Love it or hate it, winter isn’t going anywhere soon.
While some people tend to hunker down and hibernate the cold months away – others embrace the crisp winds of winter and take full advantage of the broad selection of things to do throughout Southeastern Ontario. Getting outdoors during the winter with friends and family is not only healthy, but a great opportunity to make an otherwise dark and dreary season into a collection of positive memories you’ll keep for life.
One of my fondest memories dates back to my childhood. Every March Break I would go up to Eagle Lake near Parham for a week of ice fishing with my grandfather. We would rip around on his snowmobile and spend hours in the fishing shack listening to old school country tunes. Usually, we would catch a whole lot of nothing.
I remember one momentous day when my grandfather triumphantly pulled a rather large whitefish out of the water, only to watch it fall from his eager grasp and right back down the hole. That was also the day I learned a few bad words, but that’s a different story altogether.
To help inspire your next winter outing, here is a collection of fantastic activities and events happening from Cornwall and the Counties to the Bay of Quinte this winter.
Cornwall and The Counties
Cornwall’s Outdoor Skating Rinks
There’s likely nothing more distinctly Canadian, than hitting up an outdoor skating rink with friends and family, feeling the crisp winter’s breeze in your face until your cheeks tingle and finishing it all off with a cup of piping hot cocoa.
The City of Cornwall has 11 awesome outdoor rinks located throughout town. These rinks are maintained by dedicated community volunteers and are free for public use. To help you select which rink you want to visit, the City has a handy online map on their website.
Two Creeks Conservation Area
Two Creeks Conservation Area offers a diverse selection of ecological points of interest spanning a beautiful 457 acres.
This wonderful network of natural spaces is accessible year round and maintained by both the South Nation Conservation group and local partners.
Among Two Creek’s newest offerings is a breathtaking 4.5 km marked trail that is prime for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking. This particular conservation area boasts a lush biodiversity, with several animal and bird species to observe; so don’t forget your binoculars!
Two Creeks also allow on-leash dog walking, so it’s ok to bring your puppy along for a romp in the wilderness.
15th Annual Alexandria Ice Fishing Derby
Cornwall and the Counties is one of many premier destinations for anglers year-round.
The Annual Alexandria Ice Fishing Derby is an event not to be missed by any fishing enthusiast – especially with over 40,000 dollars in prizes up for grabs.
This classic fishing derby will also have an early morning brunch, and a 50/50 draw for some sweet prizes. The proceeds of this year’s draw will benefit the Optimist Club of Alexandria.
Saturday, February 18th, 2017.
Island Park, Alexandria, Ontario.
For full details visit: AlexandriaFishingDerby.com.
Rideau Heritage Route
Murphy’s Point Provincial Park
Nestled between Westport and Lombardy you will find a majestic destination for x-country skiing, and snowshoeing at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park.
Here, you will find over 20 kilometers of various trails, captivating scenery, and quaint chalets for warming up.
For a more rugged snowshoeing experience there are also non-groomed trails for that purpose. Murphy’s Point has two parking areas maintained during the winter months for day-use.
There are no equipment rentals available, so it’s a bring your own gear scenario. It’s also noteworthy that dogs are not permitted on the ski trails.
For full details, I highly recommend reviewing the Trail Info page over at the Tay Valley Ski Club’s website.
Tay Valley Ski Club Loppet
A Loppet is a fun winter skiing event that draws its roots from Scandinavian history. It refers to a particular route that a former King of Scandinavia skied over 500 years ago.
Today, the Tay Valley Ski Club keeps this tradition alive with a fun filled day of cross country skiing with an emphasis on fun and participation.
Date: Feb. 12th, 2017
Info, Contact & Registration: Tay Valley Loppet Online Registration Site.
The Cataraqui Trail is a former CN railway line that once connected Smiths Falls to Strathcona which is just North of Napanee.
During winter, and when snow levels permit – this sprawling trail is groomed for a variety of uses including snowmobiling, cross country skiing and more!
This beautiful trail is kept in operation thanks to proceeds gathered through donations and membership fees. If you go out and enjoy the Cat Trail – perhaps take some time to visit their website’s support page; to learn more about how you can help this great destination remain open for years to come.
Outdoor Skating in the City of The 1000 Islands
As weather conditions permit, Brockville has two outdoor skating locations. The first is located in the city’s North end at Memorial Park (Laurier Blvd at Bridlewood). The memorial park rinks operate from January to mid-March.
The second outdoor skating venue is located at Rotary Park (King Street West at Gilmour Street.) It sports an artificially chilled natural hockey rink which is open from early December to the end of March.
Rotary Park also has an excellent synthetic rink for casual skating (hockey is not permitted) which runs from November to April. Additional information and contact details are available on the City of Brockville website.
Brockville Winter Classic Weekend
Starting March 3rd, 2017 the Brockville Winter Classic Weekend will return once again to fill the air with a public celebration of hockey and good old fashioned outdoor Canadian fun.
2017 is the event’s third anniversary and will feature a smorgasbord of activities ranging from hockey tournaments, prize draws, community skating, and a headlining hockey game between Boston Bruins Alumni and a local all-stars team.
The full team of Bruin’s alumni isn’t fully confirmed yet, but such greats as Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton, and Al Iafrate are set to hit the ice.
For full details including ticketing information visit the Winter Classic Weekend website!
Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
A scenic drive North of Brockville will bring you to Mac Johnson Wildlife area. This breathtaking conservation area spans over 500 hectares of wetlands, rolling fields, critical wetlands and scenic forested areas.
During the winter months, Mac Johnson Wildlife area becomes a sought after destination for outdoor activities and special events.
In addition to the traditional hiking, cross-country skiing, and skating options – Mac Johnson is also host to a great lineup of events this year. Below is a handy list including links to help plan your outing.
Every Saturday in January and February, weather permitting @ 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Saturday, January 28 (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
Monday, February 20 (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
Epic Snowshoeing at Jones Creek Trails
Parks Canada says it best on the Thousand Islands National Park website: “Don’t let the chill of winter keep you cooped up indoors.” I intend to heed this advice and try snowshoeing for the first time this year.
Jones Creek Trails look like a good place to start out, as their routes vary in difficulty from easy 20 minute walks to more moderate hikes that can last up to two hours or more depending on experience.
To help determine your path, there is a handy downloadable map available on the Parks Canada Website.
Outdoor Skating at historic Springer Market Square
In beautiful downtown Kingston, the winter months are brightened up each year by the opening of the outdoor rink at Springer Market Square.
It’s free to the public, and there are skate rentals, public restrooms and lockers available in the Market Wing of City Hall.
The best part is that Kingston’s fabulous downtown cafes and restaurants are all within easy walking distance to warm up and enjoy some nibbles after a glide around the rink.
The rink is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (closes in March, weather permitting). For full details check the City of Kingston website.
Feb Fest 2017
Since it’s inaugural event over a decade ago, Feb Fest has become a much-anticipated premier winter event in Kingston.
This year’s event kicks off on Thursday, February 2nd and continues until the 5th. As always, Feb Fest will feature a slew of awesome events.
Stay tuned to the Downtown Kingston! Website for news and updates about Feb Fest ‘17.
Little Cataraqui Creek
Owl Hoot & Coyote Howl Hike
This guided night hike at Little Cat Creek is a perfect opportunity to bring the family for an outdoor adventure they won’t soon forget.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll see any coyotes or owls – you’ll likely hear them as they call out across the frosted twilight.
Cost is $2 per person plus regular gate fee. Registration for this event is required to ensure there are enough hike leaders. To book your spot on the hike visit: crca.ca/online-services.
Saturday, January 14, 6:30 p.m. weather permitting.
Starlight Snowshoe Hike
Join the crew at Little Cataraqui Creek for a novice level snowshoeing trek beneath a starlit sky. If you’re looking for a chance to try out snowshoeing, this is an affordable and guided trek.
This is a night hike, so don’t forget to bring a headlamp or flashlight. Hot chocolate and snacks will be available.
Registration is required for this event also. Registration forms are available at crca.ca/online-services. Registration closes Friday, February 10 at 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 11, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm.
Land O Lakes
Frontenac Provincial Park
Winter is an ideal time of year to visit Frontenac Provincial Park. Visitors can enjoy 11 kilometers of track-set trails that are perfect for hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and spotting wildlife.
After the hustle and bustle of summer, the forests and trails of Frontenac become a quiet and tranquil environment perfect for escaping the urban grind.
For details about activities and other helpful info, visit: OntaroParks.com/Frontenac/Activities.
Dion Frontenac Snowshoe Race
For those of you with a bit more snowshoeing skills and savvy, the 2017 Dion Frontenac Snowshoe Race is something to consider competing in.
The race takes place over a 6.5 km route that follows a rugged, broad and single track that traverses variable terrain with a combination of potentially deep snow and packed sections of trail.
Chances are, that if you’re participating in a snowshoe race, you already have your own gear. If you do not, there are limited rentals available.
January 14, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Race day registration from 8:30 – 9:45 a.m. at the Park Office
Location: Frontenac Provincial Park – at Park Office
For full Details & Online Registration visit: HealthandAdventure.com.
Napanee Winter Chill Festival and Family Day
Last year, the Town of Greater Napanee combined the annual Winter Chill Festival and Family Day to create one huge day of fun.
This year’s event has been confirmed for Monday, February 20th to coincide with this year’s Family Day.
One burning question remains, however. Will the chili challenge be back? Stay Tuned to The Town of Greater Napanee website to find out!
Bay of Quinte
Ice Fishing in the Bay of Quinte
Ice fishing is an activity that has made this list more than once. It’s a great outdoor activity and a staple in Canadian culture.
Each season, the Bay of Quinte becomes a sought after destination for winter anglers from all over. It is, after all, one of the best places in the world to hook some serious Walleye.
To help give you an idea or two, and for some handy links to licensing and other info for anglers in Ontario, check out this post on our blog by Jordan Whitehouse.
Enjoy the Serenity of Presqu’ile Provincial Park
For travelers looking for a mild winter stroll, Presqu’ile Provincial Park offers a relatively flat level of terrain making it accessible to seniors, or novice hikers.
It’s also a prime spot for birdwatching in peak seasons, and the trails are perfect for a relaxed walk or cross country ski among nature.
Family Day Winter Soup Hike at Presqu’ile
Enjoy a fun-filled and educational day at Presqu’ile, which involves birding, animal tracking, plant and fungus identification and more!
After the day’s activities visitors can enjoy a hot bowl of soup or hot chocolate. Cost is 5.00 per person or 8.00 per family. Prices include park admission.
February 11, 2017 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Registration is required. Call: (613)475-1688 ext. 2
For details visit: OntarioParks.com/events
City of Quinte West
Carve Some Powder at Batawa Ski Hill
Situated roughly 15 minutes north of Trenton, Batawa Ski Hill is a well-known destination for families and anyone looking to enjoy outdoor winter fun.
Batawa is a non-profit operation and offers a range of activities including alpine skiing, hiking, and snowboarding. There are also camp programs, and special events including, concerts and more!
Prince Edward County
Milford Winter Carnival
Make sure you visit the County January 27th & 28th for an epic two days of fun at the Milford Winter Carnival!
There will be a great collection of winter activities, a pancake breakfast, hot dogs and hot chocolate (a winter classic) and more!
Some of the activities depend on weather conditions so stay tuned to the event page on the County’s website for details!
Jan 27 – 28, 2017
Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area
Macaulay Mountain is a popular summer destination for hikers and picnickers. The conservation area features over 400 acres and trails offering easy hiking in the lowland area, and more advanced trekking on the escarpment portion.
When winter arrives, and a good layer of snow blankets Macaulay Mountain – it becomes a favourite place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s also a good place to bring your toboggan or sled to shred some hills.
Wellington Outdoor Rink
Enjoy an outdoor skating session at Wellington’s outdoor rink. Located at 266 Main Street Wellington (across from the library).
The Wellington outdoor rink was generously donated by local entrepreneur Michael Hymus, in memory of his late father.
There is a limited amount of skates available (40 pairs total) that range in size from children’s small to men’s large. The skates are available for free to anyone who wishes to borrow a pair.
The rink is open to the public seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Details and other information are available on the rink’s Facebook page
Winterfest at Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks Provincial Park is easily the most iconic attraction in Prince Edward County. Winter is an especially beautiful time of year for the park.
Winterfest is a great activity which takes place on Family Day (Feb. 20, 2017). The event is free and includes all the expected outdoor activities in addition to live music and kids activities.
If you’re musically inclined – make sure to bring a musical instrument and join the “Kitchen Party Jam!”
Feb 20, 2017 12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Embrace Winter’s Beauty!
After compiling this list of epic winter activities, I can safely say that I will be spending far less time on the couch this year. With such a wide range of places to visit and things to do, I can hardly wait to get out there and show winter who’s boss.
Yes, I get it. It’s cold out there, but trust me. Once you get outside, take in a deep breath and embrace winter’s beauty, you’ll feel a certain warmth in your soul that even Jack Frost can’t nip away at.
Get Out There & Enjoy Winter!