As the holiday season approaches, the pressure to find the perfect gift mounts. Especially if you’ve got friends or family who’ve expressed the urge to declutter, it might be time to consider an experiential rather than material gift. Kawarthas Northumberland has an array of unique destinations that aren’t far from urban centres yet feel like country retreats. Whether you’re looking for artistic, sporty, or food-focused options, here are some suggestions for experiential gifts to spoil your loved ones with in 2019.
The heart of all things Canadian, multi-cultural, and artisanal, the Canadian Canoe Museum is home to the biggest collection of canoes and kayaks in the world, some of them several hundred years old. The museum has also grown to become a hub of artisans. These talented craftspeople not only volunteer their skills to help curate the museum’s remarkable collections, but also offer unique, once-in-a-lifetime workshops. In these workshops, anyone can learn traditional skills, from paddle-carving to beading, from leatherwork to the art of pyrography. (What’s “pyrography”? Think painting but instead of a paintbrush and paint you use tools that precisely burn the surface of the wood.) These workshops are popular and book up early, so plan your trip in advance and book now.
There are more workshop ideas at the links here. Be sure to check out the experiences along the Kawartha Lakes Arts & Heritage Trail, especially the unique workshops at the Gamiing Nature Centre, including traditional greenwood carving.
This area has several resorts and inns that offer winter packages. In the colder months guests can enjoy great winter trails (via snowshoe or cross-country ski) followed by luxuries like a wood burning fireplace and whirlpool bath in their cozy cottages. In the summer and fall seasons resorts offer dockside relaxation and a range of outdoor activities like boating, some of Ontario’s best multi-species fishing, and paddling.
Elmhirst’s Resort, for example, is a family-owned and operated resort on the shores of Rice Lake. Elmhirst’s is committed to local food, so their Hearthside Dining Room serves seasonal fare raised on the property, including their own delectable Black Angus beef. The well-stocked wine cellar complements it perfectly.
If you’re looking to book a unique gift, check out Elmhirst’s specialty packages. Their Canadian Signature Experience includes a sightseeing flight over Rice Lake in a floatplane, and their kiteboarding snowkite weekend can be tailored to experts and newcomers alike. For the uninitiated, kiteboarding involves snowboarding across snowy terrain towed behind a kite, an experience that’s similar to downhill skiing without the slopes. If you’re looking for something a bit more sedate, the spring Wine, Women and Canvas package combines painting workshops, wine tasting, and spa treatments into a weekend of deep relaxation.
Another excellent Rice Lake option is Golden Beach Resort. Situated along the aptly named Rice Lake Scenic Route, Golden Beach is a prime destination for ice fishing. Guests can rent a hut and fish for perch, crappie, and other in-season species. Gear is provided and licenses arranged ahead of time, so if you’re purchasing this as a gift all your guests need to worry about is retiring to their lakeside condo to warm up afterwards. Skating, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are available on-site or nearby as well, all an easy drive from the city.
For those who are serious about all-season sports, a winter camping workshop is the ideal way to level up outdoor skills. The Land Canadian Adventures has partnered with Caleb Musgrave of Canadian Bushcraft to offer a weekend packed with educational insights. From a property in the northern Kawarthas, Musgrave will teach the fundamentals of fire and food preparation, how to choose a sleeping system, and other aspects of cold-weather camping. Head over to the workshop page for a chance to leverage Musgrave’s lifetime of outdoor experience this December, January, or February.
Kawartha Nordic Ski Club was founded in 1976, and it now draws hundreds of cross-country skiers annually. With 46 km of ski trails and 9 km of snowshoe trails, it has offerings for all tastes and abilities. The extensive network allows for skate skiing, groomed classic, backcountry, and even night skiing options, so there’s a chance to try something new even for someone who’s been at this for awhile. If you’ve got a budding skier on your gift list, a lesson might be a thoughtful way to enhance their experience. Private, semi-private and group options are available for either classic or skate styles. At just 40 minutes north of Peterborough and 90 minutes from Toronto, this is one of the best ways to get a serious outdoor experience without traveling deep into the bush.
The Cameco Capitol Arts Centre in Port Hope looks great even before you make it inside, and the 380-seat theatre will seriously impress any history buff. Built in 1930, many classic Art Deco flourishes remain — check out the theatre’s History Page for details on the vintage “atmospheric theatre” techniques used to simulate outdoor spaces. These days the Capitol is home to diverse professional live theatre shows and concerts. Tickets go on sale for the 2019 season in November, so visit the Capitol website for the latest details on programming. If you’re looking to really treat your guests, note that the Capitol partners with local businesses, and ticket purchases may entitle the bearer to discounts on a pre- or post-show dinner. To make this trip an overnight, consider the Waddell or the Carlyle, both historic properties with luxurious rooms within walking distance of the theatre.
The Trent-Severn Waterway is a captivating combination of human engineering and natural beauty. It passes through 44 locks on the way to linking Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay, but only about 60 km of its 386 km total length are man-made channels. Originally proposed as a military route, commercial interests eventually took over the project and required nearly a century to complete it, by which time road and rail had become a more efficient means of handling freight. That was good news for recreational boaters, who now have the run of the waterway. Bobcaygeon is the perfect place to pick it up, and a houseboat is one of the most luxurious way to follow its unhurried course. There are several rental options that make for an extremely memorable gift, but you’ll have to book soon to ensure you get your first choice of boats and dates for 2019.
You might recognize Danielle French and South Pond Farms from the Netflix series Taste of the Country. The idyllic rural property serves as the backdrop for a variety of special events, from weddings to holiday feasts. If you’re searching for the perfect gift for the foodie in your life, they also offer workshops on cooking, table-setting, breadmaking, and more. Click here to get the latest schedule of workshops, farmhouse feast events, and more.