A multi-generational cottage holiday in the Kawarthas (Bobcaygeon)


It was clear where we were going as a family – a cottage we had rented every other year for 31 years since my daughter was a baby and now she and her partner were bringing their 2-year-old and 5-year-old to relive memories and create some new ones.

The cottage was rented for a week in the Kawarthas, on Sturgeon Lake in Bobcaygeon, a multi-generational holiday, both a comedy and a drama. Delightfully chaotic describes the week.

We discussed strategies and activities before we went, so everyone was on the same wavelength. We would take turn cooking with simple meals, all eating together, and spend as much time outside and in or on the lake as possible. We had brought with us a canoe, air mattresses and beach toys.

Tips for a successful Multi-Gen Trip:

Talk before you go: about who wants to do what, alternative evening meal preparation, and clean up, including a discussion about a “shipwreck meal” at the end of the week where everything in the fridge is eaten whether it goes with anything or not.

Discuss expectations: if some family members want just to hang out while others want to have a schedule of outings, it’s essential to have that discussion.

Bobcaygeon market Photo Melody Wren

Bobcaygeon market Photo Melody Wren

Setting the Scene: Grandad and I arrived the day before. We were doing the first day’s lunch and dinner and had a menu planned. We did the first grocery shop and bought locally crafted beer. We visited the Bobcaygeon farmer’s market and loaded up on locally grown produce, and baked treats. We were both impressed by the market, which had produce, local baking, local honey and crafts, reasonably extensive for a small town.

While I made all the beds, to lighten the load for the young family arriving the next day, I put presents on each pillow—it’s a family tradition on any trip, no matter how short. The presents are usually items that relate to the trip, and definitely useful. The grownups got grownup type gifts, and the little ones got reading books and craft books to keep them busy if the weather turned on us.

We set up boxes of books we have on hand for the littles as well as toys that we keep at our house so they would feel comfortable and at home immediately.

The second day, the rest of the gang arrived, and the organised cottage was filled immediately with chaos and the noise level rose.

Nana and Grandad had purchased “puddle jumpers” for the littles which they loved and gave them confidence. It encouraged the 2-year-old to jump into the lake with no fear whatsoever on his part or for the surrounding adults. As soon as he went outside, he ran into the lake even in his pyjamas.

Kayaking in puddle jumper Photo Melody Wren

Photo Melody Wren

Introducing family to new outdoor activities is a bonding experience. The 2-year-old had never kayaked before and loved it, and grand-daughter had never been on a paddleboard before, so she sat on the front with an adult standing. She also fished, a few times successfully, proudly holding up her catch before throwing it back in. Kite flying with a homemade kite had her running back and forth on the front lawn burning up energy.

Most mornings I heard the patter of small feet approaching my room and glanced at the clock with one eye and saw it was 530 am. I waited, and I heard a whispery voice say “Nana, want to do stickers?” “Absolutely, I do, but Nana needs to make a cup of tea to drink while we do stickers.” The huge sticker book I had bought kept her amused doing one page for over an hour buying her young parents a bit of extra sleep time since the little brother had disrupted it the night before.

Arsenal of activities for downtime to give young parents a break:

Enormous Sticker books
Paint with water book
Toilet paper rolls (we saved 100’s) along with tape, string, pipe cleaners, the possibilities are endless (photo included of what we made)
Paints with large paint brushes, rollers and paint tub, washable tempera paints to do outside
Pipe cleaners: We twisted three different coloured ones together, and grand-daughter made “friendship bracelets” for everyone in the family
Felt stickers


Waterfront fun Bobcaygeon Photo Melody Wren

Photo Melody Wren

Best day: Everyone was in the water at once, young parents with one kid each in separate kayaks, Nana on an air mattress, 15-year-old on the paddleboard, and Grandad on the dock fishing. We had rented a paddleboard for the day, which was a massive hit with everyone having a turn.

Floating away on an air mattress in Bobcaygeon Photo Melody Wren

Floating away on an air mattress in Bobcaygeon Photo Melody Wren

I took my 5-year-old grand-daughter on an air mattress for well over an hour, we talked, we paddled and invented a song about paddling all day long, and coming up with a new son. Dragonflies landed on our legs, arms, hats, and parts of the mattresses. We giggled together and named all the dragonflies. I paddled, but she told me what direction to go in, which gave her great pleasure.

Later we kayaked together and went to find grandad who was kayaking far in the next bay and raced him back to shore. Yes, we won. Simple pleasures.

kayaking grandparents and child C Photo Melody Wren

Photo Melody Wren

Meal times: We took turns cooking, and almost always including local corn, freshly caught fish, fresh blueberries.

We ended each day with a visit to Kawartha Dairy for ice cream made on site. Last time we were at the same cottage, the five-year-old (then 3) and I made up a song about going to Kawartha Dairy that we sang all the way there and throughout the year, dreaming about the time we could return. We’re going to Kawartha Dairy; we’re going to Kawartha Dairy, Kawartha Dairy is good to eat, you don’t get smelly feet, Hooray for Kawartha Dairy.” Keep made up songs simple and repeat as often as you can stand it. Sitting on the Kawartha Dairy cow is mandatory on each visit

Kawartha Dairy cow Photo Melody Wren

Kawartha Dairy cow Photo Melody Wren

Craft time: After spending a lot of time outside, the five-year-old enjoyed doing crafts before dinner. Plastic mesh blueberry containers: I saved a stack of them, so one day the five-year-old turned the containers into purses with the addition of pipe cleaner handles and felt animal stickers on the outside. Stylish and useful, and she “sold” them to the other family members. The visiting cousin from England took one home in his suitcase for his mother.

Playtime is for everyone: Its so important for all adults to embrace their inner child and be playful. The pillow present to 15-year-old visiting cousin were two huge Super Soaker water guns. One day I was floating on an air mattress, and I encouraged him to come out too and said I had something to say to him. He came close to me looking apprehensive, thinking he was in trouble. I suddenly pulled a loaded super soaker from behind my back and squirted him relentlessly.

After so many hours in or on the lake, running around, flying homemade kites, the little ones were asleep early, sometimes with head on the dinner table, and the adults played board games around the kitchen table but didn’t last long either. Until next year.


Can’t-Miss Attractions in Bobcaygeon

Eat your way through the many flavours Kawartha Dairy offers, and always ask for a small cone because they are huge servings! Family tradition dictates that at least one person sits on the cow statue.

If you have been to Bobcaygeon, you have been to Bigley Shoes. We always seem to hit a sale, so everyone in the family gets new shoes or sandals.

Buckeye Sports provides paddleboard rentals or boat rentals. They also sell swimwear, sandals and cute clothing.

The Bobcaygeon Market, located at the Bobcaygeon fairgrounds, is well worth a visit to stock up on produce, local honey, locally made granola and homemade baked goods