It’s pretty hard to get sick of driving up here in the northern part of Hastings County. It’s easy to tune everything out and get lost in the lake views and rock cuts that flicker by on either side of the highway. Add a little music, the sun streaming through the open windows and road-tripping just might become your favourite pastime.
That being said, it’s not always just you in the car, is it? Add your partner, or your kids, or any number of other passengers and that peaceful drive to the cottage can easily turn for the worst. Don’t worry, everyone argues more in the car — it’s something about confined spaces.
Luckily, for those days when you just might be considering tucking and rolling out of shotgun, or for those when you’ve just got a little extra time and need to stretch your legs, there are some awesome pit stops on the way to your Bancroft area cottage. Mark these on your map for the next time you head our way.
Savoury snack stops: Because you only packed those granola bars for the kids.
Location: 5424 Highway 620, Coe Hill
In the heart of Coe Hill, you have to stop in and meet Knick, Jeff and June of Tinhouse. Knick the dog, named such for being born with only half of one ear, will greet you with a bark at the door. Try the coffee – please. The aroma alone knocks the socks off any fast food pit stop you might have been considering for a brew. Get it on ice or try their Coe Hilliano. Don’t forget a homemade energy bar to get you through the final miles of your journey. The shop is wood from top to bottom and lined with niche finds from artisans across the area. Have you ever seen a pyrography gourd that makes thunder? Ask how to get to the shop’s hidden room. It’s chalk full of other unique finds.
Location: 5543 Highway 620, Coe Hill
If you’re looking for something a little heartier to keep you driving, stop in at The Barn Chefs — essentially across the street from Tinhouse. Be sure to ask Sarah and Luca about their beautiful story. The pair met in Italy and settled in Coe Hill after travelling and cooking together for nearly two decades. One of their stops was Kenya. There they met and adopted their little boy, Matayo. Fresh breads, delectable cold cuts, cheese, pizza, pastries, chocolate — it’s all made from 100 percent natural ingredients. Plus, after a visit here, you can say the same people who’ve cooked for Donald Trump, Katie Holmes, Angelina Jolie and Edward Norton have cooked for you. Last time we were there, we grabbed a Focaccia and tore it apart as we meandered back for our cottage-bound mission.
Location: 3084 Old Hastings Road, Ormsby
The Schoolhouse looks small, but inside the whole world opens up. With a long and complicated history, it was last renovated by Ernie and Debbie Pattinson for their wedding reception. Now, even packed with beautiful table sets and historical pieces in every nook and cranny, the tea room seems large and grandiose. If you stop in for lunch, ask Ernie to show you a picture of he and his twin, Gary, from years ago. It’s the perfect stop to get a bite, get out of your car and start your vacation early.
Location: 33 Sherbourne St. North, Bancroft
If you’re a taste-tester and you’re looking to try something original, this jam and gift shop is hard to leave without a life supply of jams. I love stopping here when someone new comes to visit because they’re always blown away. Plus it’s fun to stop for a treat every now and again.
Leisurely landscapes: Because when you’re packing for the cottage — let’s be honest — you aren’t packing for a hike. These sneaky sites combine the best of both worlds — a little fresh air, no extra planning.
Location: Heading north on Highway 62 just past Highway 620 you’ll see a picnic table sign. After that there will be a second sign across from a gravel road on your left.
Anytime I’m making a trek across the county I stop at this hidden gem. You’ll know it from the birch tree that someone carved their proposal into, “Will you marry me Allison?” (I hope she said yes, but I guess we’ll never know.)
The pines are so big that the light filters down in thin streams — you feel small in comparison. There’s a slanted path to the water to dip your toes in before continuing on. Of course there’s also washrooms and picnic tables, just in case you need either of those.
Location: Old L’Amable Road, Bancroft
This is the best place to go for a dip. Locals and cottagers alike take time to travel here. They take advantage of the calm, cool water before it cascades over the small dam. You can often find families of all ages kicking up the water, rolling around in the grass or munching on snacks at the picnic tables.
Location: Turn onto Y Road in Bird’s Creek and follow it all the way down. Go over South Baptiste Lake Road onto High Falls Trail. Follow it all the way to the dam.
You’ve probably heard of Eagles Nest — it’s hard to miss — but have you heard of High Falls? You can hear the water rushing before you can actually see these falls. Watching the watercrash over the rocks and into the bay is humbling, to say the least. Chase the water along the trail that sticks close to its side all the way to where the water calms.
Kamaniskeg Lake Lookout
Location: Past Maynooth, before Combermere, across from Kamaniskeg Lake. Take Lookout Park Road.
This historical site is a chance to take in the vast size of Kamaniskeg Lake. If the sparkling water entices you to go for a dip, you can always head a little further down Highway 62 and follow Kamaniskeg Lake Road all the way around to the lake’s “boat launch,” which is actually a best-kept-secret beach.
Wild cards: Because it’s not a road trip unless it ends with a story to tell.
Location: 29640 Highway 62, Bancroft
You’ll know Robbie as soon as you walk in, he’s always there and he’s always ready to race — or help you un-crash your remote control racer. There are multiple racing tracks, the remote control racing cars are easy to get the hang of and you can rent by the hour. Your whole travelling squad can race against each other and it’s so much fun to shut off your phone, or your iPad, and have some good old-fashioned playtime.
Location: Millenium Park, Bancroft
There’s something really sentimental and wonderful about the idea of love locks. Bancroft installed a chain on its Millennium Park bridge this year. If you have a loved-one you cherish, or a special memory from the area, take a lock to the bridge and make it timeless.
Storyteller: Sarah Sobanski. Hometown: Bancroft, ON
If you asked her, Sarah would tell you there’s no better way to spend a sunny Sunday than driving down roads you’d never been on and stopping at sights you’d never surveyed — a strong cup of Joe in hand. A believer in dogs, wine and fate, Sarah gets excited about experiencing life’s little things like walking a river boardwalk, taking a sign making class or getting lunch somewhere new. If she’s not out writing about the community you can find her at home trying to grow, cook or craft something she’s recently discovered. It’s all very trial and error.