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Four Ways to Experience Peterborough & the Kawarthas

a variety of different activities

From dining at sophisticated sidewalk cafes in the heart of town, to finding the sky after skimming along the surface of a big lake, Peterborough and the Kawarthas offers a wide variety of wonders for all sorts of travellers—whether you love a little thrill, spending time on the water, culinary treats, or cultural treasures.

For Thrill Seekers

What to do: Take a ride with Free Spirit Air Adventures. Buckle up in a classic 1947 Piper Cub float plane and use Rice Lake as your runway, swooping high over the water, getting a whole new perspective on the rolling countryside and undulating shoreline and long line of islands the run down the centre of the lake—a series of green drumlins, left behind by the last ice age.

Where to eat: Grab a spot on the expansive patio at the Wild Blue Yonder Pub or in the Hearthside Dining Room, right there on Rice Lake, for farm-to-table cuisine, with much of the farming done just nearby by the same owners, including key ingredients like beef, turkey and duck, as well as seasonal vegetables and herbs.

Where to stay: Bed down next door in one of the 30 cozy cottages at Elmhirst’s Resort, family owned for five generations, and set on 250 lakeside acres—most cottages have their own private docks, to watch the sunset.

For Water Bugs

What to do: Here, you’ll find plenty of ways to live to live the life aquatic—the Kawarthas are ‘the land of shining waters,’ a literal translation from the Ojibway language, and home to historic canals, big lakes and cool rivers. Start by carving your own paddle at the Canadian Canoe Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft, in the former home of a major boat factory, using traditional tools and under the leadership of an experienced instructor. Then take that out on the water, either on Little Lake, right in the heart of Peterborough, or on any of the lakes, creeks, ponds and rivers across the region, including the world-famous Trent-Severn Waterway and its series of historic locks.

Where to eat: Grab lunch at the Silver Bean Café, a little cottage with a big patio right on the Otonabee River.

Where to stay: Get a room with a view at the Holiday Inn Peterborough Waterfront, where many of the well-appointed rooms and suites feature balconies overlooking the water.

For Foodies

What to do: Spend an afternoon pretending you’re a winemaker—by shadowing a real one—at Rolling Grape Vineyard. Located on a family farm near Bailieboro, walk among the Vidal and Marquette and Pinot Noir, picking and learning processes with winemaker Jon Drew, then stick around for a harvest party and pig roast, prepared by the culinary team at Fleming College.

Where to eat: If you’re looking for something fresh, head downtown to the Food Forest, where all the dishes are gluten-free and plant-based, sourced locally, organically and ethically.

Where to stay: Viamede Resort, on the shores of Stony Lake, whose on-site, seven-table restaurant, Mount Julian, serves a legendary nine-course chef’s tasting menu.

For Culture Hounds

What to do: A rare slice of life in Zimbabwe set in the rolling hills near Rice Lake, ZimArt is one of the province’s premiere displays of African sculpture. An open-air gallery, it includes magnificent Shona carvings. You can watch the Zimbabwean artist-in-residence carve a unique creation right before your eyes—or even better, take a workshop, and learn how to do it yourself.

Where to eat: Two Dishes Cookshop, which is located in a former used bookstore in downtown Peterborough, where you can almost feel the pages turning around you, as you chow down on huge, home-style meals.

Where to stay: The Village Inn of Lakefield, which is located right in the heart of the village, within walking distance of bookshops and historic sites and literary landmarks, including the former home of renowned author Margaret Laurence.