All photos by Carrie MacPherson.
“Who will be captain today?” is what you might ask your spouse when you book a stay on Le Boat, the European luxury yacht fleet that has made its way to Canada to reside on the historic Rideau Canal. These two-to-five-bedroom floating homes are the sweetest way to enjoy one of the most interesting UNESCO World Heritage sites in our country.
How It Works
Any Le Boat trip begins with a hands-on orientation to give you the confidence and know-how required to navigate the boat. Anyone 18 and over can operate one and the motors are set to go no faster than the allotted speed limit on the canal. This is slow travel at its best. We set off from Ottawa and were quickly initiated in the art of canal travel by helping with tethering the boats as we went through the various locks built into the canal which have been in operation since 1832. It’s a two-person feat to travel through each lock station. Once you’ve cleared the lock stations, it’s smooth sailing through the scenic sections of the canal. After you get used to driving the boat, you will also have the hang of reading the buoys and can take turns being captain Docking the boat for the night or to visit a village along your route is as easy as tying the knot.
The best part of being on Le Boat are the views! It’s a completely different and unique way to explore this part of Canada. The Rideau Canal is 202 kilometres long and is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America. Instead of driving in a vehicle on an uninspiring highway in stressful traffic, you glide for hours along the peaceful canal. The slow pace on calm waters encourages you to appreciate the silence and the scenery. Sail for a few hours and then dock the boat to enjoy one of many quaint villages along the way or simply sit on your personal deck and sip your wine while watching the sun set on the canal.
Each Le Boat comes fully equipped with everything you’ll need including: bedding, towels, dishes, pots and pans. There’s a full kitchen with fridge, gas stove and microwave, tv and radio and each bedroom has its own ensuite bathroom with shower. On the top deck, there’s a table and seating for dining alfresco as well as a gas BBQ hot plate and comfy loungers at the bow. The boat is gas-fuelled and will be fully fueled for your trip. There are two steering wheels: one on the top deck under a canopy and one in the cabin for when the weather turns wet or cold.
Places To Visit
Our trip took us from Ottawa to Smiths Falls, but you can travel all the way to Kingston with Le Boat. On our trip, we particularly enjoyed our stop at the village of Manotick where we visited the Gingerbread Man bakery whose pastry chef is well known for his gingerbread, shortbread and butter tarts. Watson’s Mill is an absolute must for its history and ghost stories, and it still produces stoneground flour which you can witness being milled.
Merrickville is a picturesque Loyalist town filled with cute shops, antique buildings and gourmet hot spots. Give yourself time to visit MUAC, the church turned arts centre where we were treated to an Elvis impersonator concert. Sample the best gelato in Canada at Stella Luna, located in a stunning Victorian house (the Canadian-Italian couple who run the café met in Italy and their wedding photos are on display in the Pinterest-worthy washroom). Pop into the Alloy Foundry, Canada’s oldest metal foundry which still produces bronze, cast iron and aluminum products. Get your souvenirs at Wick Witch Candle & Bath Co. – the perfect place for artisan candles, bath and beauty products. Fashion and art lovers will enjoy Anarchy Gallery – opened by talented local artist Angelina Wrona. Merrickville Wood & Glass Co. features handmade wooden and glass décor and home items. Foodies will love Mrs. McGarrigle’s for its gourmet goodies and artisanal mustards. Eat at: Yellow Canoe Cafe (best scones on earth!), The Goose & Gridiron restaurant & pub or the Baldachin Inn. Whistle Post Antiques is as good as any museum with take-home treasures galore!
Canadian cannabis tourism has become a thing and Smiths Falls is where the Tweed facilities have set up shop in the former Hershey factory. Take a tour to learn all about this newly legalized industry. They do not sell or offer any sample product on-site, but they do have a lovely gift shop of cannabis-related items. In Smiths Falls, we also enjoyed a Colin James concert at the Live at the Falls festival on the last evening of our trip.
In the nearby town of Perth, Top Shelf craft distillery is where you can sample various spirits from award-winning vodka and gin to maple-bacon flavoured moonshine. In an old mill across from scenic Stewart Park, we visited Blackfly Grubhub, a newly opened doughnut shop in Code’s Mill – a former woolen mill full of shops, restaurants and a large reception hall where you can hold your wedding celebration. Or spend an afternoon enjoying a typical British tea service at Crossroads Tearoom in the downtown heritage area.
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