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Friday 16 September 2016

Exploring one of Canada's best leisure destinations

Kingston, Ontario. The odds are pretty good that you have never heard of this pretty town on the shores of Lake Ontario in Canada.

But Kingston and the nearby Thousand Islands waterways are some of Canada's best-kept leisure secrets. 

The region is ideally placed for tourists; located midway between Toronto and Montreal and at the head of the St Lawrence River. Kingston is known for its parks and attractive waterfront.

Originally a French trading post in the 17th-century, almost absurdly picturesque Kingston was Canada's first capital in 1841 and today has a population of 160,000.

Although it soon became far less prominent and the capital moved to Ottawa, Kingston is today known as the "Limestone City" because of the many heritage buildings constructed using local limestone.

But don't let the old buildings fool you; Kingston is a lively spot largely because it is home to both Queen's University, founded in 1841, and the Royal Military College. It has been named one of the "best places to live and work in Canada”.

The city hosts several festivals during the year, including the Kingston WritersFest, Limestone City Blues Festival, the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, Artfest, the Kingston Buskers' Rendezvous, Kingston Jazz Festival, Reelout Film Festival, Feb Fest and the Wolfe Island Music Festival.

The capital of Ottawa is 150km away, Watertown in New York State even closer should you want a day trip to the US. And there are regular trains between Toronto and Montreal stopping at Kingston, although most locals prefer to drive.

Kingston is one of the premier cruising and sailing venues in North America and is known as “the freshwater sailing capital of the world” with easy access to Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the Thousand Islands, including the St Lawrence Islands National Park. 

A range of boats can be rented from the Treasure Island Marina (below) - which happens to be owned by my sister and brother-in-law.  

There is a hop-on, hop-off trolley that visits several historic sites, including City Hall, the Royal Military College of Canada, the Fort Henry UNESCO World Heritage site, the Marine and Pumphouse Steam museums, Queen's University, and Springer Square, which hosts farmers markets and is home to restaurants, caf├ęs and boutiques.

The small and very pretty town of Gananoque (28km east of Kingston) is popular with visitors during the summer months.

Whether you are a walker (the town is surrounded by hiking trails), or a beer lover, Gananoque is a lovely spot to kill some time. Just 30-minutes from Kingston, it is a quintessential North American small town with a number of old heritage inns offering tourist accommodation.

Eat at the rustic Socialist Pig, or classy Italian restaurant Riva, go fishing (you need a licence) or enjoy a tasting paddle at the Gananoque Brewing Company (below), set in a refurbished old mill and renowned as one of Ontario's best boutique brewers.


Qantas operates daily services to Los Angeles and Dallas Fort Worth, connecting with partner American Airlines to Toronto. See Kingston can be reached by plane, bus, car or train from Toronto.

Leading hotels include The Delta Kingston Waterfront Hotel, Residence Inn and Best Western Fireside Inn, although many visitors prefer to stay in one of Kingston's historic inns, including the Frontenac Club Inn, Rosemount Inn and Spa and the Secret Garden Inn.

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