North America

Welcome to Kingston, Canada. You won’t be sorry you came.

Town crier, Kingston Ontario
Photo credit: Travel Kingston

Birthplace of the rock singer Bryan Adams but prouder of its handsome limestone buildings, the city of KINGSTON, a fast 260km east of Toronto, Ontario along Hwy 401, is the largest and most enticing of the communities along the northern shore of Lake Ontario. The town occupies an attractive and strategically important position where the lake narrows into the St Lawrence River.

At the gateway to the 1000 Islands and the UNESCO designated Rideau Canal, Kingston is a city rich in history, culture, critically acclaimed attractions and cuisine. Kingston is also an idyllic backdrop for your next adventure.

Kingston is a city in the Canadian province of Ontario. It is on the north shore of Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence, almost exactly halfway between Montréal and Toronto.

As the first (very short lived) capital of Canada, Kingston was originally settled in 1673 as Fort Frontenac. The City Hall was built in 1843 and became the first parliament building. However, it was never used as such because the capital was moved temporarily to Montreal and then to Ottawa. Kingston was also home to Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir. John A. Macdonald.

Today, Kingston is one of the most historic cities in Canada with numerous churches, old buildings, pictorial neighbourhoods, and 19th century fortifications.

Central Kingston’s medley of old buildings displays every architectural foible admired by the Victorians, from neo– Gothic mansions with high gables and perky dormer windows to elegant Italianate villas. The cream of the stylistic crop are the city’s Neoclassical limestone buildings, especially City Hall and the Cathedral of St George. Kingston is framed in grey limestone period architecture, well preserved and presented – often likened to a romantic European city with its narrow pathways between city blocks and brick-arched entrances into shops and restaurants … an ideal setting for the rich culture and eclectic entertainment that attracts visitors.

Kingston is Canada’s museum ‘central’, providing visitors many unusual opportunities to explore some 20 specialized and very novel museums and national historic sites.

For example, you can discover Canada’s nautical heritage at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes, learn about the Canadian tradition of hockey at the International Hockey Museum, which features memorabilia from top-calibre NHL players (rumour has it that hockey started in Kingston), and you can visit the wonderfully unique Correctional Services of Canada Museum, which houses artifacts that highlight the evolution of Canada’s prison.

Kingston also can boast of the first-rate Agnes Etherington Art Centre gallery and Bellevue House, once the home of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald. Add to this several delicious B&Bs, a cluster of good restaurants and scenic boat trips round the Thousand Islands just offshore, and you have a city that is well worth a couple of days.

The city features venues for nightlife such as clubbing and pubbing, and provides weekend escapes for people living in the neighboring cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. There are ample historic sites and museums to visit, as well as many lively summer events.

Boys watching the parade

You will find many of these legendary summer events taking place at Kingston’s international award-winning Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada.

Fort Henry is a British fort that was built in 1832 to protect the colony from the American threat across the waters.

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.

A visit to the Kingston area would be incomplete without visiting the fort. In fact, visiting Fort Henry is a good reason to come.

Driving up the historic hill, you’ll wonder how this subtle structure might have defended Kingston’s naval harbour in the 1830s. It becomes clear as you enter the 12-foot wooden gates and view the strategically engineered 19th century state-of-the-art limestone fortification. Designated as a National Historic Site for its defence of the Rideau Canal and the Naval Dockyard and for being the largest and most costly fort built west of Quebec City, Fort Henry stands proud and majestic, guarding the convergence of the Rideau Canal, Lake Ontario and the mighty St. Lawrence River – gateway to the world famous 1000 Islands. Fort Henry was designated in 2007 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Rideau Canal.

When at the Fort, be sure to spend some time visiting the state-of-the-art Discovery Centre (Opening June 2012) which will provide guests in depth information on the Fort’s origins, conflict and resolution, interesting characters of the day and you’ll even hear a 19th century Spy story!

Tours of the fort are offered every day until early October, conducted by members of the Fort Henry Guard, who wear 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.

And here’s another fun thing to do while in Kingston. Don’t visit without getting to know its past residents: perhaps face to face. The Haunted Walk of Kingston is one of Canada’s most popular walking tours and introduces visitors to the people that were, and perhaps still are, part of Kingston life. Some haunt the various pubs in town, others the old fort.

There are many sightseeing options available in this wonderful city. You can tour by land, waterway and even from the air.

However you choose to visit, be sure to include Kingston in your travel plans. You won’t be sorry you came.

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