Between gliding in a horse-drawn sleigh, skating across a frozen lake and feasting by candlelight, a weekend spent at Ontario’s Rice Lake offers the perfect mix of winter adventure and relaxation.

Elmhirst’s Resort

Elmhirst’s Main Building offers
panoramic views of Rice Lake
Photo: Elmhirst’s Resort

At 32 kilometres long and five kilometres wide, Rice Lake is vast. When the pale winter sun rises above its mirrored surface, it’s easy to understand why this island-studded gateway to the Kawarthas, a region of lakes drawn from the Anishinaabe First Nation word meaning “Land of Shining Waters” has long been a land of legend and adventure.

Although wild rice once grew along its shallow shoreline, Rice Lake is now best known for its wealth of recreational activities. The hub for winter weather fun is Elmhirst’s Resort, Spa and Conference Centre. Located near the village of Keene on a parcel of land originally granted to the Elmhirst family in 1818 by King George IV of England, the site has evolved from its farmland beginnings to become a thriving all-season resort.

Elmhirst’s Resort

Clydesdale horses and sleigh rides offer
fun for the whole family
Photo: Elmhirst’s Resort

Just a 4 ½ hour drive from Montreal, it’s the ultimate winter weekend getaway, offering a satisfying fusion of activities, luxurious amenities and farm-to-table cuisine.

A Wealth of Winter Activities

Angling is one of the top things to do on a visit to Rice Lake — it’s said to have more fish per square metre than anywhere else in Canada. And when the temperatures drop, ice fishing is a popular pastime among intrepid anglers. Bring your own fishing gear and, if ice conditions permit, you can borrow an auger to drill a hole in the ice and try your luck at fishing for perch, walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass.

For those looking for airborne action, snowkiting or kite skiing is sure to get your adrenaline pumping. In this relatively new winter sport, riders use kite power to glide across vast stretches of snow or ice, vaulting into the air in jumps and stunt moves. For those looking to try this outdoor sport, Elmhirst’s annual Snowkite Weekend takes place on January 24-26, 2020 and includes a kite lesson (weather dependent) where students can learn the basics of power kite flying.

Elmhirst’s Resort

Enjoy a locally-inspired menu including Black Angus Beef from the resort’s own herd
Photo: Elmhirst’s Resort

More leisurely outdoor adventure options at Elmhirst’s include taking a horse-drawn sleigh or wagon ride through the snowy landscape. Or, for some all-ages fun, going ice-skating on the natural rink or snowshoeing along nearby trails, forest and fields.

If the weather outside is blustery, retreat to the indoor fitness facility to enjoy the resort amenities. Options include working out in the gym, taking a dip in the indoor swimming pool, relaxing in the sauna or soaking in the hot tub where floor-to-ceiling windows offer expansive views of frosty Rice Lake. For an indulgent escape, book some relaxation time in the full-service spa where a range of body therapies such as hot stone massage, tui na and aromatherapy are available.

Elmhirst’s Resort

Explore a range of wines in a tutoured wine tasting in the underground cellar at Elmhirst’s
Photo: Elmhirst’s Resort

After a full day of activity, fuel up in the Wild Blue Yonder Pub or dine by candlelight in the elegant Hearthside Dining Room where the menus feature local ingredients (many grown on-site) including Angus beef, turkey and Pekin ducks as well as seasonal vegetables and greenhouse herbs.

Wine enthusiasts won’t want to miss a tutoured wine tasting in the underground wine cellar featuring a fine selection of VQA wines. The lights are low and the wine list inspired in this atmospheric cellar set within the foundation of a historic building. Private tastings may also be booked for groups of 4 to 12.

Cocoon in a Cozy Cottage

Elmhirst’s Resort

Enjoy a spa day with friends at Elmhirst’s
Photo: Elmhirst’s Resort

You’re sure to find restful solitude in your private cottage where you can warm up by the fireplace and enjoy panoramic views of the winter wonderland. Ranging in size from one to five bedrooms, there are several sizes and layouts to choose from. Set facing the shoreline of Rice Lake, the cottages are connected to Elmhirst’s main building (where the indoor swimming pool, spa and dining facilities are located) by a waterfront walking footpath and a private road that meanders past playgrounds, a duck pond, snow-topped gardens and the onsite farm.

Couples looking for together time will appreciate the one-bedroom “Honeymoon Suite” cottage featuring a king-size bed, wood fireplace and Jacuzzi tub along with a kitchen, private dock, lakefront deck and BBQ.

If you’re travelling with a group, a deluxe five-bedroom cottage would be ideal for a family get-together or gathering with friends. This spacious cottage also features a lakefront deck, private dock, BBQ, fully-equipped kitchen and fireplace.

Explore the Peterborough & Kawarthas Region

Elmhirst’s Resort

Enjoy fine cuisine by the fireplace
Photo: Elmhirst’s Resort

If you’re up for a road trip, one of your first stops should be Muddy’s Pit BBQ. This roadside eatery is a Keene institution. The specialty here is slow-cooked Carolina-style pork back ribs, beef brisket and pulled pork. The meats are slow-roasted a minimum of eight hours over hardwood maple, which means they’re fall-off-the-bone tender. Get an order to go and enjoy the best barbecue north of the Carolinas.

Another quintessential Kawartha Lakes experience awaits at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, just 25 minutes away. Learn about the history, traditions and culture of canoeing in the museum’s holdings which include over 600 canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft gathered from across Canada.

Every visitor will no doubt have their own favourite of the more than 100 watercraft on display within the museum’s galleries, but highlights include a Haida dug-out canoe, Gordon Lightfoot’s canary yellow canoe and an Algonquin style canoe decorated with stars, animals and other designs scraped in winter bark.

By the end of your winter getaway, you’re sure to be inspired to return to the lakes, waterways and rivers of Peterborough & the Kawarthas to experience more of this territory first forged by First Nations, fur traders and explorers.

snow kiting

A new winter sport to try is snow kiting
Photo Courtesy of Peterborough & The Kawarthas Tourism: Justen Soule

Travel Planner

Elmhirst’s Resort, Spa and Conference Centre: Open year-round, this cottage resort with restaurant, pub, spa and private airport runway overlooks Rice Lake near the village of Keene, Ontario. Special Couch Potato packages are available September to May. Select weekend packages include Saturday breakfast, a Saturday Roast Beef Buffet Dinner and Sunday Brunch. Call 1-800-461-1940.

Official Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism Website:

Official Ontario Tourism Website: Get snow reports and more at

Michele Peterson is an award-winning travel writer who specializes in food, drink and sun destinations. Her work has appeared in major magazines, guidebooks and travel anthologies. Ger recipes, travel tips and tour discounts on her A Taste for Travel blog or via Twitter/Instagram @atastefortravel   

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