Bucket list for Urban Nature Lovers in Ottawa (for tourists and locals)

There have been some great bucket lists created about what to do in Ottawa, whether you are a visitor or a resident.  They list fun cool places, annual events and amazing experiences.  It's fun to consult them every now and again to get ideas of what interesting Ottawa thing to check out next.

Now that I'm looking for that urban nature experience when I'm visiting other cities, I thought I would make a list for those coming to Ottawa in case they are urban nature lovers also and want to see a different side to the city!

So if you are wondering where there are some great nature spots in downtown Ottawa or where a great place to see an Ottawa sunset is (because yes! Ottawa is a "sunset capital"!) or possibly great places to be up close to wildlife for both winter and summer connections - you've come to the right place!

This post has been put together to give you a quick list of favourite urban nature spots in Canada's Capital with some suggestions on when the best time of year to visit them is!

As typical with this blog, I haven't listed the big ones like Rideau Falls, Dow's Lake, Jacques Cartier Park, Vincent Massey Park, Hog's Back Falls, Andrew Haydon Park, Mud Lake, Lac DeschĂȘnes, Kanata March Highlands, Mer Bleue or the popular Greenbelt Trails (such as Jack Pine Trail, Lime Kiln Trail) or anything in Gatineau Park!

These are already listed in Tourist Guides and get lots of visitors, so what I'd like to do are highlight some smaller and yet still lovely urban nature experiences in the Capital.

What I'm hoping to do is offer suggestions for some more off the beaten path urban nature experiences in Ottawa that might not be on your radar and/or unique opportunities for experiencing and learning about nature in the city.  These may not be big incredible more well-known natural sites but if you like urban nature check these local, cool and awesome nature experiences out.

The Wild. Here. Urban Nature Bucket List for Ottawa

-- Remic Rapids in Winter --

Any Time

Champlain Oaks - these 100+ year old Burr Oaks within an older suburb are an amazing sight!

Balancing Rocks at Remic Rapids by John Ceprano on the Sir John A MacDonald Parkway (except spring when flooding) are a must see but don't get too close!

Largest biofilter living wall in North America (indoors) is here in Ottawa at the University of Ottawa campus.  Enough said.

Any urban Conifer Tree Plantation (shown above in photo) - is a unique treat during any season and Ottawa has three plantations: on Hunt Club Road (near Paul Benoit Driveway), near Woodroffe and Slack and behind the Nepean Sportsplex on the walking trails.  There is also the (less urban) Pine Grove in the south eastern part of the Greenbelt.

Princess Louise Falls in Orleans is lovely to see any time of the year.  It is a "hidden gem" as it's not that visible from St. Joseph Boulevard.  Taylor Creek (in the Fallingbrook area) heads north over the bluff (18 - 20 feet high?) and falls down and then goes under the Boulevard and Queensway.  (Check out the photo "Beauty in Frozen Ice" to see what it looks like in winter.)  There are great trails around the falls which allow you to access it from above and below.  Easiest access trail to the falls is from above, off Princess Louise Drive.

-- Spring Cherry Blooms --


Spring Blooms in the Dominion Arboretum - whether you like magnolias, lilacs or other spring tree blooms, the Arborteum has you covered!  I just had to list this one even though it's well know, as the experience of spring is one not to be missed here!  Look for some lesser known blooms like the horse chestnut which look like impressive tropical flowers.

Cherry/Crabapple Trees at Lincoln Fields - this small orchard in the west end by the transitway offers a unique tree blossom experience outside the better known Dominion Arboretum. There seems to be some debate on the type of small orchard but it offers beautiful photo opportunity in May and an enjoyable evening stroll through lovely pink hues!

Brewar Park (off Bronson Avenue) - It's worth a visit to walk around this pond in early spring to hear the calls of frogs mating and enjoy the return of local birds.  (Especially now that it has been restored by the RVCA - plus check out this video of wildlife using the new culvert that connects the pond to the Rideau River)

Jane's Walk in Ottawa - This event is a great opportunity to get outdoors and check out a new location.  Take a look at their list of walks offered by various volunteers and you will likely find some nature-themed excursions!

-- Macoun Marsh in Summer - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --

Warm Season

Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a lovely space to tour offering natural spaces including an urban pollinator meadow, a woodlot and a pond and small ravine.  In the warmer season you will find many birds, frogs and other wildlife. They even had a beaver overwinter one year!

Doors Open Ottawa - Another great opportunity to see less seen locations and sights - I've been able to visit the green roof on Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa, the Wildbird Care Centre and visited the incredible grounds of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat.

Macoun Marsh in Beechwood Cemetery is a wonderful place to visit. Over 1400 species of flora and fauna have been found here over the years by the students of St. Laurent Academy.

Along with Dominion Arboretum, both Beechwood Cemetery and the Governor General's estate Rideau Hall offer labels and tags to help visitors identify trees.  These may be well-known tourist spots but the educational opportunity is not to be missed!

-- The Rockeries in Summer --

The Rockeries (off of Acacia Avenue with path to Hillsdale) offer a romantic setting with old stone columns and a cherub fountain and a multitude of spring flowers but it is equally lovely in summer and fall.  You'll find many birds here in the early hours.

Pinhey Sand Dune - this is Ottawa's only natural inland sand dune complex and is an incredibly unique ecosystem that supports rare flora and fauna.  There are even tours offered by the Biodiversity Conservancy (link above in title) and the Ottawa-Gatineau Geoheritage Project (Pinhey Sand Dune is listed as #25 on their list.)

Billings Bridge (Bank Street & Riverside) - I read somewhere once, that this was the most biodiverse area of Rideau River in the city, but sadly I can't find the stat anymore.  If it is true, I'm guessing it's due to the bends and different depths but also due to the more natural areas around Brewar Park and Vincent Massey Park.  You can access this area from both sides of the river and by water (you can rent a SUP here).  Look for many different types of birds including waders, divers, dippers, etc.

-- Historic Tram Stops on Rockcliffe Parkway --


Learn about banding of Purple Martin young.  This is such a wonderful experience for all ages and worth the drive (or bus ride) out to the west end of Ottawa.  The Purple Martin colony is located at the Nepean Sailing Club (Carling Avenue) and the banding is done by Innis Point Bird Observatory volunteers in late June early July.  Donations appreciated!

Take an outdoor swim at "The Pond" in Rockcliffe (open from 7 am to 2 pm daily) or along the Ottawa Outaouais River at one of the many beaches (I particularly like the Val Tetreau beach on the Gatineau side)

A cycle or walk along the Rockcliffe Parkway between Rideau Hall and the Rockcliffe Boathouse offers great views of the Ottawa Outaouais River and access to Rockcliffe Park with its beautiful pavilion. Visitors should note the unique historic tram stop shelters along the Parkway also.

View hundreds of Chimney Swifts enter their Roost at Dominican University College at sundown daily - Nature Canada sometimes holds Swift Night events.

-- Fall Evening at Hampton Park - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --


Biology Butterfly Exhibit at Carleton University - this is a free event held annually in the two greenhouses at the Biology building. Expect long lines.  Donations appreciated!

Hampton Park is a lovely park at the end of Island Park Drive (as it meets the Queensway) which has some enjoyable winding paths (some are steep!) that are lit with lamp posts at night.  Beautiful in the autumn with crisp, colourful leaves including some veteran Beech and moody on foggy evenings.

Chapman Mills Conservation Area is a sweet spot in the suburban part of Barrhaven to visit during the warmer months.  Perhaps not as "urban" per se as some other spots but still within the city limits and great "nearby nature" access for those living in Barrhaven.  I find it especially lovely to visit here in the fall when water levels have dropped and the leaves are in full colour.  It has a 1.5 km trail that includes boardwalks that get you right in the middle of the action.  Keep an eye for wildlife including turtles and a variety of birds.

-- Ottawa's Tropical Greenhouse --


Vanier Sugar Bush is the only urban sugar bush in North America and a short drive from downtown. It's such a fun place to visit when the sap is running, with more than one thousand maple trees so be sure to visit during the Maple Festival.

Ottawa's Winter Crow Roost is a cool experience if you are there around sundown as the flock is gathering.  The location seems to have moved a bit over the last year but you can still find them in patches of woodlot both north and south of the Ottawa Hospital on Smythe Road (Balena, Coronation, Pleasant Park, Valour).

Central Experimental Farm - Tropical Greenhouse - while it is open all year, I wanted to list it here for the colder months as it is a welcome respite in winter!

- Photography Links for Viliam Glazduri: (Instagram, Flickr, 500 px) Contributor to Wild. Here. -

I'm coming up a bit short right now for Fall and Winter activities but I promise you I'll find some more before that season comes.  I'm wondering where your favourite place to experience the fall colours in the city is (other than the Arboretum!)

Here is the update for the Autumn Urban Nature Lovers Bucket List 2017

Here is the update for the Winter Urban Nature Lovers Bucket List 2017

If you are a tourist coming up for #Ottawa2017 what outdoor experiences are you looking for?  Do you want to get out on the water or find a quiet spot for a picnic by a dock or in a nice grassy park?  Let us know what urban nature experiences you are seeking.  And for those in Ottawa:

Tell me what is on YOUR BUCKET LIST for outdoor nature experiences in the city!


  1. Cherry/Crabapple Trees at Lincoln Fields will be bulldozed very shortly for the LRT :'( Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/keeptheparkinwoodpark

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this information with the readers Nicole!