall (built in 1842) at the harbor, Confederation Park becomes the convivial setting for cultural events including concerts, food festivals and theater performances.


A Thousand Islands

Navigated by explorers, missionaries and fur traders in the 17th century, the St. Lawrence River still exerts its influence as Canada’s most important commercial waterway. In total, the river runs for 746 miles, extending to 12 miles wide in some areas. At Kingston, the St. Lawrence River draws the crowds to its idyllic Thousand Islands region. It may be Canada’s smallest national park, but it’s stunning. The Thousand Islands National Park comprises 21 islands and small islets and includes the UNESCO-protected biodiversity hot spot, Frontenac Arch Biosphere.

On the mainland, where the visitor center is located, there’s a picnic area, a beach and a nature trail, but you’ll need to rent a boat to reach the islands, which have docking and picnicking facilities. And yes, in total, there are roughly 1,000 islands if you include the ones beyond the park’s borders. A major draw for ornithologists, at the dunes and marshes of sleepy Wolfe Island (the largest of the islands), snowy owls convene during winter and migrating waterfowl, including swans, pass through in spring and fall.

Bellevue House

The historic Bellevue House was home to Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, from 1848 to 1849. Now a National Historic Site, the restored building, which is whimsical almost to the point of surreal, is an asymmetrical Italianate confection of white stucco with green trim topped with a red roof and a three-story central tower. Awash with period detailing and fronted by lavish gardens, Macdonald described his abode as “the most fantastic concern imaginable.” Docents costumed in period garb lead visitors through the family’s preserved kitchen, drawing room (which features an 1820 parlor piano made in London), gardens flourishing with apple trees and living spaces brimming with antiques. Visitors can get into character and partake of a very civilized afternoon tea before watching enthusiastic renditions of mid 19th-century daily rituals.

Fort Henry

Perched high on a promontory, watching over the harbor, the photogenic Fort Henry — built in 1812 by the British and reconstructed in the 1830s — is the largest fortification west of Quebec City. Guided tours (included in the admission price) of the fort’s advanced battery, barracks, kitchens and officers’ mess present life in the military circa 1867. There’s also a series of exhibits of 19th- and early 20th-century artillery.

But Fort Henry’s main appeal is the robust line up of 19th-century infantry drills, mock battles, fife-and-drum music and marching parades, performed by the uniformed Fort Henry Guard from Victoria Day (mid-May) until the end of August. The most soul-stirring events are the Garrison Parade (2:30pm late May to early September) and Sunset Ceremonies, when a fancy three-course dinner is served in the officers’ dining room before an impressive series of military maneuvers are performed.

There are more than 20 National Historic Sites located within the city’s boundaries, ranging from diver-accessible shipwrecks dating back to the War of 1812 to historic inns. Most prominent are the six Martello Towers built around Kingston Harbor. Constructed to ward off attack, these round, squat brick fortifications have become synonymous with the city. Another military-related attraction is the majestic MacKenzie building, home to Royal Military College of Canada.

Military history continues to unfold at Fort Frederick, overlooking the mouth of the city’s harbor. Walk the fortifications and take in stunning views of the river.

Tourism Kingston

Hiking Trails

Just an hour north of Kingston, the pretty town of Smith Falls sits amidst 90 acres of parkland, which offer myriad outdoor recreation opportunities, ranging from fishing and hunting to biking and hiking along a network of scenic trails. The hugely popular Cataraqui trail runs from Kingston to Smiths Falls along the route of an old railway line. The scenic trail traverses rugged, undulating forests, lakes, marshes and swamps pocked with outcrops of striking pearly pink granite. The diverse eco-system harbors a rich wildlife inventory, including turtles, herons, ospreys, turkeys, snakes, chipmunks, otters, foxes, coyotes and deer.

The Rideau Trail is a 203-mile network of multi-level hiking trails (including back country) between Kingston and Ottawa. With an elevation gain just shy of 2,000 feet, hardcore hikers complete the whole trail in 10 to 16 days, but recreational hikers generally tackle one or two sections of the trail at a time. The Rideau Trail Association organizes seasonally inspired weekend outings ranging from day hikes, mountain biking, and kayaking in the summer, to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

For More Information

Kingston Tourist Information Office



Ontario Travel