was successfully added to your cart.

What You Can Do in 2 Hours in Ottawa on a Bike

Have you ever wondered what you could do if you had a bike and two hours in Ottawa?

I don’t know how many times I’ve rolled into a city with time to kill but no plan on how to make the most of it. Convention goers and business people in particular can probably relate. In Ottawa, it’s an easy problem to solve.

Located in what feels like the bowels of the city, but is really an adapted railway tunnel under Rideau Street is RentaBike.ca. It’s only about a three minute walk from both the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and the Westin Hotel. Here you can rent a wide range of bikes as well as helmets, bike locks, panniers, water, maps and more. It’s open from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Renting a bike in Ottawa is convenient - with rentabike.com right beside the Rideau Canal downtown

Renting a bike in Ottawa is convenient – with rentabike.com right beside the Rideau Canal downtown

Although it’s possible to join a tour, it’s extremely easy to do the ride along the Rideau Canal on your own. Bike paths run along both sides of the canal  and are meant to be shared with walkers. Beware, it can get very busy, especially on weekends.

The Rideau Canal in Ottawa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

As you ride along the canal you are treated to the sight of kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and of course magnificent swaths of tulips in May, especially around Dow’s Lake.

Kayakers enjoying a sunny day in May on the Rideau Canal

Kayakers enjoying a sunny day in May on the Rideau Canal

Stand-up paddle boarding on the Rideau Canal anyone?

Stand-up paddle boarding on the Rideau Canal anyone?

The tulips are near their peak in Ottawa

The tulips are near their peak in Ottawa

Once you get past Dow’s Lake, it feels as though the crowds have dispersed. The next stop is Hartwell Locks – the turnaround point for many. From the bike rental location across from the National Arts Centre to the locks it’s 13 kilometres return. You can cycle the route comfortably in an hour, but there are so many photographic opportunities, it will probably take you longer.

The trails are quieter along teh Rideau River once past Dow's Lake

The trails are quieter once past Dow’s Lake

You can walk your bike across the Hartwell Locks to bike along the other side of the Rideau Canal

You can walk your bike across the Hartwell Locks to bike along the other side of the Rideau Canal

From the locks it’s only another kilometre to reach Hogsback Falls. They’re a beautiful sight and for the slight bit of extra effort, well worth visiting.

Hogsback Falls in Ottawa

Hogsback Falls

The trail along the Rideau Canal is well used by commuters and Carleton University students

The trail along the Rideau Canal is well used by commuters and Carleton University students

On the return I couldn’t help but get off my bike and walk among the beds of tulips. Can you imagine having these gardens in your backyard?

It's hard to get a picture of tulips without people in it during the Tulip Festival

It’s hard to get a picture of tulips without people in it during the Tulip Festival

Swaths of tulip beds across from Dow's Lake

Swaths of tulip beds across from Dow’s Lake

I wanted to get back to the bike lane after visiting the tulip beds. That was a problem. There wasn’t a pedestrian crossing that I could find and traffic was busy. I saw other people in my situation where we went part way across to a median before continuing. A temporary crosswalk during the Tulip Festival would be helpful.

It’s truly a lovely ride back towards the downtown core. To return to the rental location without having to cycle on any streets, you need (at least as far as I can tell) to cross over the Somerset Street pedestrian bridge. This is where you’ll find Ottawa’s version of ‘love locks’.

Ottawa's version of 'Love Locks'

Ottawa’s version of ‘Love Locks’

All told I cycled a whopping 15-17 kilometres, something I can usually do in about 45 minutes. It took me two hours with all the stops I made.

This bike ride is ideal for families as well.

There are loads of bike trails around the city of Ottawa and this is but one of the options available – and what a scenic option it is!

Do you have a favourite Ottawa bike ride?

Thank you to Ottawa Tourism for arranging this outing. I loved every minute of it.

Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

More posts by Leigh

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Cindy says:

    Looks like it is time to go back to Ottawa. It’s been too long and this looks like a great way to spend a day!

  • What a great way to spend a couple of hours in Ottawa! I love your tulip photos! We visited for the Tulip Festival a couple of years ago on the May long weekend and the flowers had bloomed early and were nearly finished. I need to go back during Tulip Festival one year to try again!!

    • @Lisa I was told that the last of the snow and ice had just disappeared a few weeks ago. Then the temperature soared – 31C when I was there – so the tulips went into overdrive. I definitely got them near their peak.

  • Scott - Quirky Travel Guy says:

    Well this is a perfectly timely post since I may be passing through Ottawa for a few hours in August. I love ideas for getting the most out of a short amount of time!

Leave a Reply