Seeley’s Bay is a charming destination on the heritage Rideau Waterway, offering a friendly port of call for paddlers and a full range of services for all visitors, including public washrooms, showers, liquor, wine and beer, fresh groceries, local arts and crafts, fishing supplies, a variety of accommodations, and more.
The very first ‘trading post’ in the area was a tipi erected at Haskin’s Point which marks the water entry to Seeley’s Bay. Haskin’s Point has been designated one of the “amazing places to visit” by the Frontenac Arch Biosphere (click here for information). This trading post was operated by the Seeley family, the first Europeans to be granted land by the Crown in this region. The actual bay that runs into the village beside Haskin’s Point today was created when dams were built, to operate mills upstream and downstream, at the time of the construction of the Rideau Canal in the 1830s. The result was the flooding of former cranberry marshes and the emergence of a lovely little internal harbour. Before long this harbour had a number of mills and busy wharves to serve the steamboats that plied the new canal to haul lumber and other resources out of the emerging village of Seeley’s Bay. Rumour has it that in the early days the community had a bit of a ‘wild’ reputation; perhaps a bit too much carousing by stevedores for some upstanding members of the growing community. By road, the village is just off Highway #15, near the junction of Highway #32, about 25 minutes northeast of Kingston. When the residents of Seeley’s Bay chose a project to celebrate Canada’s centennial in 1967 they built a tipi-like structure in Centennial Park to honour the memory of the Seeley family’s trading post, but they put a TV aerial on the top (Seeley’s Bay’s Centennial slogan was “From tipi to TV”) to make the point that the village valued its roots but had its eyes on the future. This tradition of celebrating history and pursuing progress continues in Seeley’s Bay today. Regrettably, for safety reasons the tipi had to be taken down in 2019, however the residents are looking forward to a new multi-purpose structure in the future.
Seeley’s Bay is a paddling-friendly destination. Near the public dock there is a paddlers’ station with an accessible dock, a rack for storing kayaks and canoes, bins for securing gear, and a map showing the location of the public toilets, the park and all the shops and services, all of which are within 1-2 blocks of the paddling station. Visitors arriving by water will find it very easy to walk up to the Main Street to buy ice cream, groceries, a bottle of wine and the makings of a picnic, etc., knowing that their goods are stowed safely back at the shore. Paddlers arriving by land will find free convenient parking right at the paddling station, or, can easily arrange a ride to the paddling station with one of several friendly accommodation operators in the area). From Seeley’s Bay, paddling “trails” beckon in every direction. One of the best goes north to Whitefish Lake, then east through Morton Cut and past Rock Dunder (one of the best views and picnic spots in Eastern Ontario). Continuing on through the ancient rocks and forests of the reach to Morton, paddlers can then portage into the Morton Creek, loop through the islands of Beverley Lake (with a side trip to the village of Delta for those with an interest in touring the historic mill at that location) and down the Gananoque River to the St. Lawrence at the town of Gananoque. James Raffan, one of Canada’s most celebrated paddlers, has said that this route is one of his absolute favourites in the country. “It has a little of everything,” he said, “accessible wilderness, blue lake and rocky shore, history, spring water, excellent camping, and one of the most dramatic transitions from shield to lowland at Marble Rock Dam. Places are few where you can hear the cry of the loon, see wild deer, fry fresh fish over an open fire, experience quiet and solitude and paddle over or under the TransCanada pipeline, the CPR, Highway 401, all of Canada’s main energy, communication and transportation links … in one trip.” Visitors to Seeley’s Bay will enjoy a lively community with, depending on the season, a variety of entertainment options – including old time fiddlers at The Royal Canadian Legion the first Sunday afternoon of every month, church dinners, annual BBQs, festivals and more. The main draw for visitors over the past 100 years has undoubtedly been the fishing as the village is a great launching point to 4 great fishing lakes (bass, bowfin, pike, pan fish of various kinds and more). Today it is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, with nearby hiking, cycling, golf and historic back roads driving routes, to get away from it all. Additional shopping, dining and touring in the 1000 Islands is only minutes away in Rockport, Gananoque and Kingston, and the village is easily accessible for day trips or overnight from Montreal, Syracuse, Toronto, Ottawa, and more.