“Wander without reason or purpose”
I am a total creature of habit, with a proclivity toward the mundane & a staunch devotion for anything involving routine. It’s honestly just my jam. I wake up each morning, hop on the subway, start the 9-5 work day, walk the hour & a half home – fittin’ in that fitness, obvs – & then proceed to work on the blog or any outstanding freelance pieces that are seemingly always on the go these days. On repeat… 5 days a week.
Call me crazy, but this situation is actually my little sadistic form of bliss, & it’s not just limited to the city. NOPE! I tend to bring this type of “charming” reclusive behaviour up to the cottage as well, & practically chain myself to the dock for legit the entire weekend.
To be quite frank, I’ve never had a reason NOT to do so. I mean honestly to me “cottage culture” has always been limited to campfires, boating, “docktails” & sun worshiping, & it wasn’t until a certain tourist organization recently invited me on a three day excursion through the Haliburton Highlands that I finally pulled my head out of the sand.
I remember when Carly from Ontario’s Highlands Tourism emailed me. It was a complete & total “Dream Come True” opportunity – & I may, or may not have squealed like a teenage girl when that bad boy slid into my inbox. Admittedly, I had absolutely ZERO idea how on EARTH they were going to fill 72 hours’ worth of excursions in Haliburton, but I was BEYOND excited nonetheless.
Guys… I could NOT have been proven more wrong.
THERE IS LITERALLY SO MUCH FREAKIN’ STUFF TO DO IN HALIBURTON!!!!!!
Like SO much so… that I barely had enough time to post our excursions on any of my social media channels. Which was kinda the whole point of our trip – to show you guys just how much there is to do in my neck of the woods (pun completely intended – also… is that classified as a pun? I feel like I should know this). I mean, I was practically running around this town like a chicken with my head cut off & we barely even scratched the surface.
Anywho… ENOUGH of my rambling (which, I’m fully aware, tends to happen a lot here), below is a bit of a play-by-play on my three glorious days spent here in the Haliburton Highlands!
It started out calmly enough, Carly picked me up in our rented White Jeep which we almost immediately dubbed the “Wander Wagon” & we headed out to the Haliburton Forest for our very first excursion – watching Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo at the Forest Festival. I mean… talk about starting off with a bang!! Side Note: I have to be honest here. I was a little embarrassed to admit to Carly that I had never actually heard of the Forest Festival (what kind of cottager am I?!), but it’s an annual three day festival celebrating culture & music in Haliburton!! Psssst. Click HERE for more details.
Anywho, we arrived to the festival only to be guided by these gorgeous, twinkling lights down a natural path through the forest; the soft hum of music from the concert playing off in the distance. It REALLY was a “pinch me” sort of moment & I wish there was a photo to do it justice – I mean I’m TRYING to paint a pretty picture here with words, but honestly it was such a “need to be there” type of situation – which obviously just means you need to experience this for yourself NEXT year 😛
Now picture this, upon reaching the end of the clearing there is this big ampitheatre (seats about 200 people), surrounding a dock that serves as Jim Cuddy’s stage for the evening. We arrived & took our seats JUST as the sun was setting behind him.
Jim Cuddy concert on the lake, in the middle of the Haliburton Forest, under the stars… I mean… I think that this is legit THE most Canadian thing I have, & will ever do in my entire life!!! At one point, the band performed completely unamplified & I literally think I shed a single tear it was so gosh darn beautiful.
Three hours, zero iphone camera storage, & oh I don’t know – about a ZILLION mosquito bites later (honestly though, after that performance – totally, totally, TOTALLY worth it), Carly & I oh-so reluctantly dragged our butts back to the Wander Wagon, & we we proceeded to make the half hour trek to our accommodations at the Oakview Lodge & Marina.
Having arrived at the lodge at around midnight, I didn’t really get to properly scout the place out. However after a full nights’ rest – featuring THE comfiest bed ever & a steady stream of Jim Cuddy laced dreams – I was able to FULLY appreciate just how incredibly charming & fantastically unique the Oakview Lodge & Marina truly is!
I mean.. this is hardly a rough breakfast view to wake up to, no?! Annnnnnnd it definitely didn’t hurt so bad that our menu featured Eggs Benny (my personal FAV) either!
Fun Fact: the Oakview Lodge is owned by husband & wife duo, Anna & Greg; they decided to pack up their life in the city, left their demanding jobs behind, & head for the highlands! I’m one hundred percent going to feature their story – among other Haliburton Business Owners – in another post!!! I just couldn’t POSSIBLY fit everything into one!
OTHER Fun Fact: Greg literally does ALL of the cooking in the lodge’s restaurant! Spoiler Alert …. he is an AMAZING cook!
The owners wanted the Lodge to have a”homey” vibe; their goal being that guests should feel as though they were at their own cottage or home… mission ACCOMPLISHED! This place was the definition of cozy with a captial C!
LOVE THIS SIGN!!!!!!!
Now for some strange & completely bizarre reason, Carly & I felt that it was an absolutely BRILLIANT idea to commence our day with a gruelling three hour hike after having JUST stuffed our faces with a plate full of Eggs Benny. Spoiler Alert: this did not bode well… this hike was NO joke you guys!!! Spectacular views? Yes! But my gosh do they ever make you WORK for it! Mind you, I’ve been a bit of a sloth this summer so lets all take my words with a grain of salt shall we? Regardless… major PSA – give yourself like an hour break to allow any food to digest! LOL!
This hike was called the Circuit of 5 Viewpoints & boasts some INCREDIBLE views with these really amazing, dramatic clifs! Bonus? The starting point lies JUST outside of the Oakview Lodge! It’s just one of the MANY activities to embark on during your stay; among boating, canoeing, paddle boarding etc.
Ps. Can we all just take a moment to relize how S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G this would be in the fall?! I am one hundred percent coming back over Thanksgiving – both to get my slothy butt in gear & for that sweet, sweet Insta Pic. #DoItForTheGram
This hike tired us out SO much, that we had to make a little bit of a pitstop & jump in the lake prior to taking off on our next excursion!
I mean, I honestly didn’t think it was possible to top last night’s INSANE concert, but Ontario’s Highlands & the Haliburton Region successfully managed to blow me away yet again with our next excursion… Horseback Riding through Algonquin Park with South Algonquin Trails. One more check off the bucket list! And honestly, after that hike I was more than okay with having the horses do the legwork that afternoon.
I mean, how incredibly stunning are these horses?! Fun Fact: South Algonquin Trails is actually the only organization that Algonquin Rangers allow to horseback through the park!
It could NOT have been a more perfect day to go riding. We rode to these beautiful waterfalls & I just remember the evening sun sort of bursting through the trees. It honestly looked photoshopped that’s how perfect the setting was.
Below is my horse June Bug! She just looks SO majestic!!! Love her!
So I’m honestly not sure how horseback riding works, but it left me completely starving! I don’t know how that happened, considering Miss June Bug was doing all of the work, but somehow, someway my tummy decided that it was time to consume some serious FOOD! Carly had mentioned that the Bonnie View Inn on Lake Kashagawigamog (say that five times fast, I dare you) offers up some pretty awesome live music accompanied by casual pub fare every Monday!
EEEEEP… walking up to this place, was like walking straight into the quaint English countryside! It was Instagram Heaven.
Over the past couple of days I had developed what I would describe as a pretty serious chicken finger craving, & I was eternally grateful to the Bonnie View as they were able to fulfill that particular longing of mine.
Live music & good views (both of the food & lake)…. not a bad way to end day two!
I woke up that morning to the pitter patter of rain – which, in my opinion is just the aboslute definition of pure & utter BLISS! The weather seemed to totally set the tone for day – definitely more relaxed & casual, but exciting nonetheless! We reluctantly packed up our things at the Oakview, said our goodbyes to our UNBELIEVABLE hosts & made our way to Abbey Gardens.
You guys… I literally cannot emphasize how incredible this place is!!!! I know I’ve said this about a HUNDRED times in the short span of this blog post, but I cannot possibly think of more apt words to describe just exactly how I was feeling; I was blown AWAY! Abbey Gardens’ takes the term “sustainability” & gives it a whole new & incredible meaning! I’m not one for emotions, but I can honestly say that I had to hold back a few tears while touring their 300 acre property in Haliburton with Ontario’s Highlands. They are just so incredibly passionate about Haliburton & working together with local businesses for the betterment of their community, it was absolutely beyond touching.
Sadly, I think this kind of “teamwork” mindset is a bit lost on our generation, so this type of community vibe was completely refreshing; again – a separate blog post to come on this in the near future!!!!!
This green space boasts local & in-house foods (see above for their flour mill), sustainable gardens & agricultural farming practices, hiking trails & – most importantly – AN ECO-FRIENDLY ONSITE BREWERY!!!
Okay – I LOVED this! Abbey Gardens’ is ALL about encouraging kids to learn more about our environment & the importance of sustainable living. Above & below are two incredible ways that they reallly give kids a hands on learning experience – they hold lessons in the gardens on sustainable agriculture & get to learn about different ecosystems that make up ponds.
The above soap is sold at the Food Hub at Abbey Gardens – I am beyond upset that I only purchased one bar! It smells like Christmas, & I’ll literally just leave it at that.
Fun Fact: the foods sold here are all from within a 200km radius! The above cold brew coffee is what dreams are made of!
I’ve already decided that I’m bringing ALL of my friends back to this on-site brewery for a day of tasting sustainable & Eco-friendly beer!!! It was delicious!
The rest of our rainy little day was spent browsing some of the local shops in town, before Carly dropped me back off at the cottage! I literally shocked myself with just how much restraint was able to muster up because I’m nearly positive that I could have easily purchsed three of EVERY single item available in those stores! So much pretty!!! These photos in particular are from Up River Trading Co!
I need both of these signs in my cottage STAT!!!!!
I think it’s safe to say that Carly & Ontario’s Highlands’ TOTALLY knocked me out over those three days!! Not joking, but as SOON as I said my goodbye’s to Carly, I had about an hour “power nap” before heading back into the city! And to be completely frank, I don’t even think it was merely physical exhaustion, I really truly believe that this experience was a positive “culture shock”, for lack of a better term.
Coming from my small bubble of “routine” in the city, that sense of community, & human connection & positivity & TEAM WORK that I experienced for those three days in Haliburton was so completely foreign to me. Like it simply just does not exist in my world & I think it was just incredibly overwhelming in the best way possible! Every single person we met along the way completely welcomed me into their arms, & it was an absolute PLEASURE & honour to learn about their businesses & the people that make this incredible community tick.
Thanks for getting me “off the dock” Haliburton… ’til next time!