There’s more to our Earth than meets the eye and much more to explore below the surface. With secrets left buried, questions unanswered, and a history pieced together by ancient tales and discoveries, there’s still lots we just don’t know.
Here’s what we do know: Ontario’s Highlands features one of the most unusual, rich, and diverse geological settings in Canada. Our geology impacts everything around us, from our land to our people, and the best way to understand this is to discover the wonders around every corner yourself.
With unique geology woven across the region, we picked five of the coolest ways to discover the rich history of the land, uncover buried treasures, and get a feel for those who came before us. Combine them into a multi-day crash-course on the story of our Earth or, if you’re short on time, choose one or two for an inspiring day trip that will stimulate your mind.
1. Roam an Underground Cave
Get up close to fossils and discover the story of our Earth as you travel below the surface at the Bonnechere Caves in Eganville, a town known as the Ordovician Fossil Capital of Canada. Let your flashlight dance across the damp limestone walls of the caves as you discover the history of the ancient fossils they encase, and be amazed by the power of our dynamic planet that created these geological wonders.
Insider Tip: Looking to expand your day in Eganville? You can feed any sparked curiosity by visiting Bonnechere Museum to get up close to their fossil collection and wander the geotrail to discover more rocks and fossils indicated along the way.
2. Get Messy in a Mine
Get your hands dirty during a dig for rocks and minerals at the Princess Sodalite Mine Rock Shop in Bancroft. Bring your own rock picks, crack hammers, and chisels to feel tools scrape against the Earth and cool dirt between your fingers as you uncover any one of almost 100 varieties of treasures.
Insider Tip: Don’t forget your enclosed footwear. This may seem like an obvious tip, but we know once the summer sun starts shining down, it can be difficult to cover feet that have spent the winter pining to be released from thick boots. Our suggestion? Throw the enclosed shoes in the car so you can switch before your dig, then switch back to wander the town after.
3. Unearth Roses Among the Rocks
In granite country, ancient powerful forces formed gentle pink rose quartz underground; and lucky for us, AquaRose Gems and Minerals in Quadeville offers the chance to dig it out of the ground for yourself. Imagine the miners working that historical industry when you feel the rough and defiant stones against your skin and sense the anticipation of finding glistening treasures.
Insider Tip: Plan ahead and take this opportunity to get a feel for the water as well as the land during a historical paddle with Madawaska River Rentals. Their “When Rivers Were Highways” experience offers the opportunity to explore the history of the region from the perch of a canoe.
4. Learn A Different Kind of Wrestling
Grab a guide at the Marmora Tourism Centre and wander the “Miner’s Loop” to walk in the shoes of miners long ago, who ended their long work weeks by traveling from town to town to catch up on news and gossip. Learn the story of the area’s gold and iron deposits, wrestled from the Earth; it may change the way you think about your day job.
Insider Tip: It’s not noted on the Miner’s Loop guide, but the “Hidden Goldmine Bakery” in Madoc is a must-visit if you’re in the area. Like the name suggests, this is a hidden gem of a place, filled with sweet treasures that would lure any minor -like their classic golden fudge nuggets and mouth-watering butter tarts.
5. Discover Beauty Beneath the Earth
Travel 20 metres below ground to explore the rough walls of the “Silver Queen Mine” at “Murphys Point Provincial Park” in Perth. Once your dilating eyes adjust to the darkness, don’t forget to take a second to soak in the beauty of the glittering walls around you before you burst into the open pit and smell the cool dampness of the moss and ferns that thrive in this cool underground climate.
Insider Tip: If your schedule allows, try to plan your trip here during one of the “Silver Queen Mine Open Houses” for the chance to travel back in time to the early 1900s, when this small-scale mica mining business was booming, and meet historical interpreters along the trail.
Natural mysteries get left behind throughout history. They lure the mind and tell the story of our Earth. How will you add to the story?
Ontario’s Highlands Insiders
Knowledgeable in uncovering hidden gems, making fresh tracks, embracing new perspectives, and disconnecting from the everyday, this group of experts is happy to share their wisdom with you. With a passion for local stories, a love of delicious food, and a thirst for unrehearsed days, this team is made up of creative minds and wandering souls.