Residents of Peterborough County in Ontario know they are living in a gem of an area; they just hope that not a lot of people find out. Located about an hour and a half north of Toronto, Peterborough falls right in the midst of “cottage country,” a popular recreation destination for Canadians and those in the Northern US. Home to the majority of the Kawartha Lakes, and criss-crossed by the expansive Trent Severn Waterway, the region is popular for camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits.
On a recent visit to Peterborough County (as a guest of the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism Bureau), I had a chance to enjoy the beauty of the area and experience some of the family friendly highlights of the region.
Peterborough and the Kawarthas
One of my favorite stops was at Warsaw Caves, a recreation location and campground. There are seven caves open for exploration in addition to beaches, hiking trails, and beautiful scenery. While most of these caves are considered “easy,” they are true caves. Wear practical shoes, clothes that can get dirty, and a headlamp or flashlight. Kids will love climbing through, but they aren’t ideal for young children as there is some climbing/agility required. Families (or portions of families) can by-pass any of the caves, however, so feel free to bring everyone (including the family dog) along. The hiking trails hold plenty of surprises… a small waterfall, a quiet grotto, and a private beach are all within a short hike from the front gate. Entry into Warsaw Caves is $10 CDN per car, but there are rates for individuals as well. Camping info can be found on their website.
If you’re traveling with kids in the area, the Peterborough-Riverview Zoo is a must-visit, if not for the animals, then for the massive playground – the largest in the city of Peterborough. The interesting thing about this zoo is that it is operated entirely by the Peterborough Utilities Group. It began in 1933 with the gift of two alligators to the General Manager of Peterborough Utilities and it has grown over time to house 27 exhibits. There is a nice mix of larger and smaller animals, and I was delighted to see some of my favorites, including river otters and meerkats. The 55-acre site also has a miniature train, splash pad, picnic areas and walking trails. The zoo is free, but there is a small fee for train rides.
When I learned I would be visiting the Canada Canoe Museum, I can’t say I was particularly excited. A few hours perusing the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks, and paddlecraft seemed like a questionable use of limited time. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Canoe Museum is fascinating and has plenty of hands-on exhibits to engage the kids. The permanent exhibits trace the history of Canada through a display of canoes and kayaks from the native people of the land, through settlement and migration, and into today. Special areas invite kids to touch, build, and play. A family admission (up to two adults and four children) is $25, single adults are $10.50, students $8.25, and kids under the age of five are free.
If you’re traveling with slightly older kids, or inquisitive younger ones, carve out a little time to visit the Peterborough Hydraulic Lift Lock. For the uninitiated, a lock is the equipment used to raise or lower boats between two areas of waterway at different heights. While this is usually less than 10 ft, this lock is largest hydraulic lift in the world at a whopping 65 feet. It relies entirely on water power and is essential for the travel of watercraft through the Trent Severn Waterway. This is a National Historic Site with a small visitor center and exhibits explaining how it all works.
We only had so much time on our journey, but I’d recommend adding Petroglyphs Provincial Park (rock carvings!) and the Indian River Reptile Zoo to your itinerary with kids. Of course, if you pick the right cottage resort, you may never even leave the grounds. Either way, there’s plenty to do an see in Peterborough for families looking for a relaxing, but fun vacation.
Guest post from Christy Matte of Quirky Fusion.