Ontario's Route Champlain
Based on the 1615–1616 great expedition and route taken by Samuel de Champlain, this collection of attractions and series of themed itineraries offers travellers more than 120 exciting options to craft their own 21st-century Franco-Ontarian adventure.
Discover French and bilingual outdoor, culinary, cultural and historical experiences that reflect the famous French explorer’s legacy and showcase the Francophone, bilingual and Indigenous cultures that make Ontario so unique.
Services throughout the route are offered in French and English.
Travel by car, RV, bike or foot, and stay at a wide range of accommodations and campgrounds. Explore part or all of the nearly 1,500-kilometre route taken by Champlain and discover:
- biking and hiking trails through breathtaking scenery in provincial parks
- canoeing adventures based on the travels of the historic voyageurs
- heart-pumping white-water rafting along river rapids
- delicious Francophone culinary experiences and products
- illuminating Franco-Ontarian and Indigenous cultural and historic sites, museums and landmarks
A short history of Champlain and his route
Samuel de Champlain was a French cartographer, naturalist, ethnographer and adventurer. He was one of the first Europeans to explore Ontario with a vision to establish a New France in America, and has been called the Father of New France for his exploration from 1604 to 1635 that led to colonization.
Canada is the original homeland to many Indigenous nations. Champlain fostered relationships (albeit misguidedly), with Indigenous and First Nations people and relied heavily on their skill, knowledge and hospitality. It is imperative to acknowledge the role and contributions of First Nations and Indigenous people throughout Canada’s history.
During his great expedition of 1615–1616, Champlain and his crew navigated the Ottawa River, the Mattawa River, Lake Nipissing, the French River and the waters of Georgian Bay in search of a suitable site for a trading post and a viable path to the “northern sea.” This trip significantly shaped the future events and direction of Ontario history and development.
Things to do on the route
There are lots of exciting ways to experience Route Champlain. Follow one five themed, multi-day itineraries, take an exhilarating cycling tour, or dip in and out of the region’s culinary attractions for a unique and flavourful adventure with a Great Taste of Ontario passport.
The route provides travellers with five themed, regional itineraries that follow Champlain’s footsteps and paddle strokes throughout the region.
This region encompasses a large area of Ontario—from Georgian Bay in the west up to North Bay and Nippissing in the north, across to the Ontario-Quebec border in the east and down to Lake Ontario in the south.
Each itinerary varies in length and regional coverage and includes a wide range of experiences and attractions. These reflect the explorer’s legacy, honour the Indigenous nations of the land and celebrate the province’s unique Franco-Ontarian culture.
Ottawa and Countryside
Embark on a fascinating historical tour in and around the nation’s capital and discover unique natural and cultural heritage, as well as delicious food and drink. And don’t miss the statue of Champlain holding his astrolabe (an ancient astronomical instrument that was also used by seafaring explorers) at Nepean Point behind the National Gallery of Canada.
- explore the beautiful Voyageur Provincial Park on the Ontario-Quebec border
- savour the delicious cheeses in the Francophone community of St-Albert
- make your own jam at Les Fruits du Poirier
- take a guided tour of historic ByTown or downtown Ottawa
- relax and take in the city sights on a scenic Rideau Canal boat cruise
Duration: 4 days
Ottawa Valley and the Gateway to the North
Guided by First Nations, Champlain navigated portions of the Ottawa River up to the Mattawa River. Tackle the same rapids on a white-water rafting adventure and take in the scenic beauty of the Ottawa Valley.
- take in the scenery in Fitzroy Provincial Park
- tackle the Ottawa River rapids on a canoe or rafting excursion with OWL Rafting
- taste the delicious craft beers at Whitewater Brewing Company
- learn how to bake bannock bread at the Canadian Ecology Centre
Duration: 2 days
Georgian Bay (Explorer’s Edge and Georgian Bay Shore)
Explore Georgian Bay in a kayak and its shorelines by bike—one of the main routes traveled by the first French coureurs de bois. To the west are the 30,000 islands where Champlain meandered, and to the east, the chains of lakes attract outdoor adventurers and nature lovers.
- taste local produce at Francophone family-owned Leisure Farms
- hike the easy trail to the French River Gorge to view an ancient fault in the Earth’s crust
- take a cruise on the Island Queen and follow the route of the earliest explorers
- experience early French and Indigenous history brought to life at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons
Duration: 3 days
Simcoe, Trent-Severn Waterway and Northumberland
Over 120 years ago, engineers traversed 386 kilometres of waterways to create the navigable Trent-Severn, an integral part of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System, with its high locks and marine railways—something Champlain would have appreciated.
Discover the impressive history of the canoe in Canada, learn about the area’s culture at local museums, and enjoy the region’s famous apple pies, local beers and wines.
- trace the steps of the famous coureur de bois Étienne Brûlé, the first true Franco-Ontarian, in Awenda Provincial Park
- marvel at the deep caverns and boulders at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures
- visit the canoes at the Canadian Canoe Museum; admire the engineering feat of the Peterborough Lift Lock
Duration: 3 days
Prince Edward County and Rideau Canal
Champlain was captivated by the beauty of the shores of the St. Lawrence during his military expedition. Now it’s your turn to revel in what he described as “a most beautiful and pleasing land.”
- enjoy outdoor adventure on the wooded trails and suspension bridge over the Trent River Gorge and Ranney Falls in Ferris Provincial Park
- savour the gastronomic delights of Prince Edward County, including the Huff Estates Inn and Winery
- swim in some of Canada’s warmest waters at Sandbanks Provincial Park
- take a historic trolley tour of Kingston; experience an authentic voyageur canoe journey on the Rideau Canal
Duration: 4 days
For travellers interested in a cycling tour, Route Champlain provides five cycling routes of varying intensity and regional coverage:
Great Taste of Ontario
Make your Route Champlain experience a culinary adventure. Discover the best of French-Canadian cuisine in Ontario, from award-winning cheeses and cured meats to tourtière and macarons.
Great Taste of Ontario is a collection of digital passports and stories that help you experience the diverse and delicious food and drink that make Ontario special.
Download your passport and then plan your delicious road trip. Each time you check in to a passport location you earn rewards. For every five check-ins you collect, you can redeem one $25 Feast On Gift Voucher.
Travel tips and resources
Trip planning maps and guides
The useful interactive map on the Route Champlain website provides travellers with information about attractions, businesses and accommodations along the route. Downloadable guides in PDF format are provided for each itinerary, with an outline of suggested attractions, travel details and additional maps.
Note that many attractions and businesses have seasonal operation times. Check the map and individual attractions, businesses or accommodations for details before planning your trip.
Find out more about the history and culture of various sites, people and artifacts on the route on the Route Champlain blog.
Learn about the legend of Champlain’s astrolabe and the incredible maps and navigational charts he created with this fascinating object, discover a long-forgotten settlement in New France, or find out more about the Francophone communities on the route.
French language services
Services throughout the route are offered in French. Check the map on the Route Champlain website for the official French language service classification (Classification nationale des service en francais) designated for each attraction, business or accommodation provider.
= services in French at all times
= services in French upon request
= promotional items and/or documentation in French
For more information about Francophone experiences in Ontario, Salut Canada offers lots of useful tips on things to do, places to see and routes to explore.
If you’re looking for more Francophone activities to do in Ontario, check out these articles:
Last updated: March 2, 2023