Each year I look forward to picnics by the water. Memories flood back of red and white tablecloths, the smell of the water, the feel of sand slipping under my feet, woven baskets full of wonderful picnic foods and goodies, large brimmed hats and leisure days. Unforgettable. Why not make some memories of your own? Plan a day away or jump in the car and visit one of the picnic areas close to our Nation’s Capital for a fabulous day by the water.

Centennial Park, Smiths Falls

If Smiths Falls is the Heart of the Rideau Canal, then Centennial Park is where the heartbeat begins. Sitting dead centre in the middle of Smiths Falls, this park is a beautifully landscaped and treed area with the canal as a scenic backdrop, and is perfect for picnicking. Smiths Falls has also launched PICNIC Smiths Falls, a new take-out program where you can purchase a picnic box for two and enjoy in one of Smiths Fall's parks.

Perfect Picnic Foods: 

  • Order your PICNIC Smiths Falls box for two and choose from delicious meals like pesto chicken sandwiches with a side of beet salad, homemade buttertarts and your choice of drink from Harvest Social. If you're looking for some heavier fare try Boomtown's beer battered fish and chips for two with homemade coleslaw, Caesar salad and hot dog poutine, finished off with two slices of cheesecake and two drinks. Other participating restaurants include Chuckles Jack, Perfect Thyming, Cest Tout Bakery and The Pickled Pig.

Robert Simpson Park, Arnprior

This spot on the mighty Ottawa River is an eclectic mix: one end of the park is busy with children in the splash pad and playground; another corner of the park is a little oasis where a water fountain quietly flows and stone benches encircle it. A large pavilion sits on the hill overlooking the river, and picnic tables are plentiful, along with many benches to sit and take in the view. For the sand and swim lovers, the main beach is just down the hill, and a short hiking trail leads through the forest to the river and a hidden little beach.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • Stop by Valley Roots and take along a packed lunch. Only minutes away from the Park, they have a great selection of boxed lunches, sandwiches, wraps, salads and all things “to go”
  • Wes’ Chips is also close by and has been a delicious Arnprior tradition for close to 50 years

Five Span Bridge Park, Pakenham

The quaint town of Pakenham on the Mississippi River has a lovely park, perfect for a picnic, and named for the stone bridge built in 1903 (one of the seven wonders of Lanark County).

There are a few picnic tables close to water’s edge and lots of rocks to sit on and enjoy the rapids.
Dip your toes in the water and feel the cooling effect it has on your mind and soul, walk along the shallow shoreline, or head down river to do some fishing or kayaking. This is a great photo op location and is also pet friendly. Many memories have been made here from wedding pictures, picnics with my parents and kids to just sitting in solitude, taking time to think about this crazy thing we call life.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

Riverside Park, Carleton Place

Looking for a little more action? Riverside Park on the Mississippi River in Carleton Place was a go-to place when my children were younger and they always loved it. It is a large park with personality: kids love the Splash pad; the playground is right on the sandy beach; there is ample space for swimming; and The Canoe Club resides here, so you will likely see canoes, kayaks and if you are lucky, dragon boats. The other end of the park is quieter where you can walk the boardwalk, launch your boat or take a hike. Just a pebble skip away on the other side of the river is the smaller Centennial Park, offering a more intimate setting with beach access, an open area for a picnic and a hiking trail.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • A little ice cream trailer, the ChillZone, is onsite at Riverside Park for a cool down snack
  • The Old Towne Bakery is just a few minutes’ walk from the beach – I can almost smell the aroma of freshly made bread just thinking about it
  • About a 5 minute drive from the park is The Beckwith Kitchen, specializing in home cooked meals to go, where you can choose from salads and yummy sandwiches, all made fresh

Stewart Park, Perth

This large park in the middle of Perth with a babbling brook running through it has lovely little foot bridges everywhere you look. It’s like a storybook where you would expect to see fairies and gnomes.  Dipping my feet in the water and sitting under a weeping willow was the highlight of my last visit, allowing me to day dream and just enjoy the moment.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • Take the stress out of making a picnic lunch and have The Perth Cheese Shop help you out, with Charcuterie Cones and boards packed with amazing cheeses are at your fingertips
  • Fieldhouse is just a hop skip and a jump away from the park with handmade goodies, delectable sandwiches, and fresh salads
  • A little further, but worth the walk, The Twisted Fork Café and Bistro serves up a selection of homemade food – I’d recommend trying their ginger cookies!

Blakeney Rapids (just outside of Almonte)

Between Almonte and Pakenham is a hidden gem picnic area, where I go to get rejuvenated and slow things down. It never disappoints! You can sit by the rapids, walk through the winding trails that lead down to the river or to other secret picnic spots, take a small bridge to a small island, picnic near the cliffs or high on the rocks.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • On the way through Almonte, The Daily Scoop Café is calling your name, offering great to go items like sandwiches, wraps
  • Equator Café has great gluten free and vegan options available to go, not to mention, the best coffee anywhere!
  • Baker Bob’s, an Almonte landmark, has all things tasty – It’s like going back in time when I enter the store, with creaking old wood floors and that lovely smell

Wherever you decide to go, it’s only a short wander to delicious food and marvelous scenery. Don’t forget your sunscreen, chair, and umbrella, just in case. Happy Picnicking!


Pam Tapley

Growing up in the Ottawa Valley but staying true to her maritime roots, this memory maker and serenity seeker wanderer believes you never have to leave the area to see the beauty in every corner. She is an outdoor enthusiast, who loves kayaking, hiking, reading, skiing, anything near the water, and is happy to share her adventures and memories with you.