The southern section of the county is mix of agriculture, urban and lakefront properties. The northern section of the county is mostly sparsely populated wilderness with numerous rivers and lakes, mostly within the recently expanded Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.
The county was founded as the District of Colborne in 1838, centred on Peterborough, which became the County of Peterborough in 1850. In 1862, the County was redivided into Haliburton County, Peterborough County, and Victoria County (now the City of Kawartha Lakes). The centre of the County was originally the courthouse, which is still considered an important historical site.
The county was named in honor of Col. Peter Robinson, who in 1825 brought 2,000 settlers from Ireland. The route taken was by way of Port Hope, Rice Lake and the Otonabee River, the same route used by the first settlers that entered this region in 1818.
The county was originally divided in these townships:
Asphodel Township, Area, 37,871 acres (59.2 sq mi; 153.3 km2) Opened in 1821 and named after the Greek word for lily.
Belmont and Methuen Townships, Area 81,088 acres (127 sq mi; 328 km2), Opened in 1823 but by 1842 had only 33 householders, in 1866 only 185. Townships were mainly rock, lake and stream.
Burleigh and Anstruther Townships, Taxable area, 32,160 acres (50 sq mi; 130 km2). First settled in 1861. First Post Office was called Burleigh. Separated from Dummer Township in 1865.
Douro Township, area 34,446 acres (54 sq mi; 139 km2). Opened in 1821 and named in honor of one of the battles in the Peninsula.
Dummer Township. Area 68,812 acres (108 sq mi; 278 km2). Opened in 1821 and named in honor of William Dummer Powell, Chief Justice of Upper Canada. A Colony of immigrants came in 1831, of whom 150 were sent out by the Marquis of Bath.
Ennismore Township. Area 17,245 acres (27 sq mi; 70 km2). Opened in 1829 and named in honor of William Hare, Viscount Ennismore, M.P. For Cork who died in 1827. Originally it was called Emily Gore.
Galway and Cavendish Townships, Assessed Area 57,218 acres (89 sq mi; 232 km2). Opened in 1857 and 1862 respectively.
Harvey Township. Area 68,755 acres (107 sq mi; 278 km2). Opened in 1821 and named after Sir John Harvey, Deputy Adjutant General in Canada during the War of 1812. Was part of Smith township until 1866. First settler were retired officers who come in 1832, but did not succeed.
North Monaghan. Area 14,096 acres (22 sq mi; 57 km2). Opened 1820.
Otonabee Township Area 64,024 acres (100 sq mi; 259 km2). Opened in 1820 and named from the River. The word in Indian signifies a delta.
Smith Township Area 58,043 acres (90.7 sq mi; 234.9 km2). Settled in October 1819 by Allen Otty.