Ottawa is gifted with some of the country’s most glorious sunsets year-round that you can admire from beaches, patios, waterfalls and hidden gems. Whether you’re looking for a romantic experience, the perfect photo opportunity or to simply bathe in the golden hour light, consider these beautiful settings to watch sunsets in the Ottawa area.
Keep in mind, the time that the sun actually dips below the horizon varies widely throughout the year, from as early as 4:19 p.m. in December to as late as 8:55 p.m. in June. And winter sunsets can be especially spectacular in Canada’s capital!
The Rideau Canal locks are a classic sunset spot for good reason: downtown Ottawa is oriented slightly northwest, so you can see the sun as it dips behind the Gatineau Hills, framed by Parliament Hill on the left and the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel on the right.
Tip: Watch from Sapper’s Bridge, which connects Wellington and Rideau Streets over the canal, or descend the stairs and observe from near the Bytown Museum for a slightly different angle.
The Mackenzie King Bridge over the Rideau Canal—a UNESCO World Heritage site—also encompasses views of the magnificent Fairmont Château Laurier hotel and more of Parliament Hill. In winter, this is a great spot to capture skaters gliding along the Rideau Canal Skateway below.
Tip: From here, you’ll also see the sunset’s colours reflected off the beautiful glass-fronted Shaw Centre convention space, which is shaped like a tulip flower on its side.
The Corktown footbridge crosses the Rideau Canal at Somerset Street, joining the Centretown and Sandy Hill areas. Stand facing Parliament Hill for a fantastic view of the sunset over the canal.
Tip: Lovers place padlocks with their names or initials on the bridge’s railings, making this a romantic place to watch a sunset.
Major’s Hill Park, behind the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel, offers a view of the sunset reflected in the Ottawa River plus a good look at the back of the Parliament buildings, including the ornate Library of Parliament which dates back to 1876 (it’s the only part of Centre Block to survive a devastating fire in 1916.)
Tip: During the warmer months, grab a table at La Terrasse at the Fairmont Château Laurier. The large outdoor patio has covered and open areas with stunning views over the Rideau Canal locks and the Ottawa River (plus food and drink).
Why not enjoy the views while sipping a drink on a Hawaiian-style hut as it slowly cruises the river? Palapa Tours runs guided motorized trips that depart from the Hull Marina in Gatineau, just across from downtown Ottawa. Tip: Fitting up to 12 passengers, the palapas are a great way for groups to celebrate birthdays, bachelor/bachelorettes, retirement parties and more!
The Copper Spirits and Sights rooftop bar at the Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market hotel is perfectly situated on the west-facing side of the 16-storey building. Enjoy a cocktail and a snack or light meal around a firepit while you follow the sun’s descent over the vibrant ByWard Market neighbourhood.
Tip: If you can’t score a spot on the patio, the views are equally great from the glass-enclosed indoor lounge.
South of downtown
Dow’s Lake, just southwest of the city centre, is a man-made lake connected to the Rideau Canal. In the summer, you can rent a paddle boat from the marina and enjoy the sunset from the water, or dine with a view at one of the pavilion’s restaurants year round. Adjacent parks also offer lovely places to sit and watch the sunset reflected in the lake.
Tip: In wintertime, Dow’s Lake becomes part of the Rideau Canal Skateway. Time things right and watch a gorgeous winter sunset while skating on the ice.
Hog’s Back Park and Falls
Further south, where the Rideau Canal departs from the Rideau River, Hog’s Back Park is home to a lovely waterfall. Sit nearby and enjoy the sound of rushing water as the sun goes down over the horizon.
Tip: Though you’ll be facing away from the falls to watch the sunset, don’t forget to turn around and take a peek at them as the evening colours are at their most intense, since they will likely be reflected in the falling water.
Many families visiting Ottawa enjoy a day at one of the public beaches, such as Mooney’s Bay on the shores of the Rideau River in south Ottawa. Get in a game of beach volleyball or enjoy a hot dog from the snack bar before watching the sunset.
Tip: Bring a kayak or stand-up paddle board to watch the sunset from out on the water.
East of downtown
Rideau Falls Park
Just east of the ByWard Market neighbourhood, Rideau Falls Park offers views of the sunset plus the lovely rushing waterfalls that mark the spot where the Rideau River joins the Ottawa River. The falls are periodically lit up in the evening, and the bridges to Quebec add visual interest.
Tip: In the summertime, you can settle in at Tavern on the Falls and enjoy the gentle spray of the falls, casual fare, and live music.
The Rockcliffe Park lookout is situated along the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway that runs along the Ottawa River east of downtown. It offers a wide view across the river to the city and hills of Gatineau, Quebec, any time of day but especially at sunset.
Tip: The lookout features a parking area and small covered stone gazebo, and is also easily accessible by bike.
The furthest east of Ottawa’s four public beaches, Petrie Island is about a 30-minute drive from downtown. From this large sandy island, you can see the golden hour colours mirrored in the Ottawa River.
Tip: From May to early September, you’ll need to pay for parking until 6:00 p.m. but after that, it’s free.
West of downtown
Remid Rapids Park
Remic Rapids Park just west of downtown and north of the Wellington West neighbourhood offers unobstructed views of the horizon and the sunset over the nearby Gatineau Hills on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.
Tip: You might see local artist John Felice Ceprano’s balanced rock sculptures, which he creates anew every spring after the winter freeze knocks them down.
Britannia Beach, in west Ottawa’s Britannia Village neighbourhood, is a large, wide beach that has plenty of room for sunset spectators, plus a grassy park with handy facilities. It’s easily accessible from the multi-use Capital Pathway, so consider getting there on your bike or in-line skates.
Tip: Treat yourself to ice cream or a beverage at the nearby Beachconers and Britannia Coffeehouse.
Andrew Haydon Park
Further west along the Ottawa River you’ll find Andrew Haydon Park, a sprawling waterfront green space with bike paths, trees, ponds, a windmill, picnic tables and shelters, and a bandshell that hosts open-air concerts on summer evenings, with the setting sun as an ever-changing backdrop.
Tip: This is a super family-friendly spot, so bring a picnic and let the kids enjoy the nearby play structures while you wait for the sky to chance colours.
About Ottawa’s stunning sunsets
The city’s geography and atmospheric conditions produce stunning end-of-day skies. The air is clean, but also contains impurities that reflect and scatter sunlight; the city is at an ideal latitude and the gentle slopes of the Ottawa Valley make it easy to see the horizon (as does the uncrowded skyline); and finally, local clouds are mostly high cirrus and altocumulus types that reveal the lower parts of the sky.