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Preamble Peterborough: Downtown Walking Tour

image of the underside of a canoe mounted upside down. Indigenous art painted inside the canoe.
Underside of the Jiimaan’ndewemgadnong Canoe Art in Downtown Peterborough

Are you new to Peterborough and looking to get acquainted with the city? Have you visited before and are hoping to discover more of the downtown core? Follow this route as you meander throughout the heart of “Nogojiwanong”. Meaning “the end of the rapids” in Ojibway, it’s important to acknowledge that while the city is now known as Peterborough, it has been known as Nogojiwanong to the Indigenous since time immemorial. 

Walking Tour Written By:

Lindsay Davies – I’ve Been Bit Travel Blog

If you’re staying in town then chances are you might have a room at the Holiday Inn Peterborough Waterfront which means you’re in a great spot to start this tour. However, don’t worry if you’re driving in just for the day. There’s a variety of street parking in the area around Millennium Park or you can park in the lot at Peterborough Square or the King Street parkade. For more parking suggestions, take a look at this downtown parking map

Walking tours are best done with a beverage in hand and a full belly so if you are in need of either, your first stop should be the Silver Bean Cafe. Located right along the shores of the Otonabee River, you’ll find a menu of lighter fare and refreshing beverages. Everything is made from scratch so it’ll certainly be delicious but it may take a moment to prepare your order so be patient. This cafe is only open from May until October so if you’re visiting outside those months, you can head a block north along Water Street to the Canoe Co Cafe if you’re in need of some caffeine. It’s one of many unique coffee shops in Downtown Peterborough.

Once you’re all set, head towards the Otonabee River and follow the Trans Canada Trail southward. You’ll pass by some interpretive signage telling about the Indigenous origins of what is now Peterborough, The Michi Saagig Anishinaabeg, The 1818 Treaty of Rice Lake, and more.

Continue south and you’ll find yourself passing the Peterborough Marina and Del Crary Park. This is where you’ll find the Art Gallery of Peterborough. With a mandate of showcasing contemporary artists from the area as well as across Canada, they pride themselves on being a gathering space for anyone young and old to appreciate art. Admission is by donation, so take a minute to pop in and see their current exhibitions! It’s also a fantastic spot for a picnic so pack some eats and watch both boats and paddlers as they explore the Otonabee River. Since you’re here, take a peek at the Peterborough Pathway of Fame where you can learn about some of the influential people in Peterborough’s history. You may even recognize a few of the names!

Once you’ve gotten your art on, head north on George Street to the corner of Charlotte Street where you’ll find The Whistle Stop Cafe. They’re known for having over 100 poutine concoctions including breakfast, Mexican, mac and cheese and even vegan options. There’s truly a poutine for everyone at The Whistle Stop Cafe! Don’t forget to snag a butter tart for dessert.

Next, make your way west to Aylmer Street and stop in at the Peterborough Public Library. They often have beautiful art on display inside the building and in the summer, you can enjoy the gorgeous Library Commons Garden. This pollinator garden is filled with native plant species to help attract bees, birds and butterflies to the area. Lastly, don’t miss the “Your Story” sculpture just outside the library. Designed to resemble a book cover, the sculpture comes to life as the artist makes it look like it’s twisting in the wind.

After you’re all done at the library, head north on Aylmer St. Hang a left onto Brock Street to see the historic Hutchison House Museum. One of the oldest limestone houses in Peterborough, it was built by the community for the city’s first resident physician, Dr. John Hutchison. It’s also the first home in Canada of Sir Sanford Fleming, who was the doctors cousin! If you’re interested in exploring inside, the museum is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. Take a look at their website to see if there are any upcoming special events. Otherwise, you can admire the home from the outside and then carry on with your downtown Peterborough adventure.

Time to back track a little on Brock St, head south on Aylmer and then head east along the adorable Hunter Street. Known as the Cafe District, there are a plethora of unique stores, restaurants and, of course, cafes to check out. Plus, they have a number of beautiful murals which just add to the magic of this neighbourhood! Some top spots to go include Black Honey Coffee House for fantastic espresso, Karma’s Cafe for incredible Himalayan and East-Asian fusion dishes (fun fact: it was on the TV show Restaurant Makeover!), La Hacienda for impeccable Mexican fare and St Veronus for a taste of Europe in the heart of the city.

And that’s a wrap! How was your first taste of downtown Peterborough? As you can see, there are so many unique corners to be enjoyed and even more to be uncovered. Get out your walking shoes (or if you’re in need of a pair, shop for some in one of the fantastic local shops) and see what you’ll discover in Peterborough!

Why Not Make it a Sleepover?