Butter Tarts, Craft Beer & Fall Colours In The Kawarthas
By Marc Smith.
The weekend is approaching and a quintessential Toronto thing to do is to escape the city with a visit to the country. Most are familiar with trips west to Niagara and north to Muskoka but one of my favourite destinations is to head east to Peterborough and the Kawarthas. It’s a little bit country, a whole lot of lake country and not as busy as destinations west of the big city. Plus the Fall colours in the Kawarthas are to die for.
Visiting Peterborough and the Kawarthas will present you with some decisions. The first is whether to stay in town or book a country inn or B&B. For me I like to stay in town so that I can walk to the restaurants and explore some of what the city offers. By day I’m happy to jump in my car and explore the countryside but at night put me in the city.
I’ve stayed in Peterborough before and what the city offers is what I would consider affordable accommodation options. On this visit I’ve booked myself into the Peterborough Inn and Suites.
This boutique hotel offers an amazing location in the heart of downtown Peterborough and has the added perk of only having 32 suites. You’ll get to know the front desk staff quickly and they are a great resource of local knowledge and even have a restaurant dining discount card to offer its guests.
The rooms are large in size, clean and in my experience very quiet. I struggled with WiFi connectivity but I wasn’t in my room enough for it to disrupt my stay.
Butter Tarts, Butter Tarts and more Butter Tarts
I don’t care why you are visiting Peterborough and the Kawarthas you must plan a visit to Doo Doos Bakery in Bailieboro (just outside of Peterborough). These just may be the best Butter Tarts you will ever eat and they are a must for me when I am in the region.
I am team raisin by the way.
Craft Beer, Spirits and Wine In The Kawarthas
One of the most exciting things for me to discover when I visit a destination is a variety of local producers, especially if they produce craft beer, spirits and wine. Peterborough and the Kawarthas has all three and they have even mapped it all out for you on the Brews, Bites and Barns discovery route.
Three experiences stood out for me that included a distillery, a brewery and a winery.
Black’s Distillery is located in Peterborough and is a true gem. Not only do they make their spirits with local grains their Vodka is made from Red Fife which was created in Peterborough over 100 years by David Fife. I did a tasting and then stayed for a couple of craft cocktails prepared by Robert Black. The Old Fashioned is simply perfect and a great Fall cocktail in my opinion.
Belmont Lake Brewery is the epitome of a micro brewery. Located in Havelock on the shores of Belmont Lake almost 70% of the visitors come to the brewery via boat. Don’t worry, if you don’t have a boat you can still drive up to them.
Proprietors Julie and Norrie have built a brewery based on what they want to drink and experience when they visit a brewery. They have created a little bit of a British Pub on the shores of Belmont Lake.
Grab a pint, pull up a picnic table and enjoy yourself. Chances are you’ll be making friends while you enjoy the beer.
Rolling Grape Vineyard is on the local discovery route and it is well worth checking out. A second generation farm turned winery, Rolling Grape is growing grapes and making wine that tastes of the Kawarthas.
You’ll start off sampling the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinto Grigio but I highly recommend you sample the Marquette and their Orange wine. They also make some blends that make for perfect everyday drinking wines. I loved the Amplified Orange wine so much I bought a bottle. I should have bought two I’m already thinking.
Where to Eat in Peterborough
There are some great dining options in Peterborough, especially if you are staying downtown and most are within walking distance of my hotel.
Two Dishes Cookshop was by far the stand out for me. Open weekly for breakfast and lunch and dinner on the weekends this is one of the most popular brunch spots in the city. Everything is made from scratch and the portions are huge. The Brisket Hash with poached egg and hollandaise sauce was delish and I didn’t need to eat again until dinner time.
The Publican House Brewery & Brew Pub is a staple for many locals and you can always sign up for a brewery tour in advance if you want to learn how to make beer. Try the Pulled Pork Smash Burger if you are hungry.
Ashburnham Ale House offers a huge selection of craft beers from Ontario and beyond along with some tasty pub styled food. The Ale House Rib-eye Hot Pot was stick to your ribs amazing.
Olde Stone Brewing Company & Restaurant appeals to both locals and visitors with a very casual atmosphere and a nice selection of craft beers. The Red Fife Wheat Ale went great with my Brewers Burger and sweet potato fries.
Fall for the Fall Colours
It is easy to witness the glory of autumn in this part of Ontario. Mother Nature has gifted The Kawarthas with some spectacular Fall foliage that is not to be missed.
You will see the Fall colours everywhere you drive but be sure to head north towards Buckhorn and stop at Burleigh Falls and Young’s Point to capture some awe inspiring scenery. Unfortunately for me the sky was cloudy so my photos don’t pop from that area but look at how glorious the colours are from a drive I was doing the next day.
Experiencing the Unexpected
There are a couple of experiences I hope you add to your itinerary and they include some things you may not expect. One is an outdoor sculpture garden featuring Zimbabwe stone sculptures and the other is a farm to table cooking class at a picture perfect farm 30 minutes from Peterborough.
ZimArt’s Rice Lake Gallery is an absolute treasure and completely not what I was expecting to see in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. Fran Fearnley has curated a most unique experience on her five acre farmland that celebrates the artistry of stone sculpture by Zimbabwean Artists. You are free to wander the gardens and see the works on display as well buy one or two if you feel so inclined. During the summer months you also get to meet the artist in residence from Zimbabwe and can take art classes from them.
South Pond Farms is just outside of The Kawarthas in the City of Kawartha Lakes and offers a collection of cooking classes and events for the foodie who wants to reconnect with where their food comes from. I took part in a cooking class that celebrated the family style dinner and taught us how to butterfly (Spatchcock) a whole chicken, roast vegetables and even how to make a charcuterie board. Best part is you get to eat what you learned how to cook.
This is just a small part of what I experienced during my stay in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. To see it all check out my Instagram Story under The Kawarthas on my Instagram.
Next stop on my south east Ontario road trip is Kingston, Ontario.
Featured photo: Fall drive in the Kawarthas courtesy of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism.