In the summer and winter, it seems like we know exactly what to do with our time when we’re visiting a region. However, we can’t usually say the same about spring and fall, and, in my humble opinion, it’s a mistake to overlook what some may call “the shoulder seasons.”
Sure, the weather may be a touch more unpredictable, but in many ways, that’s what makes it so enjoyable. The first warm days of spring feel like a gift from the gods, and, honestly, is there any view more striking in this province than a gorgeous display of autumn leaves peering at you from across the lake?
That being said, here in Peterborough & the Kawarthas, the aforementioned seasons offer much more than just that. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the region on a consistent basis for many years now, and some of my fondest memories are from visiting in the spring and fall.
It’s always worth having a to-do list in waiting so that when the perfect spring or fall day does present itself, you’re ready to make the most of it. That’s exactly what I aim to help you do by reflecting on the experiences that have left an indelible mark on me during my explorations of this gorgeous region.
How to Make the Most of Your Spring or Fall Visit to Peterborough & the Kawarthas
Spend Time in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park
A lot of people don’t realize that Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is the second largest in Southern Ontario, next to Algonquin. For reference, it’s also called the “Kawartha Highlands Signature Site.” It’s a relatively new park, having become fully operational only about ten years ago, and I don’t think people have fully grasped quite yet just how gorgeous this place is.
I can’t really think of a park that’s more underrated than Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. A little while back, I had the chance in late fall to complete “The Serpentine Loop” under the guidance of the wonderful folks at The Land Canadian Adventures.
The “Serpentine Loop,” for those unfamiliar, has you starting on Anstruther Lake, on to North Rathbun, into Copper, and back over to Anstruther. It was spectacular, and I wasn’t surprised when later I read Ontario Parks describe Kawartha Highlands as “a special place with opportunities to experience the outdoors ranging from backcountry canoeing and camping to a short hike.”
I loved it so much that I returned this past spring and camped out for a few nights with my partner, Bri, and another couple who also loves camping. I revisited Copper and Rathburn, but also got to experience Long, Cox, and Crane as well, with a glimpse of Bottle and Sucker.
One piece of advice – check to see the expected water levels before your departure, as that may affect your route based on how some of the lakes are connected by creeks.
If you’re looking for something a little different out in nature, I’d recommend looking into the experiences offered by Rare Escape. It’s all about enjoying world-class cuisine in the great outdoors in North Kawartha.
Treat Yourself to Something Sweet and Delicious
Now, let’s suppose you wake up and you’re confronted with an autumn day that feels an awful lot like winter. Well, I’ve got the perfect remedy – baked goods!
Personally, I’ve got a deep love for Doo Doo’s Bakery, located in Bailieboro, Ontario. I know this is a big statement, but I do feel as if they make the best butter tarts in the province, and I’ve done more research on that front than I’d like to admit.
That being said, they’re one of many great spots. When I’m in the city of Peterborough, I refuse to roll through without popping my head into Hard Winter Bakery. And what kind of article would this be if I didn’t show a little love for the ever-wonderful Central Smith Creamery, too?
You’re also going to leave with a smile on your face if you buy some goodies at Pastry Peddler in Millbrook or Lakefield Bakery on Queen in Lakefield, too. If you’re not in love with baked goods, but you’re still looking to lean into your sweet tooth, then Candy Couture and Flossophy (both in Peterborough) should be on your radar along with Tastely Box in Apsley.
Many of these places came onto my radar when I was planning and executing my PTBO Picnic, which is an experience I know Bri and I absolutely adored.
Sip and Celebrate
The last time that we were in Peterborough & the Kawarthas (which I’m happy to say was not long ago at all), we made a point of stopping at Rolling Grape Vineyard, and that was a choice we were awfully happy we made. For one, I got to try their Cab Franc, and it instantly became one of my favourites in the province. If you’re more into fruit wines and ciders, look no further than Kawartha Country Wines in Buckhorn.
If breweries are more your thing, then you’ll want to have Belmont Lake Brewery (in Havelock), Bobcaygeon Brewing Co. and Publican House Brewery (in Peterborough), and Haven Brewing Company (in Peterborough) on your radar. If you find yourself in a good mood and want to keep the libation exploration going, I’d strongly recommend a visit to Black’s Distillery who proudly use local grains from Peterborough & the Kawarthas.
In the midst of winter, what I look forward to most is the snow melting off the roads and trails so that I can hop back on my gravel bike and do some exploring come spring. If you didn’t know, Peterborough & the Kawarthas has some epic cycling on offer, and they’ve got information on popular routes as well as parks and trails right here.
If cycling isn’t your thing, don’t stress. There are a variety of golf courses (Woodview, Tamarac, Quarry, and Pine Crest are the public courses), and to me, golf is a heck of a lot more enjoyable when you’re not contending with the blistering summer heat. There are a number of private courses that are available as well to tee off from, for the record.
You can also strap on some hiking books and head to the likes of Petroglyphs Provincial Park, which my good friend and colleague Kevin Wagar has written about in-depth on his site.
Spring and fall are also wonderful times for the bird-watching community, and you can do a little birding in the meadows, on the shores, and in the woods here in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.
Enjoy a Night Away From Home
Last fall, Bri and I spent a weekend at Elmhirst’s Resort and it was just the vacation we needed. I witnessed perhaps the most spectacular sunset I’d ever seen right after a brief rain shower, and it’s something I know neither of us will ever forget. The Saturday night Prime Rib Dinner is on another level and also something I won’t soon forget! You can read all about my stay here.
If you’re looking for something a little more off-the-grid, then look no further than Honey Cove, which also calls Keene, Ontario, home. I have no doubt that Nikki will take incredible care of anyone who decides to stay a night or two, and here is where you can get the full rundown if this sounds up your alley.
There really is a place to stay for everyone in Peterborough & the Kawarthas, so you can always dedicate a moment to poke around and find your perfect spot.
Get in Touch With Yourself Again at The Mane Intent
The Mane Intent is the only place that I know that focuses on “horse-inspired wellness.”
Indian River, Ontario
They offer “a unique journey of self-discovery and transformation in the peaceful presence of our horse guides. Engage in on-the-ground, horse-based activities (no previous horse experience is required) for a renewed heart, mind, body, and spirit.”
I don’t want to give too much away, but we spent a lovely, transformative fall day here and left with a lot of insight. I’ve never been great around horses after having a bit of a traumatic experience with some riding when I was in Romania, but she helped me totally work through that, and for that, I’m forever grateful.
This is something that I think is particularly powerful for couples to go through together.
Grab a Bite
There are a ton of fantastic foods on offer in Peterborough & the Kawarthas. We make the pilgrimage from Toronto to Muddy’s Pit BBQ on a semi-regular basis, and if you haven’t been there, I can say with certainty that it’s worth adding a visit to your calendar.
The Peterborough & the Kawarthas tourism site actually has over 100 establishments marked on a user-friendly map that’s a fun new way to find your next new favourite spot. If you haven’t played around with it and you’d like to, it’s right here for you. They’ve got a robust Eat & Drink page that’s worth spending a moment exploring if you haven’t just yet.
Shop to Your Heart’s Content
I have a bad (or good?) habit of getting new camping and outdoor gear right at the start of spring, largely because it enforces the idea that I’m going to make the most of the upcoming season.
Adventure Outfitters in Lakefield has me covered for that, and so do a handful of other fantastic outfitters. I’m also very partial to Wild Rock Outfitters in Peterborough as well!
Check out this list of local shops to get everything from candles to honey, clothing to home furnishings.
Make Spring and Fall Count This Year in Peterborough & the Kawarthas
Just putting this together has me excited to get back out there and explore. Yes, I’ve visited the region a fair bit, but it seems my list only gets longer over time, and that’s the wonder of a region like Peterborough & the Kawarthas – a place where there’s always something worth doing and a little something for everyone.