Lanark County / Restaurants / Tourism / What To Do

Heavenly Hamlet Thaws : Rideau Ferry is Heating Up

Public docks at Rideau Ferry, Ontario, Canada. Chef Greg Wilkinson, CC’s On The Rideau, in background. PHOTO BY the wedge.LIVE

By MAGGIE M, Wedgee-in-Chief, Editor, the wedge.LIVE 🖤 TO SHARE click buttons at story’s end

“Prickly,” is how the Township of Drummond /North Elmsley refer to a business duo, the impetus behind today’s Rideau Ferry back in 1815. I almost spit my tea on this word.

The lore about John Oliver and his son is colourful indeed. There are tales about missing people and bones. I imagine it makes for lively chatter at CC’s On The Rideau, the local restaurant-bar bursting with activity on a thawing Saturday afternoon in April.

Oliver Ferry was originally the name of this hamlet. The ferry was the crossing point for all “North” Ontario settlers, including neighboring Perth. The Oliver influence ended with the completion of a swing bridge on July 17, 1874. It was replaced twice with the last and current bridge completed on August 7, 1968. So the etymology of the “ferry” suffix is an historical one–there is no ferry today. The Toronto visitors I encountered at CC’s will be happy to now have this answer.

Old, low bridge abutment now a social space on the public docks, Rideau Ferry, Ontario, Canada PHOTO BY the wedge.LIVE

RIDEAU FERRY TODAY

Rideau Ferry is located at the nexus of Big Rideau Lake and Lower Rideau Lake, a perfect stop for boaters looking for an adventure on land. The Township estimates the population at 125. If you add-in local residents beyond its political boundaries, numbers reach approximately 425.

In the summer months numbers swell into the thousands when visitors descend on Rideau Ferry for Rock The Docks and its biennial, Vintage Regatta. In 2018, Rock The Docks takes place on the public docks, June 30th, ushering in Canada Day celebrations. Rideau Ferry Harbour lends the event a large barge, a stage on the water, for the public to enjoy musical performances.

Bands playing : The Doherty Brothers, Totally Hip, The Continentals, The Ramblers and Basic White.

A FEW LOCAL MOVERS AND SHAKERS

I’ve had Rideau Ferry on my mind since the wedge featured the Coutts farming and store operations. This family has a long history in the region and their name is ever-present: Coutts Bay, Coutts Bay Road, Coutts House (now CCs). The family is sprinkled throughout Rideau Ferry and Perth, five generations until this day. I have met many locals at Coutts Country store–everyone charming. In fact, a few residents keep a cottage in Rideau Ferry while living in Quebec. Speaking French in Rideau Ferry is not uncommon.

Coutts Country Store, North of Rideau Ferry, Ontario, Canada PHOTO BY the wedge.LIVE

I discovered equally impressive business owners in the heart of the hamlet. It seems it has all travelers would need. The Rideau Ferry Store & Gas Bar owned by Louise and Scott Hill is popular at breakfast; but, it’s also where you get movies, light groceries, beer, wine and gas at the pump. Jump across the lot to  Jimmy’s Snack Shack owned by Jimmy Katsoulis, a popular stop for quick fare.

CC’s On The Rideau, renown restaurant and bar, Rideau Ferry, Ontario, Canada PHOTO BY the wedge.LIVE

CC’s On The Rideau, a restaurant – bar purchased by Erin van Pelt and Chef Greg Wilkinson last December, is the social hub in town. They spent the winter renovating and building an impressive menu, and opened their doors to the public on St. Patrick’s Day. It sits right on the Lower Rideau mere feet from the water. The view is spectacular.

The “corpse reviver,” a concoction with cognac, calvados and sweet vermouth will cure the “previous night’s” excesses, van Pelt reports. I am leaning toward, “the best sangria you have ever tasted” (a menu item). I have not enjoyed many “good” sangrias; so, I will put their feet to the fire on my return.

Sew Crafty, Rideau Ferry, Ontario, Canada PHOTO BY the wedge.LIVE

A community of quilters and knitters from a wide area descend on Sew Crafty regularly. The shop is large, spotless and well stocked. The business owners, Fred and Sue Gieratz, are keenly invested in Rideau Ferry tourism. They run a small cafe at the rear of the shop. This makes sense as the like-minded crafters can congregate. Quilting is very much about conversation.

ON THE EDGES ON RIDEAU FERRY

Rideau Ferry Harbour offers 160 boat slips, Rideau Ferry, Ontario, Canada PHOTO BY Rideau Ferry Harbour

A short swim across Coutts Bay you will find expansive and bucolic Rideau Ferry Harbour, a marina on eight busy acres owned by John McLaughlin. Everything a traveling mariner would need is there: boat slips, gas, water, electricity, facilities and here it comes, ice cream. If traveling by road, make a swing West onto Coutts Bay Road on the fringes of the hamlet until you see lots of boats.

On the East edge, the Rideau Ferry Yacht Club,  a beach and a public boat launch will soon begin to buzz with visitors. These public spaces are excellent day trip destinations for families.

At night, minutes northeast, box-office movies are screened at the Port Elmsley Drive-In theatre. This beautiful drive-in opens again May 18th.

Port Elmsley Drive-in Theatre, pre-season, Drummond/North Elmsley, Ontario, Canada PHOTO BY the wedge.LIVE

“People’s faces light up when we start talking about Rideau Ferry”

“People’s faces light up when we start talking about Rideau Ferry,” says Cindy Halcrow, head of tourism at the township. It’s no surprise to hear these words. It seems this place has a perfect rhythm, nature and man making all the right notes.

Rideau Ferry is thawing this April; but, it is also “heating up” literally and figuratively. The wedge designates this marine hamlet a little spot of heaven and a “Go-to Destination”. World travelers will not be disappointed.

RIDEAU FERRY PLANS

Funding for a large platform on the public docks, under the bridge, is already rubber-stamped by the township. This will open up space for vendors and musicians by 2020. This is a destination to watch.

Beautiful, historical map at the public docks, Rideau Ferry, Ontario, Canada PHOTO BY the wedge.LIVE

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