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Ours to Discover

Plan a late-autumn getaway to Peterborough

A shoulder-season visit to the Peterborough-Kawarthas region mixes creature comforts with the great outdoors.

By Doug O'Neill Wheels.ca

Nov 13, 2022 5 min. read

Article was updated 21 days ago

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About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, and show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”

Hygge, the Danish tradition of celebrating cozy contentment and finding joy in small things, is alive and well in Peterborough, especially in November when temperatures dip. Visitors to this friendly city of 85,000 on the historic Trent-Severn Waterway, about a 90-minute drive east of Toronto, respond to the ever-present pull of the great outdoors while also succumbing to creature comfort temptations like the region’s signature butter tart.

DAY ONE

In the morning: Leaving Toronto, start driving east on Highway 401. Your first stop of the day will be 25 minutes beyond Peterborough in the town of Buckhorn. Take the exit for Highway 115 at Peterborough and continue on County Road 23 to Buckhorn.

Drop off one of your traveling companions at Country Mart Bakery. While they’re busy selecting from the trays of classic butter tarts, pecan butter tarts and raspberry coconut tarts, you have time for a coffee run to Bikini Beans Cafe at the Boathouse Boutique decor and giftware shop just down the road.

Enjoy your caffeine and delicious treat while taking in the views at Lock 31 – Buckhorn, part of the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site.

Fresh air and snack break done, hop back in the car for the 10-minute drive to the Whetung Ojibwa Centre in Curve Lake, which specializes in Indigenous crafts, fine art, jewelry, leatherwork and other handcrafted items.

Around noon: Head back south on County Road 23 for the 10-minute drive to the village of Lakefield, which sits on Katchewanooka Lake. The lunch menu at restaurant Canoe & Paddle includes various British-inspired burgers, like the Queen Lizzy featuring grilled chicken, feta, sundried tomato, lettuce and lemon garlic aioli, or the Big Ben with a beef patty, cheddar, caramelized onions, smoked bacon and topped with a Dijon mayonnaise

In the afternoon: After lunch, check out the various plaques and landmarks that celebrate the literary figures – Catherine Parr Trail, Susannah Moodie and Governor-General Award winner Margaret Laurence – who once made their home in Lakefield area. You can visit Laurence’s house and search for one of her books, like “The Diviners” or “Stone Angel,” in the community’s three bookstores: Lakefield Station Bookstore, Happenstance Books and Yarn, and  D Glover Books.

If you feel like some exercise, stretch your legs on a section of the 8.5-kilometre Lakefield Trail that passes through village and connects to the Trans-Canada Trail.
Next, drive along Highway 29 to Peterborough and stop at the Art Gallery of Peterborough to take in its timely Everyday Future exhibit about the displacement of people, immigration and world conflict (it runs until Jan. 8).

For some late-afternoon retail therapy (gift-giving season is soon upon us), you can find PTBO-branded hoodies, toques, and t-shirts at Peterborough Originals, or, since more outdoor time is in your near future on this weekend trip, browse through the wool sweaters, fleeces, vests, knit beanies, socks and other outdoor apparel at Wild Rock Outfitters.

In the Evening: Check into the Holiday Inn Peterborough-Waterfront, located on the picturesque Otonabee River. For dinner, indulge yourself at the upscale Amandala Restaurant, which features ingredients sourced from Peterborough-area farms. Regulars rave about its braised brisket ravioli. For post-dinner drinks and live music, check out the performance nearby at The Blackhorse Pub.

[caption id="attachment_172897" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]Peterborough The Art Gallery of Peterborough (AGP) is reopened and welcomed visitors back to the gallery, where three new exhibitions are on display seen on Sunday July 25, 2021 in Peterborough, Ont.[/caption]

DAY TWO

In the morning: Start with breakfast at Riverside Grill (conveniently located in your hotel), that serves up flap jacks, malted mini waffles and other delicious options. Don’t hesitate to order the Riverside BBQ Sandwich, which features, among other mouth-watering ingredients, slow-smoked beef brisket and cheddar cheese.

Fill your water bottle before heading north on County Road 16 for the 30-minute drive to the 160-hectare John Earle Chase Memorial Park at the north end of Gannon’s Narrow Bridge. Thanks to the Kawartha Land Trust and Parks Canada, you can choose from three separate hiking loop trails that total 7.5 kilometres. You and your traveling mates can do a gentle hike, or all three. Expect stunning views overlooking Pigeon Lake.

Head back toward Peterborough but continue on Highway 7 and County Road 34 to Lang Pioneer Village, which is 10 kilometres from your hotel and located on the banks of the Indian River in nearby Keene. The 25-acre museum is essentially a 19th-century village brought to life with more than 30 restored and furnished historic buildings constructed between 1825 and 1910. Kids (big and small) will love meeting the Wiltshire Horned Sheep and Nigerian Dwarf Goats.
Around noon: After all that outdoor time, sit down and relax awhile at the laid-back, 32-year-old Only Café. What adult doesn’t enjoy an all-day breakfast? How about the Anstruther Lake blueberry or raspberry pancakes (with fruit and maple syrup) or Patti’s Petit Dejeuner (scrambled eggs, cheddar, avocado, grilled tomato and English muffin). Only Café has a friendly vibe and has long been a popular hangout for local artists, actors, and musicians.

In the afternoon: Next, Escape Maze offers a range of interactive experiences that require teams to solve a challenge. Some take place in themed rooms, others are outdoors. Participants who join the indoor Trouble’s Brewing experience must break into brewery and steal recipe, while those who sign up for The Pioneer Trail outdoor adventure game must surmount various obstacles and build a homestead.

For some last-minute shopping — of the edible kind — before driving back to Toronto, visit Black Honey Bakery for its selection of cakes, pies, breads squares and more of the regional specialty, butter tarts.

Peterborough

For the drive
You’ve got enough time on the drive from Toronto to enjoy at least two albums by the popular Peterborough-based Weber Brothers. To start your drive, listen to Ryan and Sam Weber’s more mellower songs on their “Acüsta” album. Then, somewhere along Highway 401, switch it up for the boys’ trademark vintage rock with a dose of wild bluegrass on the “Patches” release. Both are available on Spotify.

Drive guide

Day One

  • 7:30 a.m.Leave Toronto
    • 10 a.m. Country Mart Bakery and Bikini Beans Cafe

  • 10:30 a.m.Lock 31 – Buckhorn

  • 11 a.m.Whetung Ojibwa Centre

  • NoonCanoe & Paddle

  • 1 p.m.Lakefield

  • 3:30 p.m. Art Gallery of Peterborough

  • 4:30 p.m.Peterborough Originals and Wild Rock Outfitters

  • 6 p.m. Check into Holiday Inn-Waterfront

  • 7 p.m. Amandala Restaurant


Day Two

  • 8 a.m. Riverside Grill

  • 9 a.m. John Earle Chase Memorial Park

  • 11 a.m. Lang Pioneer Village

  • 1 p.m. Only Café

  • 2 p.m. Escape Maze

  • 5 p.m. Black Honey Bakery


NOTE: Times are suggestions only

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