Kingston Trip 2021

Canada’s first capital city of Kingston is the perfect road trip for a weekend away. Halfway between Toronto and Montreal, the ‘Limestone City’ has a number of historic attractions that date back to its days of a French trading post in the 1600s and later a British military installation in the 1700s. Today Kingston is a bustling little place – I say ‘little’ because it’s a very walkable city – and a vibrant university town. The downtown core is the perfect place to stay, with each access to all of the city’s iconic sights and the bustling waterfront area to stroll around.

Exploring Kingston’s Waterfront

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Kingston Waterfront, and it was a great location to walk around downtown. It was a stone’s throw from Confederation Park, with a backdrop of the regal government buildings, as well as the train from Engine 1095 and the regal Prince George Hotel. It was easy to look around and imagine the days when the trains ran from Montreal to Toronto with Kingston being the mid-way point, and people would disembark in Kingston and spend a night at the Prince George before continuing on their journey.

Martello Alley

Of course, I also have to mention the iconic Martello towers that dot Kingston’s coastline. There are apparently six of them in Kingston, all built in the same circular design out of stone with a small peaked roof. You see this icon all over the city, including in the little artist enclave of Martello Alley. Unfortunately because of covid, most of the artists shops were closed, but it was still an interesting spot to poke around.

By the way, if you are in Kingston and visit Martello Alley, stop in to Sally’s Roti Shop next door for some proper Trini roti and doubles! Ah when you open that door and the smell of Chief Brand Curry Powder hits you…. it smells like home.

But, I digress. (Doubles often makes me digress).

Fort Henry

The other major attraction in Kingston is its impressive Fort Henry. This fort is particularly lucky because it was built but never saw a single battle, which means it is almost in perfect shape. It’s also absolutely massive – we spent hours there, and the kids really enjoyed the daily demonstrations of the gun firing, the cannons, and the musical instruments that would have been played. You can also look around the jail cells, officer’s quarters, kitchens, barracks and more. Be sure to climb to the top of the fort to walk around the perimeter and enjoy the amazing views!

Kingston Locks – Rideau Canal

After visiting Fort Henry, we drove just under 15 minutes to see the Kingston Mill Locks 46-49. In case you don’t know what the Locks are, they’re a series of ingenious hand-operated “steps” that allow boats to travel up river using water and gravity to open or close the flow of water and lift boats up the steps. We were so lucky to arrive right as two pleasure cruisers were coming up river and we stood on the side and watched as they slowly rose from 15 feet below us to our level and then continued up the river to the lake.

(What I also find is incredible is how there are people – workers – at each section of the Locks just there, waiting, for boaters to arrive. Canada is such a civilized country!)

Thousand Island Cruises

Another recommended activity in Kingston was a Thousand Island Boat Cruise, which leaves from the downtown waterfront area. We chose a 1-hour cruise, but to be honest it was a bit of a waste. You can’t really see much, it doesn’t go between any islands, and the view isn’t much different from standing at the waterfront. Plus it was already getting cold as summer was coming to an end so we ended up sitting inside eating popcorn. This was the only part of the trip that was disappointing. If you really want to see the 1000 Islands you need to go on a much longer – and much further – boat ride. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Pretty boat, but a disappointing and boring ride!

Bonus Tip: Avoid the last weekend of Summer

One last piece of travel advice – do NOT go to Kingston on the last weekend of summer before school starts. This is when thousands of families bring their kids to university. Every hotel is full to the brim and every table in every restaurant is booked! It was unbelievable. We learnt this lesson the hard way so unless you’re dropping off your kid for Frosh Week, do not go to Kingston that weekend!

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