Every summer, there’s a part of me that needs a break – that needs to spend a few days living a different life, embracing a slower pace, and getting recharged by connecting with others. Luckily, I discovered a few years ago that I don’t have to go very far to feel a world away from the city.
The small towns in Ontario’s Highlands always help me scratch that itch to get away. They offer a mix of old-fashioned charm, friendly hospitality, and natural beauty that I miss in the city. To truly embrace the different lifestyle celebrated in these places, I suggest going off the beaten path and getting to know the locals; there’s nobody I trust more for the inside scoop on hot spots and hidden gems.
My quest for insider knowledge is one of the reasons I love B&Bs. I know I’m technically a tourist, but when I stay at Bed and Breakfasts, I don’t feel like one. I feel more like a traveller –a wayward soul following a wanderlust –and more like I belong. My hosts have always been quick to share their local expertise and suggestions for things to check out in the area, and have graciously opened their homes and given me insight into their lives and communities.
I’ve stayed at lots of B&Bs and can’t wait to try more. Here are four places that are definitely on my list to explore this summer.
Sunny Rock B & B: Natural Luxury
The luxurious rooms in this log and timber frame lodge —out in the middle of the rocky, tree-clad Haliburton Highlands — sound like the place for me. I’ve heard that each room includes the melodic sound of nearby Scotts Dam Falls, and that opening the curtains each morning to peer out the window is often like turning on the Nature Channel. I’m hoping my visit will include a meet-and-greet with Justin Beaver, or even The Otter Boys, but am sure that with our without these famed characters, my hosts Sally and Jan will make me feel spoiled with hearty breakfasts, welcoming conversations, and a freezer stocked with Kawartha Dairy ice cream.
Deakins B & B: Sweet Country Air
I love food and have a big (some might even say “huge”) sweet tooth, so with a heritage sugar bush on site, this will be my place to truly indulge. Thankfully there’s plenty of country air and many trails nearby to work off any sweets. If I can swing a few days, I’m hoping to really embrace my Canadian roots (it’s Canada’s birthday after all!) and participate in the Ontario Maple Adventures package. This tour highlights everything maple, with samples and hands-on activities designed to give a real feel for this sweet treat. I can almost taste the maple beer dancing across my tongue, feel the dirt between my fingers as I plant a maple sapling, and hear the rich stories of syrup making that are sure to be told by Don and Mary Helen Deakin.
The Gathering Place on Golden Ponds: Cozy Woods
This spot in the woods is a long way down a back road and is where I’ll head for a true break –for time away from crowds, and to be surrounded by nature. Here, I can step out of my bedroom into the garden and embrace the tranquility of the nearby bass pond, or meander woodland paths lined with cedar and spruce trees, in search of the beaver pond. I can already imagine tucking myself into a cozy bedroom in this rustic cord stack wall house, and I may even discover a wood and stained glass treasure crafted by my host, Al, to purchase and take home as a keepsake.
Limestone B&B: Heritage Charm
To me, there’s almost nothing more revitalizing than a windows-down drive on a summer day. I plan to spend a sunny day with my windows cranked low, hair blowing around, and music playing as I discover the country roads and rich heritage of Hastings County. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll follow the Arts Route to meet local artists and peruse workshops or if I’ll grab a map from the Marmora Tourist Centre to get a glimpse at the old way of life as I follow the Miner’s Route. Either way, I know I’ll be returning from my day to this 1860s-era stone home in Marmora to bask by the pool and wonder at the gardens created by Rosalie and Paul. Perhaps the next day, if I can manage to extract myself from the long, covered verandah, I’ll roam the quiet Marmora streets, listen to the rushing Crowe River, and wander through some of the quaint shops.
Storyteller: Claire Nelson. Hometown: Toronto, ON
A coffee-lover and sunset-chaser, Claire is always on the go, searching out hidden spots and unique opportunities. Travelling is her way of gaining perspective and she sets out on each trip with the goal of embracing something new. When not sipping coffee, Claire can be found daydreaming about history-filled towns, boutique-lined streets, and breathtaking views.