The Canadian Canoe Route

The Canadian Canoe Route is a multi-day road trip that enables travellers to gain an understanding of the vessel that has long facilitated movement across bodies of water while enjoying adventure in Ontario’s Highlands and exploring highlights of the national capital.

Following the Canadian Canoe Route

Using a special Canadian Canoe Route passport, visitors have the option of collecting stamps along their journey. 

Under two hours’ drive northeast of downtown Toronto, Elmhirst’s Resort overlooks Rice Lake and has 30 waterfront cottages. This family-friendly resort offers an array of activities, both on land and water, including rides in horse-drawn carriages, boating, fishing and – fittingly, given the route name – opportunities to paddle kayaks and canoes. The resort is a leader in sustainable tourism. They have a full service restaurant and a casual pub. Further amenities include spa services and an outdoor pool. For those interested there are float plane rides available, or you can go and visit with the farm animals on the property. 

From the resort, which is an ideal base for a couple of days of unwinding, it’s easy to visit the new Canadian Canoe Museum

The beautifully designed, canoe-shaped building opened on May 11, 2024. Fittingly it is by a waterfront, overlooking Little Lake in Peterborough, and houses the world’s largest collection of paddled watercraft. Exhibits convey the evolution of the canoe and the vessel’s often under-appreciated significance to people inhabiting the land today known as Canada.

OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River

From beginners to experienced paddlers

Continuing northward to Madawaska Kanu Centre presents travellers with opportunities to participate in canoe and whitewater rafting courses, with options for beginners, intermediate- and advanced-level paddlers. The one-day Zero to Hero course is aimed at beginners looking to quickly learn skills to enjoy water trails in Ontario.

Open from May into September, the centre was established by champion kayakers and is by the Madawaska River, on the Canadian Shield southeast of Algonquin Provincial Park. It’s possible to park camper vans at the centre, which also offers accommodation in a lodge, woodland cabanas and tents.

You have the opportunity to participate in an indigenous guided tour with Waaseyaa Cultural Tours.   Walk along the Madaoueskasibi (the Madawaska River) to learn about the Algonquin birch bark canoe culture through story telling. A highlight during the tour are the sharing of indigenous learnings like the medicinal uses of the birch tree.  Connect with nature, listen to the roar of the rapids.

Soft Adventure rafting with OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River

Whitewater rafting in Ontario

Consider overnighting at OWL Rafting’s beachfront resort, by the Ottawa River, ahead of a day or two of whitewater rafting. The intensity of the rafting varies from low – ideal for families – to a high intensity ride for a real adrenalin rush.

After navigating through the challenging Rocher Fendu Rapids it is possible to glide aboard a pontoon boat, where they serve a delicious warm bbq lunch, while marvelling at the landscapes from this beautiful waterway which is designated a Canadian Heritage River.

Continue on your journey (approx. 90 minutes drive time) to Canada’s capital of Ottawa. Ottawa is located on the border between Ontario and the province of Quebec, with a blend of English and French cultures, including both languages spoken easily by most of the population. Ottawa is located where the Ottawa River meets the Rideau River and Canal. Along the river and canal are beautiful stretches of bike and walking trails. The relatively small city of Ottawa is surrounded by nature. 

A 590km (367-mile) stretch of river between East Hawkesbury and Lake Temiskaming has historical links with the logging and fur trading industries about which more can be learnt in the Canadian Museum of History – one of seven national museums in Ottawa. 

Indigenous interpreters explain that habitation of Victoria Island, once an important place of trade and portage, dates back 9,000 years!

Probably the most thrilling way of arriving in the national capital is by ziplining across the Ottawa River, but seasoned paddlers and those enjoying Le Boat boating holidays along the Rideau Canal may agree to disagree. 

That historic waterway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built by Scottish labourers back in the 1800’s, links Ottawa with the St Lawrence River and following it to Kingston means being able to tour Kingston Penitentiary and Fort Henry. Kingston, located on the shores of Lake Ontario is also home to 3 large universities, so an exciting night life is guaranteed.  Many guests enjoy a historic ghost walking tour, finishing off at the oldest pub in Canada, the Prince George Hotel. 

Make sure you take a boat cruise from Kingston Harbour to the 1000 Islands Region (3 hours) or rent a glass bottom kayak (Blue Water Adventures) and view the many ship wrecks.