How to use Bonnechere as a basecamp to explore the Ottawa Valley

Located along the meandering Bonnechere River, Bonnechere Provincial Park is the perfect place to explore with your family.

Bonnechere — located in Killaloe, ON (just 2 hours from Ottawa) — is one of the Ottawa Valley’s hidden gems. It’s also a great spot from which to explore all the region has to offer.

Here’s how you can do that:

Your home base

Bonnechere’s campers return year after year because of its beautiful, private campsites.

Tent Campsite in Bonnechere

There are three campgrounds, each with a different feel. Of these, all provide access to a central comfort station and water taps.

The River Loop Campground’s sites sit along the river and are non-electrical. You can bring your own canoe and launch right from the campsite!

Bonnechere campsite

Tall Pines Campground features electrical and non-electrical sites surrounded by huge White Pines.

Sandy Flats Campground is a radio-free area offering non-electrical sites in a slightly more secluded area of the park.

What to do at Bonnechere

There’s a ton to do at Bonnechere, starting with a relaxing day on the beach. The park sits on Round Lake, and has a sandy beach with a shallow entry.

Bonnechere beach

Or you can explore the Bonnechere River with a paddle up to Jack’s Chute. This quiet river is great for introducing little ones to paddling (and the scenery will blow you away).

Bonnechere rents kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards, which you can pick up right at the boat launch. PFDs, paddles, and safety kits are all included with your rental.

Man in kayak on Bonnechere River

There are several great trails to explore at Bonnechere.

The Walks of the Little Bonnechere River is a compilation of 10 local trails and stopping places which will help you gain an understanding of the history of the river and its people.

Family on the Footprints in Time Trail

The Footprints in Time Trail is a real highlight.

This innovative trail design features unique sign posts (a.k.a., “museums-on-a-stick”) along the way for a self-guided experience. Along the way, you will travel from 10,000 BC to present day using the sign posts as your guide.

Man and baby on the Footprints in Time Trail

Finally, throughout the summer, the park’s Discovery staff offer a variety of educational programming through campsite visits and Discovery stations.

Destination: Ottawa Valley

The Ottawa Valley is famous for its unique blend of heritage and outdoor recreation.

Scenic view of Home Fires Park in Petawawa
Photo: Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure unlike any other, or are interested in exploring the historic towns that line Ottawa River, this region has it all.

Here’s what awaits your discovery: 


Often called the “Heart of the Ottawa Valley,” Pembroke is a small town with a rich history on the bank of the Ottawa River. Today, the downtown district is full of historic homes, stores, and churches that keep the town’s energetic drive going.

And for a town of its size, there’s an awful lot of activities to keep you busy. For instance, consider spending a day shopping or trying out the local restaurants and breweries.

Then, take a walk through downtown to view the Pembroke Heritage Murals. A self-guided walking tour will help you discover the large-scale paintings celebrating the area’s rich character and heritage.

Pembroke Heritage Mural. Photo: Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

History buffs can also check out the Champlain Museum Trail and Pioneer Village, a trip back in time to the turn of the century.

Here, you’ll see several interesting historic sites, including a Victorian home, early doctor’s office, Pembroke’s first motorized fire engine, a general store, barber shop, steam engine, and more!

Mural on Pembroke Building
Pembroke Heritage Mural. Photo: Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

There are entertainment options as well – in regular summer seasons, you can take in some old time dancing and fiddling at Fiddle Park. Or see a movie at the Skylight Drive-in theatre!


Renfrew is another small town in the Ottawa Valley with much to offer. The town offers a wide range of services, including even more diverse restaurant and shopping choices in the vibrant downtown.

And, like Pembroke, there’s a lot of history to explore in Renfrew.

The McDougall Mill Museum holds three packed floors of artifacts, many from Renfrew’s early Industrial days. Ottawa Valley natives donated other artifacts from their travels around Canada and other exotic locales.

For hockey fans, Renfrew is the home of an interesting bit of history – Ambrose O’Brien, who founded the National Hockey Association (the predecessor of the NHL) was born and raised in Renfrew.

Man with a hockey stick in Renfrew's NHL Museum
Birthplace NHA/NHL Museum. Photo courtesy of Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

Today, the Birthplace NHA/NHL Museum represents his legacy, and Renfrew’s connection to an early period of sports history.

Make sure to visit the Renfrew Swinging Bridge for an excellent view of the Bonnechere River!

 Other towns

 There are many other small towns in the Ottawa Valley well worth a visit.

Wilno, a small town rich in Polish history, offers historic sites and a museum, a craft gallery, restaurants serving traditional Polish food, churches, and more.

Wilno’s Polish Kashub Museum. Photo: Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

Meanwhile, nearby Eganville boats several unique restaurants, including coffee shops, cafes, and craft breweries.

Many communities in the Ottawa Valley host farmers’ markets, selling locally-produced fruits and vegetables!

In Petawawa, you’ll find the Garrison Petawawa Military Museums, which commemorates the military history of the area.

Outdoor experiences 

The Ottawa Valley is known as the Whitewater Capital of Canada, and for good reason: it is home to some of the fastest, cleanest, warmest, and safest rivers in the country.

Group whitewater rafting
Photo: Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

The Valley is also home to Canada’s best paddling schools, kayak, canoe, or raft. And several seasoned outfitters offer a variety of guided packages!

Aerial view of whitewater rafting
Photo: Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

This area is also where you’ll find the famous Bonnechere Caves. Guided tours will take visitors through an impressive cave system to learn more about fossils and prehistoric life.

Interior of Bonnechere caves
Bonnechere Caves. Photo: Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

Finally, we would be remiss to tell you about the Ottawa Valley without mentioning some of the other provincial parks in the area as well.

Algonquin Provincial Park is only an hour away.

You could visit the famous Highway 60 corridor.

Be sure to book your advanced daily vehicle permit to explore Algonquin’s Visitor Centre, Logging Museum, Art Centre, interpretive walking trails, and more.

Or you could visit the park’s lesser-known eastern side. Here, you’ll find the Barron Canyon Trail.

Tress and a canyon with a river
Barron Canyon, Algonquin Provincial Park

Many people (staff included) will tell you this is the park’s most stunning day-hiking trail.

Driftwood Provincial Park is also quite close.

Driftwood Provincial Park

Its hiking trails, including the Oak Highland Trail, climb to lookouts with panoramic views of the Ottawa River.

Outside the county

Bonnechere is only two hours away from Ottawa. That means you can explore the National Capital Region’s many museums, historic sites, shops, and restaurants for the day, or as the next stop on your trip.

Check out the Ottawa Tourism website for a full picture of everything the city offers.

Bonnechere is two hours from Ottawa and just over four hours from Toronto.