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Safe Summer Travels in Southeastern Ontario

Pandemic Daytrips

sunny 25 °C

Usually delayed blog posts don't really impact the content that much, but all bets are off during a pandemic. The information may be less relevant as the restrictions around COVID-19 constantly evolve - from whether restaurants are open, to which companies no longer exist. That being said, I still think there's value in sharing my suggestions, and detailing my memories! Given that I couldn't eat indoors anywhere over the summer, and was thus unsure where public restrooms would be available, I tried to limit my exploration of Ontario to more rural areas - mainly public parks. In spite of the pandemic and all of the fear and anxiety it brought, I really enjoyed seeing sites I wouldn't normally have been drawn to like a small town northeast of Kingston, or cruising the 1000 Islands (on the St. Lawrence). Last fall, I set off on a solo road trip around northern Ontario and was amazed by what I experienced, so should I really have been surprised by the beauty down south?

Frontenac Provincial Park
Where the paths diverge...

There are many trails to choose from here - 1.5km loops to over 20km treks. We just did the Arab Lake Gorge Trail because it's the shortest and easiest, and we needed a trail that would be most accessible. We chose a very serpentine trail... Make sure to keep your eyes open for snakes - we spotted one under the boardwalk, and another while we were just strolling in the forest! Note that under normal circumstances, the park office and washrooms would be open and barrier-free but they weren't when we visited. There was hardly a soul in sight so social distancing wasn't a problem in the slightest.

Parrott's Bay Conservation Area
Easy strollin'

Just about twenty minutes west of Kingston you'll find Parrott's Bay Conservation Area, which is a great place to go on a leisurely stroll in nature. Again, I didn't run into anyone so social distancing was no problem whatsoever. I found the paths really stable, there was lots of shade, and there was no charge for parking; however, I didn't see many areas for resting/sitting or water fountains (or outhouses). There are always pros and cons of any site, I suppose! A distinct advantage of visiting this conservation area is that Bath, a lovely little town, is just west of here. I didn't enter any of the restaurants or shops, but post-pandemic I'd happily eat at the Lodge Coffee House or any other cute eatery in town and then stroll by the lake.

A small town + a big hill = beautiful vistas

Fortunately, shops were open for take-out so I was able to pick up some sustenance and minimally interact with others at Vanilla Beans. I can't say it's enjoyable visiting towns without interacting with locals, but I would also feel an incredible sense of shame were I to act recklessly and accidentally infect someone (knowing now that many people are asymptomatic carriers of the virus). Post-pandemic, I'd love to come back to this town and stay for a night in one of the accommodations - the Cove Country Inn seemed particularly pleasant. Regardless, Foley Mountain Conservation Area was a great place to go visit during the pandemic because there was no one in sight, and there were lovely views. It felt meditative, almost. I'll note that I didn't see anywhere to fill up water bottles, but there was ample parking (for $7) and a fair amount of shade. I wouldn't recommend the trails if you use a mobility device as there are loads of stairs and uneven ground.

1000 Islands
Cruising into serenity

Gananoque Boat Line reopened just in time for Canada Day, so I bought my parents and I tickets for a 2.5 hour afternoon cruise: Lost Ships of the 1000 Islands. It was 37$ for a regular adult ticket and $31.50 for a senior ticket, which I found very reasonable considering how enchanting the cruise was and the safety precautions they took! Not only were there far fewer people on board the ship (1/5th capacity), but staff were constantly sanitizing all surfaces and also ensuring that people wore masks at all times. I also found a great vantage point from inside the ship on the second floor, at least 6 feet away from the closest person (they had masterfully arranged the seating to enforce social distancing). As always, I was nervous about motion sickness, but the boat ride was smooth sailing!


I really enjoyed listening to the commentary about how people navigate these waters (the St. Lawrence), and thought it was particularly interesting hearing about how houses were built and also how alcohol was smuggled into the U.S. from Canada during prohibition. They also talked about shipwrecks, but unfortunately I couldn't hear much of their narration on that subject. So, here are a few fun facts that stood out to me (which I was able to hear!): (1) there are over 1800 "Thousand" islands; (2) there used to be pirates here, and some claim that there's still buried treasure (maybe rainy day cruises are better, so you can use the rainbow as your guide?); and, (3) the bridge between Canada and the U.S. was opened in 1938 and tens of thousands of people showed up to watch the prime minister and president conduct the official opening ceremonies.


For me, the highlight was just being able to sit calmly while cruising through the many islands and enjoying its ecosystem. From the beautiful birds and radiant rocks, to the amazing architecture. In fact, Boldt Castle was an imposing presence in the waters. Because it's U.S. territory, we were unable to disembark but even from the boat I could tell it's an impressive structure. Its history is sad though; the castle was built by George C. Boldt as a summer house (on Heart Island) in honour of his wife, Louise. Sadly, she passed away months before it was finished so it sat empty for decades. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority is now responsible for its stewardship.


Taking the cruise on Canada Day, it surprised me how little discussion or acknowledgement there was of Indigenous culture and history here. It's bizarre to me because there have been Indigenous peoples living on and navigating through these lands for thousands of years, and it seemed like an important day to recognize that given the weight that Canada Day can carry (for better or worse). For me, I feel eternally appreciative of how I've been able to move to and through this country but the older I get the more conscious I am of the need to appreciate its triumphs and also critique its flaws so that it can be better for everyone.


Posted by madrugada 03:31 Archived in Canada Tagged nature hiking ontario cruise canada pandemic safe_travel social_distance

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