As well as being home to the famous Canadian Tulip Festival every May, Ottawa has no shortage of permanent green spaces. The city’s gardens make great spots for a quiet stroll, bike ride or an afternoon picnic, lending their beauty to everything from parks to historic estates. Take in the area’s quaint scenery with our selection of the best.
Central Experimental Farm (Dominion Arboretum, Ornamental Gardens, Fletcher Wildlife Garden)
Situated south of Ottawa around Dow’s Lake, this free-to-visit farm houses the Dominion Arboretum, with its several greenhouses and a huge collection of plants and trees, the Ornamental Gardens, featuring various smaller themed displays, and the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, where you can learn about the area’s wildlife. Established in 1886 by the Canadian government, the farm is steeped in history, filled with heritage buildings and giant trees, many over a century old. There’s a vast collection of shrubs and colourful beds to enjoy, or you can drop into the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.
Founded in 1959, this historic attraction is part of the beautiful Gatineau Park, and was once home to one of Canada’s longest serving Prime Ministers, William Lyon Mackenzie King, from whom it gets its name. With acres of grounds to explore, there are beautiful gardens, flower arrangements and waterfalls to enjoy, as well as the picturesque Kingswood and Moorside cottages, which have been faithfully restored and are open to visitors during the summer. Guides and interactive exhibits are fun for the whole family, and will tell you more about the estate, taking you on a tour through historical ruins and showcasing fascinating artefacts.
This calm oasis in downtown Ottawa is a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill and ByWard Market, making it a great spot to take a break from a day of sightseeing. Favoured for its lush flowerbeds, Major Hill’s Park is one of the best places to photograph Ottawa’s beautiful tulips, against a backdrop of stately trees, rolling lawns and winding pathways. There are plenty of information panels dotted around so you can learn about the park’s history or, if you’re lucky enough to visit Ottawa during a major event like Canada Day, this is a great place to join in the celebrations.
One of Canada’s only surviving 19th-century walled gardens, this beautiful spot in Westboro on Ottawa’s west side is now a national historic site. You can learn more about the city’s heritage on plaques and signs dotted around the garden, while wandering through sugar maples, crab apple trees, lilac bushes and perennials. The architecture and plants are tended meticulously, as are the grounds’ charming pebbled paths. Open throughout spring and summer.
Formerly used as a portage point by indigenous peoples and fur traders crossing the Ottawa River, Parc des Portageurs Gardens is one of Ottawa’s most relaxing green spaces, where you can wander among the trees and admire the impressive sculpture collection. Walk from the north of the park to the south and you can venture into the nearby Parc de la Francophonie Gardens, the Ruisseau de la Brasserie Gardens, and the Théâtre de l’Île Gardens – from one end to the other, it’s an entrancing 20 to 30-minute stroll.
More than 10,000 trees grace the grounds of this 79-acre heritage gardens, the official residence of Canada’s governor general. Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela and John F Kennedy all planted trees here, and there’s much to see. You can take in the impressive inukshuk (an Inuit stone sculpture), a historic totem pole and the glorious sweeping arc of roses in the Canadian Heritage Garden, or just enjoy a picnic in the grounds, which are open daily from 11am to 4pm.
Located south of the National Arts Centre and the Rideau Centre, Confederation Park is best known for hosting some of Ottawa’s biggest events, including Winterlude, the Ottawa International Jazz Festival and Canada Day celebrations. The aptly named gardens commemorate the confederation of Canada’s provinces and pay tribute to those who have shaped the city, through a variety of memorials. Among them, the South African War Memorial, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument and a fountain celebrating Lieutenant-Colonel John By, who supervised the construction of the Rideau Canal in the 1820s.