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 South Eastern 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, Morrisburg
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.
Rideau Heritage Route
Foley Mountain Conservation Area, Westport
After the year’s first blanketing of snow Westport’s Foley Mountain becomes an ideal place to take a romantic winter hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski with that special someone. There are trails suited for multiple skill levels, offering hikers a nice choice of options for exploring this 800-acre conservation area and spotting wildlife.
For more information, check out this post right here on the Great Waterway.
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.
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.
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.
For full details check the City of Kingston website.
Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, Kingston
Winter is by far the most popular time of year at Little Cataraqui Creek. For as long as I can remember people have gathered here each year for cross-country skiing, skating, snowshoeing and scenic hikes. Equipment is available for rent at the Outdoor Centre. And for complete newbies like myself – they offer cross-country ski lessons as well.
For more information on all CRCA events visit: CRCA.ca.
Land O Lakes
Frontenac Provincial Park, Sydenham
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.
Bay of Quinte
Batawa Ski Hill, City of Quinte West
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
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 brisk 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.
Details and other information are available on the rink’s Facebook page.
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.