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Le Boat Fabulous Family Houseboat Vacation in Ontario, Canada

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If anyone were to tell me I’d have an epic holiday aboard a houseboat, I would have tell them they were crazy. Houseboats reminded me of my university days, when we’d cruise along Canada’s Lake Okanagan, drinking like fishes until we crashed into crammed sleeping quarters. But that was before I set sail with Le Boat. Billed as a luxury houseboat, Le Boat is more like a floating cottage. To me, it looked like a yacht. Sleeping anywhere from five to seven guests in one to three bedrooms, it’s the ultimate family escape. Read on to discover what to expect during a Le Boat cruise down the Rideau Canal in Ontario.

Rideau Canal Locks in Ontario, Canada

Rideau Canal locks (Photo credit: urmoments, Depositphotos.com)

Canal Cruising

Canal cruising is popular concept in Europe, but it’s relatively unheard of in Canada and the U.S. No longer! Unlike renting a cottage, every day is different, with changing landscapes and towns to explore.

Le Boat’s North American headquarters are in Smiths Falls, Ontario. It’s about an hour’s drive from Ottawa, Canada’s capital, which has amazing kid’s activities and museums. From Smiths Falls, you charter Le Boat yourself, floating up and down the Rideau Canal. You can also rent bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for the week from Le Boat.

kitchen_le_boat

Le Boat interior (Photo credit: Helen Hayes)

Driving Le Boat

I’m no sailer, but even novices can helm Le Boat. If you can drive a car, then you can drive this boat. No previous boating experience is required. Before you set sail, you’ll receive a comprehensive lesson on board, learning how to steer, stop and park.

Truthfully, I was worried before I sat in the captain’s chair. But within minutes I realized how easy it was. And thankfully, Le Boat is tricked out with a fair number of bumpers.

Canal cruising, I learned, is all about slowing down. It’s not like when you’re in a sailboat and the winds pick up and you need to act. This is a leisurely activity, where families can literally unplug and reconnect.

Le Boat Easy to Drive

The Saucy Travel Mama skippering Le Boat (Photo credit: Helen Hayes)

Rideau Canal History

The Rideau Canal is a 125-mile stretch of waterway, connecting Ottawa with the city of Kingston via the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. After the War of 1812, it was evident that Canadian supply lines along the St. Lawrence could be disrupted by those pesky Americans. That was the impetus for building the canal, which was finished in 1832.

This major feat of human engineering is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Canadian National Historic Site, run by Parks Canada. They operate the many lock systems you’ll go through along your journey. The locks are beautiful, with some still sporting centuries old stone, while others have picnic tables set alongside them.

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Tiny church along the Rideau Canal (Photo credit: Jody Robbins)

Exploring the Rideau Canal

If you’ve ever gone through locks in Europe, you’ll be happy to know the locks along the Rideau Canal are way easier to navigate. Many boaters refer to it as the Disney version of lock systems. You simply throw a rope to a friendly Parks Canada employee. Then they run it through a cable affixed to the lock wall. After that, simply watch as the locks are opened for you. Many villages and towns are built along the Rideau Canal. The boat docks are in the heart of each community, so you can easily explore on foot.

Smiths Falls

You’ll begin your Le Boat adventure in Smiths Falls, halfway along the canal between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario. If you arrive early into Smiths Falls, you’ll want to check out the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario, another National Historic Site. You can can spend the night in the caboose and on select days, take a train ride.

Seek out Voyageur Canoe Tours to experience the Rideau Canal wetlands from inside a historic voyager canoe. These are the majorly large canoes the French Canadians used during the 18th and 19th centuries. Book your canoe tour via Viator now!

For dinner, tuck into a curry at Chuckles Jack. (Snoop Dog ate there!) The restaurant serves continental cuisine as well, but their curry is quite lovely and not all that spicy.

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Smiths Falls -Victorian Basin, where Le Boat cruises begin (Photo credit: Le Boat)

Merrickville

From Smiths Falls, you can head north to Ottawa or south to Kingston. We went north, dropping anchor first in Merrickville.

Right at the boat dock you’ll find the historic Merrickville Blockhouse. See if you can spot the gun ports in this building once used to house weapons. Today it’s a small museum where guides dressed in period costumes will show you what life was like in the early 1800s.

Besides boutique shopping and ice cream sampling, you’ll want to check out local artistry in this charming town. In fact, Merrickville boasts more artisans per capita than any other village in Ontario. Look for Gray Art Glass Glassblowing Studio and the artist collective inside The Grotto Artworks.

Merrikcville Blockhouse

Merrickville, Ottawa boat dock (Photo credit: Jody Robbins)

Manotick

Next up is the village of Manotick, where you can wander through the historic Watson’s Mill, a working flour and gristmill museum. Then treat the troops at the Gingerbread Man, a sweet shop that serves up gingerbread cookies and local ice cream. Even in summer, they have an incredible selection of gingerbread houses so tempting that you just might want to buy one to bring back on board. For a more substantial meal, The Vault Bistro has shared platters that serve four.

Le Boat on the Rideau Canal

Our Le Boat and other vessels docked along the Rideau Canal (Photo credit Jody Robbins)

Westport

Westport is one community not to miss. Scheuermann Winery is a family-friendly vineyard with expansive grounds in which kids can burn off energy. Then refuel with a wood-fired oven pizza. If you make a reservation, the winery will even pick you up directly from the dock in their complimentary shuttle.

A Unique Canadian Experience

If you’re not familiar with Canadian culture, this journey along the Rideau Canal is pure Canadiana. You’ll feel as if you’re in a movie as you cruise past Canadian flag-clad cabins and docks decked out with Muskoka chairs (same as Adirondack chairs, but Canadian!). But unless you have deep pockets, not many of us get to experience lake life. Refreshingly, Le Boat will cost your family about the same as an all-inclusive holiday to Mexico. And don’t forget, Americans can take advantage of the currency exchange advantage.

Muskoka chairs in Ontario, Canada

Muskoka chairs along the water in Ontario (Photo credit: elenathewise, Depositphotos.com)

Flexible Family Travel

The best part of this floating vacation was that unlike most trips, I wasn’t wrapped up with what we had to tick off our travel bucket list. Le Boat gave us the flexibility to check out towns if we wanted. Or, we’d simply cruise on by, drop anchor in the middle of the canal and cannon ball off the deck.

Le Boat drove home the importance of unhurried time. When you haven’t crammed your family’s schedule to the gills, wonderfully spontaneous things can happen. Isn’t that how family travel ought to be?

Book your Le Boat houseboat holiday now or read more about Le Boat via TripAdvisor!

Le Boat Houseboat Vacation in Canada

Save these Le Boat Tips

If you’re interested in a Le Boat vacation, be sure to save these tips. Just pin the graphic above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Want to explore more of Canada? Take a look at my book, 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit!

Have you ever taken a houseboat trip with your family? Share your thoughts and questions about Le Boat below!

A Note from The Saucy Travel Mama: Thank you to Le Boat and Destination Canada for hosting me. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage (JodyRobbins.com). When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

Comments
  1. Julia D. Stege says

    Wow that looks like so much fun! And relaxing. I never knew that Ottawa has the oldest system of canals. This would be a great trip for friends too, who just want to get away and relax for a while. Good thing there are bumpers! LOL

  2. sounds heavenly!! love your photos and the idea of a trip on Le Boat sounds heavenly!

  3. That is one of the most unique vacations I think I’ve ever seen! I would love to do this with the family.

  4. littlemisadvencha says

    Ontario has so much to offer. All your pictures really captivate the beauty of the place. I dream of going there someday. Because some of my closest friends already moved to Canada. It would be a great reunion if ever. 🙂 I miss them!

    Cha at Little MisadvenCHA

  5. Sara | mshealthesteem.com says

    This sounds like such a lovely time! Makes me want to spend time on a boat house too ^^. Thanks for sharing your experiences 🙂

  6. I will be visiting Canada in June next year. I first visited Toronto in 2018 and I’m so excited to go back. Thanks for sharing this! 😀

  7. This looks like so much fun! Saving this to do when the boys get a little older!

  8. Emman Damian says

    I want to also have a Le Boat Fabulous Family Houseboat Vacation experience. Seems like I need this one this Christmas season. I’ll tag my family along!

  9. Super Busy Mum says

    I have never heard of this before but it looks like an incredible experience to do on your travels!

  10. I’m from Ontario and visit Lake Okanagan every summer! I love the canal!!

  11. Wow looks like an exciting trip. To have a day on the lake like this seems like a top thing to do when you go to Onatrio with the weather permitting.

  12. Melanie williams says

    Oh wow what an exciting trip away…looks like you all had an amazing time. so much to see and do too xx

  13. Tiffany La Forge-Grau says

    Oh my gosh, how fun is that?! That looks like something I would really enjoy. I would never want to leave!

  14. Oh goodness I need this a lot! Just the feeling and smell above water is gold. Seems that you had a lot of fun.

  15. WanderlustBeautyDreams says

    Looks like you guys had a blast. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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