Whether it’s a throwback to simpler days when a weekend picnic was a full day adventure or a need to connect with nature, having a picnic is something we universally enjoy. Spreading your picnic blanket on the ground and lounging while you nibble on tasty treats like watermelon, fresh fruit and berries, sandwiches (and more) is the ultimate summertime activity.

The very act of eating outdoors is somehow indulgent, you’re combining two wonderful things – the outdoors and food – into one sun-sational experience. Add in a frisbee or a baseball and you're in virtual picnic nirvana.

This summer, plan a picnic to one of these Ontario's Highlands destinations.

Picnic in a Park

Centennial Park, Smiths Falls

If Smiths Falls is the Heart of the Rideau Canal, then Centennial Park is where the heartbeat begins. Sitting dead centre in the middle of Smiths Falls, this park is a beautifully landscaped and treed area with the canal as a scenic backdrop, and is perfect for picnicking.

Perfect Picnic Foods: 

  • Smiths Falls is offering a fun picnic program called PICNIC Smiths Falls, where you can order a boxed lunch for two that includes a full meal with drinks, dessert, and a free gift from the town of Smiths Falls.
  • Take your picnic lunch in your fun picnic box and dine at one of Smiths Falls’ beautiful parks.

Robert Simpson Park, Arnprior

This spot on the mighty Ottawa River is an eclectic mix: one end of the park is busy with children in the splash pad and playground; another corner of the park is a little oasis where a water fountain quietly flows and stone benches encircle it. A large pavilion sits on the hill overlooking the river, and picnic tables are plentiful, along with many benches to sit and take in the view

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • Stop by Valley Roots and pick up a packed lunch. Only minutes away from the Park, they have a great selection of boxed lunches, sandwiches, wraps, salads and all things “to go”
  • Wes’ Chips is also close by and has been a delicious Arnprior tradition for close to 50 years.

Marmora Memorial Park,  Marmora

Located along Highway 7 this park is easy to find and a great spot to take a break on a road trip. The on-site gazebo is an ideal setting for a picnic lunch with pretty backdrop for photos, and the large manicured lawn is just begging for a game of frisbee or catch.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • Iron Grille Café is only a few minutes away so your take-out will still be piping hot for your picnic.
  • If you picnic here between Victoria Day long weekend and Thanksgiving visit the farmers’ market located in the adjacent parking lot.

Waterfront Picnics

Five Span Bridge Park, Pakenham

The quaint town of Pakenham on the Mississippi River has a lovely park, perfect for a picnic, and named for the stone bridge built in 1903 (one of the seven wonders of Lanark County). There are a few picnic tables close to water’s edge and lots of rocks to sit on and enjoy the rapids.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

Blakeney Rapids, Blakeney

Between Almonte and Pakenham is a hidden gem picnic area, where I go to get rejuvenated and slow things down. It never disappoints! You can sit by the rapids, walk through the winding trails that lead down to the river or to other secret picnic spots, take a small bridge to a small island, picnic near the cliffs or high on the rocks.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • On the way through Almonte, The Daily Scoop Café is calling your name, offering great to go items like sandwiches, wraps.
  • Baker Bob’s, an Almonte landmark, has all things tasty – It’s like going back in time when I enter the store, with creaking old wood floors and that lovely smell.

Palmerston Lake, Palmerston

Tucked away in the wilds of North Frontenac is Palmerston Lake Beach, a small, isolated and sandy beach with a dock for fishing. Picnicking here is like spending a perfect day at the beach, where you can look out over the water while you eat in the shade of one of the large trees that border the sandy area. The beach is right across the street from the trailhead to the Palmerston Canonto Conservation Area if you feel like a hike.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • The small community of Plevna is super cute but also happens to be home to some fantastic eateries. North of 7 Market & Restaurant can be your go-to for sandwiches, pizza, or other picnic staples.
  • Another option in Plevna is Shamrock Bakery, where you never know what you’re going to find on their menu for the day, but you can be sure it will be delicious.

Hike ‘n Picnic

Vanderwater Conservation Area, near Thomasburg

Watch the Moira River cascade over limestone steps while enjoying a picnic meal. Before or after your picnic hike on the 15-kilometres of trails and work off any calories from your lunch.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • Stop in Madoc at Hidden Goldmine Bakery to indulge in some sweet and savoury deliciousness for your picnic. Order one of their homemade paninis that come with soup or side salad, or expand your horizons with a cheese and veggie-filled frittata.
  • The bakery is well known for their butter tarts so you’ll want to add a few of those little gems to your order!

Rose Hill Nature Sanctuary, Denbigh

This 358-acre nature reserve is just the spot to stretch your legs before or after a picnic lunch. Hike the three-and-a-half-kilometre trail through hemlock forests and grassy clearings. Keep an eye out for the perfect place to spread a blanket for a bite to eat and don’t miss reading the plaque mounted to the large erratic glacier boulder found on the property.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • Only a few minutes away from the sanctuary, Rosie’s General Store & Café has a little bit of everything to offer. You can pick up something simple like chips and cold drinks, or a full meal like hamburger with fries and slaw on the side or fish and chips.
  • If you’re craving something sweet, Rosie’s always has fresh baking on hand to sweeten your picnic experience. Their milkshakes and banana splits are delicious!

Skyline Park (just outside Haliburton Village)

If you’re looking for a fantastic view without a lot of effort, this park off Highway 118 will be your favourite spot to stop for a bite to eat. Located just outside the village of Haliburton, you can pick up some food to go and have dinner (or lunch) with a view.

Perfect Picnic Foods:

  • One of McKeck’s Tap & Grill’s homemade pizzas will carry well to your picnic spot and are baked in a stone oven for extra flavour.
  • If you’re at the park on the weekends don’t miss a visit to The Little Tart, just a short drive outside of Haliburton. Order some of their delicious homemade tarts and savour these tasty tidbits after your picnic meal.