I just have to get my bias out of the way – I love Liskeard.
Some years ago, New Liskeard was the first town in northern Ontario I had ever really stopped in. “This can’t be northern Ontario” I thought, my stereotypes being left shattered. And boy was I wrong. It’s too bad my camera was toast or else I would have taken some shots of the downtown on my first trip. I made a trip up that way a couple of years later, so this page will have a mix of my shots, as well as the random photos from the internet that I had used up until that time.
New Liskeard has a small but quaint downtown that is actually relatively full of stores. There’s a nice waterfront with a walkway, a beach, and boat launch facilities. There are restaurants, there is accommodation, there is even a Tim Horton’s, and an independent coffee shop and bookstore with fancy fair trade coffees and books in both English and French (The Chat Noir.) If you drove through New Liskeard you’d proclaim that small town Ontario is alive and well and living in Temiskaming. Right at the base of the Temiskaming claybelt, New Liskeard may actually live up to the billing on guidebook gave it, as a “northern oasis” and the “heart of the scenic north”.
Founded in 1903, two years after its northern neighbour Dymond, New Liskeard quickly grew to be a northern hub during the forestry and mining booms in northern Ontario. But the heart and charm of New Liskeard lies in farming. Thanks to its agricultural base, it has remained a fairly vibrant town despite the ups and downs of industry in northern Ontario. Today New Liskeard is one of the few towns in northern Ontario (and for that matter southern Ontario as well) that has maintained its downtown with both chains and independent stores. Heck, there are two shoe stores downtown. I don’t even know where to buy shoes in Timmins and it has ten times the population! There’s a museum, an art gallery, a Carnegie library, as well as a big waterfront park (with a marina and a mile of beach and boardwalk on Lake Temiskaming) – the downtown is definitely worth a visit. With 5500 people (aprroximately 30 percent francophone), New Liskeard is the largest of the Tri Towns (Cobalt and Haileybury being the other two.)
New Liskeard hosts a number of different events throughout the year. Winter sees Ontario’s largest snowmobile rally, while the annual Fall Fair showcases local agriculture and is generally regarded as the biggest fall fair in northeastern Ontario, with the best in produce, livestock, and of course midway rides drawing people from as far as Cochrane and Timmins. Every Canada Day Holiday Summerfest draws people from across Temiskaming. There is the annual Bikers reunion which draws people from across Ontario to raise money for cancer research. And, of course, this is all in addition to the usual camping, boating, hiking, golfing, mini putt, etc., etc.
Don’t get me wrong, if you go to New Liskeard for a holiday you won’t be inundated with city activities. You won’t be roboting in any clubs or partying the night away at waterfront festivals. But this level of activities and amenities is significant for any northern Ontario town. And when added to just how cute New Liskeard is, makes the town impressive. There is something friendly, something alive, something cute, something quaint. All the best of southern Ontario and northern Ontario together. It has a great vibe.
New Liskeard has a fair amount of amenities for travellers, including banks and a caisse. For evening festivities, the King George has karaoke (Wednesdays) and live music (weekends) and Sam’s Place features country-ish music and karaoke on Wednesday nights. There are four restaurants in New Liskeard: Country Kitchen, Rooster’s, and two northern Ontario Chinese food places. Some chip stands open in the summer too.
Accommodation ranges from the Wheel Inn Motel, to BnBs, and from beach camping to the expensive Waterfront Inn (and everything in between.) There is a small bunch of motels, fast food, and big box stores in Dymond, a few minutes north where Highway 11 and 11b meet.
I loved New Liskeard and after my first trip I was always kind of sad that I didn’t stop for more than coffee, a stretch, and some midol (the latter being not for me.) Thankfully, I had a the chance to make a trip up since then, and it’s confirmed my little crush on New Liskeard. It may someday be a goal of mine to move there. Well, then again, it’s a goal of mine to move up north regardless of where. But New Liskeard It’s a quaint and interesting place with a small but vibrant little downtown.
Thanks to Johnny O for the info on the Tri Towns. If you’d like to see a bit of New Liskeard on film, check out the 2005 National Film Board documentary Harvest Queens, about the New Liskeard Fall Fair’s annual Harvest Queen contest, where local teenage girls compete to be crowned Harvest Queen.