Eastern Ontario was inhabited by several First Nations tribes (most notably the Algonquin, Haudenosaunee and Wyandot) for thousands of years.
European intervention in Eastern Ontario started as early as the 1600s when the French voyageurs would paddle along the Ottawa River, but actual European settlement in Eastern Ontario didn't first start until the mid-1700s, when the settlement of L'Orignal in what is now Prescott-Russell was founded.
Further European settlement began in the late 1770s and 1780s, with the United Empire Loyalists (groups of Americans who stayed loyal to Britain after the American Revolution) settled along the St. Lawrence River and parts of the Ottawa River.
But European settlement inland (away from the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers) didn't start until the first half of the 1800s, when the settlements of Russell, Saint Augustine-de-Catherine (now Embrun), Perth and Smiths Falls were founded.
Eastern Ontario continued to grow throughout the rest of the 1800s and into the 1900s. The past 10 years have seen prosperity in much of Eastern Ontario, most notably in Prescott-Russell and Lanark County.
When it comes to language, Eastern Ontario is divided into three linguistic sub-regions:
- The Canadian French area is mainly in Prescott-Russell, in the far northeastern section of Eastern Ontario. In this area, the French language is dominant culturally, though you should have no problem being understood in English.
- The Canadian English area is mainly in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Leeds-Grenville, Frontenac County and Lanark County. In this area, the English language is dominant culturally.
- The Ottawa Valley Twang area is mainly in Renfrew County. In this area, an accent of the English language, called Ottawa Valley Twang is dominant. Often common phrases that are normally two words are pronounced as though there is no space between them (eg. "Good day" is pronounced as "gidday").
Although Eastern Ontario is in Canada, which has a reputation for being very cold, low-lying parts of Eastern Ontario are in the "Long Summer/Short Winter" belt of Southern Ontario. This is the only part of Canada in which the summer is significantly longer than the winter. This region ends at the Canadian Shield. Summers in Eastern Ontario usually last from late May to late September, and winters last about from late November/early December to late March. Autumn and spring are very short (especially spring).
The first snowfalls of the year usually occur in November, but snow doesn't actually cover the ground until December. It has been known to snow in October, though it's rare and usually comes as a flurry.
In the spring, the snow usually starts melting in March, although occasional warm breaks with temperatures as high as 10°C (50°F) usually occur once or twice in January and February, and snow flurries can still occur in April or even May.
Often in the winter freezing rain will occur, when it is not warm enough for rain but not cold enough for snow. Freezing rain is rain that turns to ice after it hits the ground, which makes driving very hazardous and often closes down schools and makes the roads very icy for a few days.
In the summer, humidity is often common, especially in July and August. Although temperatures are usually just under 30°C (86°F), humidity can make the temperature feel like its about 38°C (100°F). Humidex temperatures have even been known to reach 45°C (113°F).
Average afternoon temperatures by month:
- January: -3°C/26°F
- February: -2°C/28°F
- March: 5°C/41°F
- April: 14°C/57°F
- May: 20°C/68°F
- June: 24°C/75°F
- July: 29°C/84°F
- August: 28°C/82°F
- September: 23°C/73°F
- October: 16°C/60°F
- November: 7°C/45°F
- December: 0°C/32°F
(Statistics based on temperatures in Eastern Ontario over the course of 2000-2005)
- By car
- The Trans-Canada Highway (17/417) follows the Ottawa Valley through Pembroke and Ottawa to Montréal
- Ontario highway 401 follows the Windsor-Quebec corridor from Toronto, passing through Kingston-Brockville-Cornwall and continuing toward Montréal
- From New York state, Interstate 81 ends at the Thousand Islands bridge in Leeds and the 1000 Islands, 15 km east of Gananoque on the 401. There are also bridges across the St. Lawrence River at Prescott-Ogdensburg and Cornwall-Massena.
- From the Outaouais and Western Quebec there is one bridge in Pembroke, five in Ottawa-Gatineau and one in Hawkesbury to cross the Ottawa River into Ontario
- By bus
- Megabus (Coach Canada) operates in the Toronto-Kingston-Montreal corridor with several runs daily
- Greyhound Canada operates Toronto-Ottawa several times daily; there are buses from Ottawa to Montréal hourly for most of the day, every day
- A few local (city) buses on both OCTranspo and STO cross between Ottawa-Hull or Ottawa-Hull-Gatineau. Ottawa city buses are red and white, Gatineau are light blue.
- By train
- Via Rail runs "corridor" services Toronto-Kingston-Montréal, Toronto-Kingston-Ottawa and Ottawa-Montréal several times a day
- By air
- Ottawa-Uplands (YOW IATA) is the one major airport in-region.
- Kingston (YGK IATA) has a small airport; its only scheduled service is to Toronto-Malton.
- Montréal-Dorval is slightly out of region, but has good air-to-rail connections westward into the St. Lawrence Valley
- By boat
- There are a few ferry crossings on the Ottawa River in small places like Cumberland-Masson which lack an interprovincial bridge to Québec
- There is a privately-operated international ferry from Cape Vincent NY to Wolfe Island which operates seasonally
- Cruising on small craft is possible on the Ottawa River (from Ottawa eastward), the Rideau Canal, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes
- Local city bus service of varying quality is available in cities including Belleville, Kingston, Brockville and Ottawa
- A Greyhound (Voyageur) intercity bus runs twice daily from Kingston to Ottawa
- Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, a pioneer village living history museum
- Fort Wellington in Prescott and Fort Henry in Kingston recreate military exercises and displays from the post-War of 1812 era
- Ottawa, as part of the National Capital Region, has a vast selection of national museums and galleries devoted to various subjects from arts to science to warfare.
- Merrickville is a small but charming canal-side village on the Rideau which makes a good day trip from Ottawa
- Maple sugar shacks are popular in early spring; the season usually begins soon after the spring thaw
- Strawberries and apples may be picked in-season; the strawberries are usually ripe in late June, just before the Canada Day holiday. Apples are usually ripe between mid September and mid October.
- Prince Edward County is winery country - not quite on the same scale as the Niagara Peninsula, but there are a growing number of small vineyards