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Explore Peterborough & the Kawarthas By Planning a PTBO Picnic!

Taking part in the PTBO Picnic will allow Ontarians to explore Peterborough & the Kawarthas through a new lens, and one that is sure to have a meaningful impact on your appreciation of the region and its local shops, wineries, sites, and bakeries.

Fall for PTBO picnic
The picnic we gathered and appreciated in ZimArt Rice Lake Gallery. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

After a while, you begin to realize that it’s not just where you explore that matters, but also how. The approach that we take when visiting new places (or familiar places in a new way, for that matter) makes a difference.

On a larger level, that of course means visiting places with an open mind, and ideally with some kindness in your backpocket to share with anyone you might meet along the way, but it’s also sometimes fun to appreciate a region by establishing a theme that you’re going to focus on.

It can be as simple as saying that on a particular weekend, you’re going to visit an area of the province and, for example, see it through the lens of hiking, as a road trip destination, or really any other signifier.

Bri and I decided to head to Peterborough & the Kawarthas and to fully embrace the “fall couples getaway” angle. We looked through the list of their “Authentic Adventures,” and we settled on the “PTBO Picnic.” For those who don’t know, this “Authentic Adventures” campaign from Peterborough & the Kawarthas is all about honing in on unique adventures that are, in a way, beyond the standard must see and do lists that people associate with the area.

What Exactly is the PTBO Picnic?

Rolling Grape Vineyard
Bri and I enjoying some wine and sunshine at Rolling Grape Vineyard. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

The PTBO Picnic is a new experience which has just been launched, and which aims to get people out and moving this autumn. Firstly, it’s important to note that it’s only on for a very limited time, and will be running until October 10th.

It’s an ideal authentic adventure for four people but, as Bri and I discovered, it’s also fantastic for couples as you can grab some food from different locations (and also other local wares and treats) to bring along home with you. We’re still snacking on some of the delicious stuff that we brought back with us a few days after we did this and, let me tell you, neither of us are upset about it.

A note about this campaign on their website sums up this adventure perfectly!

“This experience for four people will have you sampling a delightful array of tried-and-true local favourites and experiencing the freshest fun that Peterborough & the Kawarthas has to offer.

Begin your adventure by picking up your picnic backpack, then foraging from five local stops (bakeries, wineries, and restaurants) before settling in to enjoy a feast that was carefully curated by you. As we always tell our visitors, feel free to slow your pace down and enjoy the scenery and memories made along the way.”

Bri and I would recommend that you set aside at least 3-4 hours for the entire experience, just to ensure you’re not rushed. For each place that you’re stopping, you have a gift card to use to help build up your “picnic basket,” so it’s worth it to talk to shop owners and use their expertise to curate the perfect spread for yourself.

You’ll have your picnic backpack with you to store items that you’ll want to stay cold, and it’s insulated. It also includes cups, napkins, plates, and everything you’d need to have the perfect picnic. If you do this experience during the week, you’ll grab your backpack from the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Visitor Centre, and on the weekend, you’ll pick up your backpack from your first stop, Hard Winter Bread Company.

Head here if you want to learn more about the cost for this experience, the gift card value that you’ll be allotted at each destination, the dates that this campaign is running, and more! When you look at the cost of the ticket, keep in mind that, typically, you’ll be splitting this among four people, and something like this could easily end up being the best day you have in a while. Seriously – Bri and I felt like we’d never done anything like this before, and it genuinely deepened our connection to the region. It’s good value, especially when you consider you get to keep the backpack!

Below, I’m going to run through a brief explanation (as well as our experience) at each of the destinations on this self-guided tour.

Final note – in total the driving tour is about 65 kilometres in length, which equals a little over an hour of driving time.

Stop 1: Peterborough & the Kawarthas Visitor Centre

On a weekday, this is where you’ll start your tour (279 George St. N, Peterborough). If I’m not mistaken, the PTBO Picnic experience runs from Thursday to Sunday, so that would mean you’re starting here if it’s a Thursday or Friday.

The visitor centre, as you might imagine, is a hub for free information to better help you explore the region. It’s still operating under restrictions at this time, understandably, but you can find our more about the visitor centre here. There’s a nifty little chat bubble that you can access in the bottom right of your screen if you’re keen to chat with them about your upcoming plans, or if you’ve got questions about the PTBO Picnic.

Stop 2: Hard Winter Bread Company

Fall for PTBO Picnic
Getting ready to use our gift certificate at Hard Winter Bakery. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

Often just called “Hard Winter Bakery,” you’ll find this spot on at Hunter Street E. in Peterborough. Welcome to your new favourite sourdough Ontario bakery! To set yourself up for your picnic, you should get a loaf of sourdough bread here. We got the Multigrain Sourdough Bread, which we both fell in love with at first bite.

One thing about Hard Winter, you can just tell that they keep things very simple. It’s almost like time travel back to a different time, where you know that you’re tasting natural ingredients, and nothing more. They’re also known for their bagels as well, I should quickly add.

This is a place where you’re going to want to eat with the season a little bit, so when you arrive, keep your eyes open on what they’re baking. We nabbed ourselves some Pumpkin & Spice Scones that were to die for, so you may want to do the same. You’re not really going to go wrong here though.

Before we left, we also nabbed a jar of Hunnabees Wetlands Raw Honey (located in Millbrook, Ontario). That’s really part of the fun of having the gift cards, you can also buy some products that you know you’ll take home with you. For example, for breakfast this morning, I added some of the honey into a smoothie, and it was delicious.

For reference, their hours are Wednesday to Friday, 8am-4pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9am-2pm. Remember to check hours where you can before you set out/during planning, so you don’t arrive somewhere when it’s closed.

Stop 3: Millbrook Mercantile

You want to talk about the value of taking part in something like this – how about finding one of your new favourite shops in Ontario?

You’ll find Millbrook Mercantile, not surprisingly, on the main strip in Millbrook, Ontario.

Bernadette and Lance are taking their collective experience from their past lives and professions and pouring it into Millbrook Mercantile. It’s a spot you can go for lunch, to prep and gather goods if you’re having people over, or simply to do a little shopping.

As they say on their site they offer:

“A truly wide array of wonderful products ranging from home décor and design, fashions and jewelry, health & wellness and body & beauty, gourmet fresh & prepared foods, a classic meat deli, and over 150+ fine cheeses from around the world, the Mercantile has it all.”

The diversity of offerings they have here is just staggering, especially as it relates to meat and cheese. To put it in perspective, for our picnic, here’s what we ended up walking away with: a tricolour gouda with a strong flavour of peppers, truffle cheese, salami, a Hot Pepper & Feta Dip that I’m fairly sure changed my life, olives stuffed with cheese, their homemade Bacon Jam, and in-house fresh Crostini.

Millbrook Mercantile opened their doors in the fall of 2019, and for all of our sake, I hope they continue to thrive for a very long time.

Stop 4: Pastry Peddler

Don’t leave Millbrook just yet, you’ve got another stop to make. This time, it’s Pastry Peddler, located just a short walk from Millbrook Mercantile.

They’re known as a great spot for lunch and brunch, but if you’re focused on gathering items for your picnic, then I’d go for the dessert angle. If you’re feeling up for it, you could even use your gift card here to nab a whole pie.

They’re well known for the desserts, so we loaded up on their famous Butter Tarts (which we’d highly recommend), as well as grabbing a few of their Chocolate Chip Cookies, which I thought were sprinkled with just the right amount of salt.

To keep the energy high, I grabbed myself my tea, Bri grabbed herself a coffee, and we got two Rice Lake Ciders for the future picnic. I also nabbed a little bag of tea they had on special for 5 bucks that I’ve had every morning since and have quite appreciated.

Stop 5: Doo Doo’s Bakery

Doo’s Doo’s Bakery, located in Bailieboro, is actually closed on Sunday, and since that’s when we did our explorations, we regettably weren’t able to pop-in. At Ultimate Ontario, we try to make sure that we aren’t speaking on things we haven’t personally experienced, so I can’t speak too much as to what Doo Doo’s is all about, but I can say that they’re very well known in this province for their passion for butter tarts.

I’ve personally got my eye on the Cheesecake Butter Tart for my next visit. Now, one thing that’s great about this PTBO Picnic campaign is that I still have the gift card. Bri and I plan to make a little trip out to Doo Doo’s sometime soon to use that card and load up on their butter tarts, cinnamon buns, and danishes – all of which are fresh baked daily.

Stop 6: Rolling Grape Vineyard

Live music at Rolling Grape.
Live music at Rolling Grape. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

Here’s another really neat spot that neither Bri nor I had on our radar prior to deciding to tackle this PTBO Picnic.

Rolling Grape is located in Bailieboro, just off County Rd. 2, and there’s a vibe and aesthetic that you fall into the moment you turn onto the road towards their establishment. It’s a building that’s more or less in the middle of the field, and you’re surrounded by the vines that grew the grapes you’re sipping on.

On Thursdays and Sundays, they’ve got live musicgreat live music. If you can, make a point of coming on one of those days. Bri and I, for example, showed up on Sunday in the early afternoon, and ordered a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc, which was very refreshing. I personally don’t appreciate white wines that are too sweet, so I enjoyed that their Sauvignon Blanc was nice and dry, but it still had a little sweetness in the aftertaste.

Many people around us also shared Rolling Grape’s charcuteries boards while listening to the live tunes and sipping on wine.

This was a stop we very much enjoyed, and let’s not forget that it’s an awfully good opportunity to load up on a little wine for your picnic. We bought a bottle, had a glass each there, then corked it and took the rest with us to sip on at our final stop – where the picnic blanket would finally be unfurled, and all the goodies we had amassed would be laid out!

Stop 7: ZimArt Rice Lake Gallery

Founded in 2000, this sculpture park is home to the greatest collection of Zimbabwean stone sculpture in Canada. It also happens to be a heck of a place to enjoy a picnic.

We left the food in the car for a moment, and first took some time to become better acquainted with the art. Afterwards, we grabbed our Peterborough backpack, and brought it over to the tables located near the edge of the sculpture park.

We then spent about an hour eating all the wonderful food we’d brought with us, sipping on wine, and taking in the truly remarkable surroundings.

As we were packing up, we realized that we’d more or less accidentally amassed this incredible array of memories and deeper connections to this region. How, for example, can I ever pass through Millbrook now without stopping in at Millbrook Mercantile and the Pastry Peddler? How can I ever roll past Peterborough without stopping to get myself a loaf of fresh sourdough?

That, in essence, is the beauty of an experience like this. Peterborough & the Kawarthas has put forth a map that they feel encapsulates some of the best of the best in the region, and we get to take part in that once, but have this newfound knowledge and experience for a lifetime.

This province is full of new experiences. I write about this province for a living, and I came across places on the PTBO Picnic that downright wowed me, and that I will be recommending to anyone who will listen moving forwards. Now that, to me, is something special, and I hope that if you do decide to take part of this before it’s over on October 10th, you’ll have much the same experience as me.

Bon appetite!

I want to humbly thank Peterborough & the Kawarthas for hosting us as media. All opinions are completely my own.

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