Spending time on the water is a natural appetite booster, but unfortunately finding a food and drink experience that’s accessible by water can be a bit of a challenge.
BY AMY HOGUE
This photo of CC’s on the Rideau shows how much waterfront is available here. Note their docks aren’t in the water for this photo.
Spending time on the water is a natural appetite booster, but unfortunately finding a food and drink experience that’s accessible by water can be a bit of a challenge. This is why boat-up restaurants are like gold; dining on the waterfront is the next best thing to having a restaurant right on your boat – you get the same view of the water but without the lapping of the waves at your hull.
I’ve cruised the Rideau Canal from end to end more than once, and the experience is hands-down more fun when you take the time to stop and relax on a waterside patio to indulge in some people (or boat) watching. Stretching for 202 kilometres from Kingston to Ottawa, the Rideau Canal is a must for travelling at least once (or again and again).
A great view of 1 Elgin on the left, and the Chateau Laurier on the right. The Chateau Laurier is home to La Terrasse, another patio option. Note the waterway does not extend much further towards the Chateau Laurier before you reach the final set of eight locks and the end of the canal.
The Rideau Canal is flanked by the city of Kingston on the south end and the city of Ottawa on the north end, and in between it passes through rural towns and picturesque villages, each offering the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat on the water.
If you’re thinking of boating the Rideau Canal this summer, read on for the top 10 patios to savour an off-board meal in Kingston and Ottawa, and everywhere in between.
Boating the Rideau Canal
If you haven’t travelled the Rideau Canal, here are a few things you should know before you head out. The Rideau Canal is a controlled system, where water levels are regulated to maintain a minimum of five feet of water in the navigation channel (during the operating season, May to October).
Canal Ritz is a local icon in Ottawa all year long and is a popular destination in winter when the canal is frozen for skating, or in summer for boaters and pedestrians.
Depth can be a challenge for larger cruisers or sailboats so it’s important to check your draft before entering this body of water; it’s recommended your draft not exceed much more than four feet, or you could run into issues if conditions are not optimal (due to unexpected weed growth for example).
On the canal(,) there are 47 locks boaters “lock through” to avoid rapids or waterfalls to continue their journey up or down river. Permits to access the locks must be purchased from Parks Canada staff on-site before locking through, or through the Government of Canada website.
For more details order your copy of the Rideau Canal Ports Guide here.
Best “Boat Up” Patios
- La Terrasse – Ottawa
The Chateau Laurier houses this phenomenal patio with epic views of Canada’s Parliament, the final series of eight locks that mark the northern end of the Rideau Canal where it meets the Ottawa River, and the Quebec shoreline. Dining on this patio at sunset is the pinnacle of experiences on the Rideau Canal and the view alone is worth the effort of finding a spot to tie up.
Docking: Docking is prohibited too close to the last set of locks on the canal, so you will need to find a spot farther south and walk to the Chateau Laurier. Don’t worry, the view will be worth the effort.
- 1 Elgin (National Arts Centre) – Ottawa
The patio at the National Arts Centre is located just feet from the Rideau Canal, and with a stellar view of the canal and Chateau Laurier (not to mention the sunset on a clear day). This is a great spot to dine if the weather is inclement as the terrasse has sliding windows that can shield you from the elements without obstructing the view.
Docking: You can tie up on the cleats found in frequent intervals along the canal wall. It’s not recommended you tie up on the railings that border the canal wall, although some boaters do take advantage of the easy opportunity.
Travelling by boat on the Rideau Canal is a must-experience for boaters. Travelling from end to end can offer a lovely boating vacation and you won’t run out of things to do.
- Canal Ritz – Ottawa
In the heart of the trendy Glebe in Ottawa lies Canal Ritz, a community icon and local favourite during skating season or the summer months. The patio is perched right on the edge of the canal with great views of passing boats and is naturally cooled from the breeze off the water, perfect for summer.
Docking: You can dock along the canal wall on either side of the restaurant, but even these spots can get busy in the summer months.
- Kelly’s Landing – Manotick
You can’t miss this restaurant as you cruise past on your way to or from Manotick as the patio is always packed and the finger docks in front are often so busy there is a line-up to access the restaurant’s docking facilities. This is a great spot to take a mid-day break for lunch or an early dinner but be prepared to wait for a table without a reservation.
There’s always a crowd at Kelly’s Landing in Manotick.
Docking: The finger docks can accommodate up to 16 boats, although even these are often full at prime lunchtime or dinnertime. There’s also gas available here, so you can fuel up at the same time.
- Dow’s Lake – Ottawa
Dow’s Lake Pavilion is a nice spot to detour for a meal or some time spent on shore. Stop for a bite on Mexi’s second-floor patio with views up the Rideau Canal or if you’re looking for lighter fare, Umbrella Bar has appetizers that are hearty enough for a meal. Both patios have great views of the water.
Docking: There are numerous places to tie up along the canal wall that encircles the man-made Dow’s Lake, or you can possibly take a transient spot at Dow’s Lake Marina, if there are any available.
- Swan on the Rideau
This long-time favourite restaurant specializes in British-style pub fare and their patio overlooks Hurst Marina, so diners get a good view of the water and the boatyard below. A great place to stretch your legs, although there’s not much else available at this location.
Docking: There are a large number of transient slips at the marina where you can tie up. Fuel is also available on-site.
- The Opinicon – Chaffey’s Lock
An old-fashioned Ice Cream Shop, Pub & Dining Room. Boaters on the Rideau Waterway can take advantage of their restaurant patrons docking to also dine on their fantastic Pub Patio, overlooking the front grounds. The on-site, old-fashioned Ice Cream Shop is a must-visit, whether for dessert or the main course with their house-made ice cream.
Docking: You can dock right at Chaffey’s Locks but this is typically a very busy spot on the Rideau Canal so there may not be room.
View from Opinicon Patio.
- Rob Roy’s – Smiths Falls
Smiths Falls is literally the heart of the Rideau Canal so you would think there would be many water-side patios here, but the orientation of the canal affords few opportunities for waterside dining. Rob Roy’s is located at the end of a now unused branch of the canal lock system in the back of a waterfront hotel, the Econolodge.
Docking: While the hotel has docks installed on the water, they’re not maintained and it’s recommended you dock at the Combined Lock29a and walk to the restaurant.
- The Galley Restaurant (Len’s Cove Marina) – Portland
This is a busy spot in Portland on Big Rideau Lake and a great place to stop if you want to stretch your legs onshore for a bit. Len’s Cove Marina is a resort-style marina with plenty of bells and whistles, including an on-site restaurant. Dine overlooking the marina and beautiful Big Rideau Lake. Reservations are recommended here.
Docking: You can dock right at the marina in one of their transient slips reserved for the restaurant (based on availability). There is also fuel available here so you can refuel at the same time.
Len’s Cove Marina
- CCs on the Rideau
Located in the tiny hamlet of Rideau Ferry, CC’s on the Rideau is a lovely surprise between Lower Rideau and Big Rideau Lake. Their patio is a big hit in the summer months, and the convenience of boat-up dining can’t be beat. Keep an eye out for the local kids who love to jump off the Rideau Ferry bridge into the water below, then swim to the shoreline in front of the patio and climb out to do it all over again.
Docking: Docks are located out front of the restaurant and are available for guests’ use, but if these are full there are also community finger docks located below the bridge where there may be more space.
The Galley is at Len’s Cove Marina.