Dominion Arboretum Guide to Ottawa's Botanical Treasure

Dominion Arboretum: Guide to Ottawa’s Botanical Treasure

The Dominion Arboretum is one of the popular places for Ottawans to visit when they want to experience nature. I regularly take walks there, especially on cooler days, along the Rideau Canal where I can watch the ducks and herons.

Established in 1889, it is Canada’s oldest arboretum. It was founded with the mission to preserve plants and trees in a harmonious landscape. 

How to Get There

Located between Prince of Wales Drive, Dow’s Lake, and the Rideau Canal, visitors can go to the arboretum by car, public transport, and bike. 

Below are the directions:

By Car

Take the Queen Elizabeth Driveway along the Rideau Canal. After passing Dow’s Lake, turn left onto Prince of Wales Drive, continue to the roundabout at the corner of Prince of Wales Drive and NCC Driveway, and turn east to visit the Arboretum.

Guests can use the parking spaces for free. 

By Public Transit 

Guests can take the O-Train Line 2 to the Carling stop. The arboretum is a short walk from there. 

You can also take the bus and get off at the closest stop at Carleton.

By Bike 

Cyclists often visit the Dominion Arboretum through the Rideau Canal Western Pathway. Biking down the canal to the Dows Lake will take you to the arboretum.   

There are bike racks available to use on the site. 

Is visiting Dominion Arboretum free?

Entrance to the Dominion Arboretum is free. Guests are welcome to explore the 4,000 species of trees and shrubs that grow and survive on 26 hectares of rolling land. 

Activities for Everyone at the Dominion Arboretum

Activities for Everyone at the Dominion Arboretum

Families like to visit the arboretum and enjoy the many activities available. Some guests visit with their dogs because the arboretum allows pets as long as they are leashed. 

Here are other recreations you can do at the site: 


If you are looking for a picturesque and leisurely hike that even young children can enjoy, the 4.5-km loop trail inside the arboretum is a great option. This trail usually takes an average of one hour and 15 minutes to complete. 

The views on this hike vary depending on the season. Hikers will pass by forests, meadows, and wetlands. 

I particularly like to see a variety of wildlife during their hikes. And in autumn, I love watching the leaves turn into different colors. 


The arboretum offers space for a safe bike ride and scenic view. The pathways are well-paved and surrounded by trees and shrubs. 

If you are feeling more adventurous, you can take the pathway that leads out of the arboretum. This will take you along the Rideau Canal. 

I like taking the route that starts at Corktown Footbridge. It’s a scenic path down the Rideau Canal Western Pathway to the arboretum. 

During good weather, some of our fellow bikers like to enjoy a break to have a picnic before continuing on the opposite side of the canal.  This route measures 6.1 km and it takes 18 minutes to complete.


The variety of habitats inside the Dominion Arboretum is home to many species of birds, including berry-loving songbirds, waxwings, ducks, hawks, and sparrows. In the fall, Northern Saw-whet and Long-eared Owls can be spotted.

I found out that joining a guided birdwatching tour is a better way to learn about birds and their role in the environment. Usually, there are tours led by expert guides who can help identify the species around the arboretum.


The arboretum is a great place to have a picnic, regardless of the size of your group. Some of my favorite areas are on the shady paths, under the blooming trees, and especially in the areas beside the canal. 

Food and drinks are allowed but make sure to clean up after you are done. 

Other Attractions at the Dominion Arboretum

Other Attractions at the Dominion Arboretum

Both locals and tourists go to the arboretum to look at the stunning views and annual events. Here are some of the popular attractions. 

North and South Lookouts 

The North and South Lookouts are areas at the arboretum that attract visitors. The southeast side provides a view of the Rideau Canal, while the northeast side offers an overlook of Dow’s Lake and the city.

Hostas Garden 

The Hosta Garden is located between the North and South Lookouts. Visitors can enjoy the view of the foliage of over 300 varieties of thriving hostas. 

This perennial plant is known for being great for gardening and they are almost maintenance-free. 

Ornamental Gardens

Another popular attraction at the arboretum is the Ornamental Gardens, which includes collections of roses, lilac, peony, and iris. A plant display is held annually to showcase these collections in bloom. 

At the Ornamental Gardens, visitors can also see the hedge plant collection, which was established from 1966 until 1968. It features plants that are normally used as hedges.

Popular Trees 

At the arboretum, there is a popular 100-year-old Bebb’s oak that most Canadians are familiar with. The tree was damaged by strong winds in 2017, but it still stands to this day. 

Aside from the iconic oak, there are other notable species, such as the crab apple trees, magnolia groves, and weeping willows.

Dos and Dont’s When Visiting Dominion Arboretum 

The Dominion Arboretum is a place where nature exists in harmony with people. As an area where environmental conservation happens, there are certain things that visitors must remember to do and not do when visiting the site.


  • Respect the plants, animals, and other people visiting the arboretum. 
  • Take a guided tour. They are a great way to learn more about the plants that you’ll find in the area. 
  • Visit during spring or fall because these are when the weather is good and the flowers are in bloom.
  • Plan your visit to make the most out of the activities that the arboretum offers. 


  • Don’t feed the wild animals at the arboretum. 
  • Don’t pick the plants and flowers. 
  • Don’t leave your garbage behind. 
  • Don’t smoke at the arboretum. 
  • Don’t bring alcohol and drugs. 
  • Don’t make disturbances such as shouting and playing loud music. 

Dominion Arboretum is a beautiful and relaxing place to visit in Ottawa. With its huge collection of trees and plants, it’s a great place to learn about nature and enjoy the outdoors, whether you are alone or with your family and friends.