The Rideau is a wonderful spot to tour by car. Each turn of the road presents a new vista. There are lots of interesting spots to stop at, any one of the 24 lockstations, the many quaint villages, the local conservation areas, all are easily accessible by car.
The tours listed below have been divided into various themes. Print these out and use them as your guide to explore the Rideau. You can follow these to the letter or use them as a general guide to design your own driving tour of the area. Maps have been included with each tour although you may wish to have a copy of the official Ontario road map.
These driving tours will allow you to explore various aspects of the Rideau. Most of these tours require less than 2 to 4 hours of actual driving time, giving you plenty of time to stop and enjoy the countryside. Road conditions are good throughout the Rideau. Some of the gravel roads can be a bit washboardy if you hit them at the wrong point in the grading cycle. However the rule on a driving tour is to never rush, follow Perth's town motto, "Make Haste Slowly".
The Rideau has a rich heritage, still very much in evidence today in the form of the locks, operated today much as they were when first opened in 1832, and the old stone houses, churches and mills of the various communities along the Rideau. The driving tours take you into these heritage areas, with stops at the locks, local museums and other interesting sites.
The Rideau Heritage Route provides a heritage tour from Kingston to Ottawa (or vice-versa). This full tour will allow you to explore all the Rideau has to offer. For those interested in shorter tours, those living in Ottawa may wish to start with the Heritage Tour North which takes you south to Merrickville and Burritts Rapids. If you live in the central Rideau region, try the Heritage Tour Central which takes you from Perth to Smiths Falls, down to Kilmarnock Lock, up to Narrows Lock and back to Perth. Those starting off from the Kingston area may wish to try the Heritage Tour South, which goes up to Kingston Mills Locks, and then takes you through Lyndhurst, Delta, Forfar and over to Chaffey's Lock before returning you to Kingston.
The object of the picnic tour is to travel back to simpler times. There is no better place to do this than the Rideau. Take a break from fast lives, fast food, and urban pressures. Pack a picnic lunch, your swim gear, a fishing rod, and prepare to relax.
The Picnic Tour North leaves from Ottawa and heads south to either Merrickville or Burritts Rapids. Both places afford the opportunity to spend a lazy day relaxing. The Picnic Tour South leaves from Kingston and heads north to Jones Falls. It is said that if a young woman donned her white summer frock and was courted at the Jones Falls dam on Victoria Day (May), she would marry her sweetheart within a year.
The Rideau is a host to several different ecosystems. The Frontenac Axis, part of the Canadian Shield, underlies the central Rideau, creating the beautiful Rideau Lakes. Younger sedimentary rocks to the north and south have created gently rolling farming country. Each area presents unique opportunity for wildlife viewing and simply enjoying nature in general.
The Ecology North Tour leaves from Ottawa and takes you to a couple of interesting conservation areas as well as providing an opportunity to visit Rideau River Provincial Park. The Ecology Central Tour leaves from Perth and offers two options, visits to several interesting conservation areas and/or a visit to Murphys Point Provincial Park. The Ecology South Tour leaves from Kingston and heads north to the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area and then continues on to the Foley Mountain Conservation Area near Westport.
The Fall Colours Tour will take you along some of the backroads of the Rideau where you can view a variety of Fall colour vistas. Many local communities have fall fairs, and if you are driving through on a weekend, these are worth a stop. Early October usually provides the best colour displays.
Although not driving tours per se, some of the road-only cycling tours found in the cycling section of this website also make for interesting driving tours.
This section of the website was originally done before on-line maps and GPS units became common. So the maps provided are rather basic. However, there are a host of on-line map resources that will allow for detailed planning of your Rideau driving adventure (plus part of the fun is getting lost - try it!)