Peterborough, 200 kilometres north of Toronto, has been a manufacturing mecca for decades. It adapted early on to hydro-electric power, attracting companies such as Quaker Oats and PepsiCo. This busy hub is also the gateway to the Kawarthas, Ontario’s idyllic cottage community to which vacationers flee for summers and weekends.
North of downtown, Riverview Park and Zoo is a top attraction in Peterborough. The venture began in 1933 when the general manager of the Utilities Commission acquired a couple of alligators and started a menagerie. Today the zoo is free to the public. Fifty acres teem with exotic creatures such as meerkats, yaks, macaws and squirrel monkeys. The miniature train ride, disc golf course and walking trails offer something for everyone.
Things to do in Peterborough include making a day trip to Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, which runs along the southern edge of the ecological zone known as the Canadian Shield. Wildlife flourish in 37,000 hectares of diverse landscape, including wetlands, lakes, old-growth forest and unique rock barrens, home to endangered skink. Trout and bass fishing, camping, hiking and canoeing are all favourite pastimes.
For more citified recreation, hit the classy Peterborough Golf and Country Club, just north of the centre of town on Armour Road. The course was designed in 1929 along the Trent Canal, with challenge and interest that includes mounds to deflect balls. Its most recent update made it the strategic choice of the 2010 Junior Masters. In addition to golf, the club hosts public evenings of music and wine tasting throughout the year.
The former canal, now the Trent-Severn Waterway, is a top attraction in Peterborough and a National Historic Site of Canada. It winds from Lake Huron to Lake Ontario, highlighting the world’s most expansive hydraulic lift lock. The Peterborough Lift is one of 44 locks that open mid May, drawing visitors from all over the world to navigate these waters. Popular enjoyments are camping and cottage rental. Many vacationers canoe, kayak or hire houseboats to cruise the waterway, which usually takes five to seven days and offers small-town stops with food, shopping and refreshment. The shores and waters are home to loon, wild turkey, snapping turtle and fish.
The Peterborough Lift is Number 21, opened in 1904. Guests can opt for a two-hour cruise to the top of the lock, visit the museum at its base, and enjoy tours and films. Lush grounds invite walks and scenic drives.
In the northeast wooded corner of Peterborough is Petroglyph Park, where there are more Aboriginal carvings than anywhere else in Canada. Rock carvings in white marble date back 500 to 1000 years, showing humans and the creatures that surrounded them. Walking trails, knowledgeable staff and night-time shows supplement the 900 fascinating petroglyphs.
Things to do in Peterborough include sumptuous dining. Unpretentious elegance imbues the meals, drinks and appetizers at Le Petite, a Parisian wine bar with carefully crafted cheeses and house-cured meats. It is located on Water Street and open for dinner five days a week.