Doors Open Kingston

Last Saturday was Doors Open in Kingston. For those who are unfamiliar, Doors Open is an event where museums and buildings not usually open to the public allow people to visit them for free. Doors Open Ontario events are scheduled on weekends throughout the summer months, running from May-October, and have many participating cities. Check out their website for more information and for participating locations.

I took this opportunity to learn more about Kingston and explore some buildings that I’ve never been to. Most of Kingston’s participating buildings were located near downtown so I managed to visit the following 4 places.

Queen’s University Archives
The Queen’s University Archives is home to a large collection of documents, pictures and media, preserving the history of Queen’s as well as the Kingston area.Their goal is to save items in their original form, as the format these documents come in can tell us a lot about the specific time period. For example, remember cassette tapes? Wonder if they will be completely forgotten about in a few decades. We were given a guided tour of the archives, visited two of their holding rooms and were told a bit about its history.

Murney Tower Museum
Kingston’s harbour is made up of 5 main fortifications, which are Fort Henry, and four Martello towers (Murney Tower, Shoal Tower, Fort Frederick Tower and Cathcart Tower). Murney Tower is a National Historic Sight of Canada and allows visitors to get a glimpse of military life in 19th century Kingston. Another tower that is regularly open to visitors is the Fort Frederick Tower, which is home to the Royal Military College Museum.

Murney Tower Museum

Murney Tower Museum

Bellevue House
This is another National Historic Sight of Canada, and it was the house of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. The house has been restored to look as it would during the 1840s, however only a few of the items in the house are original. The staff are dressed in costumes from that time period and are happy to answer any questions.

Tip: If you eat at Sir John’s Public House, located at 343 King St E, in Kingston, and your bill is over $25, then you can get free admission to Bellevue House.

Bellevue House

Bellevue House

Guest room of Bellevue House

Guest room of Bellevue House

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum
The Penitentiary Museum shares the history of Canada’s penitentiaries. The museum sits right across the street from Kingston Penitentiary, and the house used to be the Warden’s residence. There are 8 rooms in total showing visitors the stories, artifacts and programs that have been a part of Canada’s penitentiaries throughout the years.

Canada's Penitentiary Museum

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum

Overlooking Kingston Penitentiary

Overlooking Kingston Penitentiary

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Exploring north of Kingston

Kingston, Ontario is a lovely city. Many buildings in Kingston are built out of limestone, giving it the nickname ‘Limestone City’. Kingston also has a beautiful waterfront, where Lake Ontario meets with the Rideau Canal and the St. Lawrence River. On Saturdays there is a farmer’s market downtown, and an antique’s market on Sundays. There are plenty of beautiful heritage buildings to see, and a large selection of restaurants. But there are also a number of little towns nearby that are worth exploring.

A good place to get ideas and start planning activities for the day is at the Visitor Information Center located right downtown. They are very knowledgeable and helpful in providing ideas and helping you make your stay enjoyable. It is also a good place to go to get a map of Kingston and the surrounding areas. This is must for a road trip, after all, where would we be without our trusted map? Another handy thing for a day of exploring is bottled water. The Visitor Information Center sells water for $1/bottle. That’s the cheapest bottled water I know of in Kingston, so it is worth a mention. Now on to the road trip!

Road Trip Map

Road Trip Map

1st stop: Kingston Mills Lockstation
The Rideau Canal runs all the way from Kingston to Ottawa, and along the canal there are a total of 49 lockstations to allow the passage of boats through the different levels of the river. Driving north from Kingston, the first set of lockstations encountered are the three located at the Kingston Mills. On a warm sunny day there will most likely be boats crossing through the locks, which is always an interesting sight. The area is surrounded by greenery and it’s a nice place for a picnic.

2nd stop: Westport
Westport is a village on the Upper Rideau Lake. It’s nice to stroll through the village and explore the banks of the lake. It is also fairly quiet and relaxing sitting by the harbour and looking out at the lake. It seems to be a popular stop for boaters too, because the harbour was packed with boats. Westport was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

3rd stop: Perth
Perth is a picturesque town with beautiful heritage buildings and lots of parks and greenery.

Day Trip to Wolfe Island

Once in a while it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but that’s not always easy to do without a car. Luckily for me, Wolfe Island is just a short ferry ride away.

Wolfe Island is the largest of the Thousand Islands and is located on Lake Ontario, at the entrance of the St. Lawrence river, near Kingston. The island is made up of rural farmlands, but there are a couple of communities as well, the largest being Marysville. There are a number of things to do on Wolfe island, such as biking, going to the beach, bird watching, exploring Marysville, the corn maze, as well as a number of festivals during certain times of the year!

However, since the island is huge, a mode of transportation is required to get around. This time, I chose a tandem bike! Ahoy Rentals located on the Kingston waterfront is an excellent place to go for daily bike rentals. For the more adventurous, they also provide canoe, kayak and sailboat rentals. After getting our bike, we rode a short way to the ferry dock.  The ferry leaves approximately every hour, and is free. The ferry schedule is available here. As a pedestrian/bicyclist you can walk on to the ferry easily, so there’s no need to be there super early, but if you plan on taking your car to the island, it’s not a bad idea to be at least half an hour early to make sure you get a spot. The ferry takes about 20 minutes to reach Wolfe Island.

Off we go! Leaving the dock.

Off we go! Leaving the dock.

There are 4 cycling routes on Wolfe Island, each of them are of different lengths, allowing you to see a different aspect of the island. A map of all the routes is available here. The route we chose for this trip was the Extension to Big Sandy Bay. Biking from the Marysville dock all the way to Big Sandy Bay was approximately 10km one way.

Tandem Bike!

Tandem Bike!

Big Sandy Bay is a large conservation area, with a 1.3 km trail through wetlands and woodlands, leading to a secluded beach. It is also home to many birds, rare trees and rare species of plants. It is open all year round, and admission fees for the summer are $9 for adults arriving by car and $7 for adults arriving by bike. Just another incentive for biking!

Big Sandy Bay hiking trail

Big Sandy Bay hiking trail

Birdwatching

Birdwatching

Unfortunately the water level was high and the weather was a bit cold, so it wasn’t possible to go swimming that day. However, it was a very nice place for a picnic. After another 10km bike ride back to Marysville, it was time to treat ourselves with ice cream and take the ferry back to Kingston. Overall, it was the prefect day trip!

Big Sandy Bay beach with high tide

The beach with high tide

As I mentioned earlier, there are many other things to do on Wolfe Island, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to explore it some more in the future and write about it here!

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Kingston Waterfront from the ferry

Kingston Waterfront from the ferry

 

Springtime in Kingston

The weather is getting much warmer, the trees and flowers are blooming, the days are getting longer, and the mayflies are out. This is a sure sign that spring has arrived and is here to stay!

Kingston is beautiful in the spring! The blue skies against the historic limestone buildings, and the sweet smell of flowers in the air. Walking outside on any sunny day makes me wish I had my camera with me so I could take some pictures. I suppose having a beautiful campus helps too.

Hopefully I can get lots of photography practice over the summer. So, here are a few pictures I took of Queen’s University over the past weekend.

Queen's University Campus

Queen’s University Campus

Queen's University Campus

Queen’s University Campus

Ontario Hall, Queen's University

Ontario Hall, Queen’s University

Grant Hall, Queen's Univeristy

Grant Hall, Queen’s Univeristy

Nicol Hall, Queen's University

Nicol Hall, Queen’s University

Miller Hall, Queen's University

Miller Hall, Queen’s University