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Only in Peterborough and the Kawarthas

lift locks in spring

Five completely unique, bucket-list experiences you’ll only find here.

Just a short drive from Toronto, when you get to Peterborough and the Kawarthas, you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world. And, more than that, both city and the surrounding lakes and countryside are packed with experiences that are unique in the world—in other words, bucket list items that you can only do, and see, and enjoy right here. Below, we present some of our favourites, both famous places, and under-the-radar, locals-only gems.

Highest in the world: Peterborough Lift Lock National Historic Site

The crown jewel of the Trent-Severn Waterway, this early 20th century engineering wonder is the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world, raising boats almost 20 metres into the air. When it opened in 1904, it was the largest unreinforced concrete structure on earth. Spiriting pleasure craft up and down the canal, there’s no fuel involved—it’s all about balance, with operators channelling water from one chamber to the other. Sit nearby and watch it operate, or, even better, ride through on a boat, either your own, a rental, or a day cruise.

One of a kind: Canadian Canoe Museum

The only museum of its kind, anywhere in the world, this museum is about a lot more than just boats—together, they tell the story of Canada, through the country’s most iconic watercraft. With 600 canoes and kayaks under one roof, a visit here will take you from coast to coast (to coast), from a bark canoe made by Newfoundland’s Beothuk, to a skin canoe from Baffin Island, to dugouts, made by First Nations on British Columbia’s Pacific coast. Walk through various eras in Canadian history—gold rush, voyageurs—and look for a series of canoes belonging to the British Royal Family, as well as one paddled by former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Spiritual and ancient: Petroglyphs Provincial Park

Known as “the teaching rocks”, this spiritual site was kept a mystery until the 1950s. Created around 1,000 years ago, this is largest concentration of Indigenous rock carvings in Canada, some 1,200 in all, depicting wildlife (turtles, birds, snakes), as well as humans, and remains a pilgrimage site for the Ojibwa people. Marvel at the ancient carvings, which you can observe from walkways inside a covered structure, then visit the on-site Learning Place Visitor Centre to experience more of the history and culture of the Ojibwa.

From ice age to old growth: Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park

Rolling and forested, Burnham Park is a sylvan, placid place, the perfect spot for a sunny afternoon stroll along its 1.5-kilometre trail. But it’s more than just a pleasant walk in the park. The site of ice-age drama, the Burnham sits in the middle of the Peterborough Drumlin Field, with some 3,000 glacial remnants. And the forest that surrounds—the maple, beech, elm and hemlock here—are some of the oldest in the entire province.

Go behind the scenes: Harley Farms

Harley Farms offers the unique experience of going behind the scenes, seeing (and petting, if you’re lucky) their herds of happy and healthy animals. It’s a perfect way to see, first-hand, what all those buzzwords mean—from grass-fed, to 100 percent GMO-free, to sustainable and free-range. Mostly, it’s about using their 1,200 acres, and time-honoured practices, to give their Tamworth hogs and Galloway cattle and Wiltshire horned sheep and Hereford cows (and three micro-pigs) a stress-free life.  Also notable—the farm has also served as a filming location for television shows and commercials, including the Netflix series, Hannibal.