Haliburton, Ontario is an outdoor lover’s dream. It’s Ontario’s cottage country and city dwellers flock to the many lakes and rivers for their weekend escapes. But Ontario cottage country is huge and it can be confusing to know where to plan a trip. But never fear, The Planet D is here! Haliburton is located in the Muskoka region of Ontario which also consists of Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough County. With an area of 4072 square km, Haliburton County (aka Haliburton Highlands) is bordered by Alquonquin Park, Kawartha Lakes, Huntsville, and Peterborough.
This little slice of paradise is 2.5 hours from Toronto and 3.5 hours from Ottawa making Haliburton the perfect getaway for families and couples. So, are you ready to see all the things to do in Haliburton? Let’s go!
Things to do in Haliburton Ontario
After years of regularly traveling to Northern Ontario, we finally had the chance to visit Haliburton again for one of our first trips post-pandemic. We couldn’t have picked a better location to explore for one of our first outings and thought we’d try to tempt you to hop in the car and book your own an Ontario getaway! This four-seasons destination has something for everyone! Be it the mirror lakes of summer, fall colours or winter adventures, there is always a good time to go to Haliburton.
Winterdance has turned into a four-seasons business with new backcountry cottages opening soon! Known for their dog sledding experience in Haliburton, Winterdance has now branched into backcountry horseback riding. Tanya McCready & Hank DeBruin are legends in the dogsledding world. Hank and his all-Siberian husky team have competed in both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod. Check out their website for details.
Read more about our time at Winterdance
Off the Grid with Winterdance Log Cabins
Dogsledding with the happy huskies of Winterdance is an experience you’ll never forget and you can now visit year round! Winterdance has added four log cabins onto their 2000 acre property in the Haliburton Highlands where visitors are able to completely unplug, go horseback riding (coming soon) and hiking into the Canadian wilderness. They have canoes on a private lake and will be offering guided hiking and riding tours. Check out their website for details.
Hank, Tanya and their family love the outdoors, the forest and their dogs. When we visited them during winter, you could see how much the dogs love their lives. Plus, I was thrilled to hear that their 2000 acres is a sanctuary for wildlife. They allow no hunting on the property and bears, moose and even porcupine roam through the property. It is their very own wildlife reserve in the middle of the forest.
To celebrate their grand opening, Winterdance is offering a $100 discount/couple for their Grand Opening Special to the first 10 reservations of from now through Labour Day weekend. Click the here to find out more:
It’s no secret that there is a world of wealth in Haliburton, Ontario making it the perfect place to open a fine art photography studio. Evergreen Gallery is the newest addition to the galleries of Haliburton. Run by Dana and Rose McMullen, who have recently moved from Arizona to Ontario, this studio will remind you of the fine art galleries in New York or L.A. Make sure to pop inside to order a metal print of your favourite destination from America’s National Parks or from the Haliburton, Muskoka and Algonquin Regions of Ontario. You’ll take home memories from your time in cottage country. Visit the website for details.
Other Galleries in Haliburton to Check out are:
Ethel Curry Gallery: Original Canadian art produced by Ontario artists who have been inspired by the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario. Rails End Gallery and Art Center: contemporary Canadian art, craft and music by regional Artists
Wolf Centre at Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve
One of our favourite things to do in Haliburton is to visit the Haliburton Wolf Centre in Haliburton Forest. This Grey Wolf Sanctuary sits within 100,000 acres of protected hardwood forest at The Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. When you visit, you’ll be able to witness wolves in their natural habitat. A pack of grey wolves lives in a huge enclosure where they roam the land. Visitors can watch the wolves bask in the sun or play in their pack from behind a glass enclosure. There is no interaction with the wolves, you are simply there to observe. Read more: The Grey Wolf Sanctuary of Haliburton Forest
Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve
While you are visiting the Haliburton Wolf Centre and Wildlife Reserve, you really must explore Haliburton Forest as well. With 100 lakes to explore, it is a paddler’s paradise. It is a year-round retreat that is perfect for Dogsledding, and Snowmobiling, in the winter and Canopy Tours, Camping, hiking, and paddling in the summer. Haliburton Forest has 400 km of hiking trails so you can spend an entire summer exploring!
Exploring your own backyard? Check out more Ontario destinations
Sir Sams Inn Water spa
Sir Sams is located on Eagle Lake and is the perfect retreat for couples. This historic piece of property offers plenty of outdoor activities in summer and winter. We are including this as our “pampering moment” in Haliburton. Start off with a massage followed by time going through the water cycle in their magnificent water spa. It is then time to head out to the Muskoka Chairs on Eagle Lake to watch the glorious sunset and then finish off the evening at their elegant Twin Fires dining area. Make sure to take the spiral staircase down to the wine cellar to choose the perfect bottle of wine to accompany your dinner. Check out Rates and Availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Sir Sams Ski, Ride and Outdoor Recreation
As we said, Sir Sams is a four-seasons retreat and even though it is a romantic getaway for couples there is plenty of outdoor adventures to be had. In the winter we went snowshoeing on Eagle Lake and Snowmobiling on the trails all around Haliburton. Sir Sams has a ski hill for winter and you can also go mountain biking in the summertime. Being situated on Eagle Lake, they also have kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and motorboats to make the most of your stay. Read more: Romantic Getaways in Ontario, Canada
Photography Workshop with Rob Stimpson
The Haliburton Highlands is one of the best places in Ontario for photography. Rob Stimpson offers photography workshops in the area and you can book one with him to explore the diverse landscape of Haliburton County. We took a photography tour with him through Algonquin Park and he is a fun person to search for wildlife with! Check out his workshops all around Huntsville, Algonquin Park and the Haliburton Highlands here.
Haliburton Highlands Museum
Ontario has a rich history starting with the First Nations. The museum itself is located on Mississauga Anishinaabe traditional lands who have always used the Haliburton Highlands as a gathering place. It has been their land for thousands of years that is rich and fertile for growing food, hunting and fishing. When traveling anywhere in Canada, we honour the indigenous communities. This museum has exhibits relating to indigenous people who were followed by lumbermen and other early settlers. See more information here.
Haliburton Sculpture Forest
We do love how Ontario embraces art in both the indoors and outdoors. One of the more unique things to do in Haliburton is to visit the Haliburton Sculpture Forest. Located not too far from the Haliburton Highlands Museum, the Sculpture Forest houses 36 sculptures in Gleb Park. There are free walks every Tuesday and Wednesday in July and August and visitors can walk, take their dogs along the hiking trails or bike through the forest in the summertime plus snowshoe or cross country ski in the winter. This park also houses the Haliburton Highlands Museum and the Haliburton School of Art and Design. See more information here.
Hawks Log Chute
The logging industry was huge back in the day in the Haliburton Highlands and Haliburton Forest. Even while hiking on the Winterdance property we saw remnants from the logging days. The only remaining log chute in Ontario from this time is Hawks Log Chute. Dating back to 1861 the The Hawk Lake Log Chute is a Historic Site that pays tribute to the men who worked hard to help build this land. It is a designated historical site and was fully restored in 2005. See the Stanhope Museum for details here.
The Stanhope museum houses artifacts from the early pioneering days. This museum runs the historic Hawk Lake Log Chute as well. It depicts the hardships and struggles early settlers faced working this heavily forested land. As Hank of Winterdance told us, “when loggers worked in the wintertime, if they weren’t stripped down to their shirts at 30 below, they were fired because they clearly weren’t working hard enough.” Life was tough in the 1800s. See details here.
Buttermilk Falls is another place to see heritage and logging history. Its river was used by the logging industry in the 1800s where a wooden chute (which is now a concrete chute) was constructed to connect parts of the falls and river together to move logs from the forest to the mill from Halls Lake to Boshkung Lake. There are hiking trails along the river with a wheelchair-accessible trail to see it from above. Check out Ontario Hiking Trails for more information.
Paddling the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, Haliburton was made for paddling. We are spoiled and have done a lot of paddling with friends and tourism boards around Haliburton, but if you are heading up on your own and don’t have gear, never fear, there are outfitters that can set you up with what you need. Algonquin Outfitters offers canoe trips and rentals of canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and even camping and snowshoe gear. Head into the shop located in several locations from Algonquin to Haliburton Highlands, Bracebridge, Huntsville, and more. You can book guided tours ranging from day trips to overnight adventures. With hundreds of lakes to explore, Haliburton is a place that you must get out on the water.
There are places to rent paddleboards in Haliburton but if you have your own, its easy to get on the gentle lakes in the region. We have blow up paddleboards that are perfect for getting out on the lake.
Visit Haliburton Tips
Haliburton is located in Ontario’s near north and unfortunately, bugs come with the territory. We hadn’t been up to Haliburton in a couple of years and forgot just how ferocious mosquitoes and black flies are. Make sure to pack bug spray and a bug jacket. You’ll have a much better time, trust me.
The best way to get around the Haliburton Highlands is by car. If you don’t have your own, check out rental prices at RentalCars.com
Bring your Bicycle
With less traffic than the urban centre of Toronto, Haliburton is a great place to pack your bike and hit the road. There are plenty of mountain biking trails for all skill levels in Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Preserve. We used to mountain bike here a lot and in nearby Bracebridge. Check out all the trails here.
If you want to bring your road bike but aren’t sure where to go, you can book overnight cycling tours around Haliburton with Humdinger Cycling tours.
Going to the Movies? Check out Highlands Cinemas
I know what you’re thinking, why would I go to a movie theatre in cottage country? Well, this isn’t your average movie theatre. Located in Kinmount on the border of Haliburton Highlands and the Kawarthas, the Highlands Cinemas is a 550-seat complex with five theatres set in an unassuming-looking house. It has become a tradition for cottage goers to catch a showing of first-run films in a unique setting. Currently this cinema is closed due to pandemic struggles, but hopefully it will be able to open again soon. Updates are available here.
And these are some of the things to do in Haliburton to make the most of your summer. Do you have a cottage in Haliburton? Do you head up north once the sun shines? Let us know what else we should do on our next trip!
For more travels in Ontario read: