After two pandemic summers, this one is ripe for adventure in Hastings County. But if all that time indoors has left you wondering what to do, keep reading. These 10 can’t-miss experiences you’ll find across the region need to be on your bucket list.
Go caving in Tyendinaga
Ontario’s largest cavern is located just north of Shannonville, and for the past 30 years Charles and Elizabeth Koch have opened it up for exploration. Tyendinaga Cavern & Caves is a beginner-level site, though, so no professional spelunking equipment or abilities needed. Your 45-minute guided tour begins outside the entrance, where you’ll find fossils dating back 450 million years. Descending the stairs, you’ll feel the temperature drop and eventually come to an underground wishing well, where you can drop in a coin. The tour ends down a tiny side passage in total darkness. In between, you’ll hear about how the cavern formed, how it’s preserved, stories of the area, and more.
Kayak down the Madawaska
The first whitewater paddling school in the world was established on a beautiful tree-lined stretch of the Madawaska River back in 1972. Madawaska Kanu Centre is still very much alive and still one of the best spots to learn how to paddle Class I to Class III rapids in North America. The fully certified guides offer multiple paddling courses and organized trips for beginners, intermediates, experts, and families. They also have rafting adventures that are ideal for families and groups. There’s a great café here too, and a nice hiking trail that flows through a forest of hardwood and pine right beside the river.
Search for treasure in Bancroft
Since 1999, Lakeside Gems has been a haven for mineral collectors worldwide. And no wonder. It’s in Bancroft, the “Mineral Capital of Canada” and one of the best places to find Canadian blue sodalite. But the rock shop is more than just a dealer of minerals, gemstones, and all of the equipment rockhounds need. For the past few years, Lakeside Gems has also been offering geologist-led mineral collecting field trips for families and individuals. Your day-long excursion begins with a short presentation on rockhounding in Bancroft before you drive to a field site. There, you’ll learn about the hobby, how to collect, what tools to use, and how to identify minerals.
Swim at a backroad beach
While Hastings County may be known for pristine lakes, we don’t usually think of its sand-swept shorelines. There are a few beautiful beaches here, however. You just might have to hit the backroads to locate them. Take Fosters Lake Beach, which you’ll find north of McArthurs Mills after a stunning drive through old growth forests and over rolling hills. It’s a secluded, quiet and relatively long sandy beach with a covered picnic area, built-in stone barbecues, and grassy areas. Diamond Lake Beach may be smaller and busier than Fosters Lake Beach, but it has a nice sandy bottom and gorgeous sunsets. Papineau Public Beach and Wollaston Lake Beach are two other sandy splendours well worth the drive.
Reel in a catch at Limerick Lake
With such great fishing across the region, it’s tough to pick just one of Hastings’ 180 lakes to drop a line. But you can’t go wrong with Limerick Lake, which is about 30 minutes south of Bancroft. There are actually five interconnected lakes here, all with some of the best small and large mouth bass fishing you’ll find in Eastern Ontario. Four of the lakes also contain naturally-spawning lake trout. For your one-stop fishing destination, check out Limerick Lake Lodge and Marina. This legendary family-owned business has cottages and lodge room rentals, as well as rental boats and motors, live bait, tackle, guides, gas, and a snack bar. Water taxi services are also available.
Get a brain freeze at Hometown Cones
No summer bucket list is complete without mentioning ice cream. You have lots of options across Hastings, but in Marmora, check out Hometown Cones, which opened about a year ago. They serve 24 hard scoop flavours from Kawartha Dairy, though if you get toppings the flavour combos approach infinity. The milkshakes are solid too (try the Orange Creamsicle), and your dog will definitely slurp up the pup cones. There are a couple of picnic tables out front, but you could also take a stroll along the nearby Crowe River.
Hike 156 km across Hastings County
If you want to get the full view of Hastings County, pull on your hiking boots, strap on a backpack, and hit the Hastings Heritage Trail. It’s a 156-kilometre-long trail that follows an old rail line from Glen Ross in the south to Lake St. Peter in the north. Hiking the full length will take you several days, of course, but you can also do it in chunks as there are access points all along the way. Either way, you’ll march through stunning sections of the Canadian Shield and come across wetlands, waterfalls, and ghost towns like Brinklow. Just remember that this is a multi-use trail, so keep your eye out for cyclists, horseback riders, and ATVers.
Take a glamping road trip
It’ll be tough to tackle this entire bucket list in a day or two, so why not stick around? There are a ton of hotels and camping spots here, but if you want some of the comforts of a hotel or cottage while also experiencing the wilds of nature, there are also lots of glamorous camping — aka “glamping” — options. Check out this post for several choices. From riverside and forest yurts to off-grid cabins and campers, you might want to combine a few of them into a road trip that takes you right across Hastings County. Chances are they’ll make you want to return next summer to start a whole new bucket list.