North America

Kingston Canada: Sights to see and adventures to accomplish

Dusk in downtown Kingston
Photo credit: Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

From the air, from the water and on the ground … there are a thousand things to look at! Suffice to say, there is just about enough in the region to sight see and do that one can easily spend an extended length of time here.

There is more to Canada’s first Capital than initially meets the eye as guests enter Kingston by land, air or water from all points of the compass.

This is how to sight the sites.

It is wise to first stop in at the visitor centre. Brochures are available that provide detailed information of where, when and how to see the sights – the why is because you are interested. You will also find information about sights that perhaps you were not aware of, or local special events and activities. There will also be information about escorted walking tours.

It is suggested that the best way to learn about where you are is to take a city sightseeing tour. You can enjoy a professionally escorted tour together with (often) lively commentary describing the sights, significance and background of the many sights you will see. Plus, you sometimes meet some interesting folks along the way, either on your tour or where you may stop.

One site not to be missed!

Fort Henry, Kingston

In the beginning, there was no reason to believe that Fort Henry would become one of Canada’s most colourful links with the past. Now it is Kingston’s, and one of Canada’s, most popular national historic attractions.

At the time of Fort Henry’s construction during the 1830s, a cold war existed between the United States and the British North American colonies that were soon to become Canada. The world’s friendliest international border was generations away and a string of fortresses were built to ward off a repeat of the American invasion that was attempted in 1812.

A shot was never fired in anger from any of these forts. Unfortunately though, the mighty citadel that was Fort Henry fell into a ruinous state of disrepair. Oddly, it was saved by the Great Depression, a time when governments were looking for major projects to put people back to work. From 1936 to 1939, a work force of more than 1,000 men rebuilt the fort to the state of its historical past and glory.

Fort Henry remains a reminder to Canadians and Americans that the friendship which exists between our countries is the result of a period of conflict that, long since resolved, led to our current state of mutual trust and benefit.

Tours of the fort are offered every day, until October, conducted by members of the Fort Henry Guard, wearing the same red tunics as the last British troops to garrison the fort. Since the fort re-opened in 1938, millions of visitors from around the world have seen the authentic barracks, prison cells and cannon.

While you are in Kingston, you can also take to the skies, either on a helicopter or even a hot air balloon. It’s quite an adventure.

Once you’ve seen the sights from the air and land, you’ll want to see the islands up close and personal in a most natural of settings – from the water. There are many boat tours of every size and description that offer tours of the islands. Tour schedules are frequent and reservations are not usually required.

But , if it’s an adventure that you are after …

Golfing one of Kingston's 30-plus courses
Photo credit: Canadian Tourism Commission

As the region warms to the summer sun or lights up with fall’s bright foliage, outdoor enthusiasts couldn’t pick a better time to enjoy the thrill of another adventure. There is so much to do it’s almost like … what shall I do today? What we can tell you is this: You’ll find the best of the best – be it fishing, scuba diving, kayaking, parachuting, golfing, camping, and even bird watching.

The natural beauty and resources of the area are a favourite playground for folks who appreciate the outdoors.

If you are a golfer, don’t hesitate to bring you clubs; if you are a scuba enthusiast, bring your gear, and if catching fish is a favourite pastime, bring your rod and reel.

Fore, three, two! The quality and beauty of the 30-plus golf courses in the region have attracted golfers for more than 100 years. Whether you are a scratch handicap or Sunday duffer, playing these courses is fun, and sometimes even a challenge.

You can even plat the “tour” in two countries and tell your friends that you are embarking on an international golf tour!

Everywhere in the region, on both sides of the river, there are golf courses that will welcome you until the end of October.

In Kingston, stop in at Kingston Expert Tees. Its championship miniature course replicates 18 signature holes from famous PGA courses, and features a driving range where the greens float. Upper Canada Golf Course in Morrisburg has repeatedly been voted the Number One public golf course in central and eastern Ontario in reader’s survey. You can look forward to playing the 14th hole, called “The Monster”, which is quite picturesque and quite challenging. Glen Lawrence Golf Club is ranked by Golf Digest as one of the top 10 courses to play in eastern Ontario. The most manicured course in the region is the Brockville Country Club. This 18-hole semi-private golf course is open to the

Within one hour of Kingston, there are some 35 golf courses to play.

To complete your international tour, cross the river and play on an island. The
Thousand Islands Golf Club on Wellesley Island offers two courses: the Old Course which was designed in 1898 (that’s why it’s called the old course) and the Lake Course, reputed to be golfer friendly.

Scuba duba do! Down under, it’s pretty cool. And not just the temp – which is usually in the mid-60s. The waters of the St. Lawrence River are described as the area’s “liquid assets”, especially around Kingston, Brockville and Prescott.

September, October and even November are popular months to explore the hundreds of shipwrecks and artifacts which date back to the 19th century. The waters off Kingston are becoming increasingly popular as world-class, fresh water dive sites. The underwater marine treasures range from intact two-and three-masted schooners to ship graveyards littered with old steamers. Dozens of shipwrecks lie offshore. Conditions are excellent during the fall. Visibility ranges from 40 to 100 feet.

Reel Waters Fisherpersons have long enjoyed the experience of a memorable day on the river in the 1000 Islands. As a result of an aggressive stocking program in the early ’80s, you can expect to catch Lake Trout which average 8-22 lbs., Brown Trout, Chinook, Salmon, Large and Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and other smaller fish like Perch and Crappie. There are guided fishing charters which offer daily fully-equipped charters, or you can rent a boat and tackle.

Or, if you enjoy a serene paddle in a kayak or canoe, you can rent both, or bring your own and take in the autumn beauty of the islands. There are many provincial and state parks and conservation areas on either side of the St. Lawrence River where naturally beautiful surroundings provide a setting for hiking, bird watching, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing or – for some – just a quiet moment to reflect upon nature. In Ontario, there are several provincial parks.

Charleston Lake Provincial Park is 2,400 hectares of distinctively rugged landscape and gentle rolling hills linked to the Canadian Shield and Adirondak uplands. Camping near modern facilities, backpacking and hiking are popular.

Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park is the setting of one of Ontario’s natural wonders. Cloaked in mystery and legend, the turquoise lake is a natural backdrop for a fall picnic. Bring a camera.

St. Lawrence Islands National Park consists of 12 separate islands in Canadian waters, some with camp sites and beaches, and others with mooring only. Headquarters is located at Mallorytown at Brown’s Bay Beach. All must be accessed by boat.

At Frontenac Provincial Park, just north of Kingston, some of the best portage canoe trails can be found that join a myriad of pristine lakes. Ivy Lea Campgrounds also is the setting of one of the region’s most beautiful waterside parks.

Jumping into the lake, Kingston

And just for fun … Did you know …

  • The base of the 1000 Islands (there are really 1,800-plus) is more than one billion years old
  • Any land mass above water 365 days a year that supports at least one tree is considered an island
  • Tom Thumb is the smallest island; Wolfe Island is the largest
  • The rock you see along the shoreline is called pink tombstone granite
  • The St. Lawrence River is four million years old
  • The river was once covered by glaciers – the last glaciers melted 17,000 years ago
  • The glaciers carried drifts of rocks and sand which formed the islands you see today
  • The St. Lawrence River was discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1535
  • The St. Lawrence Seaway is the world’s longest, unfortified border
  • Price is Right Island was given away by Bill Cullen on the TV show in 1964
  • Deer Island is owned by the Skull and Bones Society of Yale University
  • The originator of Lucky Strikes owned Calumet Island
  • Oppawaka Island was owned by H.J.Heinz
  • Florence Island was owned by Arthur Godfrey
  • Pullman Island was owned by George Pullman of Pullman Car
  • Pirate Bill Johnston hid for a year on Devil’s Island
  • President Ulysses S. Grant was a frequent visitor to the islands
  • Canada’s oldest daily newspaper is the Kingston Whig Standard
  • Legend has it that the first hockey game was played in Kingston in 1886
  • Queens University in Kingston first held classes in 1842 – 25 years before Canada became a country
  • There are several ghosts reported to be in Kingston. Keep your eyes open!

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