Sitting at the confluence of Lake Ontario, Rideau Canal and the St. Lawrence River, Kingston, Ontario, boasts stunning natural landscapes and a rich history that stretches back more than 300 years. Kingston’s prevalent 19th-century limestone architecture earned it the nickname “Limestone City.” Today Kingston is a vibrant town that hosts a world-class hockey team and numerous annual festivals, including international tourist attractions like Kingston Canadian Film Festival, Limestone City Blues Festival, Kingston Jazz Festival and Kingston WritersFest. A 3-hour drive from Toronto and about 2 hours from Ottawa, the city makes a great getaway destination.
The St. Lawrence River is a breathtaking waterway, at points reaching a breadth of more than 19 km (12 miles). What better place to experience it than from St. Lawrence Islands National Park? The park claims a section of river stretching from Kingston to Brockville, including the Thousand Islands region, one of Kingston’s top tourist attractions. The islands—actually more than 1,800 of them—are accessible only by boat and are dispersed off shore in an area well served by campgrounds, motels, cabins, RV sites and boat launches. Islands feature picnic areas for day trippers and pay campsites for overnighters.
You do not have to leave the mainland, however, to experience a relaxing day in a beautiful setting. Visitors can enjoy the park’s nature trail and St. Lawrence River beach. Cruise boats navigate amongst the islands throughout the summer, giving tourists a look at historic sights like Boldt Castle, a six-storey stone monument built by George Boldt. Its construction halted abruptly in 1904 when Boldt’s wife, Louise, died. Completion, renovation and preservation of the castle were taken over 73 years later by local authorities, and visitors can view their ongoing progress.
There are many things to do in Kingston for history buffs, who should check out the four Martello towers, masonry fortifications once armed to defend the navigable waterways bordering the United States. Continue with a tour of St. George’s Cathedral, which features the original stained-glass windows from its construction ending in 1828. The church faces the site of its predecessor, the first St. George’s church. Built in 1791, the “old” church marks Kingston’s founding spot, where John Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, proclaimed Upper Canada a new Canadian jurisdiction.
Sports fans will also find things to do in Kingston, known by many as the birthplace of ice hockey. An 1843 journal entry from a British Army officer stationed in Kingston—the first known reference to hockey and taken as proof of the claim—reads, “Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice.” Less contested is the claim that Kingston is party to the longest-standing team rivalry in the history of the sport, stemming from an 1886 game played there between Queen's University and the Royal Military College of Canada. Today, hockey fans can visit the International Hockey Hall of Fame, about a 5-minute drive from K-Rock Centre, home arena for the Kingston Frontenacs.