Photo Credit Justen Soule

Belleville and Bay of Quinte

September 9, 2022

It’s official name isn’t the Beautiful Bay of Quinte but it could be — given the undeniable charms of what locals just call the Bay. As a newer travel destination it has a very old history — back in the 12th century it was the birthplace of Tekanawita (the Peacemaker) who brought a constitution of peace to the original Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Today, the Bay of Quinte is fast becoming known for arts and culture (not to mention plenty of good eats).


Day One


DAY 1

PRESQU’ILE PARK — 10:00 AM


FROM SHOREBIRDS TO SONGBIRDS

Birding is really taking off (pun intended!) as one of the fastest-growing hobbies in North America. Presqu’ile Park, a hot spot for bird migration with some 338 species identified, is a perfect vantage point to admire both shorebirds and songbirds. With its long sandy beach and Lake Ontario views the park is also ideal for walking, biking and camping. (The marsh boardwalk has been called “a gem” by more than one visitor.) To learn about the area’s natural and cultural history, stop in at both The Nature Centre and The Lighthouse Interpretive Centre, which highlights the park’s cultural legacy and its connection to Lake Ontario’s past.

DAY 1

QUINTE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY — 12:00 PM


Photo courtesy of Quinte Museum of Natural History

THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD

Lunch in nearby Brighton (try The Whistling Duck for patio views of the lake) or press on to Trenton, where culinary possibilities range from Gogi Korean Grill to Tomasso’s Italian Grille. The sparkling new Quinte Museum of Natural History in Trenton (now incorporated into the City of Quinte West) is a must-stop for those intrigued by the wonders of the world. Opening with the acclaimed World of Dinosaurs exhibit, the QMNH has a relationship with the Royal Ontario Museum, meaning expect to see unique specimens from the ROM on long-term loan. It’s not the only compelling museum in town either — the National Air Force Museum of Canada explores the country’s aviation history and has a sixteen-acre air park devoted to flying machines past and present.

DAY 1

DOWNTOWN BELLEVILLE — 3:00 PM


Photo Credit Ash Mural
Belleville Porchfest

HISTORIC CHARM; CONTEMPORARY COOL

Sitting pretty on the Bay and the banks of the Moira, Belleville is a rare find: equal parts historic charm and contemporary cool. Pop in and out of galleries sprinkled throughout downtown, including Belleville Art Association and Gallery 121 (both cooperatives featuring the work of locals) or the John M. Parrott Gallery in the Belleville Public Library. Keep your eyes open for public art too, notably local artist Chris Bennett’s colourful murals adorning a number of establishments. One is on the back patio of Chilangos Mexican restaurant, which, incidentally, is a choice Belleville culinary destination. (Another option is The Lark — intimate, modern, and known for creative cocktails.) Clothes hounds go chic and indie (or thrift) at a clutch of boutiques including Pure Honey, Boretski Gallery, That Special Touch, and Miss Priss. Belleville’s historic architecture provides an elegant backdrop for wandering, and if quoins, window hoods and elaborately detailed porches are your thing check out Bellevue Terrace, luxurious three-story townhouses built in 1876.

A short walk (or three-minute drive) East lands you in the Old East Hill Neighbourhood. The historic homes on these streets date back to the 1800’s, and are the perfect setting for Belleville’s annual September Porchfest – a free, family-friendly music festival which sees thousands of attendees enjoying music played from porches, hosted by the local Rotary Club of Belleville.

DAY 1

THE EMPIRE AND MORE — 7:00 PM


Credit: Jacob Cote Photography

THE THEATRES OF BELLEVILLE

For a small place, Belleville (population fifty-some thousand), sure loves its theatre. There’s The Empire, a vintage 1938 theatre presenting indie films and live performances (including some of Canada’s biggest name artists). There’s River & Main Theatre Co. (at the intimate storefront Theatre in the Wings). And there’s the Belleville Theatre Guild (top notch community theatre for over seventy years). Oh, and if for some reason you’re heading back west, note that actors also tread the boards at the City of Quinte’s Old Church Theatre and the Brighton Barn Theatre.


Day Two


DAY 2

TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY — 10:00 AM


Photo credit KimberLee & David R. Maracle, Native Expressions

DISTINCTIVE INDIGENOUS ARTS AND CRAFTS

You’ll know you’ve arrived when you start seeing Mohawk language on street signs and buildings. Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory was established in 1784, a forced relocation leading to the loss of ancestral homelands. (Visit the Mohawk Landing on Bayshore Road to learn more.) Among the traditions of Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) people is distinctive original artwork and crafts. Make sure to stop at Native Renaissance, featuring emerging and well-known Indigenous artists, notably Thomas B. Maracle whose stone, wood and corn husk creations are prized internationally. Other must-stops include Rebecca Maracle’s Gallery & Gifts, showcasing exquisite feather art; Soaring Eagle Native Arts & Crafts for meticulously handcrafted work with all-natural materials, and Eagle POD Gallery, with its striking, one-of-a-kind sculptures by David R. Maracle. After this feast for the eyes, you may want a feast for the stomach: you’ll find fresh walleye at many local restaurants.

DAY 2

HER MAJESTY’S ROYAL CHAPEL OF THE MOHAWKS — 1:00 PM


Photo credit Monika Kraska

HISTORY AT THE CHAPEL

Mohawks were military allies of the British Crown during the American Revolution and part of that legacy is embodied by the chapel at Christ Church. It’s one of a small number of royal chapels outside of Great Britain and is of historic significance to both the Indigenous and colonial history of Turtle Island/Canada. The church itself, welcoming both Indigenous and non-Indigenous worshippers, was built by Mohawks and contains a triptych in the Mohawk language. Outside of Sunday services hours are variable, but it’s worth stopping by just to gaze at the 19th century Gothic revival style architecture.

DAY 2

TYENDINAGA CAVERN AND CAVES — 2:00 PM


Photo courtesy of Tyendinaga Cavern and Cave

AN UNDERGROUND ADVENTURE

Fantastic fossils, cool depths, and a resident ghost: all of the above are found below! Meaning in  the caves, which date back thousands of years. Geology lovers should get excited – the fossils found here connect sightseers to the extensive history of this natural wonder. Considered an easy and accessible adventure (at a small enough scale that even littles can enjoy), the Tyendinaga Cavern and Caves are also about ethical and sustainable tourism that gives curious visitors a chance to learn something of the local history and geology.

DAY 2

GREATER NAPANEE ‘PALLET’ABLE ART PROJECT — 5:00 PM


Photo credit: Andrew Clarke

ART ON THE SKIDS

The ‘Pallet’able Art Project is public art literally created on wooden industrial skids and pallets. Twenty-some charming original works dot the city, making splashes of bright, eye-catching colour. Navigate your way from pallet to pallet via Greater Napanee’s handy online map. (You may want to incorporate a little local history too, via the town’s historic walking tour map.)

DAY 2

MUSIC — 7:30 PM


Photo Credit Norman Paul

PINTS, PUBS, MUSIC

Start your evening relaxing at one of Greater Napanee’s favourite spots, for instance by having a brew at the wee patio of multiple-award-winning Napanee Beer Company. Another option, the (similarly award-winning) Waterfront River Pub and Terrace, located right on the Napanee. (Trivia note: the Napanee River is known for having its own “seiche,” a tidal effect due in part to the strong winds on Lake Ontario’s north shore.) The Waterfront often features local musicians, and for national talent check out the Starstop Concert Series, designed to catch top Canadian talent crossing the country on tour. One final music note: for concerts beneath the skies (and by the river), on a summer afternoon watch for the Music by the River series in lovely Conservation Park.

Need a Map?


This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

Ontario Culture Days thanks our Tourism Partners for their support and assistance with this article. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.