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Lanark County

Located about 50 minutes outside of Ottawa, Lanark County is one of the province’s best kept secrets. When the weather’s good, you can admire the shocking red, orange and yellow leaves while shooting nine holes at Timber Run golf course. Or, consider renting a kayak or canoe for a morning to take in the leaves from one of the county’s many serene lakes and rivers.

What to eat: Complete the trip with an organic meal at CC’s on the Rideau and enjoy a delicious farm-to-table menu with a table overlooking the Rideau River. Nestled on a small peninsula between the lower Rideau Lake and the Big Rideau, this lively, family-run eatery captures the true atmosphere of cottage country. For dessert, grab a scoop of gourmet ice cream or a cup of maple apple chai tea at Sweet Scoops in Smiths Falls. And before you head home, don’t forget to stop by Coutts Country Flavours on County Road 18 and stock up on delicious local goodies like maple syrup, naturally-raised beef and strawberry jam for your pantry.

Where to stay: If you’re planning to stay for a few days, book a room at Clyde Hall Bed & Breakfast, a historic mainstay in Lanark located next door to Timber Run.

Haliburton Highlands

This region has all the charm of cottage country without the hustle and bustle of other tourist destinations. Nestled among rolling hills, the drive into town alone will provide enough photo opportunities for the entire fall season. If you want a more in-depth experience with the vast local wildlife, head to the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre for a guided canopy tour across a series of suspended bridges among the trees. You can also make a reservation to visit with the wolves, who live in the Centre’s 15-acre forested environment. Wrap up your day with a visit to the Haliburton Highlands Brewery and enjoy the colourful fall view while you munch on some locally-made cheeses.

What to eat: Admire the changing colours over the nearby Mirror Lake at Rhubarb, a charming restaurant with a delicious seasonal menu and local beer on offer.

Where to stay: If you’re interested in exploring more of this underrated community, consider grabbing a room at the Heather Lodge on 12 Mile Lake. Get a good sleep and enjoy your morning coffee with an unbelievable view of bright red and orange leaves.

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Hastings County

From expansive, rolling farmland to quaint boutique shops and quiet downtown side streets, Hastings County has a lot to offer. Located on the border between Eastern Ontario and Central Ontario, it’s the second largest county in the province—and it’s loaded with trees that are poised to ignite in gorgeous fall colours this fall. To catch a glimpse of the fast-changing foliage in the area, plan a series of hikes on the multi-use trail system and explore scenic villages, historic barnyards and flowing rivers. These trails also welcome the use of bicycles and ATVs in addition to hiking and birding. If you’re feeling more adventurous, consider a visit to the Madawaska Kanu Centre. In the warmer months, try your hand at white-water canoeing, kayaking and rafting; in the colder months, enjoy the picturesque views and sweet, old-fashioned cafe.

What to eat: Unwind with a glass of wine (or two) at the famed Potter Settlement Winery, the first and only commercial winery in Hastings County. Cozy up on the newly-constructed patio and enjoy the scenic vineyard views. Or, for a truly unique experience, visit the Ivanhoe Cheese Factory, where you can participate in the time-honoured art of fine cheese-making and sample the Factory’s numerous award-winning products. In addition to cheese, the Ivanhoe Cheese Factory offers a wide selection of specialty foods, antiques, milkshakes and ice cream cones.

Where to stay: In the warmer months, don’t miss glamping at Kings Mill Cider. This small family-run craft cider producer is located in Stirling, Ont., adjacent to the King’s Mill Conservation Area, and on weekends, visitors can rent one of three 400-square-foot yurts, which are outfitted with a queen-size bed, cozy rugs and a small seating area. The price includes dinner (a wood-fired pizza and a flight of five ciders) and a light breakfast (fresh-baked croissants with your choice of coffee or tea).

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The charming lake-side town of Orangeville, Ont. is flanked by sprawling green spaces like the Caledon Lake Forest and the Island Lake Conservation Area, where you’re sure to find stunning views of the changing leaves. Visit the nearby Mono Cliffs, located on the picturesque Bruce Trail, for a hike like none other. But don’t miss the town’s charming downtown area—what started as a pioneer town in the late 1800s is now a busy, friendly community filled with interesting stores and award-winning restaurants. Keep an eye out for the town’s growing collection of public art, from tree sculptures to utility boxes and statues placed throughout the community. Consider signing up for the Footsteps from our Past walking tour, which highlights Orangeville’s rich history. And if you’re in town on a Saturday, you absolutely must hit the year-round open air Farmers' Market for local eats, fresh produce and baked goods.

What to eat: For an upscale dinner, book a reservation at the famous Mono Cliffs Inn. The decor is cozy, the menu has something for everyone, and the friendly staff will make you feel like you’ve known them forever. Forage, a popular organic spot that features local ingredients, is a great option if you’re looking for vegan-friendly offerings. And be sure to try the pecan pie; it’s a must-have dessert according to locals. And if you’re staying for a few days, stop at Angel’s for an authentic diner breakfast, complete with crispy hash browns and crunchy bacon.

Where to stay: Molly’s Retreat, a bed and breakfast in the heart of the town, comes highly recommended for its warm atmosphere and attention to detail. Take a load off after your long day of hiking, eating and drinking in the garden, and get a great sleep in a big bed with fresh, clean sheets. If you’re looking for more of a traditional hotel experience, try the stunning Hockley Valley Resort on Mono 3rd Line. Featuring an 8,000 square-foot spa, fitness centre and an 18-hole golf course, you will want for nothing during your stay.

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