We were in Ottawa, Ontario experiencing the Canada150 celebrations. After everything ended we searched for a way to avoid the heavy traffic back to Toronto. This challenge wasn’t going to be easy with over 500,000 people looking to escape the city at the same time! So, we took this as an opportunity to experience some parks and caves in Ontario. The caves’ owner, Chris Hinsberger offered us a chance to experience Bonnechere Caves with kids. Not wanting to pass that up, we decided to pair that with a night in nearby Bonnechere Provincial Park.
Stopping by the 5 Span Bridge in Pakenham, Ontario
Our drive from Ottawa to Eganville near Bonnechere Caves took us through Pakenham, Ontario. We are always looking for new things to check out when we are on a road trip. So when we saw a sign for a scenic bridge, we made the short 2-km detour off of Highway 417 to County Rd. 29. We weren’t disappointed by the views. This scenic stone bridge crosses the Mississippi River (no, not THAT Mississippi River). Dating back to 1903, this is the only bridge of its type in North America. There is a parking space and picnic area nearby.
Tip: The 5-Span Bridge in Pakenham has fast rapids and a strong undertow. Please avoid swimming in the water.
What are Bonnechere Caves?
Bonnechere Caves is a family owned and operated business in Eganville, Ontario. First discovered and explored by Tom Woodward in 1955, these caves have become one of the most popular accessible caves in Canada. With its proximity to local attractions like Prince Edward County, Killarney Provincial Park, Algonquin Provincial Park and Bonnechere Provincial Park, it’s no wonder that this cave system sees so many visitors. Bonnechere Caves is just one of the amazing things to do in the Ottawa Valley.
Tip: Check out some of our favorite caves to visit with kids here.
Experiencing Bonnechere Caves with Kids
When we arrived, we were greeted by Bonnechere Caves owner Chris Hinsberger. He was joyfully directing the crowds of cars entering the parking area. Our first question to Chris was whether Bonnechere Caves was accessible for young children. He assured us that although the caves do have stairs, they have been maintained to support all ages. He directed us to the small ticket cabin. And he invited us to explore the grounds, including the picturesque views of Fourth Chute on the Bonnechere River. The tours in Bonnechere are guided and timed, so we knew we had about 20 minutes to explore the grounds.
A long history of fossils in Bonnechere Caves
We met our guide at a small covered shelter. He began to expertly and enthusiastically tell us stories of the caves and their discovery. We learned that the folks at Bonnechere Caves take their fossils very seriously. This was perfect for us, as we have budding anthropology enthusiasts in our boys. We found it interesting that they are still finding many fossils around the area to this day. All the fossils date back to the Ordovician time, about 400-500 million years ago!
Heading underground into Bonnechere Caves with kids
We followed the guide through a path among the trees to the opening of the cave. As we entered and descended some narrow stairs towards the floor of the cave we could feel the temperature drop. It was good that we had the boys wear their Oakiwear outfits to keep the moist, chill air off.
The inside of Bonnechere Caves is well lit and clean. It’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into maintaining the cave system since the original days of Tom Woodward. We learned that during its first exploration, it was full of running water. In fact, Tom had some close calls and exciting adventures that make for great stories for visitors to the cave.
The walls of Bonnechere Caves are narrow. And many of the rooms are low enough that my 6’2 frame was worried about knocking myself out. For those visiting Bonnechere Caves with kids though, have no worries. Caves like this seem built for small frames to scoot effortlessly through all the areas that adults can barely reach.
Our trip through Bonnechere Caves offered us glimpses of small stalactites in the ceiling. And the boys loved finding fossils embedded in the cave walls. There were even small squeezes where the boys could show off just how easily they could sneak through areas where Christina and I had to take our time.
What else can you see and do at Bonnechere Caves with kids and without?
After about an hour we made our way out of the cave into the bright green forest. After climbing some stairs, our guide urged us to follow the path on the left to the sinkhole. We followed the instructions and came to a small loop where the sinkhole was just barely visible through the trees from the trail.
It could be over-selling, or maybe the sinkhole is much more impressive when the foliage isn’t so dense. But it didn’t seem like too much to see. Near the sinkhole was an old fenced off stairway. It looked like there was once access down to a lower path where exploration of the sinkhole was possible.
Bonnechere Caves Cavestock Underground Concert
Bonnechere Caves hosts several underground concerts that include a tour, music and gift certificates for a meal.
Bonnechere Cave Fossil Hunts
Fossil hunts are a great idea for those visiting Bonnechere Caves with kids. These two-hour events include a tour of the cave and a hunt for fossils in the area.
Underground Dining at Bonnechere Caves
Bonnechere Caves offers a 4-course meal and a bottle of wine as well as a guided tour and accompanied music.
Visiting Bonnechere Caves
Bonnechere Caves opens on Victoria Day weekend in May. It closes on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (Second-weekend in October). Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors, $13 for youth (age 13-17), and $12 for children (under age 4 is free).
Tip: To find out more about what Bonnechere Caves has to offer you can email them at [email protected] or call them at 1-800-469-2283.
Eating in Eganville, Ontario
We had been so excited to visit Bonnechere Caves that we completely forgot about lunch. Chris suggested we visit the Rio Tap & Grill in Eganville, Ontario. The town is only a ten-minute drive from the cave, so we made our way there.
The food at the Rio Tap & Grill was delicious. They offered unique takes on pub food. And the views from the balcony overlooking the Bonnechere river were fantastic.
Camping in Bonnechere Provincial Park
After lunch, we made our way to Bonnechere Provincial Park for a night of camping and a full day of swimming in the beautiful waters of Round Lake. We also spent some time canoeing along the Bonnechere River.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Bonnechere Caves during our visit. All views remain our own.
With the birth of their two boys, Kevin and Christina have made it their mission to show others that travelling with children isn't as scary as it sounds and that kids can benefit from experiencing the world outside of their front door and beyond.
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