Check Out These Awesome Day Trips From Ottawa!
Are you looking to get out of the city for a bit? How about a day trip? Luckily for you, there are quite a few places to drive to around Ottawa that make an awesome one day adventure. Stunning nature parks and hikes can make for a great day whether you are travelling from Ottawa in the summer or winter!
We really like this area of the province known as Eastern Ontario. The Ottawa Valley and the surrounding landscape, which is dotted with lakes and rivers, is visually very scenic and tranquil. Eric has had the chance to explore a number of places over the years (like Almonte) but only so many of them make a solid day trip from Ottawa (for the purposes of a visitor or a local).
Having said that, there are many small towns that mix local history with culture, so there is no shortage of places to visit a short drive from Ottawa. There are even bigger cities that offer up a different option. Whether you are a family travelling with kids or you’re looking for a simple getaway with friends, there is a day trip from Ottawa to suit everyone!
Oh, and if you want to explore more of Ottawa, we’ve have you covered:
- Great Things to Do in Ottawa
- How to Spend One Full Day in Ottawa
- Places to Stay in Ottawa Guide
- Pubs and Bars in Ottawa (Told By a Local)
Before we dive in, we should mention that we define day trips as anything that is 2.5 hours driving and under. Also, day trips from Ottawa are best completed if you have a car. There’s just no way around it.
Ontario covers a lot of distance and terrain with minimal public transit options between places. So, if you need to rent a car to explore, you can compare prices for rental companies in Ottawa here.
Diefenbunker Museum + Carp
In our opinion, one of the coolest day trips from Ottawa is to head to the Diefenbunker Museum. Located in the small town of Carp, the Diefenbunker is the name given to the Cold War-era bunker which was built to protect very important Canadians (government officials, mostly) in the case nuclear war reached Canada. The Prime Minister at the time in the late 1950s was John Diefenbaker…. so you might get the name now!
Over the years, this massive underground facility has been restored and turned into a museum. It’s like a giant time capsule where you can learn all about the history of the bunker, Canada’s involvement in the Cold War, and lots of other cool historical points. Did you know that the Bank of Canada built a vault in there to house all the gold? Well, you can go and see it!
You can wander through the museum – spread around most of the 100,000 square foot bunker – on a self-guided tour or you can join one of the guided tours. That is included with your admission ticket. We did a guided tour and it was honestly really, really great. We had a passionate and informative guide who brought the museum to life and we definitely learned a lot.
If you head to the Diefenbunker Museum, you’ll be passing through the small town of Carp which you should also explore before you leave. There are a cafe, creamery, and even a brewery on the main street through town in case you’re looking for a place to eat before or after you visit the museum.
Address: 3929 Carp Rd, Carp, ON K0A 1L0, Canada
Ottawa to the Diefenbunker By Car
The best and basically the only way to get to the Diefenbunker is by car. Luckily, the route is very simple – just take Hwy 417 west out of Ottawa and then the exit for Carp Road northwest towards the town of Carp.
Once you pass through the small town of Carp, the entrance to the Diefenbunker is on your left. They have a very large parking lot so parking is really easy and free!
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, a great day trip from Ottawa is Almonte. The small historic town located on the Mississippi River – which is not the same as the one in the United States – makes a quaint little getaway. Eric stumbled upon Almonte many years ago through a local connection and the town has held a soft spot in his heart ever since.
There are actually a surprising number of things to do and see when you’re in Almonte. Fun fact: The inventor of basketball – John Naismith – was actually born and raised in Almonte and you can find a statue of him and a basketball hoop in the centre of town.
The “downtown core” is full of boutique shops while the surrounding area has a few museums, parks, and beaches where you can relax. Eric has been to Almonte Beach and it was good for a dip in the summertime.
A highlight of visiting Almonte is to relax by the river at the local pub/eatery the Barley Mow. It’s a great place to stop in for lunch or to enjoy a drink with locals and others passing through the area. There is also a really good ice cream stand called The Almonte Ice Cream Shop which you can try out after!
Address for Downtown Almonte: 79 Little Bridge St, Almonte, ON K0A 1A0, Canada
Ottawa to Almonte By Car
If you’re looking to head to Almonte from Ottawa, the only way to get there is by car. Luckily the drive is very simple – just take Hwy 417 west out of Ottawa and head south on March Road (49).
You just follow this street all the way to the heart of Almonte – it turns into Main Street East. The drive takes roughly 45 minutes so it’s very easy to head out in the morning and return in the evening without much hassle.
Owl Rafting on the Ottawa River
If you’re looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush, you might consider a more extreme day trip from Ottawa. How about going whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River? To do this you should check out Owl Rafting.
Long story short: Eric actually went rafting on the Ottawa River many years ago with his brother-in-law through Owl Rafting - and they had an incredible day. The rafting itself was super fun and very safe given that the guides and the company are very knowledgeable and well-accredited, respectively. The area is just one part of the Ottawa Valley which is quite beautiful so it’s also a great way to go and “get outdoors” for the day.
As a side note, Owl Rafting also has camping facilities and a main “resort” area in case you want to stay over the night before you go rafting. They even serve up breakfast at the main hall and bus you out to the starting point to meet the rafts. There are also different intensities to suit your group. You can check here to learn more about the Owl Rafting. We’d highly recommend a trip out!
Address: 40 OWL Lane, Foresters Falls, ON K0J 1V0, Canada
Ottawa to Owl Rafting By Car
If you’re thinking about going rafting for the day, Owl Rafting is located in Foresters Falls. This is a small town located northwest of Ottawa along the Ottawa River. You basically just take Highway 417 (the Trans-Canada Highway) almost all the way there and the driving time is only about 1 hour 30 minutes. This distance makes it quite easy to get there and back in a single day.
Diving into Canadian history is very easy to do if you head for Kingston on a day trip. If you’re new to Ontario Away, you should know that we have a slight bias towards Kingston. Eric lived and worked in Kingston for the better part of a decade and so we really enjoy the city and make frequent visits. You can even watch us explore Kingston on YouTube.
Having said that, there truly are many things to see and do in Kingston. Kingston was the original capital of Canada back in the day and is known as the “Limestone City” because of the material used in many of the historic downtown buildings.
Aside from walking the beautiful waterfront you can also check out top attractions like Fort Henry, the Kingston Penitentiary, or head out on a guided cruise of the Thousand Islands or on the Kingston Trolley Tour.
If you’re not into history, downtown Kingston is absolutely packed with shops, restaurants, cafes, and pubs. We won’t get too into the details because we have numerous posts on all these topics which you can find below.
Of course, to give you something to work with – you might want to check out Kingston Brew Company which is down near the Kingston Visitor Information Centre (located in an old train station). Kingston is also a good day trip option at any time of the year because there are many ways to enjoy the summer sun as well as activities to do in the winter – like skating at Springer Market Square.
Address for Visitor Information Centre: 209 Ontario St, Kingston, ON K7L 2Z1, Canada
Ottawa to Kingston By Car
If you want to explore Kingston from Ottawa, there are a number of ways to get there. For the purposes of a day trip the best way to travel is by car – but you have two options for routes:
The first option is to take Highway 416 south out of Ottawa until you hit Highway 401 heading west. The total driving time is around 2 hours and it’s very straightforward on just the two highways. Kingston has many highway exits – an exit at Division Street will bring you right to downtown.
The other more scenic driving option is to sneak your way across the rural landscape on a route that is made up mainly of Hwy 15. You’ll pass through a number of small towns like Carleton Place and Smiths Falls and eventually end up a bit northeast of Kingston. Just keep driving, turn right on Highway 2, and cross the Causeway Bridge to head downtown.
The driving time is a tad bit longer than the strict highway option above but it is a little more scenic and adventurous. It’s actually one of Eric’s favourite drives in all of Ontario – a post that we are planning to write in the future!
Ottawa to Kingston By Train
If you don’t want to drive to Kingston, you actually could take the train – but it comes with a number of details to consider. The Via Rail train does run between the two cities but the schedule might not work for the purpose of a day trip to get there and back.
Another thing to consider is the fact that the train station in Ottawa is a little bit far from downtown and the train station in Kingston is very far from downtown.
In either case, you are likely to grab a bus or taxi to get into the different city centres which adds to your travel time. That said, the train trip is around 2 hours and it’s quite pretty. You can learn more at the Via Rail website.
Ottawa to Kingston By Bus
Finally, if you are looking to take the bus there is actually an option (the Greyhound bus) that runs from Ottawa to Kingston. However, as we mentioned above, for the practicality of a day trip the times might be tight to get there and back. You can check out the schedule on the Greyhound website.
Full disclosure: We haven’t actually been to the Bonnechere Caves but they are very popular natural phenomenon/attraction in Ontario and we didn’t want to leave them off the list. We are dying to visit and we will write up a whole post when we do so keep you posted on that!
The caves are located in Eganville which is definitely easiest to get to with a car. The driving time is about 1 hour and 20 minutes to the northwest of Ottawa so it’s definitely doable in a day trip. You can learn more about visiting at the Bonnechere Caves website.
Address: 1247 Fourth Chute Rd, Eganville, ON K0J 1T0, Canada
If you’re looking to get out on the water for the day, you could always head down to Gananoque which is located on the Saint Lawrence River. This is another smaller historic city that is similar to Kingston in that there are a handful of attractions you can check out like the 1000 Islands History Museum. There are also some parks and beaches along the shoreline for a bit of a relaxing time.
Of course, it’s no secret that Gananoque is the gateway to the 1000 Islands – a large island chain that extends along the river between Canada and the USA. The islands are beautiful to sail through and also hold important cultural and historical significance due to their location between the countries. They are a popular place for cottage rentals and you might even want to head for Boldt Castle if you are in the area!
A top activity is to head out on the water on a 1000 Islands boat cruise (which you can do from Kingston or from Gananoque). The cruises are different lengths and some even offer live entertainment as well as a meal so check the Gananoque cruises website and choose one that works best for you and your group.
We have done the 1000 Islands Cruise but left from Kingston so if you want to read about that experience you can do so. The area is beautiful and feels very Canadian – like from a postcard, at times – so we’d recommend Gananoque as a day trip for sure.
Address for Gananoque 1000 Islands Visitor Centre: 10 King St E, Gananoque, ON K7G 1E6, Canada
Ottawa to Gananoque By Car
Once again the easiest way to get to Gananoque from Ottawa is by car. The drive is very simple and it is similar to the route to Kingston but shorter at 1 hour 40 minutes. Just take Hwy 416 south out of Ottawa to the 401 and head westbound. There are few exits for Gananoque but Highway 2 takes you right downtown to the waterfront.
Ottawa to Gananoque By Train
It’s theoretically possible to take the Via Rail from Ottawa to Gananoque. However, for the purposes of a day trip, we’re not sure if the schedules would work out. You can have a look at the Via Rail website. The train would be the same amount of time as driving at around 1 hour 40 minutes, in case you were wondering.
Last – but certainly not least – you could always head for the city of Montreal on a day trip from Ottawa. Admittedly, we like to focus on more Ontario-based locations on this website but for the purposes of thoroughness, we’ve decided to slip in Montreal because it is a great option. You could also head for Mont Tremblant and or other provincial parks in Québec – but we’ll leave those off the list for now.
Montreal is the largest city in Québec and it is also one of the largest cities in all of Canada so there is quite a bit to do and see if you visit. For those of you unaware, Québec is the French-speaking province in Canada but you can converse in English in Montreal quite easily as it is a bilingual city. There are lots of shops and cafes to visit – and places where you can eat local delicacies like smoked meat or poutine if you want!
Montreal also has quite a bit of history tied to the founding of Canada. You can learn all about this rich history in the Old Town down at the Old Port of Montreal along the water. A top attraction here is the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal which you shouldn’t miss. There are also a number of museums around the city and interesting attractions like La Ronde Amusement Park.
A must-do if you’re visiting Montreal is to hike up Mount Royal – the place from which the city is named – to the panoramic lookout over the city. You can take great photos from up there and the surrounding green space (Mount Royal Park) on the mountain makes for great exercise.
We’ve been to Montreal many times and actually have a number of posts about exploring the city – like how to spend one day in Montreal – on our other travel website which we have linked as a resource for you.
Address Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal:
Ottawa to Montreal By Car
Once again, the easiest way to get to Montreal is by car. You basically just take Highway 417 heading East out of the nation’s capital and eventually cross into Québec. From there you’ll only be a short distance to downtown Montreal.
The total driving time is around 2 hours and there’s lots of paid parking downtown. Quick note: Some Montreal drivers can be a little aggressive so keep that in mind!
Ottawa to Montreal By Train
If you don’t have a car, travelling by train is actually an option for once. The Via Rail train runs between Ottawa and Montreal numerous times a day and if you purchased the “Escape Fare” it can actually be affordable.
The train station in Ottawa is further from downtown so you’ll have to get there but the station you arrive at in Montreal is right in the heart of downtown. It also connects to the Metro for easy navigation. The train travel time is only about 2 hours so it’s certainly doable in the course of a day trip.
Ottawa to Montreal By Bus
Sticking with public transit, you can also travel to Montreal from Ottawa by bus. You would have to take the Greyhound and the travel time is around 2 hours. We haven’t done this particular bus route so we can’t comment on how it is but Greyhound is generally reliable especially between the largest cities in Ontario/Canada.
And there you have it – a short and sweet list of day trips from Ottawa that you can take! Of course, these are not all the places suitable for a day trip but these are places we have loved visiting and think are worth your time to explore. Over time, we will be adding more places to this post (like Perth!) so be sure to check back for any new additions!
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
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