Come Wander

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.

In fall you aren’t looking for a highway experience, you want to cruise the backroads and kick up the leaves into a whirlwind behind you as you pass. The best fall drives will you past spectacular scenery to small communities, perfect picnic spots, and the opportunity to get outdoors while you can.

Averaging about an hour each way these routes will make the perfect road trip, leaving plenty of time to stop and soak up the sun along the way. You may not be able to hang your head out the window like a dog, but you can still savour every last moment of the beautiful fall weather and scenery.

Make your next fall drive a colourful one on one of these five routes in Ontario’s Highlands.

*See the map at the bottom of this story for route details.

Perth to Calabogie – 63 kilometres


This route is only one way which poses a little more of a challenge but the scenery along these winding roads will be so stellar you won’t mind making the trip twice in one day.  The best part of this trip is it will take you through the communities of Perth, Lanark, and Calabogie, all charming spots to stop and do some shopping or grab a bite to eat.

Pick up a picnic lunch from Fieldhouse Restaurant in Perth and dine in Stewart Park or take it with you on the road. You’ll want to stock up on treats from the Perth Pie Co. for dessert. In Calabogie you’ll be ready to stretch your legs with a hike to one of Manitou Trails’ lookouts or you can stop for a brew or two at Calabogie Brewing Co.

#FallPics: In October you can hitch a ride to the top of the mountain at Calabogie Peaks Resort and drink in the brilliant display all around you. Oh, and snap a few pics while you’re there, too.

Minden Loop – 66 kilometres


This route takes you past more than a dozen lakes and you can travel the full loop and not have to retrace your steps even once. Along the way you’ll be crossing some of the most beautiful terrain in the Highlands; if you want to get off the highway, turn onto one of the backroads that crisscross the region for a slower pace.

With so many lakes to pass by you’ll encounter plenty of places to pull over for hike and a waterside picnic lunch. Stop at Mill Pond Restaurant near Carnarvon to grab something to go from their take-out window, or grab a quick bite at Maple Avenue Tap & Grill in Haliburton for a surprising mix of Korean and Canadian cuisine.

#FallPics: Buttermilk Falls at the north end of Boshkung Lake is the place to capture some spectacular shots or find something fun for your Instagram page at the outdoor art gallery, Haliburton Sculpture Forest.

Madoc Loop  – 75 kilometres

Part of this route takes you on Highway 7 between Madoc and Kaladar and traverses rugged Canadian Shield landscape bordered by vibrant forests. Head north to Flinton before looping back to Tweed and take your time to savour the scenery while you drive.

This route is perfect for combining a love of autumn’s brilliance with a love of craft drinks.  Plan for a detour to Potter Settlement Winery near Tweed and Kings Mill Cider near Madoc to sample wines and ciders with a local flavour. Don’t miss stocking up on a few pints at 7/62 Brewery in Madoc before you head out on the road; they also make an epic charcuterie board.

#FallPics: Snap a few shots and have a picnic or stretch your legs at Flinton Conservation Area, roughly halfway along your route.

Sharbot Lake to Lanark Highlands  – 127 kilometres


If you’ve been looking for a longer drive that will take you through densely forested terrain, up and down hills, and where you will feel like you’re the only person on the roads, this is the drive for you. These scenic backroads may involve some gravel terrain so if you’re not a fan you should choose another route.

Start in Sharbot Lake and pick up some picnic fare from Seed to Sausage or Cardinal Café + Shop as there won’t be many places to stop along your route. If the Harvest Bakery is open as you pass through Elphin stop for one of their gooey butter tarts. Plan ahead and order from Back 40 Artisan Cheese and picnic along the Mississippi River when you pick up your order.

#FallPics: Stop to capture a photo of the fall foliage amid the scenic winding road from the top of one of the rolling hills between the communities of Maberly and Elphin.

Almonte to Renfrew – 60 kilometres


This scenic drive will lead you from one charming small community to another via quiet country backroads. Expect to encounter a few picturesque bridges along the way! Begin your journey in Almonte then head towards Pakenham, then north to Burnstown and end your trip with an exploration of Renfrew (tip: stop for dinner on Coco Jarry’s patio).

Stop midway between Almonte and Renfrew in Burnstown and swing by Neat Café to pick up a wood-fired pizza. Picnic at the local beach to savour the fall scenery surrounding the Madawaska River. If you are gluten free, you’ll want to note the newly opened 3 Apples Bakery in Pakenham, dedicated to gluten free folks!

#FallPics: You can’t drive through Pakenham without snapping a shot of the famous Five-Span Stone Bridge. If you indulge in some shopping in downtown Almonte, see if you can spot the life-size bronze statue of Dr. James Naismith.

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Game On

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  If we had to pick a single month that would be awesome for playing games, it would be March (okay, and maybe February). Mother Nature can’t decide if it’s winter, spring (or sometimes summer), and there are times when it seems safer to hunker […]

Chocolate Pairings to Fall in Love With

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  Valentine’s Day may be over but that doesn’t mean our chocolate indulgence has to end. Is there even such a thing as too much chocolate? We think not. For true chocolate lovers, every opportunity to sample a new artisanal chocolate is reason to rejoice. […]

5 Ideas for a Romantic Valentine’s Day (at home)

*Stay home, stay safe. This article contains experiences you can have at home or that conform with current stay-at-home orders. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but unfortunately this year brings with it new challenges.  You can’t go out to dinner, you can’t go see a movie, and many of the typical Valentine’s Day […]

Finding Your Wolf Spirit at the Haliburton Wolf Centre

Have you ever had a pivotal moment in your life? One event that stands out to you and makes your path in life clear? My moment came to me in the form of a wolf as black as the night, with golden eyes that seemed to peer into my soul. Not many people can say […]

Jigging Through Ice

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  You slip and slide your way across the ice, your arms laden with fishing gear, excitement building at the thought of the unscripted day ahead. Tucked amidst your gear is a warm blanket, a thermos of something rich and delicious, and a carefully packed […]

12 Gifts of Christmas (Online)

The holiday season is coming, and it’s the season for giving. You might be the type to start planning early, or the kind who is motivated by pressure, not even beginning your shopping until the 11th hour. Whichever you are, we’re here to help get the ideas flowing with a list of online gifts that […]

Cheers to the Holidays

Get into the holiday spirit this month with these mixologists and craft drink producers in Ontario’s Highlands.

Get on Board with Charcuterie

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  You’ve heard the word and maybe you’ve even seen Instagram pics of colourful charcuterie boards, and if you’re lucky you’ve sampled this meaty treat yourself (in case you wondered, it’s pronounced shahr-ku-tuh-ree). Charcuterie is originally a French word that literally translates to […]

Find Your Hygge Here

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  You nestle into a soft cocoon of blankets while curled up on the couch, the fire casting its flickering glow onto the faces of friends or family as you share comradery and conversation. You clasp a warm mug in your hands, the […]

Discover Historic Accommodations in Ontario

Spend the night in historic accommodations to take yourself to way-back-when, and get into the spirit of the community you’re visiting. These inns have stories to tell of the people who lived and breathed inside their walls.

Local Love: 9 Local Gift Ideas You Can Order Online Today

‘Tis the season – for shopping. Yes, the leaves may have barely fallen from the trees but the jack-o-lanterns will shortly be switched out for ornaments and holly and the days are numbered before the holidays are here live and in person. This year when planning your shopping to-do list, we have two words for […]

Tales of Wilno: Exploring Canada’s Oldest Polish-Kashub Settlement

Wilno is a land with stories to tell – many stories, in fact. If the hamlet could talk, it would tell you tales of first settlers, church fires, bustling railway lines, and hockey games played on the outdoor rink. Known as Canada’s first Polish/Kashub settlement, Wilno is the place where settlers from Poland/Kashubia first laid […]

Celebrate All Things German this October

Oktoberfest brings to mind a crowded beer hall filled with large Germans shouting ‘Prost!’ and knocking thick beer steins together with gusto. But is this an event or a cultural celebration? We would argue the latter, and not just because we are looking for an excuse to drink beer and eat schnitzel. This year will […]

Tiny Cabins, Yurts, and other Glamping Getaways

So you’ve seen the Instagram posts of friends or family seated around a rustic campfire, enthusing on the beauty of nature and a rugged camping experience, but you’re thinking “That’s totally not for me?” Hey, don’t sweat it, you are not alone. Camping isn’t for everyone, and who says it should be? If everyone were […]

The Artist’s Way

Who says art can only be found in big galleries or urban showrooms? To find fantastic local and Canadian art you need to head to the places that inspire artists to create, and Ontario’s Highlands is among the most beautiful places in Ontario (in our humble opinion). Beyond the inspiration found in the rugged hills […]

Beer, Butter Tarts & Burritos (By Bike)

Could this be Ontario’s tastiest bike route? A natural backdrop of Canadian Shield, shimmering lakes and lush Crown land forests surround you as you pedal down a 50/50 mix of quiet paved roads and gravel rail trails that traverse a series of communities. These small towns and rural hamlets are now known for art and […]

Ground to Glass

Discover how four craft drink makers harness Mother Nature’s flavours to elevate their beverages in Ontario’s Highlands.

Cider Season

Find these cideries on your next road trip through Ontario’s Highlands to discover a refreshing way to toast the apple harvest with a cold cider.

With Love, to Frontenac County

Now more than ever we are drawn to our community, and the places that help us to unwind and get outdoors. To get away from the crowds and reconnect with our roots. Frontenac County tempts us to sit back, unwind and check into vacation mode, to rediscover a world of countless lakes and a region […]

With Love, to Haliburton Highlands

We are so lucky to come from a place that has it all: phenomenal views, rugged landscapes, abundance of trails, and infinite opportunities for recreation, all enticing you to leave your comfort zone and step into the wild. Here, endless forests meet cool, clear lakes and rivers to create incredible vistas that reach out to […]

With Love, to Lanark County

Lanark County is a land of sweet contrasts, where dense forests of sugar maple border lush, green fields and you’re as likely to come across a cyclist as a farmer on one of the region’s winding roads. Urban and rural unite here to create a region that’s as colourful and varied as the patchwork quilt […]

With Love, to the Ottawa Valley

From the rushing waters of the Petawawa, Madawaska and Ottawa rivers to the unspoiled woodlands of Algonquin Park, the Ottawa Valley is a sultry enchantress, enticing us with adventure. Renowned as a world-class whitewater destination and for the challenges found in its rugged hills and lush dales, the Valley pushes us to do more, live […]

With Love, to Hastings County

The deep lakes and meandering rivers here are ripe with life, both on land and in the water. This land is known as a region rich with minerals, and we haven’t forgotten how our communities were settled by the gold rush, where miners flocked, eager to delve into the earth to unearth its riches. Thick […]

Cycle Haliburton

What’s your favourite flavour of cycling? Do you prefer digging in off-road, pedaling hard for speed and distance, or just a light taste with a short meander? A bike ride can be what you want to make of it, which is part of the fun, isn’t it? Haliburton Highlands’ varied terrain calls cyclists to explore […]

Roots of Revival in Smiths Falls

Ribbons of water and steel sear the land through Smiths Falls. The railroads and rushing Rideau River provide a physical reminder of the industrial heritage that helped shape this small, bold town in the heart of the Rideau Canal, a celebrated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Smiths Falls is a place of contrasts and character, where […]

Bikepacking in North Frontenac

Imagine a weekend of backcountry camping in a quiet forest just a few hours from Ottawa or Toronto. As you settle down at camp, you think back to the fresh moose tracks you saw earlier that day and the amazing swim you had when you stopped for lunch. The scenery feels familiar but something’s different. […]

Bancroft Rocks!

For one of the best views of Bancroft, turn off Highway 62 onto Eagles Nest Crescent; turn right onto Eagles Nest Park Road and go up, up and then up some more. From the parking lot, take the Hawkwatch Trail; it won’t take long. You’ll find the lookout deck where you can see for yourself […]

Your Guide to COVID-19 Safe Travel in Ontario’s Highlands

This year the key to exploring is to keep it local; this is the time to explore our own backyards, and the regions close to home that have so much to offer us in the way of exhilarating outdoor experiences, fantastic food and drink, and blissful relaxation. If you’re exploring a new corner of Ontario’s […]

Hidden Gems Along Letterkenny Road

If you never thought that a simple road could spark your curiosity, initiate historical debates AND bring out your inner geologist, then you have obviously never been introduced to Letterkenny Road. Connecting the hamlets of Brudenell and Quadeville, this fully paved settlement road winds around pristine lakes, and leads you to a prized rose-quartz quarry. […]

Meet Me at the Drive-in

“Stranded at the drive-in, branded a fool What will they say Monday at school?” – Danny Zuko, Grease We could think of worse things than being stranded at the drive-in with Danny Zuko this summer! Maybe it’s because of the 1950s movie Grease, or maybe it’s just because it’s an awesome experience, but there’s something […]

Go Backcountry

You waken slowly in the early morning, the high-pitched warble of birdsong drifting lightly through the trees overhead. The sky is faintly brightening with the coming of dawn, and the natural world is gradually blossoming to life. Around you there is no trace of human activity, no murmurs of voices, clanging of dishes, or whir […]

Live the Yacht Life

Live the lifestyle of the rich and famous – for a week, anyway – with a Le Boat cruising staycation.

Date Night In

You don’t need to leave the house for a romantic and locally inspired experience. Bring date night home with these four romantic experiences.

An Ode to Poutine

Discover these chip trucks and their classic dishes, located throughout Ontario’s Highlands.

Cocktail Hour is Back

If you’re missing your spring cocktails, the drink makers at Rhubarb Haliburton are happy to share their recipe for a delicious and fizzy cocktail.

Summer Brews

Take a trip around Ontario’s Highlands to these micro-breweries to discover your perfect summer beer.

Exhale and Unwind

Experience a slice of farm life at Dwyer’s Farmhouse in the Ottawa Valley.

High Tea Fit for a Queen

Make a high tea that’s fit for a queen using Tea & Cake’s secret scone recipe and how-to.

Chocoholic Fudgy Cake (Yes, Please!)

Rich, velvety chocolate, whipped ganache, creamy frosting…chocolate cake is the ultimate in old-time comfort foods. Ignite a passion for chocolate with this recipe from Hummingbird Chocolate Maker.

Living the Dream

Meet the Locals: Rob and Nancy Moore, owners of Cardinal Cafe and Shop in Sharbot Lake Ontario.

Maple Linguist

Laurel Cook reflects on life in Lanark County, Ontario’s Maple Syrup Capital.

Cooking with Cider

A frosty glass of crisp cider may be the perfect accompaniment for patio sipping, television watching, dock sitting, or just hanging out in the warm, lemony spring sunshine, but did you know it also happens to be a fantastic and versatile ingredient for cooking? For Margaret Van Helvoort and Kees Morsink there is no bad […]

Before the Lake Wakes

Wake up lakeside with a steaming cup of coffee from a roastery in Ontario’s Highlands.

Baking with Beer

Great beer makes great food. Check out some great recipes to bake with beer with Chris Thompson from Whitewater Brewery Co.

Chocolate Marshkebabs DIY

Easter is just a bunny hop around the corner and dreams of chocolate are filling the minds of children – and adults, too. A chocolate treat is the perfect way to sweeten your spring, and when it comes to this dark delicacy, the folks at Perth Chocolate Works are the experts. Since opening their doors […]

Just Breathe

Discover the beauty of mindfulness and allowing yourself to Just Breathe.

The Great Pizza-Off

Chow down on artisan wood-fired pizza at any of these gems across Ontario’s Highlands.

Pause for Pi Day

Celebrate Pi Day with the best pie at these bakeries in Ontario’s Highlands.

Breaking Bread

Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian – dine with confidence at these 10 Ontario’s Highlands restaurants. Your belly will thank you.

Family Play Days

Hanging around the city in the dead of winter is tough. This is when you yearn to get away from the slush, pack the car and head out for an almost-spring getaway, with family in tow. Get out of Ottawa with a road trip to Ontario’s Highlands where the snow is pristine and sparkling, and […]

Winter Break

If you’re tired of the dog days of winter, we have news for you: You can have soak up the fresh air and celebrate family with a family-focused escape right here in Ontario. Head north of the 401 to find plenty of options to keep you and your little ones satisfied while getting a much-needed […]

Winter Just Got Awesome

Learn to climb or brush up on your skills with an epic ice climbing adventure at SOIceFest 2020 in Maynooth, ON.

Make a Toast (in Hastings County)

Tour craft drink producers for a chance to meet the makers, and get the inside story on what inspires them to make and sell their product. Oh, and sample delicious brews, too!

The Best Baked Goods

Discover some of the best bakeries in Ontario’s Highlands and their tasty treats.

Embrace the Dog Days of Winter

If you can’t beat winter, join it with an epic dog sledding excursion through some of the most beautiful forests in Ontario.

Winter Jams

Warm up your winter with good music and good food, together, at the Sharbot Inn & Crossing Pub, in Sharbot Lake, Ontario.

A Slice of Italy

Meet Sarah Woods and Luca Molteni, owners of The Barn Chefs who are bringing a little slick of Italy to Coe Hill, Ontario.

Shine at Giving this Holiday Season

Today’s craft markets are full of fresh, hip products made by creative and talented makers. This holiday season, go above and beyond by picking up handmade items with a story to tell at one of these Ontario holiday markets.

A Delicious Day Trip

Sip & Savour your way through the best food and drink spots in Lanark County.

The Perfect Scoop

Discover these top ice cream stops across Ontario’s Highlands to keep cool this summer on your road trip.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Discover these top ways to enjoy the strawberry season, when you let these farm-fresh berries shine on their own or in a variety of treats.

Farm Fresh Finds

Indulge your taste buds this summer with these 5 local finds at Farmers Markets through Ontario’s Highlands.

Valentine’s Day Treats

Treat that special someone this Valentine’s Day to a gift of sweets at one of these top places.

Moo-ve Over, Vodka

Discover Vodkow, the new beverage from the Dairy Distillery causing a stir in Almonte, Ontario.

A Day in Ormsby

Discover why Ormsby Ontario is worth exploring on your next road trip.

A is for Apples

Meeting cider kings and discovering great things in Hastings County.

Where Am I?

Devour an Ottawa Valley tradition and feel your taste buds rejoice with Wes’ Chips in Arnprior.

Where Am I?

Discover the big things happening in the small towns along the Rideau Canal.

Top 4 Summer Treats

Top 4 summer treats that are worth the stop on your next Ontario’s Highlands road trip.

The Rustic Roamer

I’m a Rustic Roamer. I wander to discover authentic moments, to embrace the spirit of locals, and to understand the stories of the communities and countryside that I visit.

Where Am I

Explore the sweet moments and ageless beauty of Perth, Ontario.

Maple Mania

Discover one writer’s quest to discover what makes Lanark County so sweet with Maple Mania.

Life is a Highway

Two wanderers explore 135 kilometres of hidden gems in Hastings County.