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 what makes this small Hastings County community so picturesque. *Please note Eagles Nest Park is closed until October for repairs.
At the lookout, stand for a moment and drink in the uneven horizon that’s due to the rocky hills that once lured miners. Below, is the calm, blue water of the York River, weaving its way into town. All around you are thick forests of tall evergreen trees. The sights will be pure green if it’s summer, show a pallet of warm colours if it’s fall, or be crystal white in the winter.
It’s natural wonders like these – the rocky hills and trees – that contributed to the birth of Bancroft and, to this day, keep it alive. The municipality, dubbed the Mineral Capital of Canada, evolved in the 20th century as a mining and lumber town. Most of the big employers have since left the region and Bancroft is now prime cottage country; a place people choose to live in or visit for its fresh air, rural lifestyle and beautiful environment.
Although Bancroft’s population is officially listed at 3,881 (according to the 2016 census) town officials believe about 150,000 people visit the community each year, drawn by the region’s pristine lakes and cottage community.
Urban Meets Rural
The entire urban area of Bancroft could be considered the heart of northern Hastings County, and the small roads that lead in and out of it the arteries. The combination of the small urban centre and the dozens of small cottage communities make the region work. Further north from the Eagles Next Crescent turn, travellers enter Hastings Highlands, a bigger municipality, with long, majestic roads.
The area includes South Baptiste Lake, which has cottages sprinkled around its south and north shore. Small, rural neighbourhoods, like Maple Leaf and Maynooth, dot the north. The southern part of Bancroft has L’Amable Lake, which is surrounded by thick, towering trees and to the west is Paudash Lake, another cottage community, with wild turkeys and bears.
Eat + Shop
Eagles Nest Park, located near Bancroft’s north boundary, is one example of a place to visit. For those afraid of heights – or lacking a vehicle with four-wheel drive – the downtown strip is more friendly to foot traffic. *Eagles Nest Park is currently closed for repairs.
If travelling from the south, the district starts when Highway 62 meets Highway 28. Take a sharp right onto 28, travel over the bridge and then take a sharp left, back onto 62. In and around theses corners, are several small cafés, gift shops, boutiques and art galleries. Further north on Hwy. 62, there are more bakeries and candy stores.
A left turn onto Hwy. 28 can bring tourists to some other key finds. The big house immediately on the left is a luxurious restaurant, The Granite, known for fine cuisine, and a large selection of wine and beer on tap.
Further up the hill, on the right, are gift shops The Old Tin Shed and The Stone Kitchen. Keep travelling down the road, and into rural Faraday Township, and there’s a Kawartha Dairy store, which, as the almost constant line of customers will show, is popular for its ice cream.
The heart of the municipality, however, might be the area around the corner from the gift shops, where Station Street intersects with Hastings Heritage Way. This is where the black log cabin known as the Bancroft North Hastings Heritage Museum can be found, as well as the Bancroft North Hastings Mineral Museum, located in the nearby municipal office, a converted old train station.
Tourists can also visit the charming Wattle and Daub Café, where proceeds benefit Bancroft Community Transit, an organization that helps those without vehicles access to appointments and programs they need. This cafe and the adjacent kids’ playground area, near the riverbed, are known as The Heart of Riverside Park.
A Short Detour
To find Bancroft on an Ontario map all one needs to do is draw a line from Ottawa to Toronto; Bancroft almost intersects with the middle. Those travelling between the two large centres on the Trans Canada Highway need to take a one-hour detour north, starting in Madoc, to get to the mineral town.
The long road that awaits them is two lanes and pretty straight. The landscape will change from farmland to marshland and then, suddenly feel like a completely different place. For those who worship the water or find tranquility among large trees, it’s well worth the wait. Beautiful Bancroft, nestled in the rocky ridges of the Canadian Shield started as – and still is – a gem of a town.