Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, is conveniently located around 90 miles northeast of Toronto. The area includes a chain of more than 20 lakes with numerous opportunities for swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing. Many vacation rentals occupy enviable waterfront locations where your family can enjoy watching glorious sunsets while you sit around your fire pit toasting marshmallows. The area boasts over 370 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and skiing. The region’s towns and cities provide visitors with stores and farmer’s markets to top up on supplies, and various family entertainment opportunities.

Go Swimming

If your family loves swimming, choosing a vacation cottage or cabin with its own beach is the height of luxury. Your kids can splash around on long hot summer days while you kick back on the front porch and enjoy the views. If your rental home is away from the waterfront, grab a picnic and head out to one of many public beaches like Riverview Park in Bobcaygeon, that have a sandy or grassy beach, picnic area, playground, and restrooms, for an enjoyable day out.

Have Fun Kayaking or Boating

Many of the waterfront rentals include free use of paddle boats or kayaks, and some also offer use of larger boats for a fee. Alternatively, marinas such as Rosedale Marina in Fenelon Falls, hire out canoes and cruise or fishing boats, while Buckeye Marine also rents out ski and wake boats along with tubes and water skis for some action-packed adventures.

Master Stand Up Paddle Boarding or Kayaking

If you’ve ever watched enviously from the shore as families confidently climb into their kayaks and paddle off, why not make this the vacation where you and yours finally join in? Paddle Creek Adventures in Bobcaygeon runs full day courses in kayaking where you can learn the basics of flatwater paddling, and gain confidence in the water. Alternatively, take the opportunity to gain expertise in stand-up paddle boarding in the safe environment of the lakes’ calm waters.

Go Catch a Fish

Kawartha Lakes is an angler’s paradise so make sure to pack your rods and tackle. The area’s unique combination of cool and warm waters provides a host of fishing opportunities from pan fish to sport fish. If it’s your first taste of the great outdoors, why not pick up a starter kit for the kids and let them hang a line off the end of your private dock? Keep a camera on hand to capture those precious moments when they reel in their first catches.

Bike, Hike or Ski

With more than 18 different trails to explore, leave plenty of time to strap on your hiking boots or get out on the bikes. The Ken Reid Conservation Area includes a swimming beach, hiking and cycling trails, picnic shelters and wetlands viewing platforms. In winter, the area also offers cross-country ski trails. If you visit the Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary, which is Ontario’s largest nature reserve, you might spot deer, moose, beaver, and a host of birds including red-shouldered hawks, warblers, and hummingbirds. Keep to the marked trails and be sure to take your binoculars.

Become a Spelunker for the Day

Visit the Warsaw Caves conservation area and join other spelunkers, or cave explorers, for some underground fun. This set of seven beginner-level caves is easy to explore. Just make sure to take a couple of head torches to keep your hands free for support, and wear some old clothes and grippy shoes. There is an entrance fee to help support the upkeep of the area.

Learn to Ride a Horse

For a peaceful family day out, Dromoland Orchard and Stables offers a wonderful natural environment to connect with nature, pick apples, feed the chickens, and learn to ride a horse through the magical Imagine Trail. In winter, the family can experience an exhilarating sleigh ride. Other activities include a classic car tour in Rosie, their delightful 1932 Pontiac.

Take a Step Back in Time

Kawartha Settlers Village in Bobcaygeon takes you back to the 19th century to experience what life was like for the early settlers. Wander through a collection of more than 20 historic homes and buildings, including a school house, blacksmith, general store, church, and trapper’s cabin.

Visit the Zoo

Offering so much more than a place to meet the animals, the Riverview Park and Zoo in Peterborough includes a playground, miniature train ride, splash pad, Frisbee golf course, and walking trails. Animal exhibits include a camel, a two-toed sloth, cute meercat and a crocodile. Amazingly, both parking and admission are free, but there is a small charge for the 15-minute miniature train ride. The park is open year-round, and in the winter, they encourage visitors to bring skis and toboggans for added fun.

Take a Boat up the World’s Highest Hydraulic Lift

While you’re in the Peterborough area, don’t miss a visit to the Peterborough lift lock — the world’s highest hydraulic lift lock that rises 65 feet above the city. One of the best ways to experience this feat of engineering is to take a boat cruise with Liftlock and the Riverboat Cruises and travel along the river and up through the lock while enjoying the captain’s fascinating and informative commentary.