Shhh…we’re not supposed to tell you about these swimming holes…some of them don’t even have names and you may never find them without a map, but we understand that when it’s 40 degrees out with the humidity and the public beach is packed the hunt is on for the perfect swim spot.
Those in the know will tell you the perfect swimming hole is an often closely guarded secret shared only with family and friends, to make sure it doesn’t get too “busy,” but don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Jump in at one of these out of the way spots in Lanark County and the Ottawa Valley. As always, please be respectful when visiting these natural sites – bring out your garbage and pay attention to physical distancing with others outside your social bubble (read our story about safe travel in Ontario’s Highlands for more information).
*Scroll down to the map below to locate these spots.
This swimming hole is worth a detour from Highway 62 in Renfrew County. Dip your toe into Rockingham Creek and marvel at the ingenuity of the “slide” or log chute used to divert logs from rapids in the 1800s. Those in the know head here for a dip in a beautifully scenic spot where you can refresh and rejuvenate.
Amenities: Shaded picnic area, washroom facilities.
Picnic Here: Pick up a full picnic lunch at Heartwood Restaurant in Combermere; try their smoky pulled pork wrap or their sweet and spicy salmon buddha bowls. If you’re looking for faster fare stop in Barry’s Bay atCharlie D’sfor their famous poutine and dine at the park, picnic-style.
If you are looking for a wide, quiet beach with plenty of sand and nice waves, this can be your go-to spot. Bring the sand toys and floaties because Palmerston Beach is big enough you could float for hours and never hit shore. Pack for a full day here and enjoy the clean shoreline and lovely picnic spot.
Amenities: Washroom facilities.
Picnic Here: Swing past Lanark Landing in Lanark Village, a local favourite, and pick up one of their specialties, homemade pizzas, or try a gooey creation from Lanark Pizzeria for a Lebanese twist on the Italian pizza.
You won’t find this spot without someone in the know sharing it with you. Rob’s Lake is a deep, cold, spring-fed lake near the small community of Tatlock, Lanark Highlands. The beach area has a two-decker diving platform thrill-seekers will love, along with a sandy area for sitting in the shade and enjoying the view. This spot requires a hike down a rocky trail to get to the water, but will be worth the effort.
Picnic Here: Stop at the Greene Mill on your way through Almonte (or make a detour) to pick up a friend country chicken sandwich (with fries of course) or get the perfect picnic fare with a smoked turkey sandwich with Swiss cheese and prosciutto paired with a scoop of creamy dill potato salad from North Market Café.
This is a popular place for whitewater paddlers to refine their skills, or gain new ones. There are two sets of rapids here, but there is a relatively calm pool in the middle and a larger lake at the bottom. Plenty of spots to cool off away from the whitewater but where you can still enjoy the cool waters of the Lower Madawaska River. Bring some lawn chairs and spend the day watching the boats play in the rapids here.
Amenities: Walking trails.
Picnic Here: Swing through Wilno and visit the Wilno Tavern Restaurant to take part in a culinary celebration of the Polish-Kashup heritage of the region. Try traditional Polish dishes like pierogies and cabbage rolls, Polish sausage and sauerkraut or even pickled herring.