Photo courtesy of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development. Photo by Justen Soule.

Peterborough

January 25, 2022

Peterborough is built on the shores of the Otonabee River, first known as Nogojiwanong, which is Ojibwa for “place at the end of rapids.” The Otonabee (or Odenabe, “river that beats like a heart,”) isn’t the only waterway to criss-cross the city. A canal (part of the Trent-Severn Waterway) and a creek (Jackson) also run through it. Peterborough’s culture is intrinsically linked to this unique and striking setting.


Day One


DAY 1

THE CANADIAN CANOE MUSEUM — 10:00 AM


The Canadian Canoe Museum. Photo © Destination Ontario.

A CANOE ON EVERY CORNER

You know you’re in Peterborough when you spot a canoe on practically every corner. (Including some that are land-bound, like the art installation Jiimaan’ndewemgadnong — The Place Where the Heart of the Canoe Beats, at King and Water Streets.) There’s no better place to understand the canoe’s significance than the Canadian Canoe Museum. It’s the world’s largest collection of paddled crafts, filled with stunning, historic canoes and kayaks, from the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest’s huge dugouts to bark canoes of Newfoundland’s Beothuk. In 2023 the museum is poised to expand in a new location on the water, with more exhibits reflecting its ongoing collaborative relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

DAY 1

HUNTER STREET CAFÉ DISTRICT — 12:00 PM


Photo Courtesy of Peterborough DBIA.

THE CAFÉ LIFE, PETERBOROUGH STYLE

Peterborough is a smallish city, with a population of 84,000 and change. But it boasts a vibrant café district along Hunter Street West. A couple of attractive blocks of bars, cafés and boutiques, it includes The Only Café, perched on the edge of Jackson Creek. The Only is an institution, known for excellent sandwiches, eclectic décor, and as a favourite hang for everyone from students to politicians. Another long-running favourite is Black Honey Bakery — a homey, cozy café with tasty brunches and vegan options. On the shopping front, head to Hunter and George Streets for hip fashions (S.O.S.), locally-branded “Ptbo Northern Originals” wear (Flavour), or handcrafted jewelry and gifts (Hi Ho Silver).

DAY 1

HUTCHISON HOUSE — 1:30 PM


Photo Courtesy of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development. Photo by Justen Soule.

SEE HOW THE SETTLERS LIVED

Step back in time at Hutchison House, built by locals in 1837 to entice Peterborough’s first resident physician, Dr. John Hutchison, to stick around. Filled with medical instruments, books and furnishings of the time, the museum also has memorabilia belonging to the good doctor’s cousin, Sir Sandford Fleming, famed engineer, scientist and inventor. (His design for a forerunner of the roller blade is one of the many charming artifacts on display.) In summer, take tea on the terrace; in winter beside the open hearth in the Hutchison House kitchen.

DAY 1

JACKSON PARK — 3:00 PM


FOREST IN THE CITY — A CULTURAL HERITAGE LANDSCAPE

Jackson Park is one of a handful of Ontario parks with old-growth forest, and also a recently designated cultural heritage landscape. Yet it’s only a five-minute drive from Hutchison House. Circumnavigate the pond (a favourite spot for waterfowl and those wishing to photograph them). Pause on the restored, circa 1894 pagoda bridge. Or enjoy the 4.2 kilometre Jackson Creek trail, its rushing waters your soundtrack for walking, biking, or cross country skiing — Peterborough Nordic Club maintains classic ski tracks. Omemee (songwriter Neil Young’s home town) is also a favourite cycling destination, the 44 kilometre round trip taking you over Doube’s Trestle Bridge with spectacular views of Buttermilk Valley.

DAY 1

CULINARY PETERBOROUGH — 7:00 PM


Photo Courtesy of Peterborough DBIA.

WINE, DINE, AND STROLL THE OTONABEE

Excellence and diversity are markers of the city’s culinary strengths, for instance La Hacienda’s Mexican cuisine (and adjacent mercado), Hanoi House’s Vietnamese food (and oysters) and Fresh Dreams (traditional Spanish Tapas). All are located in and around Hunter Street West, not far from the beautifully landscaped Millennium Park trail. A post-dinner easy stroll along the Otonabee includes sculptures and a display tracing the city’s Indigenous and colonization history. (For a restful summer afternoon stop, don’t miss ice cream by the river at the cottage-like Silver Bean.)

DAY 1

LIVE MUSIC — 9:00 PM


Photo Courtesy of Peterborough DBIA.

FROM THE BLACK HORSE TO THE RED DOG — CATCH SOME TUNES

Peterborough is a music-loving town, and two venerable establishments are The Black Horse (jazz and blues) and the Historic Red Dog Tavern (reggae, rock, and hip hop). Yes, “historic” is part of the official name, opening as a hotel in 1883, and going on to become known as “the home of live music.” Many a legendary musician (Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Jeff Healey etc.) has played the Red Dog, a tradition continuing today with both nationally-known and rising-star local acts.


Day Two


DAY 2

PETERBOROUGH MUSEUM AND ARCHIVES — 10:00 AM


FROM NOGOJIWANONG TO PETERBOROUGH (AND BACK AGAIN)

Peterborough is known by many names: The ‘Boro, The Patch, Ptbo, Electric City (it was the first place in Canada with electric street lights), and increasingly by its original Ojibwe name, Nogojiwanong. The family-friendly Peterborough Museum and Archives tells the story, from early Indigenous communities to the first wave of Irish immigration, to the city’s rise and fall as an industrial town and beyond.

DAY 2

LIFT LOCK — 11:30 AM


Photo courtesy of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development. Photo by Justen Soule.

THE WORLD’S TALLEST BOAT LIFTER

Minutes away from the museum you’ll find the Lift Lock, a marvel of engineering. The highest hydraulic lift lock in the world, it’s designed to lift boats nearly twenty metres. The Lift Lock Visitor Centre explains how that’s done, and answers all your questions about the Trent-Severn Waterway, the 386-kilometre-long canal that connects Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. In winter, skate the canal beneath the mighty lock. In summer, picnic on canal banks. Or wander twenty-minutes to East City for lunch. (One choice spot: Ashburnham Ale House for local beers and high-end pub grub.) Want to get inside the Lift Lock? A Lift Lock Riverboat cruise gives you the boat’s-eye-view. And, for the jaw-dropping sight of the Lift Lock filled with canoes, come to the annual Lock ‘n’ Paddle.

DAY 2

ART GALLERY OF PETERBOROUGH — 1:00 PM


CONTEMPORARY ART ON THE (LITTLE) LAKE

Located downtown on Little Lake, the AGP is a little gem of a contemporary art gallery. Its permanent collection includes work by significant regional Indigenous artists (Mary Anne Barkhouse, Michael Belmore), as well as artists from further afield (Daphne Odjig, Carl Beam, Jane Ash Poitras, and Rebecca Belmore). While you’re there, drop into the Gallery Shop for regional one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, and fun stuff for kids too.

DAY 2

LAKEFIELD — 3:30 PM


Photo courtesy of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development. Photo by Justen Soule.

TAKE THE SCENIC RIVER ROAD TO LAKEFIELD

Peterborough has enviable proximity to lovely lakes and charming towns. Lakefield combines both, just south of Katchewanooka Lake and right on the Otonabee. A twenty-minute drive along the winding Water Street from downtown brings you past Trent University and into picturesque Lakefield. The town’s literary history (authors Susanna Moodie, Catherine Parr Traill, and Margaret Lawrence all made their homes there) makes it the logical place for July’s annual Lakefield Literary Festival. (Resuming in 2023.) Shop Queen St., or make it your dinner stop. A few popular spots: Canoe & Paddle pub, Cassis Bistro (fine dining), and The Nutty Bean, boasting “the best verandah” in town.

DAY 2

MARKET HALL PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE — 7:00 PM


Market Hall Performing Arts Centre. Photo by Bradley Boyle.

TO MARKET FOR MUSIC, OR THEATRE, OR DANCE

Located beneath Peterborough’s landmark clock tower, Market Hall is known for its theatrical and musical presentations, though it’s also a vibrant community centre, featuring political debates and more. Spacious yet still intimate, it’s come a long way since its 19th century days as a food market. Enjoy a show while testing out the local theory: the beautifully restored Market Hall hasn’t got a bad seat in the house.

WANT TO TAKE A DETOUR?

WARSAW CAVES CONSERVATION AREA

The Warsaw Caves Conservation Area (a twenty-minute drive from Lakefield) will satisfy almost any outdoor itch you want to scratch, with scenic hiking trails, camping, and paddling, fishing or swimming on the Indian River. You can even go spelunking in the seven namesake caves, which were formed at the end of the last ice age.

Need a Map?


This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.