Itâ€™s been a weird summer, hasn’t it? Thanks to COVID, we didnâ€™t do half as many little day trips and family adventures as we usually do, though I am grateful that my pre-teen and teenagers are generally willing to still come along for the occasional day trip. We love small towns and have been to Perth, Almonte, Carleton Place, Prescott, Kemptville, Carp — and somehow, we have up until this summer completely overlooked Brockville. Please allow me to share our rave review of our simple but wonderful day trip to Brockville.
We started with fish and chips from Donâ€™s take-out window. Weâ€™ve been looking for good fish and chips in or near Ottawa for years, and this is easily the best weâ€™ve had since the Black Dog CafÃ© closed their take-out window. We took ours a block or so to Hardy Park and sat on benches on the boardwalk, enjoying the river view but not the bees. So! Many! Bees! Definitely worth both the trek and the bee sting on Belovedâ€™s hand, though.
After that, we wandered over to the Aquatarium for our scheduled tour. I was really impressed with the way they managed everything with respect to COVID. We really havenâ€™t gone out much at all since the pandemic started, and though I was a little twitchy at first being led around in a small group with three other families, the guide was clearly cognizant of social distancing and did a great job of managing the group, and a cleaner trailed behind us wiping surfaces as we passed. Our guide Alex also added a lot of value with her stories and narration. We had a Groupon, so if you can snag one it makes the admission even more reasonable.
We loved (LOVED!) the otters, and the beaver (Justin Beaver, natch) and other sea creatures were quite cool, too. Four of us have been playing Animal Crossing rather obsessively this summer, so we were amused to see so many of the critters from the game live in the Aquatarium: welks, sea stars, urchins, sea snails, turtles, sturgeon, pike, and blue gills. If your kids (or you!) love Animal Crossing, it’s worth it for the otters alone!
Our tour took maybe 75 or 90 minutes, and I genuinely enjoyed all of it. However, the real hit of the afternoon was the Brockville Railway Tunnel. Itâ€™s only a block or so walk from the Aquatrium (which itself is only a block from Donâ€™s fish and chips and two blocks from the park – everything is so convenient!) to Canadaâ€™s oldest railway tunnel (constructed between 1854 and 1860), which has been converted to a fun tourist attraction. As you walk the 525m tunnel, light shows play around you. My snap-and-insta-loving teen was in selfie heaven, and we took a few shots that will make great cover art when the band drops our first album. I really did not expect them (or me) to be as entertained as we were, and itâ€™s completely free.
Being on the St Lawrence seaway, Brockville is also just a lovely little town. We finished our visit with ice cream on the boardwalk and another little wander along the water. We didnâ€™t even have time to visit the shops of the quaint downtown that reminds of me of the many villages of my southern Ontario childhood. Weâ€™ll visit those when we go back, because we all agreed that Brockville is a new family-favourite day trip destination.