Category Archives: Ontario

Explore Canada’s Rideau Waterway on Le Boat

Explore Canada’s scenic and historically significant Rideau Waterway with Le Boat,  the largest operator of self-drive boating holidays in Europe. As the captain of your own boat, you  cruise in your own time and stop at your leisure. 

Le Boat docked at twilight
Le Boat docked at twilight photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Depending upon the model, Le Boat accommodates between two and 12 passengers. All regular berths come with ensuite baths making Le Boat the perfect economic option for families and small groups traveling together.

Le Boat Interior cabin
Le Boat Interior cabin photo credit: Sherel Purcell

These custom contemporary styled craft offer a natural, light-filled kitchen/dining area and a spacious top deck for maximum cruising and viewing pleasure.

From Canada’s capital, Ottawa to her former capital, Kingston, the 125-mile (202 kilometers) route traverses forests, wetlands, the rocky Canadian Shield and the famous locks system – a technology dating from the 1830s earning the waterway a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

The cities and towns abutting the Rideau Waterway where boaters dock at marinas and lock sites are well worth a visit. Ottawa, the largest city on the watery route, offers docking near the downtown area. Highlights include the National Gallery of Canada, the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Museum of Nature, the parliament buildings and the selfie – worthy Ottawa sign-sculpture on the edge of the Byward Market.

Smith Falls Golf and Country Club
Smith Falls Golf and Country Club photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Heading west on the Rideau, the happening town of Smith Falls is served by Via Rail and is home to Canadian golf sensation, Brooke Henderson and her sister-caddy, Brittany. Their home course, The Smith Falls Golf and Country Club allows visitors to play at reasonable rates for a pretty course in excellent condition.

Tweed, a new cannabis operation occupying 1,000,000 square feet offers tours of this highly scientific venture focusing on recreational and medicinal products that seeks to provide beverages to rival the alcohol market with a new emphasis on flavor. In homage to the former Hershey factory’s roots they’ve started producing chocolate and post tour samples are available as is their excellent coffee.

Eastern Canada’s only railway museum and a heritage museum that focuses on the old and the new are worth a visit. A good dining option, the Axe and Arrow offers tasty fish, seafood and local specials along with products from the excellent Perth Brewery.

A few hours sail away – Le Boat caps the speed at 10 kilometers an hour (6 miles) – sits the town of Perth, famous for its sizeable collection of limestone buildings and a main street built over the waterway. Quality local goods, new restaurants, cafes, a cheese shop and an English garden complete the pretty picture. The Rocky River cafe offers high-end pub food and healthier options in an attractive indoor/outdoor setting with excellent local brews.

Town of Westport Ontario
Town of Westport Ontario photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Another worthwhile stop, Westport, is home to the Scheuermann Winery whose folks will transport boaters to the scenic, six-acre vineyard and cafe above the water amidst rolling hills. Oven-fired pizza, inventive salads and tasty varietals top off a perfect day of boating.

The Westport Brewing Company occupies an intimate, contemporary-styled pub with a patio overlooking the waterway and serves tasting flights of their pale and darker brews.

Chaffey’s Lock, along with the usual waterside picnic and barbeque sites and friendly, helpful Parks Canada Lockmasters, offers good access to the 104-kilometer Cataraqui recreational trail – perfect for the folding bikes that can be rented from Le Boat to accompany your trip.The Lockmaster’s House Museum, an art gallery and the excellent cuisine of the Opinicon Resort all warrant a visit.

Previously published on USA Today

Golf Horseshoe Valley

Just as McBroom and Cupp took advantage of Muskoka’s natural gifts to create Deerhurst Highlands,  noted “hands-on” designer, Rene Muylaert and his protégé, Sean Watters, created two very different courses from a series of horseshoe – shaped hills near Barrie, an hour south of Deerhurst.

Horseshoe Highlands, on the Globe and Mail’s “Top 50 Best Courses in Canada” list, hosted a Canadian Tour championship in 2006. The course reflects the minimalist design esthetics of both men who planned the holes very carefully to move as little soil as possible.

Hole 1 Horseshoe Highlands
Hole 1 Horseshoe Highlands

The opening downhill par four, ranging from 286 to 316 yards, tempts big hitters to go for the green. The rest of the holes on this scenic front nine, completed by Watters in 2002, play longer thanks to sloping fairways, sprawling sand traps and perception – altering backdrops that challenge the most skillful player.

Excellent views of Barrie, Collingwood, Orillia and Georgian Bay await players at the par-4 elevated 5th tee, the hardest hole on the course. Most shots to the raised green will catch the elephant-backed fairway rolling balls off course.

Like most of these holes, length trumps accuracy; take more club than what your eyes and distance markers suggest. The par-4 14 th, the best hole on the maturing back nine, demands a shot to the right rough to outwit the hillside fairway that kicks balls sharply left into the trees.

Driving west on Horseshoe Valley Road from the Highlands Course you’ll see some of the best holes on the older Valley Course which, engulfed in maples, makes for a colourful autumn round. Opened in 1974, it’s a favorite with walkers who appreciate the parkland setting that backs onto Copeland Woods, home to curious moose, cougars, wild turkeys, deer and rabbits.

Horseshoe Valley Par 3
Horseshoe Valley Par 3

The tight fairways, lined with mature trees require strategically-targeted shots to avoid low-hanging branches on the many short, dogleg par fours. Players get a break on the scenic par-4 15th where all shots feed down to the hole. You’ll rarely see a straight putt on any of these greens.

The round ends with the best hole on the course, a par-5 played from an elevated tee, complete with panoramic views of the valley and a fairway that cuts sharp to the left and out of If you don’t have time to play both of these excellent tracks, play the front nine of Horseshoe Highlands and the back nine of the Valley course to experience the best of Horseshoe Resort golf.

When visiting the Simcoe region of cottage country, don’t miss the opportunity to play these beautiful and challenging tracks by notable Canadian golf course designers.