Ottawans are enthusiastic cyclists, fully utilizing the more than 370km (230 miles) of major bike routes and 273km (170 miles) of minor routes in the City of Ottawa. Designated recreational pathways in the National Capital Region account for 170km (106 miles) of this total. If you didn't bring your own equipment, Rent-A-Bike (on the east side of the Rideau Canal at Plaza Bridge, next to Paul's Boat Lines; tel. 613/241-4140; www.rentabike.ca) has all kinds of bikes, including standard hybrid bikes designed for comfortable, leisurely touring; standard light-trail mountain bikes; on- and off-road performance bikes; and on-road tandems. Bikes and in-line skates can also be rented at Dow's Lake Marina Pavilion (tel. 613/232-5278), located on the Rideau Canal at 1001 Queen Elizabeth Dr. OC Transpo, Ottawa's public transit system, has installed bike racks on more than 300 buses -- most buses on routes 12, 85, 95, 96, 97, 99, 101, 106, and 118 have racks. There's no cost to use the rack, other than regular bus fare. The program runs from spring through fall.
If you want to spend a lazy summer afternoon drifting around in a boat, visit Dow's Lake Pavilion (1001 Queen Elizabeth Dr.; tel. 613/232-1001). A fully operational marina at the pavilion site on Dow's Lake rents out paddleboats, canoes, kayaks, and rowboats. Dow's Lake is an artificial lake that provides a quiet place for water recreation away from the main traffic in the Rideau Canal. In Gatineau Park, boat rentals are available at Philippe Lake and La Pêche Lake. Call tel. 819/827-2020 to check opening hours for the rental booths.
The Ottawa metro region offers more than 60 courses in all, including the one on the premises of the Château Montebello in Québec (tel. 819/423-6341). Greens fees for 18 holes generally run C$30 to C$50, but are more expensive at resorts.
Hiking & Nature Walks
As well as checking out the pathways and trails through many of Ottawa's city parks and the greenbelt area, you might wish to explore Gatineau Park, the Rideau Trail, and parts of the Trans Canada Trail, particularly if you're looking for more challenging, longer routes.
The Rideau Trail is a cleared and marked hiking trail approximately 380km (236 miles) long that links Ottawa with the city of Kingston, on the shores of Lake Ontario. The trail path is indicated by orange triangular markers. To distinguish the two directions, Kingston-bound markers have yellow tips. The trail is designated for walking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. You can pick up a comprehensive guide book with maps and a description of the trail for C$40 from the Rideau Trail Association (P.O. Box 15, Kingston, ON K7L 4V6; tel. 613/545-0823) or order one online at www.rideautrail.org.
The number-one place to skate in the nation's capital is the world-famous Rideau Canal Skateway. If you visit Ottawa during the skating season, you must take everyone for a glide along the canal -- it's an experience not to be missed. The Skateway is the world's largest outdoor skating rink, offering almost 8km (5 miles) of continuous skating surface. The ice is usually ready in early January, and the season lasts until early March. Skating is free. Heated shelters, skate and sled rentals, boot-check and skate-sharpening services, rest areas, food concessions, and toilets are located at various points along the Skateway. There are many access points along the canal for skating, so it's easy to get on the ice. To find out about ice conditions on the Rideau Canal, call the Skateway hotline at tel. 613/239-5234.
You're spoiled with choice for cross-country skiing in the Ottawa area. If you want to use the trails throughout the extensive greenbelt, consult the "Greenbelt All Seasons Trail Map." All trails are suitable for beginner and family outings. Many of the trails pass through wooded areas. Or go to Mooney's Bay Cross-country Ski Centre (2960 Riverside Dr.; tel. 613/247-4883) and ski on 5km (3.1 miles) of groomed and well-lit trails. Classic and skate skiing are available at a nominal fee. Across the Ottawa River in the city of Gatineau, you'll find Parc du Lac Beauchamp at 745 boul. Maloney (tel. 819/669-2548). Winter activities in the park include outdoor ice skating and 15km (9.3 miles) of cross-country ski trails. Equipment rental is available.
For the ultimate cross-country ski experience, visit Gatineau Park. The park has earned a reputation as one of the best ski-trail networks in North America due to its remarkable 200km (124 miles) of trails. Both skiing styles are accommodated throughout the park, so you can glide along in classic Nordic fashion or burn up energy with the skate-skiing technique. There are eight heated shelters where you can stop to rest and refuel with a snack from your backpack. Gatineau Park ski patrollers are on watch to assist skiers in difficulty. When you arrive at the park, you can buy a day pass at any of the 16 parking lots, which give direct access to the ski trails, or at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre (33 Scott Rd., Chelsea, QC; tel. 819/827-2020), open throughout the year daily from 9am to 5pm. Daily pass prices for cross-country ski trails are C$13 adults; C$9 seniors, students, and children 13 to 17; free for children 12 and under; and C$27 for families.
Pools open to the public include those at Carleton University on Colonel By Drive, the University of Ottawa at 125 University Dr., and the YMCA-YWCA at 180 Argyle Dr. Lake swimming is available in Gatineau Park, Meech Lake, Lac la Pêche, and at Lac Philippe.
Enjoy the exhilaration of a day of white-water rafting and be back in your hotel bed that night. Outings are available from mid-May to September, depending on the river. Owl Rafting (tel. 613/646-2263 in summer, or 613/238-7238 in winter; www.owlrafting.com) offers white-water rafting trips within 90 minutes of the city, pounding over extensive rapids for the fit and adventurous and floating on gentler stretches for families. Prices start at around C$100 per person per day during the week, more on the weekends, meals included. Shorter trips of 2 hours are intended for families and are more cost effective.