Most Breathtaking Scenic Places to Drive in Ottawa

9 of the Most Breathtaking Scenic Places to Drive in Ottawa

It’s no secret that Ottawa has no shortage of incredible scenery. Personally speaking, I think I can spot a breathtaking background wherever I look around the city. 

This is one of the main reasons why I love to take scenic drives around Ottawa every now and then. It’s a way for me to unwind after a long week of work, and it’s also a chance for me to spend more time with my friends and family. 

If you’re also interested in seeing some beautiful sights, then hop on your vehicle as I’m going to show you some of the best scenery that Ottawa has to offer. 

Gatineau Parkway

Gatineau Parkway

Start: 300 Laurier Ave W, Ottawa, ON K1P 5J8

End: 339 Park Rd, Chelsea, QC J9B 1R8

Length: 18.3 km

Duration: 20-30 minutes

Notable landmarks: 

  • Pink Lake
  • Champlain Lookout
  • Gatineau Park Visitor Centre 

The Gatineau Parkway is a beautiful scenic drive in the Ottawa-Gatineau area that people from all over love. 

This 18.3 km trip usually takes between 20 and 30 minutes to finish. It starts at 300 Laurier Ave W, Ottawa, ON K1P 5J8 and goes to 339 Park Rd, Chelsea, QC J9B 1R8.

The most famous thing about the Gatineau Parkway is its natural beauty. The drive starts in the middle of Ottawa and quickly takes you out of the busy city and into the green, wooded areas of the green space.

The chance to see the changing seasons in all their glory is one of the best things about this trip. 

In the fall, when the maple trees’ leaves turn fiery red and golden yellow, the road turns into a rainbow of color. It turns into a winter wonderland in the winter, with some of the best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing paths in the area.

Let us now talk about a few interesting sites that make this drive so special.

Pink Lake

You’ll come across the beautiful Pink Lake as you make your way through the park. The name of this breathtaking glacial lake comes from the greenish color of the water, which is caused by algae. 

You can get up close and personal with this natural wonder by taking a short walk from the parking lot. The view from above is simply breathtaking.

Champlain Lookout

Next, get ready to be amazed when you reach the Champlain Lookout. It has a great view of the Ottawa Valley and the Gatineau Hills thanks to its position high up on the Eardley Escarpment. 

This viewpoint is a photographer’s dream, whether you’re here to see a beautiful sunset or just to enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

Gatineau Park Visitor Center

The Gatineau Park Visitor Center is close to the end of your drive. Stopping here is a great idea to get some fresh air and learn more about its trails, wildlife, and seasonal events. 

The center also has educational displays that discuss the park’s long past and efforts to protect it.

The Gatineau Parkway is a great place for people who love the outdoors because it has many hiking trails, bike paths, and picnic areas. 

This scenic drive is a must-do for anyone who loves nature and photography, or just wants to get away from the noise and chaos of the city. It catches the essence of the Ottawa-Gatineau region’s natural beauty. 

Rockcliffe Parkway

Rockcliffe Parkway

Start: 740 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 8M1

End: 300 Laurier Ave W, Ottawa, ON K1P 5J8

Length: 14.2 km

Duration: 15-20 minutes

Notable landmarks: 

  • Rideau Hall
  • 24 Sussex Drive
  • Aviation Museum
  • Ottawa River 

This 14.2 km stretch of road offers a condensed yet delightful journey through Ottawa’s rich history, natural beauty, and iconic landmarks. 

Rideau Hall

First, there’s Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada. 

As you start your drive, you’ll pass this elegant mansion set amidst impeccably manicured gardens. The sight of its grand façade and the splendor of the surrounding greenspace is simply captivating.

Official Residence of the Prime Minister of Canada

Once you continue along, you’ll find yourself on Sussex Drive, where you’ll glimpse the famed 24 Sussex Drive. It’s not just any house; it’s the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada. 

Though you can’t tour the place, the knowledge that you’re passing by the epicenter of Canadian politics adds a certain gravitas to your trip.

Official Residence of the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

As you continue, keep an eye out for the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. 

Even from the outside, it’s a sight to behold, with various aircraft displayed in the open air. If aviation history fascinates you, a visit here is a must.

Ottawa River

Now, let’s talk about the pièce de résistance—the Ottawa River. The Rockcliffe Parkway runs parallel to this majestic waterway, offering you stunning views of the river and the Gatineau Hills beyond. 

Be sure to take a moment to pull over and soak in the serenity. In the summer, you might spot kayakers and paddleboarders gracefully navigating the river’s currents.

What makes the Rockcliffe Parkway truly special is its blend of urban charm and natural beauty. You can enjoy a peaceful drive while being so close to the heart of the city. 

It is also a favorite for cyclists and joggers, and it’s particularly picturesque during the fall when the trees that line the route burst into brilliant autumn hues.

Wakefield

Wakefield

Start: Macdonald-Cartier Bridge, Ottawa, ON K1P 5R2

End: 49 Chemin Gatineau, Wakefield, QC J0X 3G0

Length: 32.9 km (from Macdonald-Cartier Bridge)

Duration: 30-40 minutes

Notable landmarks: 

  • Wakefield Covered Bridge
  • Vorlage Ski Resort
  • Morrison’s Quarry
  • Gatineau River

As you cross the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge, you leave the bustling capital behind and embark on a 32.9 km journey that takes you through a tapestry of natural beauty and charming landmarks.

Wakefield Covered Bridge

First, you’ll encounter the iconic Wakefield Covered Bridge, a picturesque testament to the region’s history. 

This 100-year-old, red-truss structure presents photo opportunities and is a symbol of the village’s character and charm. When you pass through it, you’ll instantly feel transported to a simpler, more peaceful time.

Vorlage Ski Resort

Heading onward, you’ll find yourself in the vicinity of Vorlage Ski Resort. Even if you’re not visiting during the winter, it’s worth noting that this is where locals and visitors alike come to carve the slopes when the snow falls. 

In the warmer months, it transforms into a lush playground for hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts.

Morrisson’s Quarry

Another notable stop along the way is Morrison’s Quarry, an abandoned marble quarry turned turquoise swimming hole. 

The water’s color alone is reason enough to pause and marvel, and adventurous spirits can even take a leap from the cliffs into its refreshing depths. It’s a local secret oasis that is an absolute gem.

Gatineau River

As you continue your drive, the serenity of the Gatineau River will accompany you. The river’s gentle flow, flanked by dense forest, is a soothing sight. 

There are several spots along the way where you can pull over and savor the view, perhaps even enjoying a picnic or a leisurely stroll across the riverbank.

What makes this drive truly remarkable is its transformation with the seasons. In the fall, the surrounding foliage explodes with a vibrant palette of reds, yellows, and oranges. 

The cold season blankets the area in a serene layer of snow, making it a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. Spring and summer bring out the lush greenery, inviting you to explore the great outdoors.

The drive to Wakefield is more than just a commute; it’s an experience that transports you from the city to a world of natural beauty, history, and tranquility. 

Whether you’re in pursuit of adventure, relaxation, or simply a scenic escape, this journey never fails to deliver.

Luskville

Luskville

Start: Highway 148, Gatineau Park, QC

End: 320 Chemin Luskville, Chelsea, QC J9B 1R7

Length: 34.2 km (from Highway 148)

Duration: 30-40 minutes

Notable landmarks

  • Gatineau Hills
  • Canadian Museum of History
  • Gatineau River 

This 34.2 km drive through the Gatineau Hills is nothing short of a visual feast for the senses, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural landmarks.

Gatineau Hills

To kick things off, you’ll be greeted by the majestic Gatineau Hills. These rolling, forested formations are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with hiking and biking trails winding through their midst. 

In the fall, the foliage transforms into a dazzling display of autumn colors, making it a prime destination for leaf-peeping.

Canadian Museum of History

Next on the route is the Canadian Museum of History, a testament to Canada’s rich cultural heritage and a striking architectural marvel in its own right. 

Even if you don’t have time for a visit, simply catching a glimpse of this iconic building along the river is a treat.

As you drive further, the serenading Gatineau River will accompany you. It meanders through the landscape, offering numerous scenic pull-offs where you can pause to take in the tranquil beauty. 

In the summer, the river beckons with opportunities for kayaking and canoeing, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural surroundings.

What makes this drive particularly special is its year-round allure. In the winter, the hills become a playground for skiing and snowshoeing enthusiasts, while the snow-covered landscape adds a layer of serene beauty. 

Spring, with its blooming wildflowers, and summer, with its lush greenery, offer a different kind of charm.

Colonel By Drive

Colonel By Drive

Start: Chateau Laurier, 1 Rideau St, Ottawa, ON K1N 8S7

End: Dow’s Lake, 29 Queen Elizabeth Dr, Ottawa, ON K1S 5J6

Length: 6.3 km (from Chateau Laurier to Dow’s Lake)

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Notable landmarks: 

  • Rideau Canal
  • Parliament Buildings
  • Dow’s Lake
  • University of Ottawa 

A trip through the Colonel By Drive is a relatively short 6.3 km route that takes you on a journey across the heart of our nation’s capital, offering a delightful blend of natural beauty and iconic landmarks.

Chateau Laurier

You’ll begin at the historic Chateau Laurier, a symbol of elegance and grandeur. As you set off, you’ll immediately find yourself alongside the stunning Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

This UNESCO World Heritage site is more than just a waterway; it’s a testament to Canada’s engineering prowess and a picturesque backdrop for your journey.

Parliament Buildings

One of the first landmarks you’ll pass is the awe-inspiring Parliament Buildings

These majestic structures are not only the seat of the Canadian government but also architectural marvels, especially when illuminated in the evening. Even a quick glance at these iconic edifices can stir a sense of national pride.

Dow’s Lake

As you continue your drive, Dow’s Lake comes into view. This serene body of water is a hub of activity throughout the year. 

In the summer, you’ll see paddleboats and canoes gliding across its surface, while in the winter, it transforms into a magical outdoor ice-skating rink.

University of Ottawa

The drive culminates at the University of Ottawa, a center of academic excellence and a harmonious blend of modernity and tradition. While it may not be a tourist attraction in itself, it’s a significant part of the city’s landscape and culture.

The accessibility and versatility of the Colone By Drive is what truly makes it a memorable trip. It’s an experience that captures the essence of Ottawa’s rich history and natural beauty in a mere 10-15 minutes. 

This is a route that can be savored at any time of the day or year, whether you’re commuting to work or taking a leisurely weekend stroll.

Lac Philippe Road

Lac Philippe Road

Start: Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, 339 Park Rd, Chelsea, QC J9B 1R8

End: Mackenzie King Estate, 360 Chemin Kingsmere, Gatineau Park, QC J8X 3W2

Length: 6.3 km

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Notable landmarks: 

  • Lac Philippe
  • Gatineau Park Visitor Centre
  • Mackenzie King Estate 

Though short in length, Lac Philippe Road’s 6.3 km journey is a microcosm of Gatineau Park’s natural beauty, history, and tranquility.

Your adventure commences at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, a hub of information and a gateway to the conservation area’s wonders. 

As you set out, you’ll find yourself enveloped by the lush woodlands that define this beautiful natural sanctuary.

Lac Philippe

One of the first landmarks that graces your path is Lac Philippe, a pristine and serene body of water. The shimmering lake reflects the surrounding forest, creating a picturesque scene that is both soothing and inspiring. 

In the summer, it’s an ideal spot for swimming, kayaking, and picnicking, while in the fall, the surrounding foliage bursts into a breathtaking display of autumn colors.

Mackenzie King Estate

As you continue along Lac Philippe Road, you’ll arrive at the historic Mackenzie King Estate

This stately residence, nestled amid beautifully landscaped gardens, was the former retreat of Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. 

What makes this drive truly remarkable is the way it encapsulates Gatineau Park’s essence within a short span. 

You’ll witness its natural diversity, from tranquil lakeshores to dense forests, and experience its historical legacy through the Mackenzie King Estate.

Despite its brevity, Lac Philippe Road invites you to linger, breathe in the crisp mountain air, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Gatineau Park. 

It’s a journey that can be enjoyed year-round, each season adding its unique charm to the experience.

Meech Lake Road

Meech Lake Road

Start: Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, 339 Park Rd, Chelsea, QC J9B 1R8

End: Meech Lake, Gatineau Park, QC J8X 3X8

Length: 10.1 km

Duration: 15-20 minutes

Notable landmarks: 

  • Meech Lake
  • Camp Fortune
  • Gatineau Hills 

The 10.1 km route of Meech Lake Road is a condensed journey that encapsulates the very essence of the region’s natural beauty and outdoor allure.

Starting from the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, your drive meanders through the serene hills of the area. The lush, forested landscape instantly envelops you, offering a refreshing escape from the urban hustle and bustle.

Camp Fortune

One of the first landmarks to grace your journey is Camp Fortune, a year-round outdoor recreation destination. In the winter, it’s a favorite for skiers and snowboarders, offering some of the region’s best downhill slopes. 

In the summer, it transforms into a playground for mountain bikers and hikers. The sight of the slopes against the backdrop of verdant forests is nothing short of spectacular.

Meech Lake

As you continue your drive, the jewel of the journey awaits: Meech Lake. This pristine body of water, cradled by the Gatineau Hills, is a serene oasis of natural beauty. 

In the summer, its inviting waters are perfect for swimming, kayaking, and picnicking. The shoreline offers quiet spots for contemplation and relaxation, making it a popular destination for those seeking solace in nature.

But it’s not just the landmarks that make Meech Lake Road special. It’s the journey itself. 

The winding path takes you through enchanting forested tunnels and past scenic vistas that offer glimpses of the Gatineau Hills in all their glory. 

Each season paints a different picture: the vibrant colors of fall, the peaceful snow-covered landscape of winter, the rebirth of spring, and the lush greenery of summer.

Meech Lake Road is a reminder that you don’t need to venture far from the city to immerse yourself in nature’s wonders. It’s a tranquil and rejuvenating drive that captures the essence of the Ottawa-Gatineau region’s natural beauty.

Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway

Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway

Start: Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

End: Remic Rapids Park, 390 Island Park Dr, Ottawa, ON K1V 2G4

Length: 2 km

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Notable landmarks: 

  • Ottawa River
  • Parliament Buildings
  • Gatineau Hills 

Along the Ottawa River, the 2 km scenic route of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway is a beautiful way to see the nation’s capital in a short amount of time.

Parliament Building surrounded by Ottawa River

Your drive starts at the famous Parliament Buildings and goes along the gorgeous Ottawa River. 

The wide expanse of the river reflects the grandeur of the area, making it a stunning sight that marks the beauty of Ottawa. This well-known structure looks even more beautiful when it’s lit up at night.

Along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, it’s not just the sights that matter; it’s also the trip. While driving across the path, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of the Gatineau Hills, which rise dramatically across the river in Quebec. 

These rolling hills make a beautiful background for your drive, especially in the fall when they turn bright colors.

The trip itself isn’t very long, but what you can do along the way is what makes it unique. Your destination, Remic Rapids Park, is a peaceful spot where you can rest, stretch, and look at the one-of-a-kind stone figures made by artist John Felice Ceprano. 

Bicyclists and joggers also like the parkway because it’s a beautiful place to work out and rest. During the summer, picnickers and people looking for sun make the riverbanks a busy and friendly place to be.

The Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway is truly unique because it is easy to get to and can be used in many ways. 

It’s not far from the city center and is great for a quick break during the day or a drive in the evening to relax and enjoy the beauty of Ottawa’s scenery.

Greenbelt

Greenbelt

Start: NCC Greenbelt Trail, 1000 Prince of Wales Dr, Ottawa, ON K2C 1N3 or Mer Bleue Conservation Area, 300 Mer Bleue Rd, Ottawa, ON K4P 1L3

End: Variable

Length: 200+ km

Duration: Variable

Notable landmarks:

  •  Various parks, trails, and natural areas 

The Greenbelt is not just a drive; it’s a journey through some of Ottawa’s most pristine natural landscapes. 

With over 200 kilometers of interconnected roads and trails, this green oasis offers an experience that can vary from a short outing to a full-day adventure.

Starting your drive at the NCC Greenbelt Trail, you’ll be greeted by lush forests, open meadows, and serene waterways. The Greenbelt is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, and you can choose your own adventure here. 

Whether it’s hiking, cycling, birdwatching, or simply taking a leisurely drive to enjoy the scenery, you’re spoiled for choice. 

Mer Bleue Conservation Area

The Mer Bleue Conservation Area, located within the Greenbelt, is a unique and ecologically significant peat bog. It’s a prime example of the diverse ecosystems you’ll encounter along your drive. 

The boardwalk trail here offers an up-close look at this captivating natural wonder, with opportunities for birdwatching and nature photography.

One of the Greenbelt’s standout features is its network of parks and trails, each with its own distinct character. 

From the serene shores of Shirley’s Bay to the rugged beauty of the Pine Grove Trail, there’s always something new to explore. Wildlife is abundant, so keep your eyes peeled for deer, foxes, and a wide array of bird species.

What truly makes the Greenbelt special is its ability to offer a peaceful escape from the city, right on Ottawa’s doorstep. It’s a place where you can connect with nature, recharge your spirit, and breathe in the fresh air. 

In the fall, the Greenbelt’s woodlands come alive with vibrant foliage, while in the spring and summer, wildflowers blanket the meadows.