On the shores of Lake Ontario, about 3 hours east of Toronto, sits the small and unheard of city of Kingston. There is to much to see in Kingston, we just had to write a blog for you guys!
Despite the small population of 160 thousand, Kingston holds an incredible amount of history for Canada. In 1841, Kingston was named the capital of the new Province of Canada. However, this was rather short-lived as Queen Victoria decided to move this to Montreal in 1843.
In February 2018, we visited this beautiful part of the world as Gemma’s brother was studying at the local university. During this visit, we had plenty of time to explore this small yet busy part of Canada. Here are our top picks:
Across the water from Kingston is the enormous, yet mostly desolate, Wolfe Island. This 124km2 stretch of land has a population of just 1400 people, most of whom situated in Marysville. Wolfe island’s recreational activities include a golf course, a corn maze and three marked bicycle routes. All of these, you could say are summer activities, however there is still a reason to visit in winter.
During the warmer months, when the lake has thawed out, a free ferry will take you across the water, to Marysville. There is no form of public transport on Wolfe Island, so don’t expect any. The easiest way to get around is by bicycle, car rental or if you’re feeling extra social, hitch hiking!
In the winter months there is not much to do on this island apart from admire its silence and serenity. Once the lake has frozen over the ferry takes a more direct route across the water. This stops at a port that is a substantial walk from Marysville town centre (roughly an hour). In the unforgiving winter winds of Canada this is a very long time to be in the open, so I wouldn’t recommend walking.
Don’t let this put you off however, the ferry is free of charge and a short walk from the port offers beautiful views across the fields on a clear day. The ferry will then pick you up again once every hour. There is even a heated waiting cabin beside the dock to take shelter in.
Kingston’s city hall is a national historic site and can be found on the water front, beside the market square. This building is currently used for the cities administration and governing jobs, as well as a small museum of Kingston’s history. You can view the internals of this beautiful building with a free guided tours or have a walk around yourself.
Of course any trip to Canada is nowhere near complete without going to see the local ice hockey team. Our experience of this classic Canadian sport had the Kingston Frontenacs put up a valiant fight against the Owen Sound Attack ending 3-3, only to lose in the overtime sudden death round.
Having not watched ice hockey in a looong time, we were a bit confused at the start of the match. Most of our time was spent simply trying to keep our eyes on where the puck was, never mind what was happening. However, after 20 minutes we started to understand the rules and found it an incredibly exciting match to watch! Tickets are cheap too, starting at $19 for bronze seats and going to $25 for gold, centre ice seats. You can buy them online here.
Many of the activities we participated in during our stay were part of Feb-Fest. This is an annual festival during the month of February and celebrates Canada’s snowy traditions. Read our favourite parts of Feb-fest here.
No trip to Kingston is complete without spending some time admiring the beauty of Lake Ontario. It was my first experience with the true cold that Canada experiences. Sitting below freezing for well over a month, the large body of water of Lake Ontario was completely frozen. On a winter’s day like this, the lake makes for a spectacular walk along its shores. While you are admiring its beauty and serenity, make sure you know where land ends and the ice begins or you might end up rather cold and wet.
In the summer this lake completely changes, becoming popular for swimming and other water sports as a way to cool off from the summer heat. You can choose from paddle-boarding to canoeing and kayaking, and even try a sport of scuba diving if you have a more adventurous side.
A personal highlight for me is the number of cute and eccentric cafés that are dotted around the small city centre. In the space of 3 blocks there must be over 10 different, independent cafés to choose from. A few of these cafés show a certain French influence with the décor, choice of drinks and even the menu selection. During our trip we found an excellent choice of hot chocolates, all within one block of the ice rink on Market Square.
Read our full review of these hot chocolate hotspots and see where our favourite cafe is in Kingston!
The buildings around downtown Kingston are a wonder in themselves! A huge number have beautiful limestone rendering overlooking the water and parks. The reason for the exquisite limestone buildings is due to a fire that broke out in 1840 and destroyed much of downtown. After this, the city moved from wooden structures to stone and limestone from the nearby quarries. This then became known as Limestone City, creating the incredible buildings that we can still admire today.
Kingston is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Riduau Canal. This is an incredible man-made canal, stretching 202km through two rivers and multiple lakes, between Kingston and Ottawa. This was opened originally in 1832 as a precaution for an invasion by the US, however is mostly used today as a means of pleasure boating.
For those of you with room in your suitcase (or maybe forgot to pack winter gear..) there are plenty of opportunities to hit the shops! Downtown Kingston has a wide selection of designer labels and outdoors shops you can peruse, and for the wetter days there are multiple shopping centres on the outskirts of the city. We visited the Cataraqui (pronounced cat-a-ROCK-way) shopping mall one day, simply to get out of the city centre for a while. Here you can find a huge selection of shops and food stands all under the shelter of a roof.
So there are our top sights that we think just cannot be missed on your visit to Kingston. One recommendation we would strongly suggest is to rent a car for your stay, allowing you to get around the town easier and also visit the beautiful nature reserves on the outskirts of town, as buses don’t get there very quickly. Apart from that, Kingston is the perfect location for your very own Canadian adventure!
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Catch up with our adventure over on Youtube with our Kingston highlights below!
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