Elmhirst’s Resort Experience in Winter

The Elmhirsts Resort experience

A winter visit to Elmhirst’s Resort on Rice Lake is a great way to beat the winter blahs. The resort offers a full menu of winter activities to keep everyone happy and as busy as they’d like to be.

For anyone living in the Toronto – Ottawa corridor Elmhirst’s Resort is very accessible – under two hours from Toronto and just over three hours from Ottawa. For me coming from Calgary it was a snap to catch a shuttle from the Toronto airport and be delivered on their doorstep.

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Evening light over Rice Lake

Elmhirst’s Resort is a third generation family business. Greg and Steve Elmhirst (and their families) are well known in the community, especially with their commitment to both buy and hire locally. In the summer they employ upwards of 65 people to run the resort.

Visit their website here for detailed information.

I stayed overnight once before as part of a three day bike ride in the Peterborough area. It was June so the focus was on Rice Lake and of course the food and wine as we arrived after biking 90 km. I didn’t appreciate the extent of what is offered at the resort until I visited in winter.

Sunset over the fields at Elmhirsts Resort in winter
Sunset over the fields at Elmhirst’s Resort

What you can do at Elmhirst’s Resort in winter

There are the usual suspects in the winter – snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking on an array of trails crisscrossing the property.

If the snow is melting as it was on my February visit, snowshoeing in the trees where the snow stays longer or hiking are your best options. You can spend the better part of a day exploring.

There’s plenty to see on the property too – including a chicken coop filled with Rhode Island reds (and the source of about 18 eggs a day), a duck pond that in season hosts 25 ducks at a time, and a field that is home to a herd of black Angus cows. There is also a barn where the Clydesdale’s are kept. In summer, horseback riding is an option.

Interestingly Elmhirst’s Resort is able to offer their own home-grown beef, duck, vegetables and honey on the menu as well as vegetables in season.

Looking out across Rice Lake from Elmhirst's Resort
Looking out across Rice Lake
The Elmhirst Resort Experience in WinterAn early season thaw makes skiing hard can still walk on kilometres of trails that crisscross the property

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 At Elmhirst's Resort you can go horseback riding out of the stables at the top of this road
At Elmhirst’s Resort you can go horseback riding out of the stables at the top of this road
 If you like horses you'll want to spend a lot of time at the barn
If you like horses you’ll want to spend a lot of time at the barn
Rhode Island reds are raised at Elmhirst's Resort for their eggs ~18/day
Rhode Island reds are raised at Elmhirst’s Resort for their eggs ~18/day
Into the woods
Into the woods

Go kiteboarding at Elmhirst’s Resort

Steve Elmhirst is a certified kiteboarding instructor and a very patient and encouraging man.

On my last morning at Elmhirst’s Resort, the wind was blowing hard enough that my kiteboarding lesson was a go. It was the sort of day that didn’t look good for more than drinking coffee, reading and sitting by a fire. It had thundered and poured rain an hour earlier. Still, Steve called the conditions on Rice Lake close to perfect.

I started off learning how to fly and control the kite while wearing boots with icers so I had some grip on the lake. I practiced for perhaps half an hour with Steve holding onto my jacket at times so I didn’t take off. I was a little concerned at how I’d manage the switch to skis.

Fear not – at least if you know how to ski already. Within minutes of grabbing the kite on skis all I wanted to go much faster and further.

I can see how this sport hooks you in – and the outlay is fairly insignificant. Go to garage sales to find old beater boots and straight edged skis. Buy a kite, about $150 if I remember correctly and that’s it. An ATV might come in handy so someone can follow you – should you end up 10 kilometres down the lake when the wind dies.

Steve offers a kiteboarding weekend on skis on the third weekend in January every year and private lessons for $80 an hour. They’d be worth every penny.

Kiteboarding on skis after a lesson with Steve Elmhirst
Kiteboarding on skis after a lesson with Steve Elmhirst

Check out the kiteboarding video taken at Elmhirst’s Resort


Try some ice fishing

Ice fishing on Rice Lake (famous for bass fishing) seems pretty meditative after kiteboarding but it’s still a fun way to hang out with your buddies.

Jordan Norrad, an angler and instructor was most helpful when it came to drilling holes, putting live bait on hooks and adding some homegrown concoction into the water to bring in the fish (even though I only had one bite in an hour). His knowledge about the area and fishing in general was encyclopedic and very impressive – in an unassuming way.

Icefishing on Rice Lake doesn't yield a single fish
Icefishing on Rice Lake doesn’t yield a single fish – but it is meditative

Relax at the onsite spa

On the first morning of my visit when the weather was less than pleasant, I enjoyed one hour of pure bliss in the spa. My feet were turned into a thing of beauty – or as close as is possible.

It made be wonder why I didn’t become a spa blogger, a way more relaxing way of spending time than the outdoor and adventure focus I’ve got going on. Elmhirst’s Resort provides an array of services at reasonable prices and all the pedicures come with a view out towards the pool and gardens.

 A pedicure with a view at the resort
A pedicure with a view at the resort

A range of accommodation options at the resort

At Elmhirst’s Resort you have the option of 30 cottages with a one to five bedroom configuration. Most are stand alone with many of them enjoying a significant amount of space between cabins.

Last year one of the cabins had a fire so a new one – pictured below – was built. It’s wheelchair friendly and by summer the dock outside will also be designed for people with disabilities. All the others are a tad more rustic but very comfortable. They come with a fireplace, deck and a gas BBQ, a fridge and stove and a flat screen TV. Each has its own dock in summer.

The newest cabin is wheelchair friendly
The newest cabin is wheelchair friendly
The cabins all have lake views and some have a very large degree of privacy
The cabins all have lake views and some have a very large degree of privacy
There's a trail along the lake in front of all the cabins
There’s a trail along the lake in front of all the cabins

Memorable food and wine at Elmhirst’s Resort

There are two restaurants at the resort – a dining room with a superb view of Rice Lake and a less formal pub filled with a lot of flying and plane memorabilia. Both offer excellent food with much of it local – as in just up the road from the cottage type of local.

There’s also an underground wine cellar and wine tastings are available to the public. It’s a fun experience – and it feels like you’re entering another world when you slip into the cellar. Many of the wines are from Prince Edward County and the Niagara area.

Blueberry pancakes with a Rice Lake view
Blueberry pancakes with a Rice Lake view
Cut your own greens to add to your meals
Cut your own greens to add to your meals
Heading into the underground wine cellar with Greg Elmhirst
Heading into the underground wine cellar with Greg Elmhirst
 Trying some local bubbly
Trying some local bubbly

Book a stay at Elmhirst’s Resort

If you need a getaway to recharge – at any time of the year, you would do well to choose Elmhirst’s Resort. It’s a great place for both couples and families.

Check availability and pricing and then book a nightthrough Booking. In summer they are really well set up with their location on Rice Lake.

Location map of the resort


Further reading on things to do in Ontario

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Ontario's Elmhirst's Resort Experience in winter

A huge thank you to Peterborough and the Kawarthas, Kawarthas Northumberland and Ontario Tourism for hosting my visit. My opinions as always are my own. Thank you for getting me out kiteboarding.

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