Kawartha Lakes is a rural area located northeast of Toronto and directly west of Peterborough that encompasses several communities and a chain of connected rivers, lakes and channels, including the Trent Severn Waterways.
The name Kawartha is derived from First Nations words meaning ‘land of reflections’ and ‘bright waters and happy lands’, descriptors that still hold water today. Visitors are treated to endless outdoor activities and water pursuits, as well as wonderful local culinary and culture that add to the welcoming character of Kawartha Lakes.
To learn more about all there is to see and do here, scroll down or visit the region's tourism website.
Where is Kawartha Lakes?
Kawartha Lakes lies between Lake Simcoe and Peterborough and is roughly 1.5 to 2 hours drive northeast of Toronto.
Things to Do in Kawartha Lakes
Kawartha Lakes is synonymous with rural appeal and outdoor recreation, particularly water sports on its numerous lakes. Boating, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are all popular activities. And there's even more to do out of the water, such as exploring historic towns, hiking, camping and wine tasting.
Because Kawartha Lakes is relatively close to Toronto, you can easily enjoy the region as a day trip. Although you can also spend weeks exploring Northumberland and the Kawarthas without getting bored!
It’s no surprise that an area full of lakes would appeal to water enthusiasts. Check out Lake Sturgeon and Pigeon Lake for excellent fishing opportunities. For canoeing and kayaking, head to Balsam Lake, which surrounds Grand Island. If you want to rent a houseboat, visit the village of Bobcaygeon and enjoy the waters of Pigeon Lake.
Near the town of Kirkfield, you’ll find the Carden Plain Important Bird Area (IBA). Home to numerous rare species, this stretch of land is a birding hotspot. Throughout the entire Kawartha Lakes region, you can find over 360 different types of birds.
With over 600 km of trails in Kawartha Lakes, there’s delightful scenery for every type of explorer. Some of the more popular routes include The Ganaraska Trail, Kawartha Trans Canada Trail and Victoria Rail Trail Corridor. The Kawartha Trans Canada Trail features the famous Doube’s Trestle Bridge. Each has its appeal, but all are great options for hiking, cycling, mountain biking, horseback riding and even cross-country skiing in the winter.
Balsam Lake Provincial Park is a family-friendly area with a campground. Other camping hotspots — both accommodating tents and RVs — include Pigeon Lake, Buckhorn Lake, Four Mile Lake and Rice Lake. If you like the feeling of camping but aren’t the tent- or RV-type, then consider renting a cottage at Kawartha Lakes.
There are several historical and cultural townships in Kawartha Lakes. The village of Fenelon Falls features a beautiful waterfall, plus fine-dining restaurants, art galleries and the expansive Garnet Graham Park overlooking Cameron Lake. Other favourite towns include artsy Lindsay with a memorable theatre.
Follow the official Kawartha Lakes Arts and Heritage Trail, which takes you to many art studios, galleries and shops throughout the region. The heritage towns of Lindsay, Omemee and Bobcaygeon are great places to start.
Kawartha Lakes is an excellent destination for a little rest and relaxation, while Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon and Lindsay are great spots to enjoy the area’s culinary scenes and wine tasting.
Kawartha Lakes Neighbourhoods & Districts
Kawartha Lakes identifies as a city but uniquely covers over 3,000 square km.
The prominent “neighbourhoods” include artsy Lindsay, plus the smaller historic villages of Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon and Omemee.
Another village connecting two lakes by lift locks, Bobcaygeon is home to a wilderness park overlooking Big Island in Lake Sturgeon. It also hosts the open-air Kawartha Settlers’ Village, which will take you back to the area’s mid-19th century history. Wine enthusiasts can try Ontario’s famous fruit wine in Bobcaygeon.
The waterfall itself is worth the visit, but you can also delight in watching boats traverse from Sturgeon Lake to Cameron Lake by way of lift locks. Aside from nature, arts and culture, the town is brimming with fine dining and shopping. Known as the “Jewel of the Kawarthas,” this town is ideal for cottaging in the summer months.
The town of Linsday, Ontario, is the historic gem of Kawartha Lakes. You can get the best ice cream here at Kawartha Dairy, which you can find in other towns, as well. Explore Lindsay’s historic walking tours, architecture, museums and theatres. If you’re a history buff, take a walk down the core streets lined with buildings from the 19th century.
One of Omemee’s claims to fame is being Neil Young’s childhood home. The song “Helpless” pays homage to the small village of Kawartha Lakes, which sits along the Pigeon River. Here you can connect to the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail and walk out to the Doube’s Trestle Bridge. In the winter, many stay in Omemee and make the 10 km trek to Devil’s Elbow Ski and Snowboard Area.
As the largest municipality in Trent-Severn Waterway, neighbouring city Peterborough features live music and theatre venues. It also pays homage to the region’s cultural identity at the Canadian Canoe Museum.
Things to Know About Visiting Kawartha Lakes
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Kawartha Lakes, it’s nice to learn what the locals know about the area.
Where to go for a hike
Where to go for a quick bite
During the Prohibition, police noticed a few dizzy and dazed chickens in the area. Turns out the chickens had infiltrated a bootlegger’s illegal alcohol supply. Police were able to make the arrest shortly after this outlandish piece of evidence was discovered.
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