Tasty treats, spectacular scenery and breathtaking boat rides!
The third and final day of our fantastic road trip to the Kawartha Lakes-Northumberland region began with a self-guided kayaking expedition in Bocaygeon with Buckeye Surf and Snow, right across from Lock 32 where Sturgeon and Pigeon lakes meet. Initially known as Buckeye Sports, the fourth-generation, family owned business was established in 1949 as a tourist destination for fishermen, with the name ‘Buckeye’ chosen as a tribute to the area’s many visitors from Ohio (the Buckeye State).
Now run by the very friendly David Poole with his sons Taylor and Craig, Buckeye Surf and Snow is recognized as a leader in the surf apparel and water sports industry and offers an impressive selection of gear and an extensive rental program of personal watercraft, pontoon boats, fishing boats and kayaks.
Before we set out, we were given knowledgeable advice on the best route to follow. As a result we found it so peaceful to paddle slowly, observing things that can only be seen from the water, including structures that ranged from rustic wooden cottages right up to palatial dwellings.
We also encountered vessels that varied in size from canoes and aluminum fishing boats to enormous cruisers, while leaping fish and loud, hungry osprey kept us company.
We were reluctant to get off the water in Bobcaygeon but knew we had to get moving in our loaner Ford Edge as we had tickets for the very popular Peterborough Lift Lock Cruise. Before we departed, we chatted with the friendly Parks Canada staff at Lock 32 who told us that on a busy day, approximately 250 boats pass through their station. Nearby signage informed us that useful, real-time boater information is available on Twitter at @TSWBoaterInfo.
Enroute to Peterborough, we stopped in Omemee at the newly-opened Mickaël’s Café Librairie; it’s a second location for this baker who hails from Brittany, France and whose products have become popular at his first café in Lindsay and which are also in hot demand at numerous farmers’ markets across a vast swath of eastern and central Ontario. We picked up a loaf of still-warm bread to take home but eyed the croissants and bagels longingly as we were bid a friendly adieu. We also wished we had time to stop at the Youngtown Rock and Roll Museum, celebrating the life of Neil Young and other great musicians including the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John and more. Neil sang of Omemee, his childhood hometown, in the song Helpless: “There is a town in north Ontario / With dream comfort memory to spare / And in my mind / I still need a place to go / All my changes were there”.
Just like you never know what’s around the next bend in the road until you get there, you never know what you’re going to find when you seek out another bakery … but we knew we just had to hit up one more stop on the Kawarthas-Northumberland Butter Tart Tour. We were glad to make a wee detour to The Shed Bakery in Peterborough thanks to a tip on Facebook from someone who was following our adventure virtually. The butter tarts here were so good we just had to buy extra to bring home.
What a pleasant surprise the Lift Lock Cruise experience was! Despite having visited Peterborough on several occasions in the past, we had never heard of the lift lock so really didn’t know what to expect. We had an idea, however, that we were in for something fun immediately upon boarding, when we met the personable Captain Grant. He provided very engaging – and often humorous – narration about the history of Peterborough and the development of the Trent-Severn waterway as he deftly piloted the vessel through Little Lake, the Otonabee River and the locks. It was fun to watch the water rise as we sat inside Lock 20 (Ashburnham) and then we proceeded past the efficient swing bridge.
We learned that the Trent-Severn is one of the longest inland waterways in all of North America, stretching for 386 kilometres (245 miles) from Lock 1 at Trenton, on Lake Ontario, to Lock 45 at Port Severn, on Georgian Bay. It took 87 years to complete construction of all the locks on the system, making this one of the longest federal government projects ever. The Peterborough lift lock, built in 1904, is lock number 21 and for many years was the highest hydraulic boat lift in the world, raising vessels 20 metres (65 feet). This was a considerable accomplishment in the first years of the 20th century, when conventional locks usually only had a 2.1 metre (7 foot) rise.
We were absolutely fascinated by the process of proceeding through the lift lock; as fun as it was to go up, coming down was even better. The Peterborough Lift Lock was designated a National Historic Site in 1979, and was named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1987.
As we zipped home to Ottawa after the lift lock cruise, we found ourselves once again relishing the smooth ride of the Ford Edge and the benefits of the adaptive cruise control. The trip took just over 3 hours, making this area a very reasonable day trip destination (but, really, it’s much better to spend a couple of days exploring this beautiful part of Ontario). Although we didn’t really want to go home, we were eager to share all the butter tarts we had stowed in our cooler.
While we sure packed a lot into our three days in the Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough, there is so much more we are eager to see and do (not to mention so many more butter tarts to sample). Our growing wish list, compiled in part from recommendations offered by many of the friendly people we met on our travels, includes the following:
- Maryboro Lodge (The Fenelon Museum)
- Kawartha Settlers’ Village in Bobcaygeon
- Petroglyphs Provincial Park
- The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough
- Publican House Brewery in Peterborough
- Travel some (or all!) of the Trent-Severn waterway on a rented houseboat
- The Peterborough Lift Lock Visitors Centre
- Underwater dining experience at Lock 21 (the Lift Lock)
- Cycling and hiking in the area
- Kawartha Farmfest in October
Looking for one more buttery, sugary treat? Check out my new butter tart-inspired biscuit recipe, as seen below: