When was the last time you took the time to really immerse yourself in nature? To embrace the discomfort that comes with a little bit of dirt and a few mosquito bites because you know the rewards that come with them are totally worth it.

Haliburton Highlands’ Melissa Tong is an explorer of the wild spaces and supports immersing oneself in nature to learn more about yourself and the world around you. This summer, get back to nature with Melissa's curated itinerary taking you to some of the best places to explore by land or water for a full wild immersion in Ontario’s Highlands.

3 Days, 2 Nights of All Nature all the Time

Start Here: Carnarvon

Carnarvon is a small town with heart. Expect to encounter friendly smiles here and the same great scenery the Haliburton Highlands is known for. Use your stop here as your launchpad for exploring the vastness of the region and a chance to stock up on whatever you might need (yes, we mean beer). 

• Depending on when you arrive you may want to refuel before beginning your nature immersion, or pick up some picnic fare for later in the day. Some good options include the mom and pop, homestyle restaurant, The Mill Pond, or the fine dining Rhubarb Restaurant
• Get a head start on your sweet tooth with some mid-hike or paddle snacks from Country Bakery. Pick up something for breakfast tomorrow.
• A cold brew is the perfect reward at the end of a long hike, and Boshkung Brewing Co.’s uniquely Haliburton-esque lagers are happy to fill that role. 

Haliburton County
From Toronto: 205km • 2 hr 45 min From Ottawa: 310km • 3 hr 40 min

Time Spent Here: Count on an hour or so here to explore the community and get stocked with food and drink for the day.

Next Stop: Crests of Kinnesis (Little Hawk Lake)

Get ready for a truly immersive wilderness experience with the Crests of Kinnesis Trail, an epic six-kilometre hike covering terrain that is typical of Haliburton Highlands’ varied topography. Expect fantastic views around every turn in the trail.

Hiking Tip: please remember to bring a trail map with you before heading out. 

• Witness the power of water at the trailhead, and watch the operation of a full-size, operating historic log chute.
• Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the many lookouts you will encounter along your trek.

Time Spent Here: Plan for two to three hours to complete this challenging trail, or slightly shorter if you are doing the slightly shorter (five-kilometre) Circuit of Five Viewpoints instead. 

Next Stop: Buttermilk Falls

Halfway between Little Hawk Lake and Carnarvon lies the majestic Buttermilk Falls, the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves of how small we are in the world. These falls were once used as the conduit for logs headed for processing.

 • Hike the short trail (half-a-kilometre) and view the falls from Halls Lake to Boshkung Lake. Remember to stay well away from the water. 
• If you didn’t stop for a picnic during or after your hike, now is the time to pull out whatever you picked up in Carnarvon and have a snack.
• Try your hand at fishing here (remember to purchase an Ontario Fishing License before casting your line).  

Time Spent Here: Plan for an hour here to fully take in the waterfall before heading out for your final stop of the day (don’t worry, it’s not far). 

End Your Day: Stouffer Mill Bed and Breakfast

You won’t need to travel far from Buttermilk Falls to reach your last stop. This bed and breakfast is right next to Halls Lake and is the perfect spot to take an overnight pause and enjoy the surroundings of Haliburton Highlands.

• Remember that beer you picked up from Boshkung Brewing? What better place to enjoy it than sitting on a deck overlooking a 10-acre beaver pond teeming with wildlife?
• Head up to the rooftop solarium to soak away any aches and pains from your hike in the hot tub, while taking in the 360 degree panoramic view of the property.

Time Spent Here: Try and arrive early enough to explore the unique, 12-sided, circular building that was featured in Canadian Homes & Cottages Magazine.

Start Here: Stouffer Mill Bed and Breakfast

Bask in the sunrise that inspired owners to purchase the bed and breakfast in the first place. This bed and breakfast has been running for nearly 30 years and are known for their memorable breakfasts.

• Refuel with a hot breakfast for the day ahead because, as promised, you will be outdoors all the time.
• Hike one of the five-kilometres of hiking trails on the 136-acre property.
• Wetlands are always a good spot to view wildlife, so keep your eyes open for beaver, muskrat, turtles, and more.

Time Spent Here: You will want to get started early for the next leg of your journey.

Next Stop: Haliburton

Be prepared to fall in love with the small town of Haliburton, just a 30-minute drive from the bed and breakfast. There is enough to do here for a full day of outdoor activities, and with a location right next to Head Lake you can be sure there will be time to spend on the water here.

• Pair nature with art at the Haliburton Sculpture Forest and see how powerful outdoor art installations can be when set in a forest setting.
• Rent a bike from Haliburton Bike Share to explore the community on two wheels.
• Stop for lunch at Hook, Line & Sinker and order one of their famous fish and chips dishes, locally sourced.
• Take in the view overlooking the village of Haliburton and the surrounding countryside from Skyline Park, just a short walk from the road. This view will be a good reminder of how vast and wondrous the earth is.
• Book a foraging course from Yours Outdoors and learn more about how to sustainably harvest from the wild. 
• Book ahead for a private session of stand up paddleboarding from Wolf Flow SUP or join in one of their SUP yoga classes (they event offer a sunrise class, for all the early birds out there). 
• Rent a canoe or kayak from Algonquin Outfiitters and explore beautiful and scenic Head Lake.

Haliburton County
From Toronto: 215km • 2 hr 55 min From Ottawa: 285km • 3 hr 15 min

In addition to its' stunning scenery, Haliburton is home to a thriving arts community.  With plenty of galleries dotting the countryside, a must-visit is the renowned Haliburton Sculpture Forest, a unique outdoor collection of sculptures by Canadian and international artists.

Time Spent Here: Plan on spending almost a full day here, especially if you book a course from Yours Outdoors or Wolf Flow SUP.

End Your Day: Algonquin Eco-Lodge, Harcourt

If you have the time to add on an extra day here, you won’t be disappointed. Located on the outskirts of Algonquin Park, Algonquin Eco-Lodge is so remote you even have a short hike from your car to reach it!  The lodge is powered by micro-hydro (water powered) electricity, and features an outdoor wood-fired sauna, a carbon neutral hot tub, and 17 private bedrooms. Leave the cell phone at home because there is no service here!

• If you have the time to book one of the lodge’s guided experiences, we highly recommend it to round out your wilderness exploration. They offer guided hikes, horseback riding, and other outdoors oriented experiences into Algonquin Park.
• Since cell phones don’t work here, but you’ll be able to focus on the beauty of the terrain and the chance to relax around a roaring bonfire and connect with friends or family (or maybe meet new friends).
• Explore the trails right on the property or venture further into Algonquin Park.
• Check out the 30-acre lake right at the lodge.

Haliburton County
From Toronto: 250km • 3 hr From Ottawa: 255km • 3 hr 10 min

Time Spent Here: With so much to do in Haliburton it could be tempting to arrive just in time for bed, but we suggest spending at least a few hours on the property before the sun sets.

Fun Fact: Algonquin Eco-Lodge won the TIAO Sustainable Tourism Award for sustainability. 

Start Here: Algonquin Eco-Lodge

• Enjoy the breakfast included in your stay here, and pack it in because you will need it for the day ahead.

Next Stop: Harcourt

There is plenty to do in Harcourt, but don’t leave your planning to the last minute. Book one of the experiences listed below ahead of time to get a fulsome appreciation for the beauty of the region.

• Pre-book the High Falls Paddle, Explore and Dine up the York River with Deep Roots Adventure and enjoy a five-hour immersion in the waterways and wild spaces of northern Haliburton Highlands.
• Love art? Deep Roots Adventure offers a Paddle, Plein Air and Dine experience that might call to you if you want to add an art component to your time on the water.
• Visit Gaia’s Den and chose from one of their five guided experiences to help you connect with nature. Their Spirit of the Waterfalls will give you a new perspective on appreciation for water and will even include a dip in one of the pools below the falls.
• Grab a bite to eat from the locally famous AM/PM Outdoor Gourmet. Pro Tip: their sandwiches are man-sized so be prepared for leftovers. 
• Get into the woods on horseback with horseback trail riding from South Algonquin Equestrian Trails.

Time Spent Here: You will spend a full day in this area, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

Next Stop: Bancroft

The small town of Bancroft is worth exploring for a day. Located deep in the Mineral Capital of Canada, you can expect to see a unique topography here. This is your last stop on this itinerary, so make it a good one!

• Climb to the top of Eagle’s Nest Park for a mile high perspective on the vastness of Hastings County’s wilderness.
• You can end your trip at this point, but while you’re in Bancroft, why not tag on an extra day or two at Grail Springs Wellness Centre? They offer a relaxing water circuit that includes hot tubs, a sauna, and a dip in the lake.
• Stop for a light lunch at Wattle & Daub Café or Café BC, right in Bancroft. 
• The views alone will be worth the stop at The Granite restaurant, which overlooks the town of Bancroft. 
• After the last few days you deserve a reward.  Visit Kawartha Dairy for an ice cream treat to enjoy on your way home.
• Explore the hidden gems beneath the surface of the earth with a visit to the Princess Sodalite Rock Mines Rock Shop or Lakeside Gems.

Hastings County
From Toronto: 245km • 2 hr 50 min From Ottawa: 220km • 2 hr 35 min

Bancroft, the Mineral Capital of Canada, is a rockhounders' dream. Must stop locations for all rock-lovers includes the Bancroft Mineral Museum and the Princess Sodalite Mine. Or take a trip down The Miner's Loop and walk in the shoes of miners long ago.

Time Spent Here: Plan on at least two or three hours in Bancroft.