A diverse city packed with green spaces and good eats, surrounded by hundreds of lakes and rivers and creeks and canals (and villages and marinas and parks), taking a single weekend to visit Peterborough and the Kawarthas may seem like a daunting prospect. But if you’re game, and energetic, and hungry, and ready to experience some beauty, there’s plenty you can do (and see, and eat) over a span of just 48 hours. Here’s our guide for packing it all in.
Check into the Peterborough Inn and Suites, a boutique, all-suite hotel right in the heart of downtown, where rooms include warm touches like fireplaces, and you can settle into the cedar sauna for a relaxing start to the weekend. Park the car, and leave it, because you’ll be walking for the rest of the day.
Lace up your shoes and head a couple blocks toward the water, walking the paved trail that links a series of parks along the Otonabee River and Little Lake (Peterborough has more than 70 kilometres of trails, right in the city).
Cross the train bridge, which has a lane for bikers and hikers, and proceed to East City. Now a distinct district, this was originally a whole separate town (called Ashburnham) until it was annexed by Peterborough in 1904, and retains a charming main street feel, along Hunter Street. Meander through the residential streets, to Ashburnham Ale House for a pint of their craft beer on their sunny, sprawling, three-sided patio.
After a quick shower and change at the hotel, walk to Rare, less than ten minutes on foot, on Brock Street. With an extensive network of farmers and growers throughout Peterborough and the Kawarthas, Chef Tyler Scott is committed to sourcing locally, and is a recognized Feast On restaurant, awarded by the provincial Culinary Tourism Alliance for businesses that source in Ontario.
Enjoy a nightcap at Publican House Brewery, another Feast On restaurant set in a 170-year-old historic building. Opt for one of their own award-winning beers, brewed right on site (they also offer Ontario wines and a list of signature cocktails).
While the hotel offers a good continental breakfast, you shouldn’t miss the brunch at Black Honey. Walk a few blocks north to the Hunter Street Café District, grab a table on the sidewalk (specially widened to allow more al fresco dining in the warmer months), and enjoy their homemade quiche, egg burritos, or, a special weekend indulgence, eggs benedict with anything from smoked trout kelp caviar, to goat cheese and mango, on top.
Spend the morning soaking up some history and culture, at both the Art Gallery of Peterborough, downtown, right on Little Lake, a small but mighty gallery which features a rotation of shows by Canadian and international artists, then stop at the Peterborough Museum and Archives for some background on the region, told through a series of interactive exhibits.
Drive out of town, into the ‘Land of Shining Waters’—the Kawartha Lakes await you. Lunch lakeside at Hobart’s Lighthouse, which overlooks both a boat-filled marina and a particularly scenic stretch of Stony Lake at McCracken’s Landing.
Drive around scenic Stony Lake, to Petroglyphs Provincial Park. Site of the largest concentration of Indigenous stone carvings in Canada, take some time to learn more about these Teaching Rocks, which date back 1,000 years, then reserve a some extra time to learn more about Ojibwa history, language and culture at the visitor centre.
Then lace up your boots and hit the Nanabush Trail, an easy 5.5-kilometre walk—rugged, it’s also a learning experience if you hike with the trail guide provided by the park, which includes Indigenous legends, like why we find moss growing on rocks, and how the white birch tree obtained its black marks.
Check into Viamede Resort. Set right on the lake, this recently renovated resort includes a sandy beach on Stony Lake, indoor and outdoor pools, an 18-hole disc golf course, a tennis court, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, and accommodations ranging from rooms in their main lodge, to three-bedroom cottages.
After a sampling the resort facilities, including perhaps a walk through their on-site farm, settle into a Saturday-night dinner at Mount Julian, Viamede’s signature, seven-table restaurant. Using produce, pork, chicken, quail and duck from their own farm, the chef here also sources from other local producers to create five, seven and nine-course tasting menus.
Enjoy a little walk by the water, before turning in for the night.
Enjoy an early-morning paddle on the lake, and then breakfast—included in your stay—at 1885, the resort’s other restaurant.
Then take a scenic drive through local villages, including the white-water chute at Burleigh Falls and Buckhorn, home to a busy farmer’s market, as well as Kawartha Country Wines. Then stop at Curve Lake and its famed Whetung Ojibwa Centre, which showcases a renowned collection of fine art, crafts, leather work, sculpture and jewellery, gathered from across Canada, and locally, from makers and artisans at the Curve Lake First Nation
Double back to Deer Bay, and have lunch at Frederick’s, a lakeside restaurant at Beachwood Resort. Featuring fine country culinary options, Chef Michael Henson’s fish fry is legendary (but unfortunately, only takes place on Monday nights).
Take your time heading back south, along Chemong Lake and the Otonabee River, through villages like Bridgenorth and Lakefield. If you have time on your way back through Peterborough, visit the playful otters and slithering snakes at the Riverview Park and Zoo.
Save a little room—and a little time—for a side trip to the tiny hamlet of Bailieboro, and Doo Doo’s Bakery, whose butter tarts have been named the best in the Ontario. Just one of more than 50 stops on the Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour, she bakes up everything from mouth-watering cheesecake to absolutely decadent maple bacon butter tarts.
Spend the last few minutes of your adventure walking the streets of Millbrook, which may seem a little familiar—they’ve been used as a filming location for almost a dozen movies and television series, from charming Christmas movies, to the blockbuster, A History of Violence. Stock up on sweets for the road home at Millbrook Valley Chocolates
Your 48 hours are up—time to head home!