As the first town to be incorporated in Ontario, you might think Brockville’s most exciting offering is its rich history. That history is fascinating, from railway tunnels to multitudinous industries — but Brockville shines below sea level too. As the “city of the 1000 Islands,” Brockville is the best start or end to your trip underwater, where you can dive among shipwrecks and observe the incredible wildlife of the St. Lawrence River.
Where is Brockville?
Brockville is a mid-sized city about two hours from the Canadian capital of Ottawa and only an hour east from historic Kingston. Located on the St. Lawrence River’s shore, Brockville is the closest and most central city to the famous 1000 Islands National Park, just a 20-minute drive away along the river. Accessible via Highway 2 and Highway 401 from both east and west, Brockville is an easy addition to any road trip along the north shore of Lake Ontario. The VIA Rail line also stops through Brockville, making Kingston just a 45-minute ride and Ottawa only about two hours.
Things to Do in Brockville
If you’ve planned for Brockville to be a short stop on your trip around Eastern Ontario, think again — you will never want to leave this charismatic town filled with activities that highlight the region’s incredible nature, quirky history and simply stunning views.
Adventure lovers will never run out of things to do in Brockville, especially if you like the water. As the city best positioned near 1000 Islands National Park, which offers access to explore the islands in the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, Brockville is a great jumping-off point for your outdoor adventure.
If you have a SCUBA certification or just can’t resist the temptation of the many shipwrecks lurking beneath the waters of the St. Lawrence River, take a walk to Canteen Park, where you’ll see divers plunging beneath the surface. Dive Brockville Adventure Centre, just a few blocks away from the park, provides everything you’ll need to get in the water yourself, including gear, boat charters, tour guides and more. The company will tour you around shipwrecks aimed at various levels of expertise so that you can poke around a rotting 1800s ship safely and comfortably.
The natural sights underwater are also on display at the Aquatarium, where visitors can get a glimpse of the creatures that live in the St. Lawrence River. Otters, big fish and starfish are placed in detailed habitats mimicking the river’s unique ecosystem. Kids can get hands-on here as well, so this learning experience is perfect for all ages. Those who would rather see the sights from above ground, consider a tour with 1000 Islands & Seaway Cruises. The cruise ships can take you for a relaxed dinner ride on the water or zip you along in the only speedboat in the waters of the 1000 Islands.
There’s lots to do on land in Brockville, too, with plenty of parks and picnic areas situated for incredible views of the river. At Hardy Park, enjoy a view of both the river and the ships docking and leaving Tall Ships Landing. The harbour’s marina, Tall Ships Landing Marina, also offers excellent views with the decided perk of a bar and delicious food. Enjoy a bite while you watch the impressive watercraft go by — by the end of your meal, you’ll be ready to get out on the water! Flanking the harbour is the town’s famous Blockhouse Island, a public riverfront park that offers a great place to enjoy a takeaway meal or a packed picnic lunch.
On the other side of Blockhouse Island, the beautiful Tunnel Bay showcases the river’s stunning vistas. Watch 1000 Islands cruise charters leave from Tunnel Bay or take a walk to discover this beautiful bay’s namesake. At the Brockville Railway Tunnel, learn about the tunnel’s old purpose as a timber train railway before you marvel at the contemporary take on the space — colourful lights and undulating music.
Now that you’ve got a taste for Brockville’s exciting industrial history, check out the nearby Brockville Museum. This award-winning museum showcases local history, including exhibits documenting life in the town when it was incorporated, becoming Ontario’s first official town. The museum also boasts fun exhibits like the Made in Brockville exhibit, which showcases the important and sometimes odd creations — like Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People — that were historically manufactured in the town.
Over at the Fulford Place Museum, peek into the life of Brockville’s rich and famous — in the twentieth century. This estate is decorated to the nines with the popular luxury items of 1901, including the ornate gardens designed by the renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead.
After a long day, weekend or week of adventuring around Brockville, enjoy a beer at the town’s beloved 1000 Islands Brewing Company. Located in a historic building erected in the late 1800s, this brewery offers delicious local beers paired with an extensive menu of comfort food, including the likes of burgers for the individual and sharing plates for groups.
Brockville Neighbourhoods & Districts
Brockville is a tourist and residential town made up of several neighbourhoods. Here are three of Brockville’s distinct neighbourhoods, each offering something different for your visit.
Along the waterfront, Brockville’s downtown area offers access to all the town’s attractions and beautiful views of the St. Lawrence River.
This residential neighbourhood is a great place to get your shopping done or grab a bite somewhere affordable and fast.
Things to Know About Visiting Brockville
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Brockville, it’s nice to learn what the locals know.