Situated amid the scenic rural landscapes of South Eastern Ontario – and virtually smack dab in the middle between Toronto and Montreal, Lennox & Addington County is a rapidly emerging travel destination with plenty to offer. It’s home to a plethora of activities, features and fun travel ideas for the savvy staycationer to discover.
The picturesque Napanee River is a shining beacon for pleasure boaters, paddlers, and anglers alike – boasting breathtaking views, world-class fishing and delightful riverside dining. Connected to a beautiful series of tributaries and beautiful bays, the river is easily accessed from Lake Ontario – making it an easy draw for boaters from far and wide.
For this next chapter in our series with Naturally L&A, Heidi and I will embark on an extensive private boat tour to witness and photograph the visually stunning waterways between Napanee, Hay Bay, Adolphustown and Glenora. Next-up, we’d explore downtown Napanee and spend the remainder of the day paddling on the river by kayak, and relaxing in Napanee’s brilliant riverside parks.
Without further delay, let’s cast-off and set sail for Lennox & Addington County!
Satisfy Your Coffee Cravings
We arrived in Napanee at 8:00 AM after an easy 30-minute drive from our home in Kingston. We wanted to get an early start to the day – and in the excited rush to leave the house, we ended up skipping our usual morning coffee and light breakfast. Personally, I find that coffee is my spirit animal – and is the high octane fuel that powers the blogging-machine inside my head. Sort of like Popeye when he pounds back a can spinach – only with coffee.
Thankfully, we were made aware of a popular independently owned (and appropriately named) cafe known as Coffee Cravings.
Located on John Street, in a gorgeous building that was once a bank – Coffee Cravings possesses a treasure vault of choices for those with a hankering for hot bevvies and baked goodies. Here you’ll find the sweet caffeinated bliss of freshly brewed coffees, teas, espresso, lattes, cappuccino and everything in between.
The cafe has both outdoor indoor seating areas, with the latter sporting an eclectic mix of both warm and dark colours that only serve to complement the relaxed atmosphere. There is a wide selection of sandwiches, muffins, pastries and other indulgent temptations available – as well as an impressive selection of coffee accessories including French Press brewers, mugs and more.
I am a creature of habit and ordered a large Americano which is my usual choice at any cafe. Heidi selected a cup of Northern Star which is an exquisite blend of Columbian, Ethiopian, Kenyan and Tanzanian beans. I also enjoyed an apple muffin, while Heidi snacked on a mini cinnamon roll and raspberry pastry.
The coffees made for a rich, bold and favourable start to our day. Once we finished devouring our morning snacks, we made our way over to The Greater Napanee Conservation Park – where we would embark on our boating adventure!
A Pleasure Boater’s Wonderland
It was at the Conservation Park that we met up with Robert Paul, a local resident and experienced boater who has lived along the Napanee River and cruised her scenic waterways since childhood. Now enjoying the retired life, Robert was happy to welcome us aboard his sleek cruiser and take us on a scenic tour of the surrounding waterways.
As we made our way South East along the Napanee River, we were instantly met with brilliant scenery all around. The edges of the river were flourishing with wetland flora and several bird species including mallard ducks, and of course, Canada geese. There was a thin, hazy cloud cover on this particularly warm summer morning – but it didn’t detract from the stunning visuals.
As we rounded the final bend and entered the Bay of Quinte past Deseronto, we slowed near the edge of Foresters Island, where we could see the Skyway Bridge to the East, as it crossed the channel into Prince Edward County. The water was exceptionally calm that morning, and there was little to no wind. The surface was as smooth as glass, providing us with some truly stunning views of the surrounding area.
From Foresters Island, we followed the river south, then made our way Eastward into Hay Bay – which beautifully stretched off into the horizon beneath the brilliance of the early morning light. All along the water’s edge were several waterfront properties and cottages – giving us an impression of Lennox & Addington’s immense waterfront communities.
As we turned around to leave Hay Bay and make our way toward Glenora, Robert opened up the throttle a bit, so we could make some good time. It was once we felt the speed of the boat and the wind in our faces, that I realized why boating is such a beloved pastime and mode of transportation.
The absolute and unspoiled sense of freedom was overwhelming. The thrilling bounce of the bow as we cut through the waves, the brilliant blue skies and the golden sunshine beaming down on the captivating scenery all around. The feeling was contagious – as there was no mistaking the ear-to-ear grin on Heidi’s face as she sat at the prow shooting photos. “Now this is the life!” I thought to myself.
Next, we cruised around the tip of Adolphustown and a little way’s past Glenora, where we stopped to snag a few photos as the ferries made their respective crossings. As we sat watching the twin boats cross the channel, I leaned over to Robert and remarked, “Well, that settles it. I need to buy a boat someday – but I think I have a few more blogs to write before that can happen.”
Needless to say, we shared a good chuckle before making our way back toward Napanee. And – Robert, if you’re reading this story, I just want to take a moment to thank you for taking us out on a most wonderful introduction to the whimsical world of pleasure boating in Lennox & Addington County.
A Lovely Lunch on Dundas Street
We safely returned to dry land around noon and took a short stroll to Dundas Street so we could wander around a bit and check out Downtown Napanee’s charming shopping district. We were both growing a tad peckish at this point, so we headed straight to Ellena’s Café to get out of the heat – and procure some great local eats.
Heidi had what she called a next-level chicken Caesar wrap, which was packed with fresh romaine, seasoned chicken, real bacon bits and croutons. I chose the butter chicken wrap which came with fresh greens, a zesty yet delicious butter curry sauce, and tomatoes. Paired with a local raspberry kombucha – it really hit the spot.
Whiskey and a Haircut…
Once we were finished our lunch, we headed up Dundas Street to the next block, toward a location that I was rather keen to investigate. I had recently read a fantastic article on the L&A website about Deadleaf Distinguished Gentlemen (DDG) – a particularly unique barbershop and haberdashery that has been receiving rave reviews since opening in their new and expanded location.
DDG is built on the philosophy that men should “look good, feel good and be distinguished.” Picture the best elements of a high-end hair salon and the coolest man cave on earth coming together in a brilliant way. This isn’t just a barbershop. It’s a place where men can gather, socialize over a game of pool, or a drink – and get a top-notch haircut, beard trim or straight razor shave.
Inspired by the vintage gentlemen’s parlours of old, DDG is an incredible venue that far exceeds what you’d expect from a typical barbershop. When we arrived I met DDG’s proprietor: Scott Sabramsky, who walked me over to the bar to show me his selection of fine scotch, whiskey, bourbon and other adult beverages fit for a king.
The entire atmosphere of this exquisite barbershop is fantastic. The bar itself was custom designed and made from what looked like reclaimed barn board – the lighting was dim but not dark – and there were ample furnishings and space for social interaction. I was content to sit at the bar and enjoy my scotch, while I waited for my turn in the barber’s chair.
As I finished my drink, I was waved over by Lizzy who would be taking care of my haircut and beard trim. I didn’t want to lose too much length from my beard and decided to go with a classic side-part fade in hopes that a shorter hairstyle would be better suited for the particularly hot summer we had been having.
Lizzy was very attentive – and skillfully set to work getting me all tidied up. In the end, I regretted not taking a before photo – but I remember Heidi telling me that I was starting to look like Tom Hanks from the movie Castaway. So, perhaps we’re better off not seeing that image after all.
Suffice to say, that I left Deadleaf Distinguished Gentlemen looking and feeling far better than I did before walking in. I had a great experience at DDG and can’t wait to go back and peruse their selection of men’s fashion and beard care products. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth the short drive from Kingston.
Besides, when’s the last time you found yourself thinking: I want to go spend the afternoon at the barber shop?
Sand n Sea Boutique
Next up, we headed West on Dundas Street to browse the wares at Sand and Sea Boutique. This quaint fashion store carries stylish outfits for both men and women and specializes in summer-tropical styles. The layout of the store is bright and pleasing and is reminiscent of boardwalk shops found in Key West or Baja.
Sand and Sea sports an extensive selection of vivid clothing, eyewear, skirts, swimsuits, hats, and accessories fit for people of all shapes and sizes looking to hit the beach in style. If you forgot your sunscreen, this is also a great place to get yourself prepped for some fun in the sun. I really liked the selection of Miami Vice-style men’s shirts – which came in a variety of colours and patterns sure to liven up your summer attire.
Heidi was absolutely in love with the diverse selection of women’s styles and spotted a particular skirt that she vowed to go back and try on. We could have likely spent the remainder of the afternoon snooping around the wonderful shops of Downtown Napanee – but we had to get back to the river and continue our adventure on the water!
Kayaking on The Napanee River
After a fantastic lunch and some shopping, we were more than ready to get back on the water! For the next leg of our day trip, we met up with Harley Cunningham – owner of Riverbank Rentals. Harley’s location at the Water Street boat launch is hard to miss – just look for the white trailer beside the Waterfront Pub.
For our first mode of aquatic transportation, we chose a paddle boat. Turns out that paddle boating is a fantastic cardio workout – especially when you’re pedalling into the wind. We made a short lap to the bridge and back – before switching the paddle boat for a pair of kayaks.
Heidi and I already have experience in kayaks and were much more comfortable traversing the river using their sleek hulls to literally glide across the water’s surface. First, we took a left turn (that’s port side) under the Centre Street bridge, and toward Springside Park. The water was unbelievably calm as we casually paddled our way up the river.
Several clouds had begun to gather overhead, but the weather remained sunny – casting the river in a brilliant mixture of sun and shade. Several ducks and their families swam about the river, and we also saw the heads of several turtles peeking at us before disappearing at the approach of our kayaks.
Once we reached the edge of Springside Park, we turned back and headed downriver, past the Conservation Park and out to the river proper. The scenery as you round the first bend is pure magic. The river is embraced on either side by lush wetlands populated by geese, ducks, herons and other wildlife.
It’s a good thing to mention – that the Napanee River is also the main route for larger boats and watercraft, so paddlers should be mindful of where they are in relation to boats leaving or arriving. We found it best to stick to either side of the channel and paddled through the lily pads at the edge of the wetlands. Power boaters are generally vigilant and aware of their surroundings – but it’s best to exercise caution if crossing any channel regardless.
Our return trip upriver was equally picturesque as when we started – with nothing but a blue sky, fluffy clouds, calm waters and not a care to be had.
Kayaking or canoeing is an incredibly peaceful experience and is also a great form of exercise. One of the most beautiful sights that stood out was the immense weeping willows on the edge of the riverbank at the Conservation Park. The way the branches drooped lazily over the water’s edge beneath the golden sun was an absolutely calming vision to behold.
We could have easily spent several more hours exploring the river, but it was nearly dinner time. We had worked up quite an appetite from the day’s adventure – and I was more than ready for a pint of something ice-cold and local.
A Delicious Riverside Dinner
For dinner, we set our sights on the legendary Waterfront River Pub & Terrace. Located in a magnificent limestone building on the river’s edge – the river pub is a gorgeous and historic building. Interestingly enough, the building was originally built in 1857 as a brewery. It operated as a brewery for several years, changing owners before being sold to the Dominion Bank in 1884.
A pub is a most appropriate reincarnation for this beautiful example of our industrial heritage, now transformed into a beautiful social space enjoyed by locals and visitors who come to kick back, enjoy a cold drink and a hearty meal. The outdoor terrace itself is purely stunning, with vibrant colourful gardens, an ornate fountain and exquisite stone patio.
We were lucky enough to get a table closest to the water’s edge which provided a fantastic view of the river and passing boats. When it comes to drinks, there are plenty of options with 20 taps featuring a variety of craft beers. Heidi asked for a Caesar, while I was more than happy to enjoy a tall pint of Mackinnon Brothers Crosscut Canadian Ale, which is brewed right here in L&A County.
To start things off, we chose a couple of items from the Waterfront’s tantalizing selection of appetizers. Heidi was drawn to the Firecracker Chicken, which consisted of fresh chunks of chicken breast dipped in a bacon spiced panko batter and served with bold house-made spicy Thai Chile aioli.
These mouthwatering morsels were absolutely lovely and cooked perfectly. Nice and crispy exterior with a generous hunk of moist, tender chicken inside. Dipped in the zesty Thai aioli, they took on a snappy and robust flavour that wasn’t overly spicy and had a sublime balance between flavour and heat.
I’m a sucker for Eastern European comfort food, so we also requested an order of traditional Polish Pierogies. They were huge! Stuffed with a fantastic blend of potato, caramelized onions, bacon and old cheddar cheese – these babies tasted like Warsaw’s finest. Plump, delicious and fried to perfection with a gold, crispy crunch on the outside.
Pure #foodie bliss.
For the main event – I had a ginormous full rack of ribs that reminded me of the opening scene from the Flintstones. Just massive. This thing hung over either side of my plate, and was slathered in a succulent BBQ sauce that I’m told is a well-protected trade-secret. The sauce had a divine balance between tangy and smoky but wasn’t too sweet.
Heidi had what can only be described as one heck of a ballin’ burger. The signature burger is called: The Waterfront Double Stack which is exactly what it sounds like. Heidi chose the Half Stack option, which sported a juicy housemade blend beef and pork patty, stacked with golden onion rings, cheddar cheese, bacon, baby greens, tomatoes and red onions on a pretzel bun. To add extra umpf – this mythical burger also came with a delicious cracked pepper aioli.
Once we had finished the majority of our monumental deal, we decided to pack up what remained of our entrees and bring them home for later. We weren’t quite full yet -and were saving the best for last. Before you scroll down any further – I should warn any chocolate addicts that things are about to get a bit dangerous.
For dessert, we each had a cup of coffee – which was a robust roast that had a strong flavour aspect but without the typical acidity of many default coffees found in restaurants. This was a top-shelf blend and was the perfect coffee to pair with rich, delicious desserts.
After a brief review of our options, we unanimously agreed on our choice.
Simply named The Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup this easily overlooked dessert item is light years beyond what you might expect. This evolved and enhanced version uses a marvellous house-made peanut butter filling (which is also a secret recipe), a regal amount chocolate ganache, vanilla bean ice cream and roasted peanuts.
It was quite possibly the apex of our dessert-eating career(s) thus far.
If you’re sitting there reading this and are skeptical that a peanut butter cup could be that good have a look at the pictures below. I mean, just look at it! It’s the mother of all peanut butter cups!
Explore Lennox & Addington County!
With our hearts and bellies absolutely full, we headed across the Centre Street bridge once more to relax in the park as the day gave way to a brilliant dusk. From our breathtaking boat tour to a splendid exploration of Downtown Napanee, and a relaxing paddle on the river – we had wrapped up quite the eventful day trip!
Thanks for stopping by to read this story!
Whether you own a boat, or not there is ample opportunity to enjoy the water here in L&A County! We hope you’ve been inspired by our adventure and plan to come visit soon! To help you get your bearings we’ve included a customized Google Map as usual. Feel free to download it – or even create your own custom Naturally L&A adventure!