Ottawa Canal Cruise - Complete 7 Day Itinerary

Canada’s Rideau Canal boating is a must-do. Heck, you don’t even need boating experience. Le Boat opened a shop in Smiths Falls, Ontario. There are a number of luxury houseboats available for rent that will allow you to drive up or lower this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Le Boat, Europe’s number one provider of boating vacations, has been offering canal trips across Europe for over 50 years. The Rideau Canal was the perfect choice when we decided to open houseboats in North America. It’s like driving through a small piece of Europe on this beautiful 200 km (125 mile) waterway. It’s dotted with quaint villages, historic ruins, scenic vineyards, and beautiful scenery. There are 200-year-old locks, which have been in continuous operation since 1832.

Family friendly boating holidays – Family Day Savings

Le Boat has curated their top boating recommendations for family fun and in honor of yesterday’s family day here in Canada, they’re giving you an extra 5%off when you use the PROMO CODE: FAM5 at the time of booking. Call 1-800-734-5491 now to book. And the great news is, this offer is combinable with other offers ( up to 15%)*

  • Book your family vacation before February 28, 2021 to save an additional 5%
  • Quote Promo Code FAM5 at the time of booking
  • *This offer is combinable with other offers ( up to 15%)new booking only
  • Call 1-800-734-5491Book using this Family Day Offer (FAM5)
  • More information on trips and Le Boat Family holidays can be found here.

The Rideau Canal Le Boat Experience

The Ottawa Canal Cruise Experience with Le Boat Canada

An introduction to your Le Boat will begin the trip. During this time you’ll be shown how to read the maps and charts, how to use the stove, and where all of the important instruments and equipment are, show you the knots you’ll need to tie up at the docks, but most importantly, how to drive the boat!

The Le Boats on Rideau Canal are very simple to drive. The Horizon Fleet boats come with front and back thrusters which make it easy to turn. When pulling up to moor, it’s easy to park between boats are in tight spaces by using the side thrusters to inch into a slot. All Le Boats have throttlers on them so you can’t go faster than 10 km per hour making it easy to cruise and relax throughout your trip.

Le Boat Canada Driving Lesson

Your instructor will help you through the first set, teaching you lock etiquette as well as how to safely pull in. You will be equipped with all the tools necessary to comfortably cruise through the Rideau Canal aboard your luxury yacht.

Take 10% off select boat rentals on the Rideau Canal

  • Save 10% on Horizon 2 and Horizon 3 boat rentals on the Rideau Canal, Canada
  • Valid for departures from June to August 2022
  • Short breaks and cruises lasting 7-10 nights or more are eligible
  • For new bookings only, you can combine with other offers to receive a maximum 15% discount

Horizon Fleet

Le Boat Horizon Fleet Smiths Falls Ontario Canada

We booked a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house for three couples. My parents, brother and sister-in-law joined us. We had two cats with us. Le Boat is pet friendly, so you can bring all your family members along, even pets!

Each room comes with its own bathroom and shower. Inside, there is a large seating area that can comfortably accommodate all of us. Although there are four bedrooms, four bathrooms, it would have been too crowded downstairs with couples. However, there is an upper deck and picnic tables that allow people to spread out. If the weather is nice, four couples could fit in the Horizon 4. We cruised in fall colours so we had more downtime than during our summer vacation on Horizon 3.

Le Boat Canada Horizon 3 Interior

Two small refrigerators are located in the kitchen, and there is a barbecue on top. Le Boats makes it easy to cook. We also brought coolers to store drinks and food as the refrigerators on the Horizon 4 aren’t full size. There is plenty of deck space, so you don’t have to worry about it being crowded.

How to choose which direction to go

Ottawa Canal Map

It is easy to choose to take a boat tour on the Rideau Canal. However, it can be difficult to decide which route to take. Nearly in the middle is Smiths Falls. If you go north, you’ll be heading to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. If you go south, you’ll be making your way to Kingston, Canada’s first capital city. Both cities are wonderful and both offer fascinating stops along the way. Today, we will give you some insight on how to choose which direction to take to the Rideau Canal from Smiths Falls.

Overview of North and South

Ottawa Canal cruise North

Both the north and south were both fantastic trips. They are however quite different. So, it depends on what type of trip you want.

There are many more locks that you will need to pass when heading north towards Ottawa. There are 12 lock stations between Smiths Falls and Ottawa that contain 21 locks. The waterways are more narrow and the trip feels like a canal trip rather than a vacation on the boat in Ontario. This direction allows you to travel up to Ottawa on a one-week trip.

Le Boat Canada Houseboats

Going south, the bodes are larger and you will drive on lakes that have locks. At times you don’t even feel like you are on a canal system, but instead in Ontario’s cottage country. There are more towns to stop at, and it is possible to do a loop as opposed to an out and back.

Unless you have a lot of time, most people won’t make it all the way to Kingston and instead usually stop at the top of Jones Falls Locks, which is often considered the most beautiful locks on the Rideau Canal. To get to Jones Falls, you’ll go through 8 lock stations (after departing Smiths Falls) with only 8 locks which means you have more cruising time and less time inside the locks.

For more information on cruising south on the Rideau Canal, read our full post here: Amazing Rideau Canal Cruise – A Unique Cruise Holiday with Le Boat

The Trip North to Ottawa

Ottawa Cana Boat Cruise in Autumn

When we planned our northern Le Boat trip, it was our most memorable moment to spend the night in Ottawa on our boat. Le Boats park in downtown Ottawa right in front the Rideau Center, offering views of the Parliament Buildings as well as the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. In past trips to Ottawa, we’ve seen yachts moored in the canal and could only dream of making this trip. Anyone can now rent a houseboat and join the exclusive club of boating on the Rideau Canal.

Day 1 Merrickville (4 hours)

Ottawa Canal Merrickville

Our first stop after Smiths Falls was Merrickville, where we moored overnight on the blue line at the Merrickville locks. We recommend that you moor in Merrickville at the top of the locks to enjoy the town’s many attractions. You don’t have far to go the next day, and Merrickville is definitely a highlight of this Rideau Canal cruise.

Ottawa Canal Downtown Merrickville

This was our favourite stop along the northern Rideau Canal route. Merrickville is a great place to stay. Merrickville was voted “Canada’s Most Beautiful Village by Communities in Bloom” and it is very pretty. There is plenty to do downtown shopping, so we picked up quite some items for our home. It’s worth taking a stroll down the main street to check out the shops. Gray Art Glass Studio was where we found the perfect centerpiece for our dining table. Stella Luna Cafe had gelato. The owner studied the art of making Gelato at Carbigiani Gelato University in Bologna! Dave and I actually visited that university!

Merrickville Ruins

Merrickville Ruins on the Ottawa Canal

Walking to the beautiful ruins is a highlight of Merrickville. Just across the Rideau Canal from the town is the foundation of an abandoned woolen plant. There’s a walking trail, beautiful stone foundations, a power generator, and views of the Rideau Canal. Don’t miss walking across the bridge to see them. You can also visit Merrickville’s old blockhouse, now a museum, while you are docked there.

Day 2 – Burritts Rapids (3 hours)

Burritts Rapids on the Ottawa Canal

Burritts Rapids is your next stop. Merrickville has three locks and a swing bridge that you must pass before you leave. Once you are through these locks, it’s not long until you are at Burritt Rapids. The Tip to Tip is a beautiful hiking trail that runs through Burritts Rapids. It is a 4.3 kilometer is an out & back trail where you’ll pass the village of Burritts Rapids as you make your way out to the tip.

Rideau Woodland Ramble near Burritts Rapids on the Ottawa Canal

Rideau Woodland Ramble was for us the highlight. If you’ve rented bicycles with your Le Boat (or bringing your own) you can bike to this beautiful display garden and center. You can walk to it from the Burritts Rapids Lock Station, which is 1.7km away. These gardens have beautiful walks that lead to stunning displays. There’s even a labyrinth in the garden where you can take a moment for quiet meditation. There are Japanese maples, quiet water ponds, garden-gnomes, and even the Totem Trail. Spend some time exploring the gardens and getting supplies for your garden.

It’s dinner on the boat tonight as you enjoy a beautiful sunset from the lock station.

Day 3 – Long Island (5 hours)

Long Island on the Rideau Canal to Ottawa

Today is a long boating trip so make sure you get through the locks first to make it to Long Island. Once you are through the Merrickville Locks, it’s smooth sailing as you cruise the Rideau River to Manotick. This stretch is filled with beautiful scenery. The big homes begin to appear along this section. It was so relaxing to sit on the deck and watch the scenery pass by.

Today is a good day for someone to prepare lunch and snacks so you can have a good time. We wanted to get to Long Island locks as it is a long way from Ottawa. You must be at the locks no less than 1.5 hours before closing when you go through lock stations. We were cruising in Autumn to view the fall colors. The lock station closes at 5pm so we had to be there by 3:30 to get through. We were fortunate to have this day on a weekend, when hours are longer. Therefore, we left at 9 AM sharp and made it through the Long Island locks.

BBQ Lunch on the way to Ottawa Canal Long Island

This lock station is definitely worth visiting. If you can, park at the bottom. It is another long day out on the water. So you’ll want to leave as soon as possible. If you park at the top, you’ll need to wait for the lock station to open at 9 am.

Black Rapids (1 hr)

Black Rapids Lock Station Rideau Canal Le Boat

We had such a good time that, once we had made it through Long Island Locks, our decision was to continue on to Black Rapids Locks. It’s less than 10km from Long Island to Black Rapids. Because we were boating on weekends, we had enough time to get through Black Rapids to remain at the bottom of locks so we could make our way to Ottawa early in the morning.

It was raining so it was time to get back some distance. We moved down to continue to Black Rapids, where we stayed the night at the bottom. We were the last boat to pass and had only one day before we reached Ottawa.

Day 4 Ottawa (4 Hours)

Ottawa Canal Le Boat Fall

It’s an exciting day because it’s the final stretch to the Capital City of Canada. The homes are closer together, and continue to grow in size, with motorboats and floating planes lining their docks. Friendly kayakers wave to you as you pass, and the channel narrows as your approach Ottawa. Before reaching Ottawa, there are two locks you need to pass through. Hartwell and Hogs Back locks. This point is where you feel like you’re in an urban environment. The shore is lined with cyclists riding their bikes, and people walk along the path to see the boats go through the locks. Luckily you’ve been driving Le Boat for four days by now, so you go through the locks like a pro!

Dows Lake

Dows Lake neat Ottawa on the Canal

Now it is time to make a decision. Dows Lake is located just outside of Ottawa and is a great place for an evening mooring. Three restaurants and watersport rentals can be found at the large marina. This is also the place where you’ll want to pump out your boat and fill up your water. There is an additional charge to park your car here overnight. (approximately $80)

Day 5 Downtown (30 mins to 1 hour).

Downtown view on the Ottawa Canal Le Boat

After filling up and pumping out our water, we continued to Ottawa from Dows Lake. This way, we could park in the heart of the city and are within walking distance from most of the city’s top attractions. The cruise to Ottawa is breathtaking. Many people pay for a Rideau Canal cruise starting from downtown. On Le Boat, you can drive your own boat along this historic stretch. From Dows Lake to Downtown, it’s just a 20 to 30-minute cruise, but you do need to wait for one lift bridge. You will have your phone number, so make sure to call ahead to let them know that you are on the way. They’ll then stop traffic and let you through.

To help you plan your Ottawa visit, read all these Ottawa Guides

Things to do near Le Boat parking in Ottawa

Ottawa Canal Downtown slip Le Boat

You now have the afternoon free to explore the many attractions in downtown Ottawa. We have written numerous articles about Ottawa attractions after having visited the city many times. If this is your first visit, you will find it easy to get around the ByWard market, The Parliament Buildings, The Rideau Centre and Sparks Street. You can walk through the ByTown museum for $2. This museum traces Ottawa’s history, which was then called Bytown.

For dinner, we recommend ByWard Market. There are many options for dining at the market. For cocktails and stunning views of Ottawa, make sure you go to the Andaz Hotel’s rooftop bar.

Explore Sparks street in Ottawa, Canada

Take a walk to Parliament Hill before dinner to view the government parliament buildings. Take a walk up Sparks Street on your way back. This pedestrian street is great for strolling and ends at the War Memorial. Here you can see the changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 9 am and 5pm.

Evening

Haunted walking tour in Ottawa Le Boat

There are so many things to do on a Saturday night in Ottawa. A haunted walking tour is a fun activity for the whole family. As you walk to Ottawa’s famous landmarks, learn about its history and hear stories about ghosts at night.

Day 6 Ottawa (Optional Full Day in Ottawa

Full day tour in Ottawa with Le Boat

It is a great idea to take a tour if you only have a few hours to spend in Ottawa. Escape Bicycle Tours offered an excellent e-bike tour that allowed us to see all the top Ottawa attractions. E-biking is great for multi-generational trips. My parents, brother and sister-in law joined us on the trip. Although we all have different levels of riding, riding an ebike is a way to level the playing field. It’s so easy!

E-Bike Tour in Ottawa Escape Bike Tours

Andrew was our guide at their office in Sparks Street. It’s a fantastic location where you can order specialty coffees, beer, and wine. We had coffee before and after the tour. Andrew showed us how to use the bike paths and we followed Andrew around the city. Ottawa is a very bike-friendly city. My family was initially nervous about cycling in the city. However, their fears were quickly dispelled once we started riding. There were numerous paths through the city. Bikes had their own lanes if they were stuck in traffic.

Gatineau Quebec from Ottawa on Bike Tour

The tour took us across the Ottawa River into Quebec where we saw Canada’s busiest Museum, The Canadian Museum of History. We cycled across the Alexandra Bridge, following the designated bike-and-walking path to the National Gallery of Canada. Here we saw the amazing Maman Spider installation and enjoyed the views of Notre Dame Basilica. It was then out to Sussex Drive including to see Rideau Hall, the home of Canada’s governor-general. The tour was spectacular, showcasing the best parts of the city while enjoying great outdoors.

After the tour, we enjoyed some beer and wine on Escape Bicycle’s outdoor patio on Sparks Street. It’s such a great atmosphere, and owner Maria came out to join us for a cappuccino. Escape Bicycle Tours offers a variety of tours and rentals. Visit their website for more information.

Escape Manor in Ottawa

We had a great evening at Escape Manor, where we all worked together to escape the Asylum. It was the first escape room we’ve ever done and I highly recommend doing it. It’s a great experience, especially if you’re with your family.

Dinner

Flora Hall Brewing Ottawa for dinner

We walked along Bank Street and found Flora Hall Brewing to our dinner. This is a wonderful setting in an old garage. The local craft brewery offers a wide range of food, including falafels and beet-hummus as well as Burrata salads. It’s all open-concept and you can see the vats of beer behind glass where they make their own microbrew. It’s then back to the boat for cocktails on deck with the Ottawa lights glistening in the smooth waters of the canal.

Day 7 – Ottawa to Long Island (3-4 hours)

Ottawa Canal Views from Le Boat

Today is the day to say goodbye Ottawa, and to begin your journey back towards Smiths Falls. You’ll be backtracking so you’ll be seeing a lot of the same scenery, but this is a fun time to stop at the places you may have missed. We decided to stay the night on Long Island after we had b-lined it from Black Rapids to Long Island on our way to Ottawa.

Ottawa Canal Cruise Day 7

Long Island has three locks and a swing bridge. It’s amazing to watch the Parks Canada staff at work. They turn the locks by hand, and push the trolley in circles to open the swing bridge. It’s truly like stepping back in time.

It is only a 15-minute ride by bike from the Long Island Locks to Manotick. It’s worth going into this historic town with 1860s Watson’s Mill being the highlight. You can shop in the cafes or relax on the patios.

Day 8 – Nicolson Locks

Rideau Canal Ottawa Final Day

Today is a leisurely cruise along the Rideau Canal. It’s impossible to get to Smiths Falls in a day from Long Island, so you can decide where you want to spend the night on the way back. You might want to visit Merrickville for some delicious pizza at Iron Forge Pizza. Or you might want to spend the night at Nicholsons Lock or Burrits Rapids. We made it through Burrits Rapids. We decided to stay at Nicholsons for a peaceful evening on Le Boat.

We enjoyed cocktails and dinner on the upper deck’s barbecue while the sun set over Lake Ontario. It was the perfect end to our last night aboard the boat.

Final Day – On to Smiths Falls

Ridea Canal Fall colours Smiths Falls

Our final push saw us leave early in the morning to get to Smiths Falls, where we backed our boat into the slip. We’ve come a long way baby, 8 days ago we were nervous about driving Le Boat’s Horizon Four and now we’re backing it with precision right into the slip alongside the rest of the fleet.

One person got the carts to carry our gear. The rest helped unload the boat, and then the sign-off began. It was a great week spent with family on the Le Boat Horizon Four. It was sad to say goodbye. We recommend bringing your family or close friends together for this once in a life time experience.

Le Boat and Rideau Canal – The Deails

Le Boat and Rideau Canal - The Deails

Le Boat is located in Smiths Falls, in the middle of the Rideau Canal. Boat vacations can go either way along the canal from Smiths Falls and don’t need to go all the way to Ottawa on your trip. Many people made shorter trips to Merrickville and Burritts Rapids, which took them three to four days. You also don’t need to spend two nights in Ottawa.

My family wanted to visit Ottawa. We decided to spend an extra night. However, you can choose to stay as little or as long as you wish. Le Boaters in Ottawa pay $9.20 per night for power.

Rideau Canal Hours

Rideau Canal Hours

When planning your Le Boat route on the Rideau Canal, it’s important to look at lock times. Le Boats can only go 10 km per hour, so you can’t zip from lock to lock. It is designed to be a slow and relaxed boat cruise on the Rideau. Before you book the number of days from Smiths Falls, you should know how far and how many you want to travel.

It is possible to get to Ottawa in three days. However, it is important to be punctual between locks and to plan how you will stay at the top or bottom. Going through the locks can take a while and if you park at the top but want to move on in the morning, you won’t be able to until the lock opens. We used to go through the lock in the evening so we could park at its bottom and be on our ways in the morning.

Lock times vary depending on the time of year. You need to be there 1 1/2 hours before closing to ensure that boats can pass through. You will need to get through the locks by 2:30 in the morning if they close at 4:00 in autumn.

Opening Hours

  • May 21 – June 17
    • Monday to Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    • Friday to Sunday and holidays 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • June 18 – Sept. 6:
    • Monday to Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
    • Friday to Sunday and holidays 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • September 7 – October 11:
    • Monday to Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    • Saturday, Sunday & Thanksgiving 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wrap Up Ottawa Rideau Canal Cruise autumn

Le Boaters can stay at Parks Canada locks for free, but there is a $9.80 charge if they need power. You don’t necessarily need power as Le Boats charge all day while driving, but if you want to run the air conditioner in summer or heat in Spring and Autumn, you may want power for peace of mind. You can rent some from a Marina. Others will cost extra. To find out which marinas are available for free, check with the staff before departing. Some marinas offer free nights for the first two Le Boaters to arrive.

It is a once in a lifetime experience to take a Le Boat Vacation on Rideau Canal. It is a dream vacation for many boaters to go through the historic locks. Le Boat, a luxury 45-foot yacht company that offers a unique experience for the public, has opened its doors in Canada. Le Boat is the best option if you’re looking for something new to do in Ontario this summer.

LeBoat.com has the Le Boat website.

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