Get in your car and trace two-lane country roads, winding through a series of the province’s most charming—and surprising—small communities.
Road trips provide some of travel’s greatest pleasures, even if they don’t take you too far from home. Rolling toward the horizon, anything is possible—especially in a county with 3,769 square kilometres to explore. Just over that drumlin? Maybe you’ll find a great gallery. Or across that river? A favourite local patio for lunch, and a view you’ll enjoy all afternoon. So buckle up, get behind the wheel, and then settle back, taking your time as you eat, drink, shop—and indulge, all across the county.
Burleigh Falls and Young’s Point
Heading north from Peterborough on Highway 28, the landscape changes quickly—the city drops away, giving way to rolling farmer’s fields and then, soon enough, a beautiful, boreal world. Big forests close in, while the Canadian Shield rises up, with rugged rock outcrops skirting the road. And around a bend, the tiny village of Burleigh Falls, dominated by its namesake chute, carrying tumbling, frothing white water through the narrows from Lovesick Lake to Lower Buckhorn.
This picturesque spot has been attracting visitors since the middle of the 19th century, when they came here by steam ship—and they arrived hungry. You should, too, taking some time to pull up a chair on the open-air patio of the Burleigh Falls Inn. Set on eleven-acre Burleigh Island, order up anything from fresh salads to their big, juicy burger.
And then, double back to Young’s Point, another tiny historic community. Founded back in 1825, it’s centered around Lock 27 on the Trent-Severn Waterway, which passes pleasure craft from Katchewanooka Lake through to Clear Lake. Once a site of hard pioneer living (the village is referenced in Susanna Moodie’s Roughing it in the Bush), now Young’s Point is a place to watch the boats go by, and where you can pull up a seat on the patio at the Old Bridge Inn, once an 1887 general store, now a small B&B and stylish restaurant, serving pickerel and beef and duck.
Surrounded by water and connected by two bridges, friendly Buckhorn sits at the nexus of two big bodies of water—Lower and Upper Buckhorn Lake, connected by Lock 31 on the Trent-Severn. It’s a walkable village—park your car in the heart of town and stroll along a string of shops, from an old time general store to a gift shop with country touches for your home, to a store selling canoes and kayaks (and there’s ice cream, too).
Then, drive nearby—for art, and wine (not necessarily in that order). At The Gallery on the Lake, browse through one of Canada’s largest retail galleries, much of the work reflecting the natural strokes of blue and green, woodland and water, just outside. And once you’ve filled your soul, find a place to fill your cup, at Kawartha Country Wines. Housed in a little cottage, sample their 35 wines made from locally grown fruit and berries, often served up by the friendly owners—try a few, then take a couple bottles home.
Set at the spot where the bends of the Otonabee River widen into Lake Katchawanooka, Lakefield has a busy beach (at Lakefield Park and Campground) and a compact downtown packed with shops and restaurants. Come for the food and drink, maybe at the always-bustling Canoe and Paddle, whose big patio and nautical interior draw those thirsty for craft beers (and upscale pub grub).
And then stay the afternoon, exploring the village’s literary history, celebrated in an annual festival—the Lakefield was once home to Margaret Laurence (whose house still stands in the centre of town) and Catharine Parr Traill and a range of other Canadian icons. Then finish your visit with a treat, dessert, from Stuff’d, which serves up big scoops of Kawartha Dairy ice cream.
Just southwest of Peterborough—not far from four-lane Highway 115, which carries visitors from Toronto to the Kawarthas, Millbrook is sometimes bypassed, and that’s a shame. King Street, the village’s main commercial strip, so typifies a small country town that it’s served as the backdrop for a number of feature films and TV shows, including a number of Christmas movies, as well as The Music Man, and Anne with an E, a new take on the classic, Anne of Green Gables. Browse their farmer’s market, which features the freshest produce and other foods from the surrounding fields and farms, then indulge your sweet tooth at Millbrook Valley Chocolates.