An Idyllic Weekend Getaway From Toronto and Ottawa

Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

Located 90 minutes northeast of Toronto, Peterborough is a city with a lake at its heart. Zoom out, and you’ll discover hundreds more within the wider Kawarthas region, carved by glaciers and dotted with graceful rolling hills. If you’re yearning for an outdoorsy oasis that combines rich history and immersive culture, this is it.

There’s a saying in these parts: No canoe, no Canada. Since time immemorial, connecting waterways via canoe and kayak has shaped the country’s cultural history and peoples. Peterborough in particular became a vibrant canoe-building hot spot in the 19th century, making it the natural place to establish the Canadian Canoe Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks, and paddled watercraft. In May 2024, it changed address and got a major makeover, moving to a new five-acre, two-storey, 65,000-square-foot space along the Trent-Severn Waterway. Sustainably designed with Corten steel siding and exposed mass timber, it also reflects the symbolic connection to the land and the artistry of the canoe itself, allowing visitors to arrive by paddle, bike, and on foot. Inside, 600-plus watercraft are displayed in the vast Collection Hall, while upstairs, the Exhibition Hall features artifacts and stunning exhibits, including Indigenous stories presented in English, French, and the local Michi Saagiig dialect. Outside, canoe and kayak rentals are available, as are guided voyageur canoe tours that give insight to the natural and human history of the area. It’s no wonder National Geographic named it one of 2024’s Best Cultural Spots.


Photo by Justen Soule. Courtesy of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism


Photo by Justen Soule. Courtesy of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism




A National Historic Site, the Trent-Severn Waterway is a 386-kilometre-long, fully navigable system with 45 locks guiding boaters, kayakers, and canoeists from Trenton to Port Severn. Lock 21, a.k.a. Peterborough Lift Lock, is another National Historic Site that adds a fun twist to your river adventure. The highest hydraulic lift lock in the world is home to Lock & Paddle, a free, one-of-a-kind annual community paddling event that packs hundreds of paddlers of all skill levels into the lock, lifting them 20 metres. Dubbed by many as a “flash mob,” it is a signature event hosted by Parks Canada that unites the community and inspires some fun on the water while appreciating a monumental historic treasure.

If it’s tranquility you want, then Le Boat is your jam. Known worldwide for its luxurious private boating vacations, Le Boat launched on the Rideau Canal in 2018 and in 2024 added Peterborough and the Trent-Severn as its second Canadian hub. No boat licence is needed and no experience is necessary to navigate these “floating condos,” which can accommodate up to 12 people and come equipped with all the amenities of home, including barbecue, fridge, cozy bedrooms, roomy showers, and spacious kitchens. Be it three nights or 14, this is an excellent option for those who want to gather with friends and family, take it slow, and enjoy a leisurely cruise in the great outdoors together while cherishing the sights and sounds of the captivating Kawarthas.