One of the perennial pleasures of living in Ottawa is the opportunity each summer to enjoy all kinds of water activities with your family. We have rivers and lakes galore in these parts, not to mention a world-famous canal plus ponds, streams, creeks and waterfalls. Public beaches, waterparks, special events and festivals ensure there are plenty of reasons to take a dip and make a splash, all season long. Here’s a look at some of the top local options:
The annual Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is making waves from June 20 to 23 at Mooney’s Bay Park. With more than 200 teams, North America’s largest dragon boating event offers exciting action on the water, plus many attractions on terra firma. This celebration of sport, culture, heritage and the arts includes free family activities and concerts. The festival is also a fundraiser. Paddlers and festivalgoers raise money to support local charities through the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation. See www.dragonboat.net for details.
Wonders of Sand
There’s fun to be had both onshore and in the water at the annual Wonders of Sand festival taking place July 5 to 7 at Parc du Lac-Beauchamp, 741 Maloney Est, in Gatineau. Besides sand sculptures, sand sculpting workshops and activities on the beach, there’s also the Aquazone, an adventure park with 20 inflatables on water, raft races and the Big Splash, a huge water guns battle. See www.merveillesdesable.com for tickets and details.
Experience our historic capital like never before on an Ottawa City Rafting trip. Starting at Britannia Beach, these three-hour urban rafting adventures are offered both morning and afternoon and they combine thrills, water fun, sightseeing and history. You can see Parliament Hill from the river. En route options include body surfing and cliff jumping, but you don’t have to be a swimmer to take a trip.
Learn more: www.ottawacityrafting.com
If you’re looking for more whitewater action, head west to Beachburg. Owl Rafting, Wilderness Tours and River Run Rafting offer all-ages-friendly whitewater treks with both rafts and kayaks.
Witness the natural beauty of local wetlands on an airboat adventure with Bayou Outaouais in Gatineau. This adventure happens at McLaurin Bay along the Ottawa River. A wildlife-watching haven, it’s full of flora and fauna, including turtles, beavers, fish and birds. There’s also a hiking trail with a floating bridge you’ll want to explore.
Learn more: www.gobayou.com
Just outside Wakefield, you’ll find Éco-Odyssée, a unique, picturesque water maze featuring 60 intersections spread over six kilometres. There are different adventures here—The Wanderer, The Discoverer, The Observer, The Explorer and The Snooper. On all the different routes, participants head out in paddle boats; for The Wanderer option, you can book a paddle boat or a canoe. Each adventure in the maze has a different course, allowing you to learn about the habitat.
Participants are encouraged to observe or identify different elements of the marsh and the environment. There can be four people in a paddle boat: two adults and two children under four feet, while a third child, under age three, is permitted.
Learn more: www.eco-odyssee.ca
Pirate Adventures is an Ottawa escapade offering thrills and “high-seas” shenanigans that will delight everybody from grandpa to the littlest scallywag. This interactive theatre cruise takes place on a real pirate ship at Mooney’s Bay. It’s 75 minutes of non-stop action that will include discovering a treasure map, solving mysteries and the map’s secrets, defending the ship against evil “Pirate Pete,” making Pete walk the plank (ahar!), hauling the plunder aboard, sharing the treasure, singing, dancing and carrying on, pirate-style. The boat is wheelchair accessible and strollers are allowed onboard as well.
Cruises run seven days a week as long as there’s interest, and reservations are recommended. Custom packages and times are available, including evening sails. You’ll find the 50-foot wooden pirate ship at 588 Hog’s Back Road (Mooney’s Bay). To reserve a party or family cruise, call 613 859-5199 and check www.pirateadventures.ca for details. It’s recommended you arrive a half an hour before departure to get “pirate ready” with a costume, face paint and a pirate nametag.
Empress of Ottawa
Take a cruise aboard the Empress of Ottawa, operated by Capital Cruises, and see some top local attractions such as the Canadian Museum of History, Rideau Falls, and the Prime Minister’s residence from the water. There are two enclosed decks, plus an open-air deck. Historic sightseeing cruises, Sunday sunset cruises, dinner cruises and rock the river cruises are offered. The Ottawa dock is at the Rideau Canal Locks, 1 Canal Lane. Learn more: www.capitalcruises.ca
Any day you choose you can head out in a canoe, kayak, paddle boat or Stand Up Paddle Board from the Dow’s Lake Pavilion at 1001 Queen Elizabeth Drive. There are both one- and two-person kayaks available, while the canoes can accommodate two adults and two small children or three larger people. Rentals are offered until Thanksgiving, weather permitting. After you’re done paddling, you can enjoy a walk or a picnic along the canal. Learn more: www.dowslake.com
Situated just east of Ottawa off Highway 417, Calypso Waterpark includes water attractions for all ages. The 100-acre facility offers 35 slides, 100 water games and two theme rivers. It also has a huge wave pool, play areas for little ones and a selection of restaurants. Daily entertainment and special events are offered too. Learn more: www.calypsopark.com
Mont Cascades Mountain Waterpark
Located about 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa at 448 Mont-des-Cascades Road in Cantley, Mont Cascades Mountain Waterpark is a nice spot for a multi-generational day of water activities. There is plenty to amuse younger children and the oldsters don’t have to fear the prospect of being dragged onto death-defying rides by the enthusiastic tween in the family. Everybody can have a good time on the slides and in the pools. There’s also a picnic area and a full-service restaurant. Learn more: www.montcascades.ca
Britannia Beach at Britannia Bay off Carling Avenue, Mooney’s Bay Beach at 2926 Riverside Drive south of Hogs Back, Petrie Island at 727 Trim Road in the east end, and Westboro Beach at 745 Ottawa River Parkway are popular places for public swimming, picnicking and family outings. At all four locations lifeguards are on duty from June 15 to August 25, and you can rent both Stand-Up Paddle Boards and volleyball nets in the summer.