An All-Year Destination: Escape to the Haliburton Highlands

April 5, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

Want to get away from it all?

Consider a hideaway in the Haliburton Highlands. There are many fine lodges and inns in Haliburton, and so much to do. In the winter you can go snowmobiling or, if you like to expend a little energy try snowshoes or cross-country skiing, and there’s always the excitement of dogsleding.

During the warmer months you can swim, canoe, hike, visit some of the many art and craft festivals or just relax and take in the awe inspiring views of lakes and forests. All is available within a few short hours of Toronto.

 Where to Sleep

Heather lodge

On a recent visit, I stayed at a quaint lodge just outside Minden, the Heather Lodge. This is an adult’s only inn with 12 very charming, but luxurious suites, perfect for a little R&R, and nestled right in the heart of the Haliburton Highlands, on crystal-clear Twelve Mile Lake. The lodge is run by husband and wife team of Maria Micallef and James Jennings.  

Cosy Lounge at the Heather Lounge

Cosy Lounge at the Heather Lounge

My room at the lodge was very comfortable, with a casual elegance and outfitted with everything you would expect at a fine inn, including a fireplace and walk-out balcony.  

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 The dining room offers delicious home cooked meals, which I enjoyed while taking in the breathtaking lake view. A country style breakfast and 4 course dinner (including decadent desserts) are included with your stay.  All meals are prepared by gifted Executive Chef James Jennings; his use of locally sourced ingredients and creativity in the kitchen leave diners singing his praises.  I was glad we only stayed one night at Heather Lodge because any meals prepared by Chef Jennings would be very difficult to refuse.  

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What to do 

I met a wonderfully knowledgeable guy, Barry Martin  owner of Yours Outdoors, who runs experiential travel programs. He took us snowshoeing and on a tour of the back-country, including the Minden Wild Water Preserve Facilities.

Barry Martin, Owner of Yours Outdoors

Barry Martin, Owner of Yours Outdoors

The preserve (100 acres), was built in the 70’s and is about 7km north east of Minden on the Gull River. It’s privately owned and operated by Whitewater Ontario, and this summer will play host to the canoe and kayak slalom course for the Pan Am Games.

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Minden Wild Water Preserve the site of the Pan Am games Canoe and Kayak Slalom

Yours Outdoors has tailored programs to fit any of Ontario’s seasons. Would you believe winter camping? You can live like the early trappers in tents, in the snow, cooking over a camp fire;  go ice fishing, or climb a wall of ice. In milder weather you can explore the unique habitats and biodiversity of the Haliburton Highlands by hiking through wetlands, lakes and forests or forage these same areas for wild edibles.

Glassblowing

Glass Blowing photo courtesy of Yours Outdoors 

Why not take the family on a cycling tour along the back roads, through small villages and hamlets visiting local art studies along the way. Discover the art of glassblowing or the art and science of producing maple syrup. It’s like a whole new world, and any of these experiences can be designed just for you and your friends or family.  I’ve already earmarked a return visit to try the wild edibles tour and glass blowing workshop.  

 Where to Eat

There are so many wonderful places to stop for lunch or coffee while visiting Haliburton. We tried the Rhubarb Restaurant, located on the shores of Mirror Lake. It’s run by savvy husband and wife team Christoph Carl (who’s also the chef) and Terri Mathews. 

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Steak Frites

Dinner at Rhubarb restaurant is a real treat and the menu features an extensive choice of appetizers, mains and scrumptious desserts.  The wine list boasts a wide range of old and new world choices by the glass or bottle.  The french onion soup  and steak frites main entree were delicious.  

Underneath the restaurant and accessible by a side door the Bosking Brewery Co. is open to the public, where you can order a pizza and buy craft beer.  

Boshkung Brewing Company

Ever expanding, Christoph and Terri are opening a burger bar across the street, which will be operational this summer (2015).

Baked and Battered

There’s a wonderful spot called Baked & Battered, where we stopped for tea and treats. Here you can buy delicious pastries, cookies, breads and cinnamon buns. They have great sandwiches, soup, salads and house made entrees in the freezer. It’s also a good place for great fish and chips; the batter is light and very crispy available in an adjoining dining room.

Another spot not to be missed is the Moon Shadows Estate Winery. It started as a hobby, just a small maple syrup operation that gradually grew into a gift shop and Ontario’s first maple winery. Here you will find a unique variety of gifts, maple products, syrups and a large selection of fruit and maple wines, which visitors can sample at the tasting bar.

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All in all, it’s hard to beat the Highlands for outdoor fun, fresh air and stunning nature. Here are few additional places and activities to put on your list for a visit. 

Haliburton Film Festival – runs in November each year.

Sage Pantry – located near Hall’s lake is a great stop for sandwiches, frozen take out meals and pastries.  Everything is a made fresh daily. 

Self Guided Studio Tour – discovering where and how over 30 artists and artisans live and work.

Haliburton Forest – hub of year around seasonal activities.

For more seasonal ideas visit the Ontario Highlands event listings.

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