Recently Fun Roads sojourned through the Thousand Islands Region of Southeastern Ontario and Northeastern New York. And that’s where we find Kingston Ontario. When our researchers and producers wanted to uncover a hidden gem for road travelers, they quickly realized that Kingston fit the bill.
Established in the early 1600s, this is one place that has stood the test of time. In the early days of Canadian history, Kingston was actually the capital of Canada, and to this day, it still retains much of its grandeur.
Kingston is located in Southeastern Ontario, right along highway 401. It’s about three hours east of Toronto, at the eastern tip of Lake Ontario and across the St Lawrence from Alexandria New York.
Kingston is one of Canada’s oldest settlements. So to get a good idea of what the city is all about check out any of the guided tours, you can Google search them to find the one that suits you best. We headed to Confederation Park, right in front of Kingston City Hall and bordered by Lake Ontario. For those arriving by RV, this city has plenty of parking, but it’s a good idea to check with lot attendants to see which ones can accommodate bigger rigs and which ones are free.
We picked guide Jack Hickman who gives walking, biking, and car tours to visitors and explains why a guide is a good idea. “There’s all kinds of things to see dating back to 1673, and though many of the places in the town that are of historic nature are designated and marked as such, there are a lot of places that aren’t, and if a stranger comes to town, they’re likely to miss a lot of the character of the city.”
For a better taste of the city, Jack took us for a tour of the Kingston Market that was featured on
“There are an awful lot of very interesting points, historical and architectural and things dealing with the character and background of Kingston that a person on their first visit might miss unless they had somebody who had some knowledge of the city and can take them around and explain the history and the architecture to them” says Hickman.
Behind City Hall is the marketplace, and three days a week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, it’s a farmer’s market so all the farmers from surrounding areas bring in their produce in season and sell it there. On Sunday it gives way to an antique market where there’s a lot of antiques and collectibles, vendors come from quite far distances, and set up their stalls and sell their wares. “It’s an interesting place to visit… there’s all kinds of things to see and it’s just a very fascinating place” said Hickman told us.
The walking tour of historic Kingston continues up on Earl Street to get a glimpse of what the city looked like over 100 years ago. It’s a good idea to wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes since there’s lots of pavement to pound.
Kingston is built on a bed of limestone, and many of the residences and commercial and public buildings built at that time were built of stone.
Queens University is the next highlight of the tour. “At almost 170 years old, this is one of the country’s oldest schools” explained Hickman. The Stauffer library was designed to fit into the existing architecture, while at the same time giving the corner of University and Union Streets a fresh modern look. Walking down University Street, we pass the Agnes Etherington Art Center, housing the University’s art collection. And Grand Hall, don’t mind the clock, it’s rarely on time. Back down at the shores of Lake Ontario, in Breakwater Park, is a sculpture called “Time.” It was designed to move with the earth, and it is said that one day the two pieces will touch.
Kingston is readily accessible, there are all kinds of campgrounds, hotels and motels. Add Air BnB and VRBO to the mix for vacation rentals and home sharing and Kingston is certainly not a difficult place to get to or to stay.
So, with terrific sights and lots of history, the historic town of Kingston beckons you for a visit.