Local’s Take is a series highlighting the staycation experiences available close to home this summer. The experiences featured in this series were hand curated to highlight fun insider spots in our region. Use these stories as your launchpad to create your own staycations in Ontario’s Highlands.
Local: Gabriel Rivett-Carnac
From: Ottawa and the Valley
Travelling: Ottawa Valley
My family spent three nights at the Deacon Escarpment Cabins across from Golden Lake. Foy Provincial Park with its famous sandy beach is only 20 minutes away. We capped off our trip with Owl Rafting on the warm Ottawa River for a fantastic multi-day staycation in the heart of the Valley.
Deacon Escarpment Cabins, Camping and Trails
Zac and Steph are the owners and hospitable hosts of the Deacon Escarpment Cabins in Deacon, Ontario. It’s roughly two hours from Ottawa, or two and a half if you also have a toddler. We stayed for three nights in the Sarah Lesley Cabin, high up overlooking Golden Lake.
It was clean and comfortable. BBQ? Check. Fridge and freezer? Check. Propane stove for coffee and a solar shower? Yes, yes it’s all there. Hike the kilometers of marked trails on the property – paddle canoes on a private lake. Listen to the osprey nesting in the cell tower close by as they hunt for their young offspring. The whippoorwills outside the cabin windows at night are a delight. There is a large solar panel kit which keeps the well water pump primed, powers the lights and a USB charging station.
What you need: Bug spray, BBQ foods, hiking shoes, binoculars, bedding and pillows, and don’t forget sense of adventure for the ATV ride up the steep escarpment.
Foy Beach & Provincial Park
Foy Provincial Park is a day-use park known for its beautiful, sandy beach. Park on the side of the road opposite the locked gate and within a five-minute walk your toes sink in the sand. We spent 3-4 hours with friends playing in the water and having dinner. Luckily, the clouds and mid-week visit gave us the place to ourselves. The swimming area is shallow and the water this year is delightful.
What you need: Bring whatever you need to hit the beach – sunscreen, lots of trees for hammocks – there is a grocery store in Eganville or Barry’s Bay, depending on your direction of travel.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding On Golden Lake
Located 10 mins from the entrance to the Deacon Escarpment and Cabins, Courtney is your host for this Airbnb experience. I’ve known Courtney for a few years and can confirm you are in for a memorable experience. Golden Lake gets its name for the sunsets and the incredible hues that settle on the water. The best part of this is you need no prior experience or equipment.
Owl Rafting on the Ottawa River
The water this year is unusually low and great for all the swimming and splashing. This was going to be the most social interaction in a long time, and I was a bit nervous. Owl Rafting has an online waiver and Covid screening system in place before you arrive onsite. The staff are masked, courteous and very friendly. The resort sits along the bank of the Ottawa River where you can rent cabins or camp. The beach has stand-up paddle boards, canoes and sit-on-top kayaks available for use.
Tim was the lead guide for the day who gave us all a briefing on how the day on the river would proceed. After picking up the necessary gear of a helmet, life jacket and paddle, the yellow school bus, with all windows down, left for where the rafting adventure would begin. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon splashing through rapids, swimming and rock jumping – it was low-key and a great experience coming out of a year of pandemic.
Mid-afternoon we met up with Owl’s big pontoon boat, which serves as a floating restaurant and to tow all the rafts back to basecamp. The food was delicious, leftovers get saved for the pigs you can visit when you get back and there was lots of space for social distancing.
What you need: Mask, sunscreen, solid footwear (old running shoes, sandals, NO flipflops), long sleeve shirt, not made with cotton,
Whitewater Brewery Dinner in Cobden
This company was started by former raft guides on the Ottawa River. They have two locations, both with large outdoor patios. Their restaurant in Cobden sits just off Highway 17. I do not drink and thankfully they have lots of options if you don’t either. My wife loves their beer and we both enjoyed the food. The kid’s menu kept our little one entertained and the leftovers came with us in a takeout box. The patio tables were well spaced, the staff masked and kind!
Coffee time at Fifth Chute in Eganville
Heading into or out of the Ontario’s Highlands in Renfrew County, a stop at Fifth Chute coffee house comes as a welcome surprise. It’s a coffee shop and fresh bakery hosting an art gallery for local artists. The coffee was delicious and the recommended rock salt chocolate chip cookies were a big hit with both the 36-year-old and the two-year-old.
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