One of my favourite things to do this summer was to chase sunsets here in Ottawa and I wanted to share some inspiration before the colder months. COVID-19 forced me to do a few things: slow down (providing me with ample time to head out to see many a sunsets); and plan free outdoor activities with friends to social distance (but seriously, sitting while watching a sunset and chatting with friends has been wonderful). The sun goes below the horizon at night in the west so it’s best to find a location on the south side of the Ottawa River, facing west to get the best views! I’ve chosen locations I’ve personally been to this summer and provided a picture or two of the view you might expect to see. I personally enjoy sunsets will little to no obstacles to encumber my view of the setting sun. There are so many things to do in Ottawa that are easily accessible so pack your bag, bring a blanket and sit and watch a sunset at any one of these places!
Sunset times change throughout the year, but sunset in the summer is late evening and sunset in the winter (with daylight saving time) happens much earlier. Getting to a higher elevation is preferable, to get above any obstructions on the horizon.
If you go to one of these locations and post on social media, tag me! I’d love to see your photos and how the sunset was when you went!
Major’s Hill Park / Tavern on the Hill
This one should come as no surprise as one of the top locations in Ottawa. Major’s Hill offers incredible views from the park where you can gaze upon the sunset with iconic buildings such as the National Art Gallery and Parliament Hill. Getting there: find somewhere to park your car in the Byward Market (or, if you’re up for a walk, at City Hall for $2 in evenings and on weekends) or hop on your bike and take the Rideau Canal Pathway to the hill. Drinks/Food: grab a drink at Tavern on the Hill. They have some gourmet hot dogs that are worth a try! Activities: bring your frisbee, soccer ball or a picnic to enjoy the time you’re spending outdoors.
Rideau Canal/Fairmont Laurier/La Terrasse
This is a close second and right around the corner from Major’s Hill Park. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to catch this incredibly pink sunset one evening in the summer. Wander along the Rideau Canal to the Bytown Museum or stop for a drink at La Terrasse. You won’t regret it! Getting there: find somewhere to park your car in the Byward Market (or, if you’re up for a walk, at City Hall for $2 on evenings and weekends) or hop on your bike and take the Rideau Canal Pathway or Trans Canada Trail/Ottawa River Trailto the canal. Drinks/Food: grab a drink or something to eat at La Terrasse.
Dow’s Lake/Commissioners Park
One of the many things I love about Ottawa is the green space and a lake in the middle of the city! There is tons of green space in Commissioner’s Park and along the Dow’s Lake bank (try to get a seat in the iconic Adirondack Chairs). Getting there: park your car ($) at the Preston Street parking lot near the Dow’s Lake Pavilion (or, if you’re up for a walk, find parking on a side street) or hop on your bike and take the Rideau Canal Pathway to lake. Drinks/Food: grab a drink or a bite to eat at Umbrella Bar or Mexicali Rosa’spatio. Activities: bring your own or rent a kayak/canoe at the Dow’s Lake Pavilion.
Parliament Hill/Ottawa River Trail
Parliament Hill itself is under construction but the stairs behind the hill are now open! Take a walk behind the Parliment Buildings for some stunning views across the Ottawa River. Getting there: find somewhere topark your carin the Byward Market (or, if you’re up for a walk, at City Hall for $2 on evenings and weekends) or hop on your bike and take the Trans Canada Trail/Ottawa River Trailalong the Ottawa River. Drinks/Food: wander down to Sparks Street after the sun sets. Activities: Play eye-spy and try to spot: the Library Archives, the Museum of History, the National Art Gallery, the Notre-dame Basilica, Nepean Point and Alexandra Bridge.
Hartwells Locks on the Rideau Canal
Not too far from Dow’s Lake are the Hartwell Locks. There’s lots of green space to sit on your blanket, or grab a picnic table. Getting there: park your car ($) in the small lot or hop on your bike and take the Rideau Canal Pathway through the Arboretum. Drinks/Food: bring your own. Activities: bring your frisbee, soccer ball or a picnic dinner.
Hog’s Back Falls
Remember what I said about facing west? Well, the photo below is actually facing southeast! The funny thing about sunsets is sometimes the sky is lit on fire in the opposite direction of where the sun is setting! But, you can still look west at the setting sun from the pathways. Getting there: park your car in the small lot or hop on your bike and take the Rideau River Pathway. Drinks/Food: bring your own. There used to be a small gazebo selling ice cream but I’ve personally never stopped there! Activities: sit on the rocks and enjoy the sunset.
Remember what I said about facing west? This is a PERFECT spot to sit and enjoy the sunset as the sun sets in the best location for you to (hopefully) see the colours pop. There’s a small waterfront park with a collection of balanced rock sculptures by artist John Felice Ceprano. Getting there: park your car in the small lot or hop on your bike and take the Trans Canada Trail/Ottawa River Trail. Drinks/Food: NCC Bistro for a drink or food. Activities: sit on the rocks or splash around in the shallow water (don’t venture too far or you’ll get stuck in the rapids) and enjoy the sunset. You might see John balancing rocks (he wears a vest identifying himself) but don’t touch the rock sculptures!
The Corktown Bridge is also known as Ottawa’s Locks of Love bridge and crosses the Rideau Canal. Looking north, you’ll see the Fairmont Laurier, Ottawa’s very own castle in the sky. Getting there: park your car on a side street or at City Hall (free evenings and weekends) or hop on your bike and take the Rideau Canal Pathway. Drinks/Food: N/A. Activities: Bring your own lock and lock your love to the bridge for (almost) eternity (due to structural loading of the number of locks that get attached, the City has to periodically cut the locks so the bridge doesn’t fall down).
Bank Street Bridge over Rideau Canal
The Bank Street Bridge is also a great place to take photos and is just down the street from Lansdowne, the Glebe and Old Ottawa South. Getting there: park your car on a side street or at Lansdowne ($) or hop on your bike and take the Rideau Canal Pathway. Drinks/Food: There are SO many places along Bank Street to stop for a drink including Lansdowne (Local, Joey and Craft), Old Ottawa South (the Senate and Patty’s Pub) or to grab some grub for a walk along Bank Street or the Rideau Canal Pathway (pick up some gelato at Stella Luna). Activities: this is a great place for a walk or bike ride (you could bike to Dow’s Lake or Hartwells Locks easily from here).
Experimental Farm and Ornamental Gardens
Another green space smack dab in the middle of the city are the Experimental Farm and the Ornamental Gardens. I discovered the Ornamental Gardens this summer which quickly became a favourite destination for a social distance hangout. The Ornamental Gardens may not be the best place to see the sunset, but it’s a great place to start and then wander through the Experimental Farm to see sunflowers in August or the cows (yes, cows in the middle of the city! Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore). Getting there: park your car at the Arboretum and walk to the Ornamental Gardens or hop on your bike and take the Experimental Farm Pathway. Drinks/Food: N/A. Activities: wander through the gardens and check out the cows.
This is one of the hardest places to enjoy a sunset but the view is certainly breathtaking! There is very limited parking and no where to sit at the lookout but if you head down the Sir George-Etienne Cartier Parkway you can hangout in the Rockcliffe Park. Getting there: park your car at the lookout (so far, I’ve never seen the parking lot open to the park) or hop on your bike and take the Trans Canada Trail/Ottawa River Trail. Drinks/Food: N/A. Activities: take a few pictures and be mindful of the other people wanting to stop as well.
Nepean Sailing Club
Sunsets along the water are my absolute favourite and the Nepean Sailing Club is a perfect location to watch the sun set below the horizon. You can walk to the docks or there is a lovely path right by the water with some benches to sit at and enjoy the colours in the sky. Getting there: Park in the parking lot in designated areas (i.e. there are some parking spots specifically for vehicles with boat launchers, don’t park there) or you can bike from the Ottawa River Pathway. Drinks/Food: Bring your own Activities: launch your own kayak/canoe/paddle board.
Andrew Haydon Park
This one I’ve seen on Instagram a lot but only just made it there myself recently! It has a wonderful bridge and small windmill in front of a pond which is so perfect for photos. Be wary of the geese (and poop!!) Getting there: There is a parking lot just off Carling Avenue or you can bike from the Ottawa River Pathway. Drinks/Food: N/A Activites: Bring your outdoor sport equipment.
Shirley’s Bay Park
I found that the beach/park was busy but just up the street was a little rock outcrop that was not as busy and provided amazing views of the people who were paddling back to the beach. Getting there:park your car in the parking lot or side of the road. Drinks/Food: N/A. Activities: take some photos or bring your own kayak/canoe/paddle board.
Morris Island Conservation Area
This one is about an hour drive west of Ottawa so it would be worth it to either make a day or an evening out of the trip. The Old Voyager and Miner’s Trail is lovely and there are numerous benches set up along the trail to pop out to the water to watch the sunset. Be careful of slippery rocks: I slipped and fell trying to get the shot below (it was worth it). Getting there: park your car in the parking lot. Drinks/Food: N/A. Activities: walk along one (or more) of the trails in the Conservation Area. Be mindful of nature and stick to the paths.
Eagles Nest Lookout
This one is about an hour and a half drive west of Ottawa so it would be worth it to either make a day or an evening out of the trip. Eagles Nest lookout is becoming an extremely popular lookout destination so be mindful of nature and people walking along the highway to get to the trail head. Bring a headlamp to safely walk back. Getting there: park your car at the trailhead. Drinks/Food: N/A. Take out what you bring in. Activities: hike to the lookout.
Some other locations to see sunsets in Ottawa that I haven’t been to that would also be great for sunsets include:
Tavern on the Falls. Another location to grab a drink/food and enjoy time watching the sunset with family and/or friends.
Nepean Point. It’s currently closed for construction but hopefully it’ll be a place to visit soon!
Andaz Rooftop Bar.
Champlain Lookout. It’s recently opened to the public with a brand new lookout.
Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport. I’ve never gone to watch planes land but can you imagine watching them during a sunset?
Britannia Beach or Westboro Beach. Both are west facing and great locations to hangout during the sunset!