Rural Villages: Tourism Gems, right outside your front door

My dad was obsessed with the no-motor-vehicle vacation. The perfect trip of hiking, biking, kayaking, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing or sailing from one lodge to another, in a circuit tour, constantly occupied one part of his brain. The gold standard was the circuit bike tour where we started the trip by biking right out the front door of the house: no car involved.



One such trip took place when I was sixteen: straight from our home in Crescent Beach BC, by bike to the Twasassen ferry terminal, ferry to Pender Island and overnight at the turn-of-the-century Pender Lodge. On to Victoria by ferry, then from Victoria to the American ferry at Sidney, and then to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. From the docking at Port Angeles eastward to Port Townsend, with its wealth of preserved 19th century buildings. Then to Whitby Island northward, and back onto the mainland, stopping at Bellingham and Lynden before arriving home.

Ottawa’s new Official Plan supports rural development focused around classic village main streets, to support walkability for rural residents.

My dad had a knack for finding ancient little inns, preserved through the years by eccentric innkeepers in tiny towns off the beaten track. Riding through rural lanes to a 19th century inn in a forgotten little town made for a real escape from the modern world. Propelling ourselves from one town to another on our own muscle power turned a vacation into an odyssey back in time.



In November 2021, I participated in a Walkable Ottawa workshop looking at Stittsville Main Street. This stretch of road maintains a number of historic buildings. It got me dreaming of a renaissance of rural villages in Eastern Ontario, if, for no other reason, to give us urbanites destinations to bike to.


Ottawa’s new Official Plan supports rural development focused around classic village main streets, to support walkability for rural residents. Such compact, well-preserved villages with unique character would also be a draw for tourists.


Example of a historic building in Stittsville
Propelling ourselves from one town to another on our own muscle power turned a vacation into an odyssey back in time.

What about a bike tour going from Pakenham to Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place, Smiths Falls, Merrickville, Kemptville, and then back to Ottawa, enjoying village inns, outdoor museums, country lanes, farm stands, craft shops, and local gastronomy along the way? A winter version could involve cross-country skiing from village to village. So much possibility for exploring, right outside your doorstep, without having to spend precious free time driving.



~ JANET MARK WALLACE is a regular blog contributor for Walkable Ottawa.


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