Been out skating yet this winter? Colder weather always gets us excited to strap on skates and make the most of the great skating conditions in Kawarthas Northumberland. Many of the options below will be open through to March if the weather holds, and with a mixture of rinks, trails, and speed skating loops on offer, there’s something here for everyone who’s eager to spend some time on the ice.
The Peterborough Lift Lock is a marvel of engineering – officially opened in 1904, it is the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world and one of the first ever built in North America. It’s also a pretty incredible place to skate. A generous stretch of the Trent-Severn Waterway below the lift lock is cleared each winter for skating, and regularly flooded to ensure optimal conditions. It’s a smooth, scenic, and all-round unique experience. Check out the videos and photos here for proof.
The proximity to Peterborough’s wealth of dining options and thriving downtown culture make the lift lock an excellent choice if you’re coming from a distance. The Ashburnham Ale House serves great food and local pints within walking distance, and nearby Enticing Cakes (one of over 50 destinations on the Butter Tart Tour) will appeal to anyone with a sweet tooth. Across the Hunter St. Bridge, the Cafe District opens up a further array of choices. Just head to 220 Hunter Street East when you’re ready to strap on skates. Be aware there’s no rental outlet nearby, so make arrangements beforehand and be sure to check ice conditions before you set out. The City of Peterborough posts status updates here.
Cobourg’s Rotary Harbourfront Outdoor Skating Rink (35 Albert St) is a great option for a leisurely skate. It’s particularly cozy during the holiday season, when the whole area comes alive with lights and decorations, but remains picturesque all winter long. It’s open December-March from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting.
You’ll need to rent or borrow equipment in advance as there’s no kiosk rinkside, but Cobourg has plenty of excellent options for an après-skate tour. We thoroughly enjoyed our last trip to The Mill Restaurant & Pub, and the convivial atmosphere of the Cat and Fiddle Pub is only a couple of blocks away. Millstone Bread is basically rink-side if you’re looking for quick access to a warm butter tart or some delicious fresh bread from their wood-fired oven. If you’re bundled up, it’s worth admiring the striking natural ice formations on the shores of Lake Ontario at Cobourg Beach too.
Lakefield’s Ontario Speed Skating Oval is an impressive 400 metres long – its total area comes in at two and half times bigger than an NHL hockey rink. Better yet, it’s free and open to the public most days from three until dark. You can bring your own skates of any style, but if you’ve never had a taste of specialized speed skating, speed skates are available for rent for $5.
Check the Oval’s schedule for special events like candlelight skates. As this is an outdoor rink, the Ontario Speed Skating Oval recommends checking their Facebook page for conditions updates before setting out.
If you’re looking to stay active during a weekend getaway, several resorts in the region offer skating just outside their backdoor. Elmhirst’s Resort on Rice Lake, for instance, clears an outdoor rink for their visitors. On the south side of Rice Lake, Golden Beach also offers a great place to lace up and skate. Further north, Pine Vista Resort has an open-air rink on Stoney Lake for skating or pickup hockey.
Keene’s Harley Farms focuses on sustainable farming, but the fields and woodlands on their property lend themselves to “cross-country skating” in the winter months. Their two-kilometre trail is the only one on this list that offers the chance to glide past livestock out to pasture. Also, if you’ve never had the opportunity to skate through a forest, this is a real treat with a different feel from skating around a rink. Maintaining the trail in the face of changing weather conditions is a challenge, so as with all outdoor rinks, check the Harley Farms Facebook page or call ahead to make sure you’re good to go.
Balsam Lake Provincial Park’s 2019 Frostival event is over, but we’ve already got our eye on the 2020 skating prospects. This year the Coboconk-area park opened a 1.4-kilometre skating trail for one weekend in January, converting park roads into a serene and evocative skate course. The Frostival brought the design and ethos of the skating trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park a little further south. The Saturday evening timeslot saw the trail lined with torches, and the sight of their glow reflected in the ice has us crossing our fingers for great conditions again next year.
Build it and they will come, and that’s exactly what the town of Havelock has done. In the true tradition of Ontario winter, this community just east of Peterborough has come together to create an outdoor rink. On February 9, 2019 they are hosting their first ever Fire & Ice celebration. This family-focused festival is free for all and in addition to skating on their authentic small-town outdoor rink you can enjoy ice carving display, an ice block play area, fire arts performers, a movie screening, a bonfire, campfires with marshmallow roasting, fireworks, and an ice lantern walk. Click here to get all the info about this exciting & heart-warming small town taste of winter fun.