Boat cruises, when available, can be one of the best ways to view a city. The cruises are often relaxing and fun, and offer a unique vantage point. Plus, waterfront buildings often showcase their best side from the shorelines. Personally, if I’m going to partake in a tourist activity in a new city, sight-seeing boat cruises through a city are usually my favourite go-to. I love being on the water.
So why did it take me 28 years to do one in my hometown of Ottawa, Canada? I have no idea, and I feel pretty silly for it taking this long. However, thanks to Capital Cruises, I have now rectified that situation and can officially add Ottawa to my list of beautiful cities to experience by boat. Plus, as a local, I’d say it’s one of the best ways to experience the city. Here’s why.
You’ll Get Perfect Photos of Ottawa’s Most Beautiful Buildings
If you have ever been to Ottawa, you will know that it is almost impossible to get a good photo of Parliament Hill from the street side. To start with, Parliament is pretty huge so it rarely fits in your frame the way you want it to. Secondly the grounds are always crawling with people. People either trying to get their own photos, heading inside for a tour, or just hanging out by the centennial flame. Let’s be honest, a cut off building behind a couple dozen (if you are lucky) people doesn’t exactly make for the most incredible Instagram photos.
Same goes for the Chateau Laurier, a stunning historic hotel, and the National Art Gallery; a pretty glass building.
Three gorgeous buildings, all a pain in the arse to photograph.
But, from the water? Whole other story.
Not only are you getting rid of the crowds, vehicles, and any other annoying things that ruin your postcard-perfect shots, but these famous Ottawa buildings are even prettier from the water. You can see the gorgeous rounded building that is the Parliament Library (completely hidden from the street view). You also get to see more of the castle-like exterior of the Chateau Laurier. And, from the water, the ugly, massive spider statue, Manon, that stands in front of the National Art Gallery is hidden by the trees. (Sorry Ottawans, I know it’s ‘art’ but I HATE that spider).
Perhaps the best part, you can combine the Chateau Laurier and Parliament into one beautiful landscape photo with the Ottawa Locks in between.
Can’t do that from the street!
You’ll Get to See More of Ottawa (and Gatineau!)
One of the best things about downtown awesome is that so many of the main attractions are within walking distance. But, that’s only the downtown section of Ottawa. Ottawa itself as a city is made up of a bunch of different areas and neighbourhoods, most of which you probably won’t see as a tourist.
One of the perks of taking a site seeing cruise with Capital Cruises is that you can get a sneak peak at two of Ottawa’s nicest areas: New Edinburgh and Rockcliffe. Massive houses, a boat marina, and a few embassies, including the French Embassy and the residence of the British High Commissioner are located along the water’s edge. Perhaps of interest to most, 24 Sussex (Canada’s version of the White House) is visible from the water as well. However, while the building is the Prime Minister’s official residence, you won’t find Trudeau here. The house, as gorgeous as it is from outside, is undergoing major repairs and renovations.
Of course, since it is a river cruise there are two side to explore. While Ottawa lies on one side, Gatinea (in the province of Quebec) lies on the other. There are some interesting attractions to be seen from this side including the area’s most visited museum: the Museum of History.
It’s a Fun Way to Have a History Lesson
I love history, and I love learning things about a destination, but I hate endless droning or boring audio guides. If you are like me in this regard, it’s another reason to add one of Capital Cruise’s historic site seeing tours to your agenda. It’s a relaxing educational activity that will leave you entertained rather than feeling like you are taking a history lesson in a classroom. Unless your high school classroom came with waterfalls, I know mine sure didn’t.
The historical facts are shared by an actual guide who only speaks when necessary. Which means no random filler chat or background elevator music. There’s lots to learn; the origins of Ottawa’s Tulip Festival, the Library of Parliament fire in 1952, and bits about the English, French, and First Nations people. As a local, these are things I grew up learning about. However, even I learned a few new things, most interestingly to me; the Museum of History has no right angles because it would anger the local spirits. Being a lover of myths and legends, I was intrigued to learn about this local folklore.
As a local, my historic site seeing cruise with Capital Cruises was a new and fun way to spend a sunny afternoon playing tourist in my hometown. For tourists, it’s a great introduction to Canada’s capital with plenty of great photo opportunities. Local, or tourist, it’s the perfect way to spend a nice day enjoying the beauty of Canada’s capital.
Want to go? Here are some thing to note:
• The cruise is seasonal (This is Canada after all, the river does freeze) and runs from mid-May until mid-September
• Tickets can be purchased online or in person from vendors near the embarking points. However, tickets are a couple dollars cheaper online!
• There are two embarking points: one on the Ottawa side by the locks, the second on the Gatineau side close to the Museum of History.
• It’s first come first serve, so be sure to come a little early to make sure you get on at your preferred time.
• Snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board.
• The tours run for about 75 minutes
*Thank you to Capital Cruises for hosting me on the historic sight-seeing tour.