There Are Many Perfect Day Trips From Kingston, Ontario For All Interests!
If you’re done exploring all the great things to do and see in Kingston, you might be ready for a day trip. Luckily, there are a number of amazing day trip ideas from Kingston that will have you out of the city in no time at all.
From stunning hikes with views to charming small towns, local waterways, and even wineries to visit, there is a Kingston day trip to suit all interests.
For this post, we teamed up with another Kingstonian to tap into even more local explorer knowledge. Hailing from near Ottawa, Chris F. is a good friend/former housemate of Eric’s – and the two of them combined have almost 20 years of experience living in Kingston.
So, here’s our detailed guide on some top day trip ideas you can embark on from Kingston!
Table of Contents
Hiking & Beach Hopping at Sandbanks & West Lake
The whole Sandbanks area is a marvel. As Canadians, we are spoiled by endless lakes and rivers, forests and mountains. But did you know there is a massive sand dune formation just an hour away from Kingston in Prince Edward County?
It is a unique feature to see and reminds one of a desert – something we don’t often see in Canada, let alone in Ontario. Sandbanks itself is a popular Provincial Park. A great day out of the city involves using the Park’s day-use areas with a hike and long walk of Lakeshore Beach.
Read More: Our Detailed Guide to Discovering Sandbanks Provincial Park
However, if you venture inland, you’ll reach the inland lake called West Lake. It’s here that you will be greeted by enormous sand dunes and Dunes Beach.
On these rolling dune formations, the world is your oyster. You can hike, tan, swim, frisbee, or just roll down the dune for good fun. The sandy dunes transform into an amazing snowshoe trail in the winter, with windswept hills of endless sand and snow.
Distance from Kingston: Sandbanks is about one hour 20 minutes west of Kingston via the 401 to County Road 49. You could also take Route 33 into the County – that includes the Glenora Ferry crossing!
Wine + Beer Tour in Prince Edward County
Speaking of PEC, the whole region is prime for day trips from Kingston that suit all different interests. While some might go for Sandbanks and the beaches, others may head there for the wine and beer!
Prince Edward County is among the top wine-producing regions in the province. It can often feel hard to keep up with all the new PEC wineries popping up! Some notables are Huff Estates, Trail Estate, and – one of our favourites – Sandbanks Estate Winery.
Along with wine, the brewery and cider scene is also exploding – with Lake on the Mountain Brewery, Parson’s and Matron Fine Beer just a few of the PEC breweries you can visit.
With so many places to stop in for a tasting, it’s a great idea to get a designated driver or hop on a PEC wine tour. This way, you can simply sit back and enjoy the tastings while a driver navigates the beautiful region!
Distance from Kingston: 1 hour to Picton (the heart of PEC), 1 hour 30 minutes to Sandbanks Estate Winery (closer to Wellington), for reference
If you have more time than just a day trip, PEC also makes a terrific destination for a weekend getaway in Ontario.
Canoe Tripping in Frontenac Park
A common theme from Kingstonians is “I moved here and fell in love.” And while the city itself offers everything a large city offers, the primary reason many people love Kingston and stay here is because of the area it is surrounded by – known as South Frontenac.
This is an area of countless lakes, swamps, rivers, and hikes with the opportunity for camping, canoeing, and experiencing true nature. The best part? It starts only minutes outside of Kingston and does not involve hours of sitting in traffic to get to.
A favourite outing is heading for Frontenac Provincial Park for a calming paddle. You can rent canoes/kayaks from Frontenac Outfitters located close by. They will fully gear you up for a day’s adventure in Frontenac Park for a very reasonable price.
Once you’ve entered the park, a favourite area for paddling is North and South Otter Lakes. Here, you will be greeted by beaver dams, several islands and cliffs, osprey nests, and an abundance of curious fish and turtles.
Start South and loop around South Otter Lake before canoeing through the culvert under the road to access the busier North Otter Lake. Bring lots of sunscreen, water, and a picnic lunch to enjoy on an island of your own.
Distance from Kingston: 45 minutes north of Kingston
If you have more time than just a day trip, Frontenac Park is a prime location for accessible backcountry camping in Ontario.
Hike For Views at Rock Dunder
For a classic Ontario hiking experience, head to Rock Dunder Nature Reserve. Most hikes in the area, while pretty, do not offer anything close to the views from atop Rock Dunder.
The trail to the top is a very moderate 1.5-3 hour loop hike. However, there are some steep sections so good footwear is recommended. Near the top, you’ll be greeted by a cooling breeze atop a giant rolling rock face where trees no longer grow.
Choose your own rocky outcrop to sit on and enjoy the views of Whitefish Lake far below. You might spot some turkey vultures riding thermals overhead.
After a relaxing break, hike to the cabin at the bottom of the hill (you may have already seen this depending on which direction you hiked in).
At this point, the trail loops right to the parking lot. However, a “secret” spot looms for the adventurous. Turn left at the bottom of the hill and you will see another smaller loop that includes a small jumping rock.
Across the bay, there is a larger jumping rock with a climbing rope and an access path. You don’t have to jump – but you can still enjoy a refreshing swim so it is wise to bring a bathing suit and towel.
After a great hike and a cooling swim, you will have checked off the list one of the best day trips that the Kingston area has to offer.
Distance from Kingston: 45 minutes driving up Hwy 15 northwest of Kingston
Kayak or Bike to Explore Wolfe Island
For the fit and/or the ambitious visitors to Kingston, a great day trip is to choose a calm, sunny day and push yourself to your paddling best.
You can rent kayaks from Ahoy Rentals located on the shoreline of downtown Kingston. They’ll set you up with all the right gear and make sure the conditions are safe for your skill level.
At your own pace, navigate the channel between the Kingston waterfront and Wolfe Island – the largest island in the area. It is about 1-2 hours of kayaking to get to Wolfe Island (depending on the wind).
Upon arrival, treat yourself with a bite at the Wolfe Island Grill in the small town of Marysville (where the Wolfe Island Ferry arrives/departs). The burger with watermelon salad is incredible.
Park your boats on shore, walk the historic town and visit the Fargo General Store, check out the Wolfe Island Bakery, and go for a dip at the docks.
For those that prefer biking, rent a bike from Ahoy and board the Wolfe Island Ferry. When you arrive, bike to Big Sandy Bay (a great beach about one hour from Marysville) and enjoy the sun and the blue water. Remember the entrance fee is cash only!
Distance from Kingston: 20 minutes via ferry to Marysville from downtown Kingston
Pontoon Boat the Famous 1000 Islands
Having spent a decade’s worth of summers in Kingston, this may be Chris’ favourite experience.
There’s always something new to discover in the Thousand Islands region of St. Lawrence: the turquoise water, the rocky patches of trees, and the aging cottages to admire. This uniqueness makes it perfect for a day cruise.
Check out Camelot Island (sites #1 and 2), as well as any of the other endless spectacular islands.
There are several other landmarks like the Statue of St. Lawrence (only visible by boat), the 1000 Islands International Bridge, and the famously beautiful Boldt Castle and Yacht House which you can cruise past or choose to visit.
If you have extra time, it is worth stopping into the cute town of Ivy Lea and eating at the restaurant on the marina. Again, the water in the area is crystal clear, turquoise, and perfect for swimming.
Distance from Kingston: Depends on where you rent from – you can be at a rental dock in as little as 15 minutes driving or 30 minutes driving (closer to Gananoque).
You can also book a 1000 cruise from Kingston if you don’t want to rent a boat and you’re looking for a relaxing yet entertaining few hours out on the water.
Lake Hop Through the Rideau Canal
If you’re still searching for ways to get out on the water, you could always lake hop on parts of the Rideau Canal
Kingston is connected to Ottawa via the Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – comprising over 45 locks.
This Rideau Canal system is prettiest in the section from Kingston to Smiths Falls – particularly the area near Jones Falls (with its Stone Arch Dam) and Lake Opinicon. We even mentioned this route in our post on Ontario summer activities!
With a boat, you can experience true freedom with personalized and free lock service to transition you between lakes. Lake hopping to your heart’s desire, enjoying a picnic on an uninhabited island or swimming are all fair game for a day like this!
If you drove north to hop onto a rented boat, you could stop just north of Kingston at the Kingston Mills Locks (Locks 46 through 49) on the way home.
Here, at the end of the Rideau Canal, you can park and see the locks from a different perspective. You might even enjoy a picnic dinner by the lakefront at Colonel By Lake.
Distance from Kingston: 45 minutes to Lake Opinicon, 35 minutes to Seeley’s Bay
Discover Historic Gananoque
Known as the “Gateway to the Thousand Islands,” a visit to Gananoque makes a simple yet full-day trip from Kingston.
Because of its location right on the mighty St. Lawrence River, Gananoque is a popular spot for beginning a 1000 Islands boat cruise. The local operator is Gan Boat Line and they have been cruising those waters for decades!
Aside from the famous islands offshore, Gananoque is a charming little town with many shops, places to eat, and a lovely waterfront to stroll along. After a walk along the water, stop into Gan Brewing Company along the inner Gananoque River and enjoy an afternoon sip in the sun.
For lunch, pop into The Purple House Cafe for their pizza or Stonewater Pub near the water. Speaking of water, the 1000 Islands History Museum is right near the docks and is a stone’s throw from Joel Stone Heritage Park. To get out on the water on your own, you can rent something to paddle from 1000 Islands Kayaking Co. to explore the area.
Distance from Kingston: 30 minutes driving from Kingston
Stargaze at Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area
Want to see the northern lights in Southern Ontario? It’s an actual (although perhaps slight) possibility at the Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area!
The area is in a unique position between Ottawa-Kingston-Toronto where it is just the right amount of distance away to be barely (or not at all) affected by light pollution. This makes the Viewing Area a great thing to do in Ontario no matter the season!
In summer, choose a cloudless night and bring your camping chairs. You’ll be treated to views of the sky – and likely see a few photographers and telescopes there, too! You might even kayak the lake before settling in for a BBQ dinner and watching the stars.
In the winter season, choose a cold clear night and consult the Aurora Borealis app for information on the best odds of seeing the dazzling green flashes. Even if you don’t see the auroras, at the very least you will be greeted by incredible stars.
Before stargazing in winter, this area is a good launch point for some of the best snowshoeing around.
You’ll find groomed hilly paths and snowmobile trails in the area – just be sure to check ice conditions if you head out on any nearby lakes. Who said there aren’t plenty of things to do in Ontario in winter?!
Distance from Kingston: 55 minutes, straight north of Napanee on County Road 41
Explore Charming Small Towns
The area around Kingston is packed with small towns that are ripe for exploring. Whether you are interested in tasting local foods, exploring local history, or experiencing nature – there’s a small town for you!
Almonte, Perth, Carp, and Carleton Place are all small towns roughly located between Ottawa and Kingston. These riverside towns are packed with history – from old town halls and mills to being the birthplace of the founder of basketball (fact)!
Each has its own cute “downtown” area with colourful shops, bakeries, cafes, and waterside patios for greats or local beers with rushing water views. Carp even has a winery and a top Ontario attraction known as the Diefenbunker Museum!
There’s no better way to support local businesses than by checking out any of these eastern Ontario small towns. To be fair, these towns also make a great day trip from Ottawa if you’re looking for one!
In the other direction (west) of Kingston, Campbellford is a small town not to be missed. As the home of the “Toonie” (a giant replica of the Canadian 2 dollar coin), famous eateries like Dooher’s Bakery, and the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge, there’s something to see, eat, and do in Campbellford.
Distance from Kingston: Anywhere from 1 hour 15 minutes (Almonte) to 2 hours (Carp)
Fuel Your Adrenaline in Calabogie
For the perfect Kingston day trip that doesn’t include a boat rental, head to Calabogie. This small town situated in the rolling Ottawa Valley is located north of Kingston. It’s also one of the places in Ontario to get your adrenaline fix!
Most notable is Calabogie Motorsports Park. This race track is a top speed circuit that you can enjoy in a few ways: with your own car, with a driving pro and their rentals (a Mustang), or as a passenger as a pro takes you out for a few laps!
They also hold motorcycle races which you check out – and even winter driving classes to get used to the wintery roads.
Aside from the Motorsports Park, Calabogie is known for its sprawling ATV/dirt bike trails. With trails for all skill levels – and local tours that will safely take you out for a fun day – it’s another great way to experience the outdoors and a bit of speed.
Of course, Calabogie is also home to a beautiful lake of the same name prime for paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking. There are also several hiking trails in the area like the famous Eagles Nest Lookout or Wabun Lake/Sugar Mountain Trail.
You can even make the day trip in winter with skiing/snowboarding at Calabogie Peaks Resort – one of the best mountains in the Ottawa Valley region. Whatever you end up doing, go to Calabogie Brewing Company for a riverside beer and bite to eat or check out Oh-el-la for a cute café in the area.
Distance from Kingston: Around 2 hours driving north
And there you have it – some of the best ideas for day trips from Kingston, Ontario. There’s a day trip for everyone no matter your interests. Just be sure to plan ahead and check websites for opening hours and/or availability before you drive out to make your visit.
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
If you’re planning on exploring Kingston, we’ve got many other helpful posts (it helps to be locals):
- Where to Stay in Kingston – Accommodation Guide
- Great Bars and Pubs in Kingston
- Awesome Kingston Breweries
- Guide to Kingston Restaurants
- Cafes & Coffee Shops in Kingston