Kingston Ontario is a bustling holidaymaker city, with excellent sailing and trips around the nearby Thousand Islands from its water front.
You can reserve your stay there using our booking link at the bottom of the page.
The city was briefly Canada's capital city and has the history to prove it. Originally a French fort, built by Count Frontenac in 1673 to support the fur trade, captured by the British in 1758, and then settled by United Empire Loyalists in 1784.
The city grew slowly throughout the 18 and 1900's.
Kingston Ontario is at the eastern most end of Lake Ontario, where the Lake narrows to form the St. Lawrence River, making it one of the two major ports, the other being Gananoque, for touring the famous Thousand Islands.
This vessel is the Island Queen and she and her sister, the Island Belle, cruise the Thousand Islands all summer long.
Kingston is also the start of ‘Loyalist’ country, the crossing point for the United Empire Loyalists who left the US after the Revolutionary War, or War of Independence depending on where you come from. From Kingston the Loyalist Parkway heads west along the shores of Lake Ontario through Picton and Prince Edward County. Loyalist flags, Union Jacks without the cross of St. Patrick (because Ireland didn't join the Union until 1801), fly from many homes along the trail of these early settlers.
Kingston Ontario is home to a World Heritage site -- its old fortifications, a series of forts and Martello towers built in the early to mid-1800’s when war with the US was always likely. British military engineers built Fort Henry and the towers to protect the strategically important harbor, Royal Naval dockyard and the southern access to the Rideau Canal, itself designed to facilitate the movement of goods and materials from the Ottawa river to Lake Ontario without being threatened by Americans out of New York on the other side of the St. Lawrence.
Fort Henry was built following the War of 1812, replacing the fort that occupied Point Henry at that time. It was finished in 1848, completing the fortifications around the water side of the city and defending the newly created Rideau Canal, which links Kingston with the Ottawa River. In look and feel it’s light years away from the earlier forts of the 1790 to 1815 period at Toronto (Fort York), Niagara (Fort George), and Fort Erie.
St. George’s Cathedral stands a short way off the harbor but well within walking distance, as most things are in this small perfect city. Its limestone walls gleam cool white in the summer heat and blend beautifully into snowy winter days.
St. George’s began in 1792 as a wooden building, the first parish church for the new community with John Stuart, a displaced Loyalist from Pennsylvania as its first Rector. Construction on the present building began in 1825, with additions over the following decades until it became a cathedral in 1862. Additions and renovations to the building have continued down the years.
Out of the military bases and dockyard sprang manufacturing industry and from the late 1800's to the middle of the 1900’s, Kingston was a railroad center, both for shifting goods and also building engines. This locomotive, named the ‘Sir John A’ after Kingston’s most famous resident Sir John A MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, was built in Kingston early in the Twentieth Century.
Sir John A MacDonald is Kingston’s favorite ‘son’, though he was born in Scotland, only moving to Kingston with his family at the age of five. However, he was something of a prodigy and had a legal practice in the city by the time he was 19 and going on to champion confederation of the British North American colonies into the country of Canada, becoming PM at the age of 52 in 1867.
Sir John A bought this house when his wife became ill, moving the family out into the fresh air of the countryside. The house isn't in the country now, Kingston's growth over the decades has surrounded it but it's still in a very pleasant, leafy, suburb of town.
Fresh air was one of the doctors’ chief remedies in those days when it was still available in places.
Certainly cities were a lot dirtier then, though it’s hard to imagine Kingston Ontario ever being the Dickensian slum most of our Western world cities apparently were.
One way old cities were unhealthy for their inhabitants was the access to cheap booze, which is still a problem today in some places. For most of us, however, alcohol is now a flavorful pleasure enjoyed with a meal and in much smaller quantities. Wine has replaced beer and spirits as the beverage of choice but micro-breweries, such as this one in downtown Kingston, have done a lot to maintain beer drinking and even raise its status.
Downtown Kingston has a number of fine restaurants and pubs, as you’d expect from a place that gets so many visitors, and the city is well served by hotels. The photo shows City Hall in the heart of downtown.
Wine making has taken off nearby in Prince Edward County and tours are another attraction Kingston has to offer.
Kingston harbor doesn’t only provide a haven for private boats and Thousand Island cruise boats during the summer; it’s also the mainland end of the Wolfe Island ferry. The ferry is one of the few remaining free ferries in Ontario and a great trip out in its own right. Wolfe Island is a pleasure to visit too.
Kingston Ontario is the eastern end of the Lake. For the western end, see our Niagara page.
For what's happening in Kingston today, visit the city's page here.
And for a hotel in Ontario or anywhere else:
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