A weekend in Ontario’s Highlands

While living in Toronto Matt and I would travel back to Ottawa to see family and friends numerous times a year. We’d pass by small communities and towns like Tweed without ever taking time to wonder what lay deeper in this region. When the opportunity arose to visit Ontario’s Highlands, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to learn of all the beauty, fun and intrigue this area could offer.

We dusted off our backpacks, filled the gas tank, charged our cameras and set off to our #OHletsgo adventure!

Black River Retreat

Meet Trevor. He’s a real-life Renaissance man who hosted us at the Black River Retreat, a private resort in Tweed Ontario, that only caters to one couple at a time. Now, Matt and I aren’t used to evenings spent in a hot tubbing or spent relaxing in fur lined beds. However, for the sake of travel writing, we obliged.

Oh the things we do for the blog.

Ontario's Highlands

The intricate woodwork and smart design was no surprise as Trevor explained that he used to be a general contractor. He built the Black River Retreat from the ground up! He also flexed his culinary muscles in preparing a 4 course dinner worthy of a Michelin star restaurant or a mouth-watering Instagram post, you pick.

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His attention to detail didn’t stop in the architecture or in the kitchen. For instance, I was far too happy to find a ‘Make your own Smores’ kit in our suite. Yes, I’m a 28 year old woman that gets excited at the sight of marshmallows. Our suite also came with a fully stocked fridge, mosquito repellent and fishing rods, everything necessary for a fantastically rustic weekend. The property leads to the Black River where kayaks are offered for a more active afternoon.

Welcome to Haliburton

From the town of Tweed, we drove 2 hours (and a bit) towards Haliburton. Being in town was quite a change from our private couples’ oasis. However, we had heard of Haliburton’s quirky art scene and couldn’t resist a visit. With the reputable Haliburton School of the Arts of Fleming College and the famous Haliburton Art and Craft Festival which welcomes 130 artists, many from the region, it’s no secret that culture is alive and thriving.

We headed to Abbey Gardens, a rad community project. Their goal is to encourage to be sustainable when it comes to land, food, energy and economy. They do so by offering a market garden, a community kitchen, a Food Hub and educational workshops. We visited their market garden with Herb (yes, that’s actually his name) a green thumb genius. He gave us an informative walking tour of the gardens, teaching us about compost and permaculture, amongst other things.

Inside the building was an array of local products : produce, snacks and of course, local art. There were some great pieces and couldn’t resist bringing home artwork from local artist Jennifer Posti.

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We tried our hand at art fame – or infamy? – with a glassblowing workshop courtesy of Artech Studios. The company, located in Tory Hill, about 15 minutes away from Haliburton, was founded by Jennifer Wanless-Craig and Terry Craig, one of the coolest couples we’ve ever met. During the summer, their workshops are offered at Abbey Gardens.

First step towards our glassblowing career? Standing in front of a 2600 degree celcius furnace.

Yes, you read that right. 2600 degrees celcius.

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We ignored our sweaty foreheads and sizzling skin and listened carefully to Terry’s instructions. Spending a couple of hours learning the craft was mindblowing – pun intended – and created paperweights and glasses. And in case you’re wondering, Matt was a natural whilst my weak arms hindered any dreams of a professional glassblowing career.

The Old Schoolhouse Tea Room 

By now, you may have noticed that Matt and I are constantly on the lookout for quirky spots full of rich, personal stories.

This place fit the bill.

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Located in Ormsby, population 20, the schoolhouse was built in 1921. The building had many owners and different uses. Once its’ educational days were over, the schoolhouse was used to store hay and later rented to a mining company and finally, as a flea market. It was in 1997 that Ernie Pattison, famous trombone player, along with his then-fiancée Debbie decided roll up their sleeves and restore the schoolhouse for their wedding reception. In 2002, a kitchen was added and thus a Tea Room was born.

As I waited for my homemade lemonade and shepherds’ pie, I walked around to take this feast for the eyes. The schoolhouse is adorned with old maps, desks, books and even a vintage portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Eat your heart out David’s Tea, this place is the real deal.


Inspired to hit the road? Some useful links :

Black River Retreat 

Artech Studios

Abbey Gardens

Bonnie View Inn

The Old Schoolhouse Tea Room 


We were guests of Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization. However, all opinions are ours. 
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  • Janet

    Wow. Sounds like a very interesting area. I’ve also driven by these names without a second thought. Well have to mosey by some time. Thanks for the great report and pictures.

    • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

      Thanks a lot for the positive feedback Janet!

  • http://www.cassiedrake.com Cassie

    I can’t believe I just stumbled across your blog and this post! My cottage is in Haliburton, right down the street from Bonnie View. Although I’m currently living abroad, I am so missing our little slice of heaven back home. Thanks for this!

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