The City of Peterborough is considered the hub of the Kawarthas, and is the region's major business, education, cultural, and health care centre. This is a varied community -- a retirement city, but at the same time a university and college city. It has a permanent population of approximately 81,000 (2016).
Considering that Peterborough sits between two major Canadian cities (Toronto and Ottawa), it has managed to maintain a small-town friendly feel to it. By many, Peterborough is considered a retirement community; however, during the school year there is a thriving domestic and international student population. With its relaxed atmosphere and laid-back attitude, Peterborough allows the days to go by unnoticed. There is a big arts community in the city, meaning Peterborough is the best place in Central and Southern Ontario to create a band, become an artist, or showcase your talent.
As of 2020, Peterborough is going through an opioid and housing crisis.
Peterborough is well connected to the rest of Ontario by the highway network. Highway 115, which heads south from town, connects with Hwy 401. It is about an hour's drive to Oshawa and 1½ hours to downtown Toronto. Highway 7 skirts the southern edge of the city and connects Peterborough to Ottawa. The drive is about 3½ hours. Westbound on Highway 7 will take you to Oshawa and Toronto's northern suburbs, and provide connections to Orillia and Muskoka. Highway 28, to the east of the city, runs north through the Kawarthas and onto Bancroft.
- GO Transit, 190 Simcoe St, ☏ , toll-free: , (TTY). Commuter bus to Oshawa's train station every couple of hours during the day, connecting in Oshawa with the Lakeshore GO Train mainline to/from downtown Toronto. About 1 hr 10 min from Oshawa to Peterborough's bus station, or 1 hr 30 min to Trent University. Tickets from Oshawa are $14.30 and are tax-exempt. There is a luggage compartment on the bus and coach style seating but no other amenities. Buses that travel to Oshawa are timed to meet with the train; the train ride to Toronto is 52-63 minutes one-way. The combined train & bus fare to Toronto is $19.10.
Peterborough's heritage railway station has had no passenger train service since 1990. Oshawa's station is accessible by GO commuter bus.
Toronto Pearson International Airport, 150 km to the west, is the nearest major airport. Benson Airport Shuttle provides private service from $145 for one person, $170 for two (Apr 2020), by reservation. You can take the UP Express train ($9) to Toronto's Union Station, and a GO Transit bus from there to Peterborough.
The City of Peterborough has a fairly inconvenient public transit system, though they have made efforts to improve it. The regular bus fare is $2.50, $22 for a 10-ride pass, or $8 for a day pass for up to 2 adults and 4 children (July 2017). Passes are available at the Transit Terminal and Landsdowne Place. Discounts for seniors, students and children are provided only on monthly passes. The buses run to and from downtown bus terminal every 40 minutes, but are often either late or early, so arrive in advance. One positive aspect about the centrally located bus terminal is that the buses wait for each other, and depart at the same time. This is the leading cause for their sporadic times, but it is convenient if you need two buses to go somewhere.
Getting from downtown to Trent University is much easier, as there is a separate bus system, Trent West, and Trent East. During the school year they run every 10-20 minutes. Trent Weekend runs every 30-60 minutes on the weekends, and the holiday schedule is similar.
Peterborough downtown is easy to walk around, and most of the attractions and parks are within walking distance. Any farther trips will require a car or the transit bus. Lots of people bike around also, which is strongly encouraged, especially in the warmer months of the year.
There are good bike paths leading north west out of the downtown core, through Jackson's Park, that continue for several kilometres to the outskirts of the city. There is also a bike path along the east side of the Trent River that leads up to Trent University and, beyond that, all the way north to Lakefield.
Hailing a cab in downtown Peterborough is somewhere between difficult and impossible, so your best bet is to call in advance.
- 1 Canadian Canoe Museum, 910 Monaghan Rd, ☏ . M-W F-Sa 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-8PM, Su noon-5PM. Has displays of watercraft from Canada and around the world, plus exhibits on the role canoes and kayaks have played in Canada. Adult $12, seniors & students $9.50, family $30.
- 2 Lang Pioneer Village, 104 Lang Rd, Keene (head east out of town on Lansdowne St, turn right onto Heritage Line (County Rd 34) towards Keene), ☏ . Open mid-May to mid-Sept, plus special events at Halloween and Christmas. A collection of over 20 heritage and reconstructed buildings from the 1800s. Costumed "villagers" enact and recreate what life was like in 19th-century Peterborough County, including a blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, mills and ice house. There's also a gift shop, exhibits and an interpretive center on weaving and Jacquard Looms. Adults $8, seniors & students $7, child (5-14) $4.
- 3 Little Lake, Centennial Fountain and Del Crary Park, George St, between Rink & Perry. Pretty spot in summer with boats, parks and the fountain in the middle of the lake. Centennial Fountain, located in the middle of Little Lake, is the biggest jet fountain in Canada shooting water 75 m into the air. Del Crary Park provides good views of the lake and fountain, and the bandshell hosts numerous concerts in the summer. Fountain usually operates 10AM-midnight from late May to early Oct.
- 4 Market Hall, 140 Charlotte St (NE corner of George & Charlotte). Box office for the arts centre open M-F noon-5PM. Historic market building and Peterborough landmark since 1890, including the four-faced clock tower that looks over downtown. The ground floor is mostly retail while the second floor now hosts the Market Hall Performing Arts Centre. There's an exhibit in the ground floor lobby that displays the history of the building and nearby area.
- 5 Peterborough Lift Lock, 353 Hunter St E (Hunter St at Ashburnham Dr), ☏ . M-Th 9AM-6PM, F-Su 9AM-7PM. Built in 1904, the lift lock is the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world, raising boats 65 m. Watch the boats and lock operate from the bank of the canal or stop by the visitor's centre, which has exhibits and explains how the lock works. It's best to go in summer (between Victoria Day and Canadian Thanksgiving) when the Trent Severn waterway is operational.
- 6 Peterborough Museum & Archives, Museum Dr at 300 Hunter St E, ☏ . M-F 9AM-5PM; Sa-Su noon-5PM. Good spot to spend a couple of hours if you want to learn about the history of Peterborough and surrounding area. The exhibits, stories and photos take you through some of the local First Nations history, European settlement and the city's early growth. There is also an archives that is accessible by appointment and a small gift shop. The museum is on top of Armour Hill, which provides views of the city and area. Admission by donation.
- 7 Riverview Park & Zoo, 1300 Water St (main entrance at the corner of Water & Carnegie), ☏ . 8:30AM-dusk. Zoo and park on the banks of the Otonabee River that is great value, particularly for families with young children. Animals include camels, reindeer, yaks, monkeys, turtles, a river otter, birds, emus, wallabies and some farm animals. There's also a splash pad, several playground structures and a large grassy area with picnic tables. The train ride, which usually operates from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving (late May to early Oct), is also popular. Zoo, park and parking is free. Train ride is $2.
- Visit Trent University's Lady Eaton College. One of the best examples of modern architecture in Canada.
- Walk or hike along the many trails within and outside of Peterborough. Many of the abandoned railway tracks have been converted into paved trails, including the Rotary Trial along the Otonabee River.
- 1 Jackson Park, 610 Parkhill Rd (two entrances -- one at the corner of Monaghan & Parkhill, the other off of Fairbairn at the intersection of Parkhill & Fairbairn). Large, mostly undeveloped park along Jackson Creek popular with walkers and cyclists. The lake and Pagoda Bridge are nice spots for a stroll or to take in the view from the bench. There is also a playground for children. The Trans-Canada Trail runs through the park, continuing north of the city.
- 2 Liftlock & the Riverboat Cruises, 92 George St N (office and departure dock located at the Little Lake Peterborough Marina), ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Offers two-hour sightseeing or luncheon cruises on the Peterborough section of the Trent-Severn Waterway, including the Centennial Fountain and Peterborough Liftlock. There is also a dinner cruise option that goes downstream from Little Lake (so no Liftlock). The sightseeing cruise operates daily mid-May to mid-October (with more frequent departures in the summer). Sightseeing cruise: adult $26.50, senior & youth $24.50, child 5-12 $13.50; luncheon cruise $50.50; dinner cruise $57.50 (tax included in prices). Reservations required for luncheon and dinner cruises..
- 3 Little Lake Musicfest, Del Crary Park. Weekly outdoor live music running all summer long on Wednesday and Saturday nights. A great family event.
- 4 Peterborough Petes Hockey, Memorial Centre, 151 Lansdowne St, ☏ (box office). The local junior hockey team and an entertaining option if you want to catch a hockey game while in town. Games are usually 2-3 teams a week from Oct through April. Tickets can be purchased online through the Memorial Centre website or at the box office. adult $20-29, child $13-24.
- 5 Rogers Cove, Maria St, between Mark St and Rogers St. Small park with a beach, playground, splash pad and picnic tables with mature trees. The park provides views of Little Lake and the fountain. A short walk on a good trail at the south end of the park takes you to Lock 20 (of the Trent Severn Waterway), with additional picnic tables and views of Little Lake. The Lock is notable as one of the few remaining locks where the gates are opened manually.
With its rolling hills and many lakes and rivers, the Peterborough area is a good spot to do some traditional Canadian winter activities.
- 6 Skating on the Canal, Ashburnham Dr, below the Lift Lock (across from Liftlock Golfland). In winter, the area below the Lift Lock is turned into an outdoor skating rink that can be nearly 400 m long. Family skating is closer to the Lift Lock; hockey is closer to the Maria St bridge. Operations are weather-dependent — a flag will indicate the current status (green means safe, red means unsafe). Free.
Trent University is a small university with faculties in Arts, Business, Education and Science and Technology. It is best known for its undergraduate studies in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. The main campus occupies a beautiful spot spanning the Otonabee River in the far north end of the city (head out Water Street past the zoo and turn at Nassau Mills Road).
Fleming College is a College of Applied Arts and Technology. Its main campus is in the south-west corner of the city, off Brealey Drive.
Peterborough downtown presents a unique opportunity to try out various cuisines for various prices. Hunter Street, between George and Aylmer, especially now boasts a wide variety of places to eat. The downtown core has much more to offer in variety and authenticity than mall strips, like Lansdowne and Chemong.
- 1 Carousel Restaurant & Tavern, 116 Lansdowne St E, ☏ . M-W 7AM-10PM, Th-Sa 7AM-11PM, Su 8AM-10PM. Serves homestyle meals and is known for its buffet and Sunday brunch. $5-24.
- 2 Charlotte Anne's, 390 Queen St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-8PM, F 11AM-10PM, Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-4PM. Small restaurant in an old house, very busy at lunch. Good burgers and sandwiches, especially with the half Caesar half fries. Starters $5-14, mains $10-16.
- 3 Dancing Blueberries, 13-360 George St N (NE corner of George & Charlotte), ☏ . Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-10PM, Sa 10AM-10PM, Su 9:30AM-5PM. Café with a mix of omelettes, crepes, sandwiches, salads and waffles. The waffles are mostly sweet (heaps of fruit, ice cream, whipped cream and/or chocolate) while the crepes are mostly savoury. They also serve some decadent cupcakes. Service is sometimes inconsistent. $6-10.
- 4 Hot Belly Mamas, 378 George St N (next to The Olde Stone), ☏ . M-W 11:30AM-10PM, Th 11:30AM-11PM, F Sa 11:30AM-midnight, Su noon-10PM. Cajun-style dining. Try the sweet potato frites. Starters $7-14, mains $14-25.
- 5 St. Veronus Café and Tap Room (St. Veronus), 129 Hunter St W (SW corner of Hunter and Water), ☏ . Belgian pub oozing with ambiance. Extensive selection of beers, with a focus on Belgian (and Belgian style) brews. Fantastic wood decor, good moules frites. A solid proposition for a Saturday night.
Peterborough's small size is not a reflection of its excellent choice of watering holes. A list:
- 1 The Only Café, 216 Hunter St W (Hunter, east of Aylmer), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-2AM, Su 9AM-midnight. Bohemian, converted warehouse with a generous patio overlooking Jackson Creek. Fantastic during the summertime; Dortmunder Aktienbrauerei (DAB) and over twenty other beers on tap, and a pinball machine that's still just 25 cents a play. The Gordon Best theatre sits on top. Service can be slow, but the atmosphere is worth it. Brunch is served until 3PM, after that there is a small sandwich menu. Food $7-12.
- 2 The Red Dog Tavern, 189 Hunter St W (Hunter, east of Aylmer), ☏ . Noon-2AM. Down at heel blues joint that's actually two bars: the Red Dog and the Underdog. Good live acts.
- 3 The Olde Stone Brewing Company, 380 George St N, ☏ . M-Th 11:30AM-midnight, F Sa 11:30AM-1AM, Su noon-midnight. Traditional pub atmosphere with good food. They brew their own beers (with several standard offerings and a seasonal) and have a large selection of beers on tap. Starters $7-16, mains $13-16; Drinks $4.50-10.
- 4 Riley's Olde Time Pub, 251 George St N, ☏ . 11AM-2AM. Great Irish pub - best burgers in town. Also make a great French onion soup. Twenty beers on tap, There's also a rooftop deck, fireplace lounge, billiards tables and big-screen TVs to catch the game. Starters $5-14, mains $9-30.
- 5 The Sapphire Room, 137 Hunter St W, ☏ . M 8PM-2AM, Tu-Sa 4PM-2AM. Bohemian, grungy martini room in the East Village vein. Not bad. Drinks $5-9.
- 6 McThirsty's Pint, 166 Charlotte St (across from the Zoo bar on Charlotte), ☏ . M-Tu noon-1AM, W-Sa noon-2AM, Su noon-midnight. A nice, traditional neighbourhood pub with an extensive beer selection on tap. Good atmosphere. Snacks and meals $5-10.
- 1 Best Western Plus Otonabee Inn, 84 Lansdowne St E, ☏ , toll-free: . Inn on the Otonabee River with an indoor pool and whirlpool; rooms include mini-fridges, TV and coffee makers.
- 2 Comfort Inn & Suites, 1209 Lansdowne St W, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Indoor pool adjacent. All rooms include high-speed Internet. Eight suites have whirlpool tubs, the honeymoon suites have a fireplace and the executive suites come with a refrigerator and microwave. $135-185.
- 3 Holiday Inn Peterborough Waterfront, 150 George St N, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Just south of downtown Peterborough on Little Lake, small fitness facility. Rooms include wi-fi, mini-fridge, TV and coffee maker.
- 4 Peterborough Inn & Suites, 312 George St N, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Downtown hotel with 32 rooms; each room includes wi-fi, continental breakfast, a fireplace and jacuzzi. $120-150.
- 5 Quality Inn, 1074 Lansdowne St W, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. On-site business centre. Pet-friendly hotel. All rooms include TV, coffee maker, high-speed Internet. Some rooms have fridges and microwaves. Two suites include a fireplace and whirlpool tub. Rates start at $120.
While most of Peterborough remains somewhat safe, the downtown core, with a lot of bars in close proximity, has become a little dodgy. Avoid walking Aylmer St and Stewart St after dark. There has been a marked increase in vandalism, generally to nearby shops, and sometimes to parked cars. Leave the downtown core before the bars close and drunken patrons fill the streets looking for taxis or mischief. The Galaxy Cinema is in the same general vicinity as these bars: be careful when leaving a late show.
Violent and property crime has risen in Peterborough, which has been struggling with a severe opioid crisis, and had the most overdose deaths in the province in 2019. Assaults have become more common in park areas (such as Jackson Park). Don't walk alone. Many locals consider walking downtown at night (especially alone) to be unsafe.
- Head out on Highway 28 towards Petroglyphs Provincial Park. See pre-Columbian Indigenous rock carvings and hike out to High Falls. Stoney Lake is beautiful in summertime.
- Fenelon Falls
|Routes through Peterborough|
|Markham ← Lindsay ←||W E||→ Tweed → Ottawa|
|Toronto via ← Clarington ←||SW NE||→ ENDS|
|ENDS ← CR28 to Port Hope ←||S N||→ Lakefield → Bancroft|