A Le Boat houseboat trip on the Rideau Canal in eastern Ontario redefines get away from it all — because you’re on a luxurious version of a small yacht with all the trimming, including full kitchen, multiple berths and heads, you’re in total control of where you go, when and how much you connect with the “real world” from the glorious distance of the water. (All particular benefits amid a global pandemic.) My family of five, including three children ages 13, 11 and 7, along with my mother-in-law, spent four days aboard Le Boat’s Horizon 3 — it sleeps up to seven and boasts one master cabin, two two-bed cabins (each with en-suite bathroom) and a spacious saloon and sundeck — cruising the Rideau lakes between Smith Falls and Westport late last August. Le Boat’s season typically runs from late May until early October and they offer trips ranging from a few days to a week or more. Here’s a recommended shorter itinerary that kept my crew smiling — and wishing for more.
COME SAIL AWAY | 1:30 p.m. First up, a crash course (hopefully without the crashing!) in the layout and amenities of your houseboat and a 20-minute hands-on tutorial in piloting an 11-plus-metre vessel. Fear not, the boats are well padded to handle minor bumps and thruster controls allow you to literally turn on dime. Le Boat staff won’t see you off until you’re comfortable at the helm.
UNLOCKING ADVENTURE | 3 p.m. Once you’re off, pass through Lock 31 in Smith Falls and slowly wind your way along the Rideau River, soaking in the quick escape from urban confines, on route to a testy narrow canal section where you pass the Poonamalie Lock station. Rejoin the main river again just south of the lock before entering Lower Rideau Lake.
MOOR TIME | 5 p.m. Moor on the lower side of the Lower Beveridges lock at the mouth of the Tay Canal (fellow boaters were quick and happy to help guide us into location). Enjoy a BBQ on board, take a short walk to the Upper Beveridges lock and enjoy a campfire at the communal pit. After lock hours, the area is a good spot for stand-up paddle boarding, too.
TAKEOFF TIME | 9 a.m. Head south on Lower Rideau Lake and enjoy the lake views, including the picturesque road stop where the bridge crosses the lake at the small community of Rideau Ferry, the beautiful shoreline along Murphy’s Point Provincial Park and numerous islands as you merge into Big Rideau Lake.
LUNCH BREAK | 12:30 p.m. The Narrows Lock 35 makes a great stopping point to stretch legs and to lunch, either on board or at a shoreline picnic spot. It’s also one of the more intriguing sights on the Rideau Canal, home to a hand-cranked swing bridge and one of only four blockhouses, originally for the canal’s military protection. The total elevation change here is just 90 centimetres, the lock having been created at a natural narrows in the original waterbody.
WESTPORT WAY | 3 p.m. Overnight at Westport Harbour with a beautiful view of the town rising up from the water’s edge. The community is the quintessential small town Canadian summer hot spot, easily walkable and boasting a variety of quaint local boutiques and eateries. The fishing’s easy here, too (an un-baited small spoon can nab reams of small bluegills) and the pier area is prime for a swim or simple watersports.
RETRACTING STEPS | 8:30 a.m. Get an early start on a half day on the water working your way back across Upper Rideau, north up Big Rideau and back to Lower Rideau Lake, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the Canadian Shield landscape and local wildlife along the way or another stopover at the Narrows.
FERRY FARE | 1 p.m. The small community of Rideau Ferry (named for its since long-replaced by a bridge ferry service) at the confluence of Lower and Big Rideau Lakes is another great stopping point to regain your land legs or enjoy a bite to eat. Two small restaurants and a convivence store are adjacent to the pier and are popular summer haunts for local boaters.
CANAL SECLUSION | 3 p.m. Back at the Poonamalie Lock station amid a canal section of the winding Rideau River just west of Smith Falls makes a great nighttime stopover. The tree-lined spot feels secluded and remote. There’s an easy walking trail along the north side of the canal and the fishing is good here, too — small fry to be had easily on the upriver side of the lock, while some lunkers lurk on the downside. A great spot to just commune with nature from the water.
BACK TO SMITH FALLS | 10:30 a.m. Le Boat cruises ending in Smith Falls typical conclude midday and with clean up and pack up duties on the crew’s agenda, an early arrival is advised. But soak in the last moments of the snaking Rideau River along the way. And once disembarked, don’t miss local attraction such as the Rideau Canal Visitor Centre or the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario.