It’s beginning to feel more like spring! Exams are done, and hopefully all the marking you have had to do is finished as well. For those of you sticking around in Kingston summer, I’m sure you’ve already noticed the libraries have emptied, the coffee shops have more room, and swarms and swarms of mayflies (correctly called “midges” or “Chironomids”) have descended on the city. Though you may be tempted to hole yourself up in the library, the lab, or your office this summer completing your research, for your own personal well-being I encourage you to take advantage of the amazing green spaces in Kingston and activities you can take part in this summer. This will be my fourth summer staying in Kingston and I thought I’d provide a list of my personal favourite outdoor summer activity suggestions –
Take a bike ride to Big Sandy Bay, the beach on Wolfe Island
Hop on the ferry from downtown Kingston and enjoy a free (if you’re biking or a pedestrian) half hour cruise to Wolfe Island. With your bike it’s another half-hour pleasant ride through the countryside to get to Big Sandy Bay on the south-west side of the island. Make sure to bring some cash as there’s a fee for entry into the conservation area. The next part is a lovely forest-y (and sometimes swampy trail) to get to the beach on the other side. Bring a picnic with you and spend the day relaxing on the sandy dunes by the water!
As a warning the bike ride can sometimes take a lot out of you as the island gets surprisingly windy (hence all the wind turbines!). While you wait for your ferry to head back to Kingston, you might also want to stop at the Wolfe Island Grill for dinner with a gorgeous lakeside view, wander through Fargo’s General Store or check out the Wolfe Island Bakery (look up the hours ahead of time so you’re not disappointed!).
Rent a canoe or kayak and explore
Take advantage of living right on the St. Lawrence River! You can rent a kayak or canoe from either Ahoy Rentals located right on the waterfront (they also have Stand UP Paddleboards, bikes and sailing rentals), or through Trailhead located on Princess Street. Once you’ve got your rental, if it’s your first time out I recommend either following the shoreline north-east, underneath the lift bridge that would take you to the Royal Military College (RMC) peninsula, and explore the Inner Harbour. It’s shallower there, and protected from the larger waves you encounter closer to downtown (just stay out of the path of the Wolfe Island ferry). If you go up the Great Cataraqui River you’ll pass Belle Island, which you can also explore on foot and has a rich history, used as a fishing and hunting settlement as well as a burial ground around 900 CE by the Huron (take a look at this article if you want to know more about the archaeological finds that have been made there).
If you want to be a little more adventurous you can brave the waves and paddle around the RMC peninsula (explore Navy Bay between RMC and Fort Henry on the way) and head to Cedar Island across from Fort Henry. This island has a Martello Tower on it, and hiking trails that take you all around it. It’s incredibly picturesque and the rocky shore offers some great areas for you to swim off of. This would be another beautiful spot to bring a picnic!
Throughout the summer Trailhead also runs Paddle & Pint nights, where you join a group of people of varying skill levels and kayak around Kingston and then go out for drinks at a local pub afterwards (follow Trailhead on facebook for more information about events they’ll run this summer). I tried it out a couple of years ago and had so much fun meeting people – I definitely recommend taking part!
Take a hike
There are so many places surprising close by to explore if you just want to get out and walk around.
- Waterfront trail: If you’ve been downtown by the water, you’ll know that there’s a lovely path you can talk around the harbour. You even follow the waterfront further and head east across the lift bridge to walk around picturesque RMC and then up the hill to explore Fort Henry, or you can head the other way and walk along the water past the Isabel and the Tett Centre, into Portsmouth. Walk by the old penitentiary, check out the Portsmouth Harbour, and make your way to Lake Ontario Park for a very scenic walk.
Marshlands Conservation Area: Take a bus into Portsmouth to get to the Marshlands (1214 Trailhead Place is where the parking lot is where the trail starts) located next to the Cataraqui Golf & Country Club. I feel like this one is such a well kept secret! Walk through the forest trail and it’ll take you to long wooden boardwalks through the marshes. The trail brings you across a train track and to a second marsh area. I went trail running there a couple of weeks ago and the sounds of croaking frogs was deafening (I think it may be mating season!). The walk takes about half an hour to an hour, though maybe consider wearing long sleeves as it can get a little buggy!
- K&P Trail: I’ll admit, this is one I haven’t done yet myself but I intend to try it out this summer! This trail was once an abandoned rail bed that has been converted into a 15 km pedestrian and bicycle trail. It’s located in the north of Kingston and offers some beautiful views of rock faces, wetlands and marshes. Take a look at this site for a map and advice on how to get there.
Lemoine Point Conservation Area: Located to the west of Kingston by the airport, Lemoine Point consists of 136 hectares of forest and offers spectacular waterfront views. There are a number of different hiking trails on it, as well as a stone beach where you can swim when it gets warmer. Bikes are allowed on particular routes and you can cross country ski and snowshoe there in the winter. If you go to Lemoine Point, consider bringing bird feed with you as the birds will eat it right out of the palm of your hand if you have the patience to keep still enough!
- Grass Creek Park: This is another park I have on my “to do” list. It’s located to the east of Kingston (way beyond Fort Henry and right across from Howe Island – which would be another interesting place to explore by taking the ferry over). They have a large sandy beach for swimming as well as rolling meadows around it. The McLachlan Woodworking Museum ,is at the entrance, which offers some incredible workshops like how to build an adirondack chair, a charcuterie board or a paddle, and events like the Lumberjack weekend on June 1-3 where you can participate events like hatchet-throwing, fire-starting and log rolling!
Get that profile photo that all your friends have on top of Rock Dunder
Finally, my last suggestion is one that has become a staple spot for Queen’s student’s profile photos (I’m guilty of this!). Rock Dunder is a bit more than a half hour drive outside of Kingston so you’re definitely going to need a car or someone to drive you, but it’s worth the trouble for the incredible views. There are three different trails you can take – Cabin Trail, the Morton Bay Loop and the Summit Loop. The Summit Loop is a 3.9km climb and offers a panoramic view of the Rideau Waterway. Make sure to go earlier in the day because when it gets dark, it gets really dark out there and it may be hard to see the trail markers getting back. Please note that Rock Dunder is privately owned by Rideau Waterway Land Trust, and you to use this space you must pay a $10 fee to become a supporter (for more information click this link). Also be aware that Rock Dunder closes for the winter season, check out their website to make sure you’re able to access the park ahead of time. For this year, please go only after May 15th when the park officially opens!
Remember, a work-life balance is extremely important, even moreso when you’re in grad school as it’s so easy to take work home with you. Make time for yourself this summer, get outside and enjoy the warm weather, feed the birds and put your books aside every so often. If you’re having trouble with this or want more tips and tricks, Dennis Pringle (a counselor with SGS) is holding an “Approaches to Work-life Balance” Workshop through Expanding Horizons on May 29th, 2018 in Gordon Hall, room 302. Please register if you’re interested!
Let me know in the comments if you have any other outdoor suggestions I’ve missed. These ideas all have come from my own experiences, and I know there’s a lot of places I still need to explore this coming summer!
– Isabel Luce