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This review presented this writer with tough choices. There are so many wonderful waterfronts in East Ontario–no two are identical. All present unique experiences.
The wedge Editor, Maggie M, picked three locations based on three factors : size, variety of activities and water access. The wedge knows these places first-hand; they are excellent choices for a day-trip or a weekend for families and groups. If you are alone all of these choices beckon you. People in the region are very welcoming, polite and friendly.
Ice cream is synonymous with summer; so, we conclude each pick with its ice cream locations.
PEMBROKE WATERFRONT : Outdoor Activities, Best Boardwalk, Beach
Pembroke’s waterfront on the Ottawa River offers up to two kilometres of varying terrain, activities and spots to settle-in on its waterfront. It begins on the east end with a marina and a walkable pier, and extends all the way to Riverside Park on the west end by sauntering the pristine Kiwanis Boardwalk and paths. On arriving to the park you will discover the city’s own life-guarded beach and endless activities.
Pembroke’s waterfront is the best of both worlds, replete with options–peaceful if you are alone and engaging if with family and friends. It delivers an “ooh!” and a “wow!”
For picnics, you can hardly get this close to the water in a more immaculate setting while seeing and hearing the waves. You may get misted if the wind is blowing–no Evian spritzing required (it’s a thing.)
An excursion to downtown for unique shopping and its famous “outdoor gallery” is a short walking distance. Pembroke is the “Mural Capital of Canada.” Bring your photo devices as the murals are magnificent.
Riverside Park offers much more than a beach. There is a city-owned and managed 75-acre campsite for tents and trailers with all the creature comforts, and endless activities for the public. The list includes a mini-golf, eight horseshoe pits, four baseball diamonds, five soccer fields, a basketball court, a playground, a brand new splash pad and a dog park–it reads like a Christmas song.
Every evening there are musical performances in its bandshell and on Tuesdays, movies in open air.
A canteen, two covered picnic pavilions, washrooms, laundry, and ample free parking conclude this location as our first pick for an extended waterfront stay.
Ice cream find : You’ll have to get into the car to get to the town’s two popular haunts, Brum’s and Lang’s, but on-site you will find a unique creperie on wheels–an adjunct to a gourmet crepe restaurant in town.
SMITHS FALLS WATERFRONT: Charming Walks, Kids’ Waterworld, Two Swans
Smiths Falls offer an uncommon experience on the Rideau River. This is our first choice for kids of all ages–and the kid in all of us.
Along the northern side of the Rideau, a manicured walkway undulates along water’s edge. It is charmingly populated with boaters speaking in other tongues especially French and German.
The walkway leads to watercraft and bicycle rentals–you can be in the water in minutes, kayaking, canoeing or pedaling a craft. Its canteen hydrates and feeds visitors without having to leave the site.
From this point, the waterfront becomes a diving site, a favorite for tweeners and teenagers. It is entertaining to watch them make cannonballs, climb up the ladders and do it again and again. The children are never happier than at this place, Centennial Park-Murphy Park.
Beyond this region a sandy, shallow beach reveals an oasis for toddlers. Parents can sit under shaded trees and keep close watch. There are two swans, the famous Duke and Duchess, who linger among visitors. It is conceivable they think themselves the same specie.
Almost all visitors walk over the suspended pedestrian bridge onto idyllic Turtle Island. Along with Duck Island they sit at the centre of the Rideau as it flows around them and you, 360 degrees. The views from this tourist enclave, its boaters and lock are best from here–and perfect for photos.
The pathway along the South side of the Rideau connects Victoria Park–where a yellow airplane adds to the view–to Lower Reach Park, under the Beckwith Street Bridge. It’s a healthy extended walk that will open to charming, Old Slys lock.
The south shore also features a campsite run by the Chamber of Commerce, a popular locale for seasonal trailers. Smiths Falls is our second best pick for day trips and longer stays.
Ice cream find : A brand new ice cream parlour in-town at the northeast end of the park serves visitors daily until 10:00 pm–it is conceivably the finest in East Ontario.
BROCKVILLE WATERFRONT: Stunning Views, Endless Attractions
Brockville offers a visual experience on the St. Lawrence–stretching 1.4 kms–as no other. Plan a whole day as there is so much to do. If you like the scene to change on the hour, Brockville delivers the ‘buzz.’ The town is beautiful–stunning–and replete with things to do.
You can watch cargo ships and scuba divers–from adirondack chairs on Centeen Park’s shore. Hardy Park and Blockhouse Island are glorious spots to ‘watch the show’ under shaded trees. When you have taken in enough nature, the famous First Railway Tunnel and Aquatarium are ‘must see.’
Interaction with the waterfront in Brockville prefers teens and adults as the water entrance points are limited to two concrete stairways at Centeen Park. They lead to short cement floors followed by a drop for divers and swimmers. Centeen is the leading soft water scubadiving site in the world and what lies beneath is exceptional : a memorial sculpture garden, its first underwater site for scubadivers.
The St. Lawrence’s numerous historic shipwrecks are popular draws for divers. Scuba diving classes are always in progress; they are easy to join and experience.
Westward between Hardy Park and Tall Ships Landing there is a boat launch that is the haunt of toddlers and parents interacting with ducklings–an amusing impromptu spot to wet their feet. It is also the best central area to park, right by a charming inlet.
Hardy Park, west of Tall Ships Landing, is a great destination to enjoy the views while picnicking. You can hardly get closer to the St. Lawrence. Imagine you are enjoying your meal while waves lap near you and cargo ships pass blowing their horns, “Hi Ho Brockville,” they seem to say. Children squeal at their sightings.
The park features a fountain on water’s edge, benches along the waterfront and under a gazebo, a public piano. This urban planner was thinking about people in its design.
A walk into Blockhouse Island, the most southern land mass, places you squarely into the St. Lawrence. It offers parking, souvenirs and a large eatery. It is also a good place to obtain orientation from one of its tourist information offices.
This writer enjoyed the breeze while sipping craft beer with a U.S. production company–they were in awe of this place. This is where you can sit back and soak your soul.
If you find your way to 10 Market Street, downtown, you can obtain a day parking pass. Take the worry off and drop-in. Here too you will get plenty of info.
Brockville’s waterfront is our first pick for “mixing it up.”
Ice cream find : Tall Ships Landing has an exceptional ice cream parlour neighbouring Aquatarium, offering a patio with views of the marina and river.
What mood are your in? R & R or living it up? These three destinations deliver.
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