Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 26, 2015.
Summers go by quickly and it’s important to have a few really memorable family adventures to mark the time. Together with AfL Role Model, Jennifer Pinarski’s family, we recently got to spend a day in the beautiful hills of the Haliburton Highlands at Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride and it was a day we will not soon forget.
A stay at Pinestone Resort offers so many fun adventures for families. There’s golfing on the adjacent 18-hole course, and tennis (they have racquets available for everyone to use), and there are also two beautiful pools which the AfL team got to enjoy.
Even more novel, though, is that the resort also happens to have a huge pond with several paddle boats and a canoe. Which means all we had to do to have some fun on the pond was make a quick stop at the front desk to borrow life jackets. The kids loved paddling around the pond before we headed off on our Sir Sam’s adventure.
Pinestone Resort, Bonnie View Inn, and Sir Sam’s
Where: Haliburton, Ontario
Who: Family of five, kids aged 10, 7, 4 and a family of four, kids 8 and 10
Activities: Trail biking, hiking, swimming, canoeing, basketball, volleyball, hockey, soccer, and more…
The Bonnie View has a fantastic little waterfront with water trampolines and water slides and roped off areas for wee ones. They have a sandy beach for sand castle building and lounge chairs on the lawn where grown ups can sip drinks, read books, and watch kids. Everything is pretty compact so it’s easy to keep an eye on the little ones and relax at the same time. Unless, of course, you have toddlers (and then you’ll just have to wait until they’re older for that particular luxury), in which case there’s a nice shallow area roped-off to enjoy with the little ones. There’s also a small playground, beach volleyball court, and a place to play soccer, basketball, and road hockey. The standalone cabins feel very private and homey; kids can run right out the door and go play, while grownups make coffee.
After fun at the resorts it was time for our group to meet at Sir Sam’s for a day of mountain trail biking and hiking.
When we arrived in the morning, owner, Chris Bishop, fitted us all for our rental bikes and our guide, Spencer, went over the fundamentals before we headed up the hill for some practice and a ride around the beginner trail. The biking is recommended for kids who are confident on bikes. For us, that meant leaving the smallest in our group behind to play, but we had kids ages 7-10 with us with varying degrees of experience in mountain biking.
If you’ve never gone trail riding before, it’s a very different experience than street riding in the city. With tree roots and lots of little hilly bits on the trail it can be pretty challenging for a beginner. It’s important not to be hard on yourself if it’s not love at first ride. Help kids who are nervous by letting them know they can go as slowly as they need to go and that they can always hop off the bike and walk it they need to. Whether it comes easily or not, the accomplishment of trying something new will stick with everyone, and the trail is doable even for beginners. Plus, the view of Eagle Lake from the top of the hill is spectacular, giving you another reason to try this fun activity.
The ride back down the hill was an option a few of our group decided to pass on, while others bravely went for it. Don’t worry, if this sounds scary, there’s always the chairlift back down.
After lunch it was time for hiking. Having snowshoed some of these very trails in the winter, we were excited to walk them in the summer. It was a different experience, indeed, and offered us another opportunity to take in the amazing view. The kids loved spotting nature of all kinds as we walked, and were instructed to look for something in every colour of the rainbow by our guide, Kris, which turned out to be a very fun way to get all the kids engaged in the hike. In the end we had collected something of every colour and had tallied up a list of animal sightings from deer and butterflies to snakes and porcupines. Kris also gave us the inside scoop on some wild raspberries, which led to a bit of healthy competition to discover who among the hikers could find and eat them first.
Our group had kids of all ages (from 4-10) and every single one of them loved the experience. It was a perfect level of difficulty to make it easy enough for the little ones, yet challenging enough for the grown-ups. Yes, some of the littler legs got tired by the end, but we all made it back to the chalet in one piece. And there was a perfectly placed short cut right near the end that delivered some of the younger children back quicker than if they’d stayed on the trail.
One of the highlights of the experience for the kids was the chair lift. They were so thrilled to ride it way up and watch the bikers below. Plus, it was a perfect way to break up some of the activity when the kids were feeling like they needed a rest.
Sir Sam’s is run by the Bishop family who could not have been nicer or more welcoming. We thank them for inviting us and making it a fabulous day for all involved. Next time we’ll try the stand-up paddle boarding because after that hike all we wanted to do was dive into the cool water.
For those in Southern Ontario, Haliburton Highlands is a beautiful destination for any family looking for activity, fun, and adventure.
Our review was made possible thanks to Sir Sam’s, Pinestone Resort, and Bonneiveiw Inn who provided accommodations, experiences, lift passes, rentals, and meals. A special thank you to Jennifer Pinarksi for including us in this wonderful day.