Canadian Blog House was invited on a media trip, on behalf of Life In Pleasantville, with Ontario’s Highlands. All opinions are our own.
Sometimes there is nothing better than a road trip, and the chance to explore some beautiful small towns in Ontario.
Rich in history, small towns in Ontario often provide visitors with a fascinating journey through time.
Restored historic buildings, monuments, and murals, offer a glimpse into the past of these charming small towns.
The Ontario’s Highlands, a rural area brimming with small towns, is an area that encompasses five distinct regions in Eastern Ontario:
- Ottawa Valley
- Lanark County
- Haliburton Highlands
- Land O’Lakes
- Hastings County
This past weekend, we journeyed outside Ottawa, looking for adventure in Lanark County – the “Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario”, a picturesque part of Ontario’s Highlands.
It was here that we visited the small towns in Ontario in our Ontario’s Highlands itinerary – Pakenham and Almonte.
Exploring Small Towns In Ontario’s Highlands – Packenham
The pretty town of Pakenham is one of three towns that make up the urban and rural community of Mississippi Mills, in Ontario’s Highlands region (the other two being Almonte and Ramsay).
Situated along the banks of the meandering Mississippi River, Pakenham is a must-see destination on your road trip through this part of Ontario.
Over The Bridge And To The General Store
When in Pakenham, there are two things that locals will tell you about, that you must do…
Visit the Five Span Stone Bridge (one of the 7 Wonders of Lanark County), and enjoy a tasty Sticky Bun, or other delicious baked treat, from the Pakenham General Store.
This breathtaking stone bridge, is located off Highway 29 at the north end of town. “Built in 1903, this one-of-a-kind bridge was constructed by Scottish stonemasons who used locally quarried stone.”
Thanks to the bridge, and the surrounding natural scenery, including the layered waterfalls and rushing waters of the Mississippi River, this is the perfect place to stop for photo ops.
Next, step back in time with a visit to Pakenham General Store.
The smell of mouth-watering baked goods (made on-site) hits you as you enter this charming general store.
This historic treasure is believed to be the longest running general store in North America! Pakenham General Store has been open for business in the same location for 175 years! That’s an outstanding feat!
Besides the Sticky Buns (which are a must-try if you enjoy that sort of treat), you’ll find a gift shop and antique store with a wonderful array merchandise, and whimsical displays.
This general store was “eye candy” for me! So many fascinating things to look at, including their historic electric train that circles the general store.
Small Town, Big Brew
One of our favourite stops on our whirlwind tour of Pakenham, was at Cartwright Springs Brewery. Maybe it was the peaceful, forested location. Or maybe it was the story behind the brewery, and the interesting brewery tour. Perhaps it was André Rieux, the friendly and engaging brewmaster, and owner of Cartwright Springs Brewery.
We think it was all of these factors that made our experience at this craft brewery such a great one.
But of course, our favourite thing about this brewery – the beer!
Like this Haskap Lager, brewed using Haskap berries – the new superfruit! The only beer (anywhere) made with this type of berry, according to André.
André is onto something with this lager. A beautiful, aromatic, crisp and refreshing lager, Haskap Lager is our new favourite beer!
Just look at that colour!
Cartwright Springs Brewery beer is brewed using the natural artesian spring water found on the brewery property. You’ll currently find 6 varieties of beer at the brewery – something for every beer lover!
How much did we enjoy the beer at Cartwright Springs Brewery? So much so, that we couldn’t leave without purchasing a selection of beer to bring home.
Our fridge currently holds more Cartwright Springs Brewery beer than any other beverage!
Oh…and did I mention? I’m in love with these beautiful blue Cartwright Springs Brewery bottles!
Nature’s Symphony Of Sound
Our time with Chad Clifford of Wilderness Rhythms almost put me to sleep. Literally.
No, Chad is not a boring guy. In fact, Chad is a man full of knowledge about the great outdoors, natures sounds, and the relationship between our sense of sound and our emotions.
Our Nature Sound Bathing session, deep in an Ontario Highland’s forest, was one of the most delightfully unexpected and relaxing experiences we have ever encountered on our travels.
Chad describes Nature Sound Bathing as “both a meditative and rejuvenating experience”.
We took a short hike, through the forested land on the Cartwright Springs Brewery property, where Chad had already been hard at work preparing for our experience.
We eased into our hammocks (Chad taught us the proper ways to get into a hammock), laid back, slipped on our headphones, and chilled out to the incredible sounds of the forest life around us – for over half an hour.
I have not been that relaxed in a long time.
Nature Sound Bathing is a fabulous sensory experience!
Dinner And A Festival
Since there is no better way to learn about a region than by chatting with the locals, we were delighted to learn that André and Chad would be our dinner guests on this evening.
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Bridges Bar and Grill on County Road 29 in Pakenham. Apparently, all four of us had a craving for a nice steak. André and I opted for steak with a peppercorn sauce – delicious!
A casual, relaxed atmosphere, the sound of some sweet country music in the air, an intriguing appetizer of garlic raisin bread (a surprisingly great flavour combination), generous portions of tasty food, and of course, great company, made for a very enjoyable dinner experience at Bridges Bar and Grill.
The Ontario Festival of Small Halls was the last stop on our itinerary for the day. We arrived just in time to hear the first performance of the night, by Arnprior native, Vicki Brittle.
Next up, Rosie and The Riveters, three “vintage” dames from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who delighted the crowd with their uplifting folk music, with a 1940’s flair.
For more information on this fabulous small halls festival, be sure to check out our review over on Life In Pleasantville.
Exploring Small Towns In Ontario’s Highlands – Almonte
Our first day in Ontario’s Highlands ended on a “high” note, as we checked into the warm and welcoming Almonte Riverside Inn.
Situated in downtown Almonte, on the banks of the Mississippi River, the Almonte Riverside Inn is a beautiful heritage estate offering 6 beautifully appointed guest rooms.
This inn features a fabulous communal sitting area stocked with reading materials, as well as complimentary snacks and beverages. The perfect place to relax after a day of swimming, kayaking, canoeing (all offered on-site), or exploring downtown Almonte!
A Good Night’s Sleep
The Wylie Room features a comfy king-size bed, couch, desk, flat-screen tv, and the best in-room fridge we have ever seen. Plenty of room for drinks and snacks in this fridge!
A great deal of thought was put into the design of the bathroom in the Wylie room. We don’t usually rate bathrooms, however, the clean lines, beautiful fixtures, plenty of storage space, great toiletries, and a fabulous shower, make this bathroom one of our all-time favourites.
Rob and his staff at the Almonte Riverside Inn know how to keep their guests happy. Their attention to detail is evident throughout the inn.
Breakfast at the Almonte Riverside Inn was absolutely delicious. In particular, the pancakes, made with red fife flour, were the most flavourful pancakes I had ever tasted.
The Good Food Tour
Our final stop on our Ontario’s Highlands itinerary was a most enjoyable experience, especially since it included getting to meet so many of Almonte’s loveliest locals, including the great folks taking the tour with us.
The Good Food Tour, hosted by owner Cathy Reside, led us and 6 other guests around downtown Almonte, experiencing great food and refreshing beverages from:
- Pizza-ria Unlimited
- Don’s Meat Market
- Pêches & Poivre
- Mill Street Crepe Company
- SweetCheeks Kitchen
- Sivarulrasa Gallery
- Barley Mow – Almonte
Who knew Indian pizza was a thing? Roopesh and Shinoa are serving up some of the best pizzas we have ever tasted. Featuring 20 different (unlimited!) toppings, and pizzas with an Indian flair, such as their Butter Chicken Pizza, Pizza-ria Unlimited is well on the way to becoming one of the top reasons foodies visit Almonte.
For a town with a population of just over 5,000, Almonte has an exceptional selection of fabulous eating establishments, and gourmet food offerings.
Sanjeev Sivarulrasa of Sivarulrasa Gallery said it best. “Every space in Almonte is curated. Shops, galleries, restaurants…everyone has a passion for what they do.”
Thanks to Cathy’s “tourific” Good Food Tour, it’s easy to see why beautiful, historic, downtown Almonte should be on the bucket list of any foodie out there.
With her engaging personality, knowledge of interesting facts about Almonte, and a fantastic “menu” of culinary stops, Cathy Reside has a recipe for success with her Good Food Tour!
If you visit Almonte, do not miss The Good Food Tour. Cathy guides her 3 hour tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, visiting different establishments depending upon the day.
Don’t ever miss your chance to wander around Pakenham and Almonte, two of the prettiest small towns in Ontario!
A big thank you to Life in Pleasantville for this wonderful opportunity, and to the great folks at Ontario’s Highlands for hosting such an unforgettable weekend in Lanark County!