Kawarthas cottage country road trip

The Kawarthas are a must-do cottage country road trip

The Kawarthas in Ontario have a range of fantastic parks and lakes to make you feel like you’re at the cottage and out of the city, while being away from the busier Muskoka and Algonquin areas.

I was looking for a 3-day getaway with a cottage feel when I came across some quieter provincial parks to explore in this area.

Here are some ideas to create a great getaway  — and definitely consider spending a night or extending your stay to make this road trip feel like a true cottage weekend getaway.

The drive from the city is about 3 hours (give or take, thanks to traffic). There are many places to stop en route, but heading straight to the park to rest and enjoy it is my recommendation. 


Silent Lake sunset paddle.

Park 1: Silent Lake

The name says it all. Silent Lake was a wonderfully quiet and picturesque place to camp. Nestled in the heart of the Kawarthas near Bancroft, Silent Lake Provincial Park is filled with hiking trails, beaches, and a lake to spend the day floating in. 

It's no wonder this park is a favourite among those who've discovered it.

Silent Lake has a range of trails from 1 to 19 km in length to hike or mountain bike on. The Lakeshore Trail is an impressive 15 km long, winding through forest and along the shoreline with lake vistas throughout.

There are multiple benches located next to shore that invite you to sit, relax, take in the view (and maybe read a few chapters of your TBR).

My favourite part was paddling on the water after hiking. There are two sandy beaches here, one that's busier and open, and the other with a great launching point for your paddle board, canoe or kayak (which they also rent).

In the summer, there are over 160 campsites to reserve, some of which are walk-in lakeside locations. Many of the roofed accommodations are also available in the winter if you're interested in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing here, too. 


Black Lake at Sharbot Lake Provincial Park.

Park 2: Sharbot Lake

I would consider Sharbot Lake Provincial Park the sleeper hit of this road trip. I wish I could have stayed longer here. What makes Sharbot Lake so special is its drive-in waterside camping locations and the short (albeit steep) portage that takes you further into a range of busier lakes. 

My campsite was quiet and spacious with great spots to hang a hammock and jump on my paddle board without heading to the beach, but the bullfrogs at night were loud. You’re truly in nature here.

Black Lake (where the campsites are), is small, with cliff and picture-perfect sunset views while on the lake. It'll make you feel like you’re at a mini Bon Echo Park (without the crowds).

If you’re up for a bigger adventure, you can rent a canoe at the park and portage it to the larger nearby Sharbot Lake. This park is more about relaxing on or by the water, as the hikes are under 2 km here. 

You can book your site on the Ontario Parks website.

Where to eat:

There are many great places to stop and eat in Apsley or Bancroft. A must is Kawartha Dairy for larger-than-life ice cream cones. Bancroft Brewery Co. has a great patio to enjoy some people-watching, with a range of delicious pub fare and pints to enjoy.

Recently opened Hook, Line & Sinker is another option. They offer everything from fish and chips to wings to mac & cheese, plus other shareable options. Lastly, The Country Bakery is a baker's dream with some of the best scones around. 

Eagles Nest Bancroft

Eagle's Nest lookout.

Nearby hikes to consider:

These parks are great places to stay and relax, though if you’re looking for more adventure, I would recommend a few nearby trails. You could head there en route back home or even make day trips out of them. 

Eagle’s Nest Lookout Trail

Eagle's Nest has some of the best views in the area. The hike is short but the cliffs make it worth it.

Bon Echo Trails

The trails at Bon Echo are short but beautiful. Sadly, the best trail, Abes and Essens Lake Trail, is closed this year due to storm damage but the Cliff Top Trail is always great for getting a view above the water. 

Frontenac Trails

Trails at Frontenac Provincial Park are some of Ontario’s best. With over 100 km of options, there's something for every level of hiker. Arab Lake Gorge and Doe Lake Trails are my personal favourites, totalling about 5 km with boardwalks and beautiful lakeside views. 

I recommend any of these trails en route home to the city after a relaxing weekend by the lake.

Photos by

Ontario Hikes

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