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Adventure | Peterborough & The Kawarthas

AdventuresLesley PocklingtonComment
Adventures | A Guide to Peterborough and The Kawarthas

Adventures | A Guide to Peterborough and The Kawarthas

Updated June 10, 2018

Last week, I took you to my long time home of East Toronto. This week, I'm introducing you to my new home, Peterborough & The Kawarthas -- a gateway to cottage country, the two go hand in hand. While I'm still a newbie in this small city, it didn't take long to discover its gems. They go way beyond butter tarts, lift locks and canoes; but those are great too.

A quick 1.5 hours (or less) from Toronto, this little city boasts beautiful natural scenery and all the things you'd expect to find in an urban centre. Longtime locals, students (from Trent University) and expats mingle to create a casual vibe in this city that loves nature, art and good food. You'll find a bustling art scene with contemporary spaces,  loads of live music, and theatre performances in Peterborough and The Kawarthas. Peterborough even has its own Symphony Orchestra.

Summers are a dream in Peterborough. You can hop in canoe or kayak on the river (from downtown), visit quaint cottage country towns and lakes, and be back in time for a patio dinner on Hunter Street and a free concert under the stars -- all in one day. The towns of Lindsay, Lakefield, Bobcaygeon, Buckhorn and so many more offer their own unique charms and experiences throughout the lazy summer months.

Evans Contemporary Art Gallery    | Peterborough, Ontario.

Evans Contemporary Art Gallery | Peterborough, Ontario.

Peterborough may be a small city, but there is a BIG love for good food. There is a ton of local flavour in this city from farm to table food, to local wine and beer. It's all here from casual to posh. You can even enjoy a 6 course dinner IN the Peterborough lift locks during the summer. Here are a few of my favourite spots, but I'm still discovering new spots all the time.


EAT & DRINK

Two Dishes Cookshop
Specializing in comfort food and HUGE portions, Two Dishes is always lined up or full as soon as the doors open. The food really is delicious, just come prepared with a big appetite for things like fried chicken, pan bread, hearty breakfasts, lunches, sweets and so much more. As seen on the Food Network's "You Gotta Eat Here".

St. Veronus Cafe & Tap Room
A Belgian style pub in downtown Peterborough, this spot offers up a lengthy list of imported beer. My favourite is the Vedette -- a wheat beer that's almost always on tap. Try the moules frites (blue cheese) and the vegetarian pate. Both are tremendous, as are their bigger plates.

Publican House Brewery + Smithavens Brewery
Local brews are a plenty thanks to these two local spots. Both sell their craft beer at their retail spots in Peterborough. The Publican House is set to open a gastropub this summer (2017) and Smithavens often has Ellie's BBQ in-house. For a steal too. $11 gets you a pint of craft beer, a brisket sandwich and two southern sides. So good!

BE Catering
Unpretentious, comforting and delicious is BE Catering. Yes, of course they cater events and weddings in the area; but they also have a small luncheonette in Peterborough at the corner of Charlotte and Park Streets. It'a around the corner from me, so you'll often find me grabbing a morning Americano or stopping in for one of their lunch specials. I anxiously wait for their take on Banh Mi every week. Self described as a place to find happening food, I'd have to agree this place to find yourself.  

Amuse Coffee Co.
A lovely French inspired coffee and tea shop will greet you just north of downtown on George Street. Lindsay, the owner, is wonderful at dreaming up new baked goods and beverages that will delight your taste buds all year round. The decor and ambiance will make you feel like you've landed in Paris.

Caffeina Espresso Bar
This hip espresso bar is a great place to work, meet locals and drink espresso, of course. I love the cortados and grab-and-go lunch offerings. It's right in the heart of downtown on Hunter Street with a small patio, but big heart. Weekend visits often include live and local music.

Le Petit Bar
A quaint, but delightful and chic spot -- Le Petit Bar is a wine bar and sister to St Veronus next door. The wine list is always changing and features local wines and wines from abroad. The charcuterie options are top shelf with choices of local cheese, meats, and smoked salmon paired perfectly with fruit, mustards and honey. Speaking of top shelf, I love watching the bartender use a ladder to fetch things from the ceiling high shelves. Come for Sparkling Thursdays where you can taste Prosecco cocktails for $6. Salud!

Farmer's Markets
Peterborough loves its farmer's markets and it shows in the culinary scene. There is a distinct respect for supporting local farmers. I love them too. Markets run every Wednesday throughout the summer, and Saturday all year-round (there are 2 on Saturday -- that's a whole other story). Shopping seasonally is made easy by these farmers. Hard Winter Bread Co. makes bagels right at that market that rival Montreal's. You have to get there early, but it's worth it. Don't forget smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Kawartha Coffee Company
This quaint spot is not to be missed while in Bobcaygeon. Of course, there's always coffee brewing at the Kawartha Coffee Company; but stay for lunch, some sweets or even a beer. They pride themselves on offering local food with global flavour and occasionally, live music.

Two Dishes Cookshop | Charlotte Street in Peterborough, Ontario. Art by    Holly Young   .

Two Dishes Cookshop | Charlotte Street in Peterborough, Ontario. Art by Holly Young.

Watson & Lou    | Water Street in Peterborough, Ontario.

Watson & Lou | Water Street in Peterborough, Ontario.

SHOP LOCAL

Burrow Home
This shop on Hunter Street is stocked with modern furniture, housewares and gifts. Megan, the owner, has impeccable taste and will help you find anything you need. She offers brand like Gus Modern and Drake General alongside local artists and craftsmen.

Watson & Lou
Brand new to Peterborough, you'll find Watson & Lou on Water Street in the downtown core. It's a hub for local makers, art lovers, and the latest in hip handmade goods for the home. Owners Anna and Erin are proud to present the best of local goods with half of their stock coming from makers in the Nogojiwanong/Peterborough region. Watson & Lou also offers a creative work space for co-working and events/workshops.

Flavour Fashion
This casual shop is a fixture in Peterborough and part of the group that owns the freshly reimagined SOS (for the ladies) and newly opened Providence (for the dudes -- complete with an in-house barber and bar) Sneakers and street wear are in abundance at this shop on George Street, but my favourite items are the tees that represent local towns and neighbourhoods. From Havelock to Keene, and everywhere in between. Nothing claims love for this small city more than a PTBO tee or sweatshirt.

Stony Lake Furniture Co.
20 minutes north of Peterborough is the sweet little town of Lakefield. Here, you'll find the shop and full studio, Stony Lake. A posh, but causal shop that services locals and cottage folk alike. You'll find cozy home furnishings, rugs, decor items and gifts. The owner, Lisa, also specializes in interior design to help bring dream cottages (and homes) to life. Don't forget to say hello to the famous pup, Owen, while visiting.

Douglas + Son
A little further west, you'll find Douglas + Son in the town of Bobcaygeon. Yes! The town from the Tragically Hip song. The owners left life in Toronto and moved to the country to open this idyllic shop. This shop offers up new goods and vintage finds for the home, but they also have tees and sweatshirts. Casual, but well styled goods.

Gilstorf & Gray
Also located in Bobcaygeon, is Gilstorf & Gray. A fine home and gift shop that specializes in cottage decor. It has an airy and timeless vibe where you'll find artisan goods from local and Canadian makers. It has a hygge feeling about it with so many soft textiles, and warm wood pieces.

LOCAL EXPERIENCES

Peterborough and The Kawarthas are the perfect spots to experience Ontario at its best. Getting outside is just part of life here, and so is soaking in local culture and music. I love the big city; but if you're open to embracing the hygge life year-round (simplicity), you'll get a taste of the good life in Peterborough and The Kawarthas.


Live music can be found in Peterborough all year round. Small venues give you a chance to see some of your favourite bands up close and personal and tickets are very reasonable, or free. No summer in Peterborough is complete without a night at Peterborough Music Fest. Free performances take place outdoors two nights a week all summer long. If that's not enough, the Peterborough Folk Festival takes place in August featuring some of the best Canadian music. And it's also free.

4th Line Theatre and Westben Theatre offer theatre and musical performances throughout the year. Located in quaint country spaces (barns), these theatres attract locals and cottagers to take in a piece of Canadian culture under the stars.

There are countless ways to get outside in this area. Treat yourself to a "nature bath" and enjoy the natural beauty by foot, bike or canoe/boat. In the summer, avoid the crowds and head to Laveanne Lavender Fields near Port Hope to enjoy the lavender blooms. Visit local beaches in cottage country. Or, head to the Trent Hills to explore. Warkworth is adorable and deserves its own blog post. A few of my favourite spots to get outside in the summer are Petroglyphs Provincial Park, the Warsaw Caves and Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary.

In the winter, you can snowshoe and ski (downhill or cross-country) near Peterborough. The Kawarthas offer a Nordic Centre and Devil's Elbow and Brimbacombe are a short drive away. There are just too many spots to mention in one post. I'll leave it for another day after exploring more in this beautiful area.


Have I convinced you that Peterborough is the place to be yet? You have to get out here to see and feel it for yourself. Did I mention house prices are a steal?! Come by and visit, or be my neighbour. And, if I've missed some spots, I'd love to hear about them. I've only just begun exploring and would love to learn more. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

These are swell too:

Adventure | A Guide to East Toronto

Adventures, TorontoLesley PocklingtonComment
Adventures | A Guide to East Toronto by Swell Made Co.

Adventures | A Guide to East Toronto by Swell Made Co.

Since 2007, East Toronto has been my home. I love East Toronto. While there have been some breaks (I am currently in Peterborough, ON), I'll always be an East Ender. I know every East End street, I have defended it fiercely over the years, my son was born there, and every time I arrive in the East End, I just feel a sense of calm. It's my happy place.

You may think you know Toronto's East End; but do you, really? It's a part of the city that sometimes lays low. You have to dig a little  deeper to truly know it. Come east of the DVP with me, as I take you on a guide of my favourite spots in the neighbourhoods including The Beaches, Leslieville, and Riverdale. The Danforth and Little India and everywhere in between. Welcome to the beloved other side.


Bodega Henriette | Cafe, shop bar and eatery on Gerrard Street East, Toronto.

Bodega Henriette | Cafe, shop bar and eatery on Gerrard Street East, Toronto.

Often considered "lacking" in the culinary department, I'm going to challenge that. It's not the case, at all. Sure, you'll find Toronto chainlets like La Carnita, Sweet Jesus, Tabule, Queen Margarita Pizza, Dark Horse and Box Car Social (all wonderful) and other transplants in these 'hoods, but here's where it's really at.


EAT + DRINK

The Shore Leave
Head to the Danforth's Tiki style bar for in-house tropical drinks and snacks. This spot promises a fun night out. Bring a group of friends and share a punch bowl. It might be quiet on the outside, but it's buzzing and warm inside.

Bodega Henriette
Tucked away on Gerrard Street East this local coffee shop, convenience shop, bar and eatery is as sweet as they come. Delicious food and drinks with chic decor keep the locals coming back to this spot on the corner. Try their other corner spot, Eulalie's, mentioned below.

The Green Wood
You'll find this hip spot Queen Street East just before Coxwell. Brunch to dinner options are served here, as well as items to grab on the go. It has a comfy and bright California vibe and loads of fresh options made with love.

Lake Inez
In Little India, you'll find Lake Inez. A mix of Asian street food and craft beer that just works so well. If you're familar with the Wren on the Danforth, you'll love this spot. Just look for the unassuming, but welcoming, door to find out what's inside. You'll enjoy it. Guaranteed.

Eulalie's Corner Store
Just a few doors up and over from Lake Inez, Eualalie's Corner store is another neighbourhood secret that offers delicious in-house cocktails and casual eats. I love the chicken and waffles, and the flamingo wallpaper. Start or finish your night here.

Maha's
Egyptian brunch is a must-try at Maha's on Greenwood. This place is always packed, so be prepared to arrive early or wait. It's worth it. Traditional Egyptian food paired with a honey cardamom coffee is the best way to start any day. Just not Wednesday, because Maha's is typically closed.

Lady Marmalade
A mainstay in the East End on Queen Street East, Lady Marmalade is another delicious brunch spot offering savoury and sweet waffles, Eggs Benny (with mango and avocado, yes!) like nowhere else. Plus, more! Again, be prepared to line up Portlandia style unless you arrive early.

Tori's Bakeshop
Now available in the Canary District, Tori's originated in the Beach neighbourhood on Queen Street East. Natural, organic and vegan baked goods that will blow your mind can be found all day. Having lunch? The coconut bacon BLT is the BEST. You may bow down and never go back to real bacon. 

Godspeed Brewery
The long anticipated Godspeed Brewery is finally open on Coxwell south of Gerrard. You can buy local brews at the retail space and the unpretentious brewpub is scheduled to follow soon.

Left Field Brewery
The established East End brewery, Left Field, offers craft brews inspired by a love for baseball. With names like Wrigley and Maris. High on hops, they offer distinct beer that can stand on taste alone. 

The Green Wood | Queen Street East, Toronto.

The Green Wood | Queen Street East, Toronto.

RC Harris Water Treatment Plant | Art Deco Architecture in East Toronto.

RC Harris Water Treatment Plant | Art Deco Architecture in East Toronto.

There's so much to see and do in this part of the city. Toronto truly is a "City of Neighbourhoods" which all have their own distinct personalities and flavours. Its' what makes Toronto, so Toronto. Come to the East End and you'll a chill and relaxed vibe. Soak it in all year round at some of my favourite spots.


Girls, girls, girls | Tribute wall art in the stairwell of the Broadview Hotel, Toronto.

Girls, girls, girls | Tribute wall art in the stairwell of the Broadview Hotel, Toronto.

SEE + DO

Beaches Boardwalk
See what all the fuss is about on the Beaches Boardwalk. It turns out, it's worth it, right? Stroll a long the shores Lake Ontario and the city's most beautiful beaches on the Boardwalk from Woodbine moving east. A Great Lake in the city! How lucky are we? Want to head further east? The Scarborough Bluffs are equally stunning, but may I suggest choosing a weekday visit? Unless you love crowds.

Glen Stewart Ravine
A hidden gem and perfect way to discover Toronto's green spaces, the Glen Stewart Ravine is a place that feels miles away from Toronto. Soaring trees and bubbling creeks follow you on your walk as you pass happy dogs and neighbours. 

RC Harris Water Treatment Plant
A pristine example of Art Deco architecture, you must visit this gigantic space on the shore of Lake Ontario. Tucked away at the end of Queen Street East (where the streetcars turn), you can wander the outdoor space surrounding this gorgeous building. Better yet, come during Open Doors TO for a peek inside. It's fascinating to think this type of architectural detail was dedicated to a water treatment plant.

The Broadview Hotel
The newly refurbished building at the corner of Broadview and Queen (formely Jilly's) is about to have its official grand opening as The Broadview Hotel. This beautiful boutique hotel features a roof top restaurant and terrace, and cafe and bar to enjoy brunch to dinner. Every ounce of this space is stunning and definitely worth visiting, or booking a room for a little staycation.

This hotel will transform the East End. Just think of it as the West End's Gladstone Hotel with a similar style and vibe that's be designed just for the East End. Queen East will rival Queen West with this new neighbourhood gem. 

Riverdale Park on Broadview
The best views of city (aside from the Island) can be enjoyed from this rolling and expansive green space. Grab a coffee from Rooster Coffee House on Broadview and enjoy a good book or some simple downtime in this relaxed space in the middle of it all.

Danforth Music Hall
Some of the city's best musical acts perform at the casual Danforth Music Hall. This is my favourite spot to see live music in Toronto. Mostly because it's close to home, but also because the vibe is so chill. See your favourite bands here first in the "intimate" atmosphere. If you're looking for a place to eat before a show, Seven Numbers offers up a pre-show Italian family style meal. Mmmm.

Little India
Little India or The Gerrard India Bazaar is one of my favourite 'hoods in the East End. It's teeming with good food, eclectic finds, spice markets and fun events. If you're up for Indian food, my two favourites are Lahore Tikka House and Udupi Palace (vegetarian). After dinner, grab Kulfi pops from any convenient store and stroll around. You'll also find recently rooted restaurants and shops mentioned above and below.

Collected Joy | Kingston Road in Kingston Road Village, Toronto.

Collected Joy | Kingston Road in Kingston Road Village, Toronto.

Birch & Co. | Gerrard Street East in Toronto.

Birch & Co. | Gerrard Street East in Toronto.

Some of Toronto's best brands and shops are located in the East End. Here are just a few of my favourite spots to pick up all kind of goods. Small is the new mall. Avoid the crowds and shop local at these sweet shops.


SHOP LOCAL

Birch & Co.
Owned and curated by East Ender, Tanya, this sweet shop has perfect finds for gift and home. Lots of local goods can be found in store.

Collected Joy
In Kingston Road Village you'll find one of my favourite shops, Collected Joy. Everything in store truly brings you joy. From the huge stationery wall to the local goods from brands like Lovefresh, Dalish, Akai Ceramics and even Swell Made Co. Grab a caramel at the counter. They're the best. 

Good Neighbor
Found in a tiny house at Carlaw and Queen, is this hip boutique for men and women. They also have gifts, housewares and cute things for kids. Come for the fashion, stay for the best sneaker collection in the East End.

Token
Token in Riverdale has cute and quirky gifts and a great record collection. You'll know you're there when you can't stop staring at the hologram wallpaper as you walk in. Tiny, but fierce; this shop is a gem.

Black Rooster
Straight out of the pages of a magazine (literally), Black Rooster has everything for gift and home with an extra bit of panache and style. Top-quality furnishings that are made to last are their specialty.

Queenie's Cards
Newly opened, Queenie's cards is a bubblegum pink shop full of fun at Coxwell and Danforth. Longtime lovers of Queenie's cards (and so much more) will find her entire line a long with other cute Kawaii inspired brands like Pusheen and Pocky.

Toronto Yoga Mamas
This zen yoga and learning space for mom and baby is also home to a lovingly curated gift shop. you'll find the best local goods in  skincare, nursery decor and baby fashion. I can never say no to a tiny baby bathing suit!

Enjoy the East End, swell friends. Did I miss anything? Just let me know by commenting below.

Adventure | Washington D.C. with Kids

Family, AdventuresLesley PocklingtonComment
Adventure | A Guide to Washington D.C. with Kids by Swell Made Co.

Adventure | A Guide to Washington D.C. with Kids by Swell Made Co.

In May, we took a much needed break and headed to New York City and Washington D.C. as a family (auntie + uncle included). New York City is always fun; but never having been to Washington D.C. as a family, we really enjoyed our time together in a new city. Washington D.C. is beautiful and family-friendly with so much to see and do. And eat! The best part, so many things are free! Known as the Capitol of Free, which is reassuring when traveling as a family. We'll be back again soon. Here is a quick guide to some of our favourite family spots in D.C.


Washington D.C. is known for its food and restaurants. As of late (past decade), the scene has changed dramatically and it shows. Read more about that here. During the week, you'll find food trucks lining the streets around the downtown core, high-end and diverse dining is abundant, and you'll easily find everything in between. Here are a few of our favourite family-friendly choices. My sister-in-law is an expert at finding fun restaurants, so I give her all the credit for helping us track these down. Most of these are (by coincidence) "chainlets". Meaning, you'll find multiple locations throughout the city and surrounding area.

EAT + DRINK

Busboys & Poets
Described as a haven for writers, thinkers and performers from America's progressive social and political movements, Busboys & Poets is a restaurant, lounge, theatre and book/gift shop. This casual spot offers southern comfort food (and more) and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere.
busboysandpoets.com

Founding Farmers
A love for local, seasonal food fuels this farm-to-table American restaurant. Rustic-chic, you'll find brunch to dinner at this busy spot. Try the beignets and sausage at breakfast and a cauliflower steak for dinner. 
wearefoundingfarmers.com

We, The Pizza
Need to nosh on the go. Kids love pizza, am I right? We, The Pizza has NYC style pizza by the slice or pie. Wash it down with homemade sodas.
wethepizza.com

Ted's Bulletin
Ted’s Bulletin is an American classic with a bit of style, complete with savoury homemade food and a family friendly atmosphere. Try the homemade pop tarts, pies, and cakes. Kids and adults will love the shaketenders and baristas who can whip up a custom milkshake — with or without alcohol (seen below).
tedsbulletin.com

District Doughnut
Handcrafted daily, District Doughnuts offers delicious pastries with signatures flavours: Brown Butter and Salted Dulce de Leche. They serve the nation's capital with a penchant for classic and internationally-inspired flavours and a commitment to Washington's history and creative spirit.
districtdoughnut.com

Adventures with Kids in Washington D.C. | Smithsonian National Gallery of Art

Adventures with Kids in Washington D.C. | Smithsonian National Gallery of Art

As mentioned above, Washington D.C. is the "Capitol of Free", so don't worry about breaking the bank. And for Canadians, this makes the current exchange rate easier to swallow. From concerts, festivals/events, renowned galleries and museums, there are so many things to do as family for free. Or, almost nothing. This stands true for anytime of year.

SEE + DO

Smithsonian Museums, Galleries & Zoo
Come to Washington D.C. to see the Smithsonian museums, galleries and zoo and you pretty much have your trip planned. There are so many intriguing properties and collections to see. Kids will especially love the Museums of Natural History, Air and Space and American History. Parents will love a little quiet time in the American Botanical Gardens and National Art Galleries (including the outdoor sculpture garden) and the Renwick Gallery (seen below), which are also great for kids.

While not downtown, don't forget to take trip to the zoo and explore the animals and park system. The best part of all, everything is FREE! Giving you a chance to visit them all, not once, but as many times as you like.
si.edu

International Spy Museum
Not free like the Smithsonian museums, but high on entertainment value, this museum guides you through an exciting look at the history of spies. Our kids are 7 and 4 and they thoroughly enjoyed this museum; although I'm sure older kids would get more out if it. Be sure to let staff know you're a family and you'll be given a special task with a surprise at the end. My 7 year old daughter loved solving puzzles and deciphering secret messages as we learned about spies. It had an "escape room" vibe which is fun (not scary).
spymuseum.org

The Newseum
The Newseum promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Considered one of the most interactive museums in the world, the Newseum experience also traces the evolution of electronic communication from the birth of radio, to the technologies of the present and the future. I'd recommend this museum for "bigger kids" (10 and up).
newseum.org

Playgrounds, Parks & The Potomac
Take a break from the tourist spots and explore the neighbourhoods of Washington D.C. where you'll be delighted by "epic" playgrounds (Palisades Playground seen below). See a list of the best ones here. D.C. is lush and green and full of parks, trail systems and gorgeous neighbourhoods to enjoy the outdoors and be active. This is the best way to live like a local and explore. If you want to get wet, check out the Yards Park at the Capitol Riverfront in the summer (or skate in the winter). You can certainly walk the parks; and if you're so inclined, see the outdoors from a kayak or paddle boat along the scenic (a tidal basin) Potomac River.

Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts
When you visit Washington D.C. be sure to see what's on at the "Ken Cen". There are free performances on the Millennial Stage every night at 6 pm! Regular performances start shortly after and tickets are reasonably priced. The types of performances vary from folk music to orchestra and so much more. There's something for everyone.
kennedy-center.org

The Mall
You can't visit Washington D.C. without a trip to The Mall. Take a walk among the monuments and visit the galleries and museums that line it. There's lots of room to move about as a family, and so much to learn about American history. Use the Circulator to get around easily from site to site. It's a bus system designed for those touring the sites with regular frequency. It's a $1 to ride each time (kids are free). The routes also extend beyond the mall.

I didn't get into accommodations, but there are plenty of places to stay in Washington D.C. As a group of six, we found it best to rent an apartment through Airbnb to give everyone a bit of space. It also allowed us to explore neighbourhoods like Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights away from downtown, which I'd highly recommend. We just happened to be steps from one of the zoo entrances which was a huge bonus with kids.

That's it! Just a quick and easy guide to Washington D.C. If you have suggestions for family-friendly things to see, do or eat in D.C. I'd love to hear them. Feel free to comment below as we'll definitely make a trip to Washington D.C. again. Politics aside, there truly is something for everyone and it's a fascinating place to see where history has taken place for generations. Not to mention, it makes watching House of Cards so much more intriguing ;)

Thanks for reading. Enjoy!

Adventures with Kids in Washington D.C. | Lincoln Memorial. Martin Luther King Jr. Quote.

Adventures with Kids in Washington D.C. | Lincoln Memorial. Martin Luther King Jr. Quote.

Adventure | Top 5 Tips for Iceland

AdventuresLesley PocklingtonComment
Skogafoss

Skogafoss

There's no denying Iceland is having a moment right now. It seems everyone I know is going to, or has been to the land of fire and ice recently. We spent 2 weeks in Iceland this past August and it was nothing short of spectacular. While we didn't make it around the entire ring road, we certainly packed in a lot of adventure with two littles (6yo and 3yo) in tow. We all had a grand time.

Time away from the regular grind should be awe-inspiring (read about the science behind that claim) and there is no shortage in Iceland. At every turn you'll find something wild and beautiful. Nothing like you've ever seen, because there really is nowhere on earth that compares (geologically speaking). I'm no expert, but I thought I'd share a few of my top 5 tips for travelling in Iceland, just in case you're making the journey yourself for the first time.

It's a bit of a mish-mash, and I'm not going to tell you about the top sights or restaurants - there are tons of other great posts about those things (see resources way down below). Instead, here are a few tips that are a little different. 

1 - GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH

There are countless places to seen off the beaten path. Iceland is fascinatingly full of natural wonder and "secret" places you can have to yourself. At least, for a little while. You'll need a vehicle (likely a 4x4), but it's worth the trek. Don't be afraid to veer off the Golden Circle route and explore some little known gems in the area. Bring a picnic too! 

The same goes for any part of the country. Whether you head to the south or east coasts, or around the entire island, wonders are yours to discover. Definitely, go west (see tip 4). Just be sure you don't take F-Roads unless authorized by your car rental provider.


  • Brurafoss Falls - These elusive icy blue falls are tricky to find, but worth the trek and just minutes off the Golden Circle. This short hike was one of the highlights of our trip because we were the only ones there. Here are the best directions. 
     
  • Gjain Valley + Haifoss Falls - Past Fludir, head east to the magical land of Gjain. Another tricky spot to find. It's named one of the most beautiful spots in Iceland. Here are the best directions. If you've made it this far, you may as well visit the jaw-dropping Haifoss falls as well. Here are more directions!
     
  • Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon - Heading east? After you pass the curious and mossy Eldhraun lava fields, be sure to make a stop at this majestic canyon with a calm river that meanders through it. This otherworldly sight is a must visit. 
     
  • Gljúfrabúi Falls - You'll no doubt visit Seljalandsfoss as you drive the ring road, but don't overlook Gljúfrabúi falls. Just a mere 600m from Seljalandsfoss, it's slightly hidden and often missed. Do the extra walk and you won't be disappointed. How often do you get to enter a cave and walk directly under a cascade of water?
     
  • Vestmannaeyjar Islands - Do you have an extra day or two to relax? If so, head to the Vestmannaeyjar islands for a slow-paced visit to a beautiful collection of volcanic islands with an intriguing history. Some of the country's most idyllic hikes, best restaurants and friendliest people can be found here. 
Brurafoss

Brurafoss

2 - EMBRACE WATER

In Iceland, there is water, water everywhere. For us, it became a consistent theme throughout our trip. Whether we were chasing waterfalls (too many to count) or bathing in the the country's warm community pools or lagoons. Much of Iceland's water comes from natural geothermal sources and it's as pure as you'll ever find.

Don't buy bottled water! You can drink from the tap the entire time you're there. Just bring a re-useable bottle. 


The choice is yours, you can wade in natural hot pots and rivers, old lagoons or brand-new community pools with plenty of room to wallow and even slide. They're inviting and warm all year round. The pool is to Iceland, as the pub is to Britain - a place to de-stress and enjoy conversation with your neighbours and friends. Here is a great list of top swimming experiences Iceland. And more specifically with kids, here is another list.

Just remember, you're required to have a full shower with soap (naked), unless you want to be stared at in the pool. It's a huge faux-pas to not shower beforehand. Chlorine is almost non-existent in Iceland. Do your part and keep the water clean. 


  • Blue Lagoon - While it's the largest (busiest) attraction in Iceland, you can't come to Iceland without taking a dip in the Blaa Lonid. The images of serene blue water are probably what peeked your interest in Iceland in the first place. Go! Enjoy. It's as dreamy as it looks.
     
  • Secret Lagoon - Just off the Golden Circle route in Fludir you'll find one of Iceland's oldest and original community pools. Taking pride in providing a natural experience, Gamla Laugin, still has all the amenities you would find at a posh pool. Float around looking for natural hot spots while watching bubbling geysirs. There's also a wonderful bakery in town for a treat after (just look for the signs).
     
  • Seljavellir - Nestled in a narrow valley in the shadow of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, this is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. Take a short hike through a valley where you'll be treated with this humble warm pool tucked amongst the mountains. Here are directions
     
  • Reykjadalur Hot River - Take a short hike and wade in a hot river. Yes, that's right! Pack your suit and towel and experience the real Iceland. Here are directions
     
  • Community Pools - From Reykjavik to Hofn and every small town in between, you'll find some of the loveliest community pools. It's a civic right to have a well-appointed pool in your community in Iceland. They're warm, clean, and fun (slides!). It's the best way to experience Icelandic life. Not sure where to go? Just look for a sign with a head above wavy lines in any town, and you've found the pool. 

    Laugardalslaug is the largest pool in Reykjavik and worth a visit. It's also part of the city's largest park complete with botanical gardens and a dreamy cafe. And a zoo with epic playground! Make an afternoon of it. Here is a complete list of pools in the Reykjavik area. The one in the Vestmannaeyjar islands was our favourite, complete with various slides and a climbing wall. Here is another great list of the best community pools across the country.
swellmadeco-reykjavik.jpg

3 - LIVE LIKE A LOCAL

While staying in Iceland, live like a local and rent apartments or rooms through booking sites like AirBnb. This will undoubtedly give you a peek into local life and provide a comfortable stay. Places are available across the country. From cabins to farmstays, you'll experience the real Iceland and meet friendly locals. 

You've probably heard, Iceland is expensive. It's true. You'll feel the pinch most when eating out, which you should definitely do (it's worth it). However, if your accommodation has cooking facilities you can save some money by shopping locally at grocery stores like Kronan. Buy local seafood, lamb, cheese/dairy and other goodies so you don't feel like you're missing out. Bakeries are tremendous with loads of local sweet treats. They also offer very reasonably priced sandwiches to pack for road trips or picnics. For wine and beer, head to the Vínbúðin shops for the best prices. We're Canadian and didn't find the prices of groceries and liquor to be that much more than home. You'll notice a lack of fresh produce though. Remember how far north you really are!

As mentioned above in tip 2, one of the best ways to experience Iceland is through its pools. To understand Iceland's water culture, read here.


  • Bakeries - Delicious and resonably priced. Bakeries are the best way to stay on a budget and treat yourself to something local. Try the kleinur (twisted donuts) and cakes. Just try it all. Sandwiches for picnics are a "steal" at local bakeries.
     
  • Hot Dogs - When in Iceland, do as the locals do and try pylsur with everything on it. These aren't your typical North American hot dogs. Local, free-range lamb and pork hot dogs are served with ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade and crispy onions. One isn't enough (they're small), so save yourself lining up twice and get two. You might want to pick up Icelandic mustard to take home from Kronan. It's so tasty!
     
  • Dairy - Icelander's are proud of their dairy, and rightfully so. Try the skyr (yogurt) and ice cream. It's the best you'll ever have. Well-crafted and pure, Icelandic dairy farms are still small and it shows in the outstanding products.
     
  • Seafood - Iceland is surrounded by the sea making it an ideal place to try seafood. Salmon, cured fish, lobster and langoustine. Seek what your heart desires and you'll not be disappointed.
     
  • Music - Sure, you know Bjork is from Iceland; but did you know that Of Monsters of Men, Kaleo and Sigur Rios are products of this proudly creative country as well? Listen local.  
     
  • Design - Like other Nordic countries, Icelanders have an innate sense of design which I can only assume comes from a culture that has boundless inspiration from its natural surroundings. Of course, they also greatly support the arts and design.

    Just look at the Harpa Concert Hall and Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik, where inspiration comes from the basalt columns found throughout Iceland. Visit the country's many sculpture gardens, galleries and design shops. They are well-curated and inspiring. You might even find something to take home.
Kirkjufell

Kirkjufell

4 - GO WEST

Many travellers arriving in Iceland head straight for the Golden Circle (after the Blue Lagoon). In keeping with tip 1; why not head the other direction and go West to the Snaelfellsnes Pensisula, or even further to the West Fjords? Visit a glacier, see charming fishing towns, countless waterfalls, secret hot pots, and take in coastal views (dramatic cliffs to rolling beaches). All in one day. 

The paths are less traveled, but equally stunning. It's a nice quiet way to ease into your time in Iceland if you have more than a few days. Some of these sights are only one hour from Reykjavik. It's easy to explore something different even if you're short on time. Here's a a great guide.


Must See:

  • Glymur - Iceland's second tallest waterfall is within reach with this quick, but stunning hike. Here is a guide
     
  • Kirkjufell - Iceland's most photographed mountain is on the Snaelfellsnes Pensisula. Complete with waterfalls that have a remarkable view of the mountain, it's postcard perfect. Plus, the drive to the falls is breathtaking. You'll spot waterfalls dropping off nearly every cliff in sight. It's magical.
     
  • Branafoss + Hraunfossar - Take a detour to see this set of famous falls near Husafell. A collection of countless creeks and cascades small and big streaming out of the lava over a distance of about 900 metres. 
Basalt Comuns at Reynisfjara Beach (Black Sands Beach)

Basalt Comuns at Reynisfjara Beach (Black Sands Beach)

5 - STAY CONNECTED

It's fun to get lost, but you don't have to! Stay connected with wireless spots (including IN your car rental provider) to find directions and stay connected with hosts and friends.

If you plan to venture to the back country, always register with Safe Travel. Even in the best conditions, Iceland can be unpredictable so it's a good idea. Plus, it's a great place to stay up-to-date with any alerts that may affect your adventurous plans.

That's all, swell friends. Simply put, it was a dream come true. We'd been dreaming of a visit for years and we finally had a chance. I could go on and on about Iceland. Perhaps, I'll do another post in the future and break some spots down in more detail.

Thanks to great resources like Unlocking Kiki, Guide to Iceland, I Heart Reykjavik and the Reyjavik Grapevine for guiding us through our trip full of spontaneous adventures. 

Adventure | A Guide to Savannah

AdventuresLesley PocklingtonComment
Beautiful architecture in the Historic District of Savannah, Georgia.

Beautiful architecture in the Historic District of Savannah, Georgia.

Back in November, we took a break and headed to Florida to catch up with family. Not before stopping in Savannah, Georgia on the way. We're so glad we did. Not only was it a great way to break up the drive from Toronto, but we were instantly charmed by this sweet and romantic city. We only had 2 days, but we'll be back again (when can I move?). It's just too lovely not to. Plus, it's home to SCAD, which I love (being a designer, myself). Here's a quick guide to the city if you have the chance to visit. Hopefully, you'll have more time!

Southern hospitality will welcome you with open arms as you get lost in this historical city. After all it is the "Hostess City of the South". Talk about warmth. From the people to the sunshine. This city just embraces you in a way that's truly unique. It's a little city, with big heart.


WHAT TO EAT

MRS. WILKE'S DINING ROOOM
I don't think a first visit to Savannah would be complete without a visit to Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room for good old-fashioned Southern cooking. Be warned, you'll likely have to wait in line for at least an hour, but it is WELL worth the wait. Bring $20 cash per person and you'll enjoy the best fried chicken dinner (all you can eat) of your life amongst the company of others (happy, but hungry strangers) family style. Sides include cornbread, mac n' cheese, collard greens, squash, sweet potato, multiple types of beans, mashed potatoes, creamed corn... it goes on, and on. It's deliciously overwhelming.

You may not be able to eat everything, but you can certainly try. Wash it down with sweet tea and top it off with banana cream pie or a peach cobbler. Forsyth Park is a few blocks away, and the Downtown Design District is around the corner. So, wander the streets and walk it off. mrswilkes.com

LEOPOLD'S ICE CREAM
If you're shopping along Broughton Street, be sure to pop into Leopold's Ice Cream for a sweet treat. It's a Savannah tradition since 1919. This lovely soda shop is a pleasant stop on a warm day. Or, any day for that matter. Treats can be topped with Georgia's famous pecans amongst other goodies. Yum! leopoldsicecream.com

GRYPHON TEA ROOM
A former apothecary turned tea room, is a magical place to spend an afternoon. It's quaint and warm, and offers a mosaic of loose teas. They offer a traditional tea service in the afternoon, but you can also visit for brunch and lunch. Operated by SCAD, you'll often be welcomed by students who are carrying on the tradition of Southern hospitality in this beautiful and historic space. When you're on the move again, visit the Shop SCAD boutique across the street! http://web.scad.edu/experience/gryphon/

ANGEL'S BBQ
You are down south, so you have to try some Southern BBQ while you're in Savannah. Head to Angels BBQ for traditional, but casual fare including pulled pork, chicken and brisket with mouthwatering and memorable (you can take them home) BBQ sauces. There are veggie options too. Get messy and enjoy! angels-bbq.com


Fountain at Forsyth Park.

Fountain at Forsyth Park.

WHAT TO DO

BIKE TOURS
Get familiar with the city quickly with a bike tour of Savannah. Sit back in a bicycle powered rickshaw as your guide gives you an informal, but informative tour of the city that's design has been acclaimed since it's inception. Or, you can grab your own set of wheels to take to the streets. If you're looking for a themed bike tour, they have those too! From haunted, historical, art to pub crawls. There's something for everyone. The city is definitely a manageable size to see by bicycle, or even foot.

CITY SQUARES & FORSYTH PARK
The city is comprised of 24 squares carefully planned by the city’s founder, General James Oglethorpe (you'll hear his name often). The squares are surrounded by historic homes, churches and buildings. Visit as many as you can as you meander through the streets of the Historic District. You'll be in awe with the beauty and abundance of architecture (second to Chicago in the US) and history of this loveable city. And yes, it's true. One of the squares appeared in the movie, Forrest Gump.

Forsyth Park is a beautiful green spot to enjoy with its live oak and Spanish moss trees. Stroll past the fountain as you listen to musicians playing, and as your peer at students' sketchbooks while they practice drawing. There are two new, lovely playgrounds if you're traveling with kids. Ours had a grand time in this park.

RIVER STREET
River Street, paved with 200-year-old cobblestones, runs along the length of the Savannah River. Once lined with warehouses, it is now a hub for tourism hosting restaurants, shops, galleries and inns. Head down the original staircases from Bay Street and you'll feel like you've stepped into the past. There's also an elevator for accessibility. A lovely street that's worth a stroll. Stop into River Street Sweets and Savannah Bee Company.

CITY MARKET
Since the early 1700’s, City Market has been the commercial and social centre of historic Savannah. Located on the original site of the market used by farmers and traders, City Market offers the best of old and new. Comprised a four-block area of restored warehouses, you'll find an array of restaurants and shops to enjoy. It's also adjacent to the newly restored Ellis Square. 


Postcard from the Paris Market.

Postcard from the Paris Market.

WHERE TO SHOP

THE PARIS MARKET
This shop on Broughton Street (shopping district) is gorgeous and eclectic. A passion for world travel is combined with a whimsical and nuanced design style. It houses a large collection of vintage and new finds from markets around the world (Paris to Cairo). You can also grab an espresso at their lovely cafe to enjoy inside or out. theparismarket.com

ONE FISH, TWO FISH
Located in the Downtown Design District amongst a handful of adorable shops (and around the corner from Mrs. Wilkes), One Fish, Two Fish is a fun shop to visit. Filled with delightful and unique home decor, jewelry and furniture as well as stationery. onefishstore.com

Right near by on Whitaker Street, you can also take a look at La Paperie and the Custard Boutique.


Live oak-lined drive at Wormsloe Plantation.

Live oak-lined drive at Wormsloe Plantation.

AROUND THE CITY

WORMSLOE PLANTATION
The live oak-lined drive (longest in the world) to this 1700s-era plantation is definitely worth a visit. As you head down the drive you can stop at the interpretive centre and walk the grounds through a system of beautiful and serene trails. 

SKIDAWAY ISLAND STATE PARK
Hike this breathtaking barrier island on Moon River, made famous by the song. It's right by Wormsloe Plantation, so enjoy both outdoors beauties in one trip. There's much to discover so close to the centre of Savannah. 

TYBEE ISLAND
Head 20 minutes east of Savannah and you will find a beautiful little barrier island community with relaxing sandy beaches. Tybee is a fun spot to get away and enjoy great food, shopping and beach life. It really deserves its own guide.