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Top 5 Things to See And Do In Tobermory Ontario

One of my family’s favourite summer destinations is Tobermory, Ontario on the Bruce Peninsula. The first time we visited was in the summer of 2017. We designated Tobermory as a two night stop on our way to Lake Superior Provincial Park from Toronto.

The drive to Tobermory from our home in downtown Toronto is approximately 4 hours. However, with the rate at which my children (and ex-husband) need to exit the vehicle for a pee, hunger and leg stretching, it honestly took closer to 6, yes SIX hours at that time.

We enjoyed our time in Tobermory that summer so much that we decided we would return in the summer of 2018 as well. And you know what? It is safe to say, I will return again. Tobermory has an abundance of things to do!

Tobermory, Ontario Lighthouse

Here are our Top 5 things To See And Do In Tobermory, Ontario!

 

1.) Take a Boat Tour to see the two Shipwrecks in Big Tub Harbour

Really and truly, nothing beats scuba diving shipwrecks if you are a certified diver. If you are not a diver or a snorkeler or you are travelling with your children and do not have other care for them while you are on a dive, then viewing from a boat is the next best thing here. The two wrecks you can see in Big Tub Harbour in Tobermory are called Sweepstakes and City of Grand Rapids.

The Sweepstakes went down in 1885, spoiler alert – no treasures left and currently lies in roughly 6 metres of water. It is one of the best-preserved shipwrecks of its time in the Great Lakes. The City of Grand Rapids wreck is from 1907, it was a double-decker steamer that caught fire while mooring. It was released from the dock and left it to burn in the harbour. It sank where it lies.

Totally worth seeing – see if you can get on one of the glass bottom boats to do this!

Sweepstakes, shipwreck in Tobermory - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory #shipwrecks

 

2. Take a boat to Flowerpot Island

Flowerpot Island is only accessible by boat from Tobermory and is one of the best experiences in Fathom Five National Marine Park! The island is famous for its natural “flowerpot” rock pillars, caves, historic light station and rare plants. This is a great spot for easy to moderate level hikers – my kids had no problem. Here you will find great swimming and snorkelling, picnic areas and overnight camping if you are adventurous. Be sure to bring your bathing suit in a day bag with you and have sturdy shoes. Hiking pro-tip: I don’t recommend that you come in flip flops and try to do the hiking.

Flowerpot Island 3 - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

We were not prepared for the beauty here – it is so awe-inspiring! The water really is the colour of these photos – no filter! The rookie mistake we made when we went was not packing a cooler. There is really nothing to purchase here, bring your own food and water! Also, there are not a whole lot of places to dispose of garbage here, so please plan to take back with you what you bring.

Word of wisdom to the Instagram Models of the world – please do not try to climb the Flower Pots. It’s dangerous to you if you fall, but it’s also disruptive to nature. Imagine being the asshole who damages one of these natural structures so terribly that it changes the appearance?

Flowerpot Island 1 - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

There are a couple of boat charter companies to get you here from Tobermory, Ontario. You do have to pay for tickets to get out to the island and back. You can combine a shipwreck viewing tour or simply take an express boat direct and they have ticketed return times when they drop you off. According to the Parks Canada website, they recommend that you spend 4-5 hours to hike and see it all. Plan to spend the day – at least an afternoon, please don’t short change yourself on time here. Buying tickets from any of the suppliers in the harbour area of the town in advance is a good idea to ensure your plans for the day are not disrupted.

Flowerpot Island 2 - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

 

3.) Visit The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park

The Grotto, found in Bruce Peninsula National Park, just outside of Tobermory, is a place that is so popular, we couldn’t get in the first year we tried. I severely underestimated that it is one of the top attractions in the province and that just showing up would suffice. It turns out it requires a little more planning to be able to see and experience this magical place.

We did our planning and did get into the Grotto in the summer of 2018. During the peak season of July and August, there are a couple of ways to make sure you are in Bruce Peninsula National Park and can access the Grotto:

1.) Be there already as a camper at one of the backcountry sites along Georgian Bay or in Cyprus Lake Campground.

2.) Reserve parking in advance if coming from outside the park. Parking is assigned by time blocks and only a certain amount of cars are permitted per time slot.

3.) Head up there in the off or shoulder seasons of April/May/June or September/October when the demand to visit is much less.

There’s a twitter hashtag you can follow for more information – #GrottoParking

As of June 1, some Parks Canada places began a safe, gradual reopening of some outdoor areas at national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.

Reservations for parking at the Grotto for the remainder of the 2020 season opened on Monday, June 29th, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. EDT. Important to note – Visitors will not be permitted to climb into the Grotto since physical distancing is not possible. Parks Canada is asking that you enjoy the view from above.

feet over ledge at grotto - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

 

4.) Have ice cream at The Sweet Shop on Bay Street

There’s this sweet little ice cream shop with a lot of brilliant Canadian flavours of yummy ice cream. Located at 18 Bay Street, overlooking Little Tub Harbour, the locally owned Sweet Shop makes candy, fudge, chocolate and brittle onsite. Come after dinner, sit and relax! Walk around and see the boats in the harbour with ice cream in hand, you won’t be sorry!

5.) Visit Singing Sands Beach

Singing Sands Beach is located off of Dorcas Bay Road south of Tobermory. This large sandy beach with shallow waters is part of Bruce Peninsula National Park. I admit, when my family rolled up to this beach, we were not impressed. It looked like it was full of weeds, there were not a lot of people there and it was windy. My family is a little spoiled. The kids are used to Prince Edward County and Caribbean beaches.

The water was warm and you could walk really far out before the kid’s lower bodies became submerged. The kids even had a good time. For those who are squeamish about things touching their feet in the water, I recommend wearing a pair of water shoes. It’s not really so bad once you walk out in the water for a bit. Admission here is free.

Tobermory Beach, singing sands beach - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

And as a bonus for you history buffs – there are historical walking tours available in town.

mariner's monument on Bay Street in Tobermory, Ontario

For those of you looking for the video blog – here you go!

 

 

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#TOP5THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN #TOBERMORY, #ONTARIO #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #bigtubharbour #littletubharbour #tobermory #discoverontario #parkscanada #grotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #tobermorygrotto #hikingthebruce #brucetrail #dangerousplaces #rockyterrain #bestfamilytraveltravelblogger #ontariofamilyadventures #yourstodiscover

Best Hiking Trails For Families in Southern Ontario

Ontario is a mecca for outdoor activities. I have always been an avid hiker, camper and nature lover, making me well-positioned living in Southern Ontario. And as my children have gotten older, we’ve been out more and more and more. And I am constantly searching out the best hiking trails for families in Southern Ontario.

Travel is not recommended right now, but it does not mean that you have to stay inside. In a time of social distancing, we are being told to avoid contact with others. It’s safe to still enjoy nature and remain a safe distance from others. We can be outside and safe. We can stay a couple of metres away from other people, we can wash our hands frequently. It’s become prudent to carry hand sanitizer and we do. Lucky for us, there are a few less frequented hiking areas you can go to and I’ll tell you about them.

Best Hiking Trails For Families In Southern Ontario

Here are the best hiking trails for families in Ontario to practise social distancing. The list is completely unofficial and purely based on my personal experience over the years and that of fellow bloggers.

Skinner’s Bluff Loop Lookout on the Bruce Peninsula Trail

This section of the trail is on the Bruce Trail and it’s hard to find. Kind of for good reason because it’s a secret. Safe to say, it’s extremely safe for social distancing! To find the trailhead, you need to get yourself on a dirt road called Colpoy’s Range Road outside of Wiarton, Ontario. Look for the Bruce Trail markers. It’s well worth the hunt to see the amazing views of Georgian Bay.

Fairly safe and easy for kids on the trail sections. You’ll want to exercise an abundance of caution at the lookout points though. They are not protected by barriers. The view would be ruined if there were barriers, so please hold your children’s hands and keep pets on a leash. It can be quite buggy in the summer, you’ll want to pack bug repellent. Bring snacks and your camera.

My and my kids on Skinner's Bluff look out #brucetrail #skinnersbluff #wiartonontario #epichikes #hikewithkids #takeyourkidseverywhere

Barron Canyon Trail in Algonquin Park

The Barron Canyon Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park can be accessed most easily from the Sand Lake Gates. That’s the eastern section, closest to Petawawa, Ontario. Normal provincial park fees apply.

The canyon trail is only 1.5 kilometres and is a loop. The loop takes you up to the amazing north rim of the Barron Canyon. And the view is outstanding. This is what you’re here for. Like Skinner’s Bluff, you have to exercise caution and common sense, don’t play around on the edges.

It’s an uphill hike for about 200-300 metres, but not difficult at all. Once you reach the canyon, it’s fairly level, few ups and downs. This trail is moderately trafficked in the summer under normal conditions. My four-year-old son basically ran up this hill, so it’s manageable for all family members. You can read all about it in more detail here: Epic Hikes With Kids – Barron Canyon Trail

Hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park, one of the best trails for families in Ontario

Hilton Falls Trail in Hilton Falls Conservation Area

A 10-metre spectacular waterfall view is a reward for this easy hike. To get to the falls from the parking lot, it’s a two-kilometre walk. Same distance going back, with kids, budget about two hours for this. It’s a great place to go on a hot day to cool off, to feel the mist from the water and get amazing Instagram shots. Seriously.

Last time I was there with my kids, other families were walking behind the waterfall and kids were frolicking in the water at the base.  This trail has been REALLY busy on nice days, so plan to go on a less sunny day for fewer crowds.

BUT – There is more to Hilton Falls than the actual waterfalls. Take a detour out onto the trails and see the best-kept secret out there – the reservoir.

This conservation area is closest to Milton, Ontario. Normally, there are entrance fees there for parking. Also, ice cream is sold at the visitor centre.

Hilton Falls at Hilton Falls Conservation Area in Halton, easy family hike

Mount Nemo Loop Trail in Mount Nemo Conservation Area

If you want to avoid crowds and have a nice hike in the Greater Toronto Area, this is the place to go. Mount Nemo is gorgeous, has caves and you can spot vultures circling in the air. Here, you can go rock climbing or find a lookout where the CN Tower can be spotted on a clear day. There’s a loop you can hike that’s approximately 5.3 kilometres and will likely take you 3 hours to do with kids.

Just north of Burlington, there are entrance fees, same as Hilton Falls. PRO TIP – visit Hilton Falls and Mount Nemo in the same day. Pay for parking in one location in the morning and your daily entrance fee receipt provides access to all Halton Parks for the same day. Same goes for Rattlesnake Point (below, under non-social distancing protocols).

Buffalo Crag Lookout – Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area

Just a six-kilometre bike ride or quick car ride from the Hilton Falls Conservation Area parking lot is Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area. An easy 3.2-kilometre trail to the Buffalo Crag lookout for one of the best views of the escarpment. If you are a fan of the Canadian TV show, Schitt’s Creek on CBC, this is the conservation area and trail where Patrick proposed to David on the episode called “The Hike”.

The views here are amazing. There are two ways to do the loop, you can side the side trail along the escarpment or you wan take the maintained walking path.

In full disclosure, these trails have just been given the green light to re-open and are only permitting people in for two-hour windows. You have to reserve online ahead of time. It’s a bit difficult to run your kids through here within two hours, to be honest, but if you move at a brisk pace, it’s doable. While we are under social distancing protocols, you cannot visit two conservation areas in one day. Hopefully, that lifts for 2021.

At the RattleSnake Point look out in Halton Conservation Area

Bennett Heritage Trail – Silvercreek Conservation Area

For all-season hiking, Silvercreek Conservation area boasts some of the best hiking for families in Ontario. Only an hour from Toronto, and part of the Bruce Trail, this is where you can get away from it all, including in the dead of winter.

When this trail is muddy, it can be very slippery. If you are here in the winter, be sure to bring your cleats (snow picks) for your hiking boots as it can be icy. This trail can be challenging, so if you’re looking for adventure, this is it. You’ll find some diverse terrain here and it will be a memorable day for the kids.

If you finish hiking around this conservation area, you can continue on an eight-kilometre trail to Terra Cotta Conservation Area. With the Bruce Trail, the possibilities are truly endless!

I ventured out to Silvercreek Conservation area on the Bruce Trail yesterday with members of Women Who Explore Ontario. #silvercreekconservationarea #brucetrail #womenwhoexplore #womenwhoexploreontario #discoveron #ontarioforyou  #girloutdoor #girlsthatwander #hikingculture #gogalavanting #girlswhohike

Cliff Top Side Trail via Carriage Trail and Spillway Trail – Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

If you have a day to spend hiking, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is the park to take the kids too. It’s a day-use park, so there is no camping here. However, there are a lot of areas here to toss out a blanket and hang out for a while. While I am recommending one trail and path, there are many here that wind around and intersect.

Getting to the Cliff Top Side Trail at Mono Cliffs takes a bit of time. It’s approximately an 8-kilometre trail from the parking lot and back. With kids, it could take you four to five hours, but it’s worth it. Some trails in this park are classified as moderate hikes, some are easy. Some trails are surrounded by forest while others are more of an open field setting. They range from well-worn, sandy paths to rocky trails to wooden boardwalks. That said, my kids basically ran through here like they were in their playroom.

If you’d like to know more details about this park and the trails there, I did an entire post on it here: Mono Cliffs Provincial Park – Best Place For Mother’s Day Hike

boardwalk at mono cliffs provincial park - best hiking trails for families in Ontario

Cataract Falls via Trans Canada Trail and Kettle Trail Loop – Forks of the Credit Provincial Park

The 6.6-kilometre hike to Cataract Falls and back to the parking lot looks like it’s going to be really easy, but has a lot of ups and downs. That said, you will find places along the way to take a moment to sit by the pond on a bench. I would also recommend that you could have a picnic once it is safe to do so (when restrictions are lifted) as it will be one of the best soul-refreshing moments of your day.

This trail is a great place for active kids to let them run and wear them out. Classified as a moderate trail in this provincial park which is only for day use. No camping is permitted here. Honestly though, you will forget you are anywhere near a city when you’re in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. Only an hour from downtown Toronto in Caledon, you will need to obtain a valid Ontario Parks day permit at the parking lot.

kids at Forks of The Credit Provincial Park best hiking trails for families in Southern Ontario

Oak Ridges Trail at Seneca College

As beginner family hikers, and kids ages 3 – 11 years old, we chose the Oak Ridges Trail at Seneca College in King, ON for one of our first Winter treks. It’s a mostly flat provincial recreational trail running the full length of the protected Oak Ridges moraine. It was a level “easy” according to AllTrails (which is an app) and even with a bit of elevation very manageable for kids and all skill levels.
We entered from the Dufferin side and bypassed $2.50 parking at Seneca’s King Campus by parking along the road by the trail entrance (which is legal & many do). Lots of little streams and small bridges and a neat little stone-built fire hut the kids had fun chasing each other around.
Stumbling upon Eaton Hall overlooking Seneca Lake (former residence of Lady Eaton, gathering place for many Eaton Family celebrations & backdrop for several movies) made for a great history lesson and photo opp around the 1.5 km mark. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be on a leash. The 9km trail is well marked, and since we only conquered under 3 km of it our first go, we’ll be back this summer to explore some more!
Said to be best hiked April – October, we really enjoyed a less busy experience in January.   With lots of little wetlands throughout, bring your bug spray if visiting in the warmer months.
Oak Ridges Trail; House of Kerrs

Spirit Rock Conservation Area

If you’re looking for a great place to go hiking with your family in Ontario then consider Spirit Rock Conservation Area. Spirit Rock is located just north of Wiarton, approximately two and a half hours north of Toronto. Spirit Rock Conservation Area is one of the best places to hike on the Bruce Peninsula. It offers picturesque hiking trails, incredible views of Georgian Bay and some amazing historic ruins. So clearly, this is one of the best places to hike with kids in Southern Ontario.

Spirit Rock is set over 87 hectares and is home to the ruins of the Corran. The Corran was once a lavish estate in the late 19th century. Now all that is left are a scattering of stone ruins that have been taken over by nature. There is also an old spiral staircase that you can carefully descend down to the water’s edge below. The main trail through the conservation area is the Bruce Trail. You can enjoy the loop trail that is approximately 2 kilometres and takes from an hour to an hour and a half. The trail takes you through the forest, past a few great lookouts and over the rocky and rugged Niagara Escarpment. And it’s a perfect place for a family hike with shaded trails that are manageable for children and kids will love exploring and climbing over the ruins.

Spirit Rock Conservation Area trail - the world as i see it travel blog

Old Ausable River Channel, Pinery Provincial Park

Located on the shores Lake Huron, just outside of Grand Bend, Pinery Provincial Park is a hidden gem in the Ontario Parks’ system. The 21 square kilometres of rare forests and rolling dunes offer excellent year-round outdoor recreation, including 10 walking trails, a 14 km bike trail, 38 kms of groomed ski trails and the Old Ausable River Channel (OARC), which runs the length of the park.

While we love to take a traditional hike during our summer family camping trips to the Pinery, we also like to “hike outside of the trail” and canoe or kayak the OARC.

Originally named “La Riviere aux Sables” by early French voyageurs, this river has a rich cultural history and, since its creation, has always been full of life. It provides habitat for more than 35 species of freshwater fish, several endangered freshwater mussel species and many reptiles and amphibians, including the threatened Eastern spiny softshell turtle. The surface of the river is covered in pond and water lilies, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot one of the resident beavers or river otters going about their day. Don’t forget to look for white-tailed deer along the banks, and bring your binoculars to view the many species of birds that call the park home.

Old Ausable River Channel - To & Fro

Marla Ward: www.toandfroblog.com 

Niagara Glen

Niagara Glen is a great activity for families visiting the Niagara Falls area because it gets you away from the almost carnival atmosphere of the falls and into pristine Carolinian Forest. It’s also one of the rare free-activities in Niagara Falls.

Located right next to the Niagara River near the whirlpool, Niagara Glen is only a 10-minute drive from the falls. Before starting your hike, there is a grassy picnic area and bathrooms above the gorge.

The 4km of trails are in a gorge so you have to descend down a spiral metal staircase. The terrain of the glen can be hilly or include staircases in some areas so it isn’t suitable for strollers. There are multiple looping trails here among the boulders to explore. My favourite is the River Trail as it gives you views of the turquoise water and the American side of the gorge as well.

Niagara Glen is a bouldering destination so you may spot some rock climbers on your hike. These huge boulders that dot the park are leftovers from when the river eroded the area thousands of years ago. Kids may enjoy exploring around the boulders as some of them have small caves and may even include ice of you are there in late spring.

It’s a great destination for families as you can spend as little as 30 minutes doing a short hike or as much as an afternoon exploring the whole glen.

Brianna – Website: https://curioustravelbug.com/

 

The Durham Regional Forest Trail

The Durham Regional Forest Trail is 35 km from Oshawa. Take the Lake Ridge Rd exit on the 401 W onto Goodwood. On Concession Road 7 you make a left to your destination. The trail is close to Uxbridge.

The reason I like it because it is a 12km loop, with moderate difficulty, an elevation gain of 400 meters and takes about 3 hrs to complete. Novices are going to love the fact that it is clean, neat, consistent and marked all along. It is accessible all year. If you take your dog with you it has to be kept on a leash. The trail has very few ruts, roots or rocks. If you want a nice, moderate work out this is the trail for you.

On the weekend it is an amazing escape with the scenery being luscious and robust. The plantation forests were set up more than 70 years ago and are constantly maintained. Even on a hot humid day you can be sure of lots of shade.

The forest is about 405 hectares and is famous for hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, bird watching and mountain biking.

The parking is free, it is never crowded, quiet, peaceful and an easy trail to follow.

Jerry Godinho from https://fourcolumnsofabalancedlife.com/

 

Swan Lake Trail

We’ve always been an active family, but typically that’s skiing and zip lining and swimming, or learning a new sport. We’ve never done a lot of hiking together, but that changed when we were invited to do an RV trip with Ontario Parks last fall. We started with Grundy Lake Provincial Park and in the morning went for a quick walk before heading straight over to The Swan Lake Trail.

Swan Lake Trail is a moderate hiking trail that’s about 1.5 kms long and will take roughly an hour. It runs through the Swan Lake nature reserve and is ideal for families just starting to hike or families with young kids. The Swan Lake views through a boggy marsh and up over stunning rock formations will leave you wanting more. My kids loved that there’s an interactive research portion too. So, if you spy wildlife in a particular spot you can text a number and help researchers to document it. Gnarly trees and walkways through swampy bogs appealed to my young teens. This was the start of a new passion for our family and is definitely a place to find the best hiking for families in Ontario.

Swan Lake Trail, Grundy Lake Provincial Park

 

I hope this list inspires you and your family to get out and enjoy some of the many beautiful hiking trails this province has to offer. This post is meant to be a work in progress as we explore more. Have no fear, I’m always on the lookout for the best hiking for families in Ontario. The more trails I find, the more I will report back!

The best hiking for families in Southern Ontario, from Algonquin Provincial Park to Halton Conservation Areas to the Bruce Peninsula, know where to find the best hiking trails in Southern Ontario for families

Where To Find The Best Southern Ontario Sunsets

Being a professional sunset chaser means that I have seen some of the most beautiful and stunning sunsets around the world. I have said it before, and I will say it again – Ontario is a jewel. Ontario boasts some of the most alluring landscapes and scenery you can find. Some of the most bewitching sunsets I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing have been right here in Ontario. In our new world order, I’ve come to accept that Mediterranian sunsets are a pipe dream for the next couple of years. Who knows when I’ll be in the Caribbean again? Domestic travel only is going to be on the docket for most people. I personally foresee a lot of road trips and explorations closer to home this year.

If you’re going to be hanging around home, why not know where to go to see the best sunsets in Ontario?

Where To Find The Best Southern Ontario Sunsets

I have a slight bias in some of these locations. Each of these places holds a special memory, which likely makes the sunsets all the more special. That said, feel free to make your own memories during magic hour and dusk. Here are some of my favourite places to find the best sunsets in Southern Ontario. As I explore more and more I will have more to share, but for now, here’s my shortlist. I hope you are inspired to search some out as well:

Scarborough Bluffs Park, Ontario

The Scarborough Bluffs are an escarpment range in the east end of the amalgamated limits of Toronto. Not technically in Toronto, but they can claim themselves geographically that they are. In all honesty, the Bluffs are in Scarborough. As an old score Torontonian, I’ll never accept them as Toronto, but I digress…

The views of Lake Ontario and Bluffers Park from the escarpment are brilliant and there are a few lookout points to explore. In the interest of safety, do not cross barriers for photos. Unfortunately, people unfamiliar with the terrain and area have crossed the line and have put themselves in a position where they have required emergency extraction from the area. The Scarborough Bluffs are an eroded and environmentally sensitive area and you do have to take care when on the escarpment.

It is worth it to stroll or hike along the top of the bluffs where you are permitted to be. The best time of year to be up there, in my opinion, is summer and early fall. If you’re feeling adventurous, bring a bathing suit and towel and hit the beach while it’s still daylight.

Sherman Falls, Ancaster, Ontario

Sherman Falls, on the Bruce Trail just outside of Ancaster, Ontario is a 17-metre-high curtain falls, often nicknamed Angel Falls or Fairy Falls. Being there in any season is like being in a fairy tale. These waterfalls are one of the most Instagrammable waterfalls in the area and it’s rare to be there without other people around unless you go early in the morning or hang around in the late afternoon into dusk. From here, there are other waterfalls you can hike too. The area of the province is known as the City of Waterfalls (Hamilton). It’s a bit odd when you see Hamilton from the QEW highway to envision all the splendour of the area, yet here it is.

Summer is a very busy time at Sherman Falls, so if you are inclined, I recommend winter for a visit. These waterfalls are on private property, please respect the area. The owners graciously allow people to enjoy them but please do not climb the sides of the ravine or the waterfall

Sherman Falls, Ancaster, Ontario, magic hour pre-sunset

Windsor, Ontario

Before going to Windsor, Ontario in the fall of 2019, I had no idea of its beauty. The sunset I witnessed from the Best Western Plus Waterfront Hotel on Riverside Drive solidified my new found love for The Motor City. From the window of the “Justin Trudeau” suite, I spent good, quality time mesmerized by the sky. In the distance, the Ambassador Bridge.  This is a view I would want again and again and again.

Want this view on your next stay in Windsor? Be sure to book your stay at The Best Western Plus Waterfront Hotel here (this is an affiliate link meaning I make a small percentage of commission when you book)

Windsor, Ontario sunset of the Ambassador Bridge

Long Point National Wildlife Area

You have to know a guy who has a boat to get to the secret beaches and sandbanks at Long Point. And once you’ve played around on the sandbanks, that boat has to bring you back under the setting sun. And there is no finer person to know than Captain Graham with Long Point Island Huggers.

It’s worth the drive to Long Point towards the sand and pit formation to see one of Canada’s UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. 

Captain Graham is so knowledgable about the area that you’ll leave the cruise with a whole new appreciation of the wetlands. He takes his pontoon boat that accommodates groups and people of all ages for wonderful cruises from sunrise to sunset.

sunset at long point national wildlife area

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

I never knew that mother nature could paint us this palette just 2 1/2 hours outside of Toronto. This cotton candy sky view on the lake is only accessible by canoe. Everything about this moment was perfect, stillness in the water, spending time with good friends. Once the sun was down, we were treated to one of the best star shows I’ve seen in a long time! If you’ve never considered Peterborough and the Kawarthas (@thekawarthas) for your summer adventures in Ontario, then I definitely think you should.

Cotton candy skies - That's out food in barrels in the canoe so bears cannot get to them

Presquile Provincial Park, Ontario

Skipping rocks at sunset! Well, at least he’s trying hard too… My son and I camped in a Minka Tent at Presqui’ile Provincial Park in the autumn of 2019. We were treated to another amazing Ontario sunset. This stunning view is just outside of Brighton! Right on Lake Ontario.

This little slice of heaven is at the far west end of the High Bluff Campground area. There’s a small beach and a lot of flat rocks. Enjoy!

Skipping rocks at sunset at Presqu'ile Provincial Park

Frankford, Ontario

Sunsets in Frankford, Ontario are best viewed from the east bank of the Trent River. Full disclosure, this picture is from a private residence. Yep, this is where my Mom lives and I can have this view anytime I go visit.

Unless you know someone who lives along the river, you’re not going to get THIS view. I happen to have it on good authority that you can drive to one of the canal locks on the Trent Severn Waterway, park and witness a similar sunset from a private area.

Sunset from the west banks of the Trent River in Frankford, Ontario

I hope these sunsets have inspired you to seek out sunsets close to home. While this list is only a handful, I will be sure to update this post as I witness more. Make no mistake there are many more exceptional sunsets to be seen in many other areas of the province.

Looking for unique and memorable activities in Ontario to enjoy while sticking close to home? Be sure to check out Looking For Exciting and Unique Places To Explore In Ontario? We Have You Covered!

 

PIN ME FOR LATER!

Want to know where to go to find the best sunsets in southern Ontario? I'll tell you where here! From Windsor to Presqui'ile Provincial Park and places in between

Looking For Exciting and Unique Places To Explore In Ontario? We Have You Covered!

For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, you will know that I made it my mission to explore and take in as much of my home province of Ontario as I could. And take my kids along of course! I was born and raised here and I had come to the realization that as of a couple years ago, I had explored less than 10% of it. Most of my travel had been confined to the 401 corridor.

Granted, land mass wise, Ontario is huge! Bigger than almost all European countries! Parts of Ontario are even uninhabited, so it’s not likely we will be hanging at a winery in Polar Beer Provincial Park anytime soon! One because it doesn’t exist and two because that provincial park is so far remote that the website warns you to pack an extra week’s worth of provisions incase the plane can’t come back and get you. However, there are a lot of towns with charm, beautiful trails, an abundant outdoor lifestyle and exciting places to explore in Ontario that are full of adventure and won’t leave you stranded.

If someone was travelling to Ontario for the first time to explore and take in an unusual or unique (only to) Ontario experience, I have a list of places to send them that I have been to. I’d tell them to head up the Bruce Peninsula to Tobermory to stay for a couple days and to hike the the Grotto! Send them yurt camping at any time of the year at either Algonquin Provincial Park or MacGregor Point Provincial Park. If they were looking to go glamping right across the street from a winery, they’d be going direct to Long Point Eco Adventures in Norfolk County. If they were looking for some epic scenery while hiking, the Barron Canyon Trail, Dundas Peak and Skinner’s Bluff is where it’s at.

My Personal Favourite Places To Explore In Ontario

One of my favourite places to see a sunset? It would be the Scarborough Bluffs pictured above and right below. Especially in autumn.

View from Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto Ontario. Unique places to explore in Ontario #autumncolours #fallfoliage #curiocitytoronto #visualizetoronto #scarboroughbluffs #scarborough #scarboroughontario #torontoviews #canadiancreatives #imagesofcanada #viewsfordays #cliffside #exploreontario #kathrynanywhere

Some of my favourite hiking trails fall within the jurisdiction of Ontario Parks. Check out Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Favourite Beaches? Sandbanks in Prince Edward County is top of everyone’s mind when you think of Ontario beaches, but consider Coburg Beach in Coburg or Pancake Bay Beach, just outside Batchawana Bay as well.

I know for a fact that I am not the be all and end of of Ontario knowledge. And I’m on the hunt for new places to explore in Ontario for this year and next. I thought it would be smart to hit up some of my fellow Torontonians, travel bloggers for their favourite places in Ontario to explore and why.

Here are their secrets they have let me in on!

SAINTS AND SINNERS TRAIL

Just a few hours north of Toronto lies the province’s biggest secret. Grey County is a foodie haven, with gorgeous views, reasonable prices and none of the traffic you’ll see if you travel east or west of the city.

It’s home to the Saints and Sinners Trail, which features local beer, wine and cider. This region is family friendly so don’t feel like you need to leave the kiddos at home. Accommodations range from traditional to quirky, you can stay in a treehouse or a yurt!

It’s called this because of the region’s fascinating history. Owen Sound was Canada’s last dry city. Well technically, prohibition lasted here much longer than the rest of Canada and so there’s a history of bootlegging and all the salacious stories that go along with it.

Today you can tour the Saints and Sinners Trail independently or take the Corkscrew Town tour, which partners with the Beer Bus. Local historian (and city council member) shows you the city’s sights and shares hilarious local stories of bootlegging in the time of prohibition.

Contributed by Ayngelina Brogan – Bacon Is Magic

DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL

The fact that Hamilton, a city more commonly known for steel and Tim Horton’s, has also been dubbed “The Waterfall Capital Of The World”, may come as a surprise to you. Of the more than 100 waterfalls located in the city’s limits, the one with the most unusual story is found in the Devil’s Punchbowl Conservation Area.

The Devil’s Punchbowl is a huge, horseshoe- shaped gorge. There is a larger, upper falls and a smaller, lower falls in it. With numerous trails around the area, it’s a perfect for hiking and scenic photo opportunities, especially if you are nimble enough to make it to the bottom near the waterfalls.

Beneath the beauty of the Punchbowl, though, lies a history shrouded in mystery. Where exactly did the name come from? Urban legends (unverified ghost and paranormal activity stories), and even tragedies (numerous deaths have happened there).  Adding to the unusual factor is the 10 metre high metal cross on the observational platform.  It was made to “bring light to the community”, but the idea of a giant cross planted in an area named after the devil is bizarre, to say the least. However, the views from the platform are admittedly spectacular (dare I say, heavenly), as you can see the waterfalls, Stoney Creek, Hamilton, and on clear days, even Toronto.

The Devil’s Punchbowl Conservation Area is definitely unique, but also a place that you won’t soon forget!

Contributed by Mike Armstrong – Daddy Realness

devils punchbowl, contributed by Mike Armstrong #daddyrealness #yourstodiscover #exploreontario #devilspunchbowl #hamiltonontario #hamont

PORT HOPE SALMON RUN

Watching the salmon run is often something associated with rural travel in remote destinations such as like Alaska. But Ontario actually has some pretty incredible salmon runs of its own. And surprisingly, one of the best places to see the Salmon run in Ontario is in the small town of Port Hope off the shores of Lake Ontario.

Port Hope, which is just an hour east of Toronto, is a quaint town with a vibrant history. But in the fall, it becomes home to one of the coolest wildlife spectacles in Central Ontario. Between late August and early October, thousands of Chinook salmon, some weighing up to 40 lbs make their way up the Ganaraska River.

The best place to view this spectacle is Corbett’s Dam, otherwise known as the Port Hope Fish Ladder. Just head to Jocelyn St. Turn right and continue on till you meet the river. There is a rocky shore that is easy to walk up and down. Just don’t step in the fish. Not all of them make it to the spawning grounds. The Port Hope Fish Ladder was put in place to help the struggling salmon make it up the river once the dam was put in place. Without it, these bright fish would have no way to continue up the “Ganny” to their spawning grounds.

Contributed by Kevin Wagar – Wandering Wagars

BATHTUB ISLAND

Located about 10 hours north of Toronto you can find Lake Superior Provincial Park. At over 1550 square kilometers it’s one of the biggest provincial parks in Ontario. The park is known for very unique things like the pictographs at Agawa Rock, the Burnt Rock Pool, Old Woman Bay and of course the most unique of them all, Bathtub Island.

Bathtub Island is located about a 15 minute walk from Katherine Cove and just like the name suggests, it’s a natural forming bathtub! The bathtub is refilled by the waves crashing over the rocks and because of the shallow rocks the water gets heated up really quickly so you can splash around and enjoy yourselves! It can be slightly challenging to get into the island because of the rocks and the water so do take care to walk carefully but as long as you’re paying attention to the walk you’ll be fine!

While there may be other natural bathtubs around, the one in Lake Superior Provincial Park is the only one I’m aware of in Ontario and it makes it such a unique place to explore! It doesn’t hurt that it’s located in such a stunning piece of nature. It’s a great reason to head further north than most visitors to Ontario do and you get to enjoy something super cool that nature itself formed!

Contributed by Liliane Fawzy – My Toronto, My World

ENJOY MUSKOKA DURING THE WINTER SEASON

In just four years, the Ice Skating Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park has become one of Muskoka Tourism ‘s most popular winter attractions, as thousands of winter-loving Ontarians flock north to glide along this breathtaking skate through the forest. Named one of 19 Stunning Natural Ice Skating Rinks Around the World by Travel + Leisure, the deep-woods ice path is nightly lit with torches as skaters slide through the dark winter woods to an icy, fiery glow. The Trail’s season-opening is always subject to weather but typically the trail opens the beginning of January until roughly the second week in March. The best ice conditions tend to be during the week, so if you can arrive midweek, you will be rewarded with no crazy line-ups as you visit one of the province’s most popular winter ‘bucket list’ items.

Bonus night activity? While in Muskoka, take the kids to look up at the night sky to experience the vastness of space, view the universe and marvel at the icy air viewing at the Torrance Barren’s Dark-Sky Preserve.

Contributed by Gregory George – followsummer

Skating Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park #ONTARIOPARKS #exploreontario #followsummer

VOYAGEUR CANOE TO TORONTO ISLANDS

Have you ever seen Toronto from the water?  One of the most unique experiences that I’ve ever had in Toronto was to paddle across the harbour in a Voyageur Canoe to the Toronto Islands.  You can do this as a group or rent a kayak.  The view is spectacular and being on the other side of the islands take you from urban setting to natural oasis in the time it takes you to paddle across.  There is no shortage of interesting things to see from the flights taking off and landing from Billy Bishop Airport to the spectacular skyline.

Contributed by Margarita Ibbott – DownshiftingPRO

EXPLORE ONTARIO

NIAGARA JET BOAT

In June 2017, Hubs and I splashed out for a Whirlpool Jet Tour from Niagara-on-the-Lake. The tour took us up the Niagara River to the Niagara Devil’s Hole Rapids – which boasts up 4.5-6m waves and currents with speeds approaching 32 kph. Operating since 1992, the company’s Niagara fleet has 8 custom-built vessels operating from three locations on both sides of the border – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lewiston and Niagara Falls. There are two types of boats, an open boat, for fast and wet, and a closed boat, which will keep you (mostly) dry.

Our youngest was three (almost four) when we took our tour, but still a little under the height requirement for the uncovered boat (safety first!!) We rode one of the covered boats – which kept us dry, but was still quite thrilling. The windows on the boat open for the parts of the tour that aren’t wet.

The expert navigation of our boat’s team had us feeling very safe despite tackling Class 5 rapids which “approach the limits of navigability” and “should only be attempted by white-water experts.”

The best part of the approximately one-hour trip – we learned about the history of the gorge, the falls, and various sites we passed along the way including historic Fort George, the hydro-electric plants on both sides of the border. The tour guides were very engaging, and more than willing to answer any questions we had.

As far as family fun goes, you can’t miss the thrills, chills (and the education) of a Niagara Whirlpool Jet Tour. In fact, our youngest is big enough for the outside boat – and we have plans to make another trip this year!

Contributed by Amanda Knapper – SillyMummyFT

Niagara Jet Boat, Amanda Knapper, SillyMummyFT

 

SOARING OVER NIAGARA FALLS IN A HELICOPTER

Visiting the majestic Niagara Falls is on everyone’s bucket list but not many have thought about flying over the falls. If you’re looking for unusual and breathtaking things to do in Ontario, soaring above Niagara Falls in a helicopter should be on your list!

This bird’s eye view will bring on all of the feels and while the ride is only about 12 minutes long, you’ll see it all. Our pilot did a great job of showing us the various angles of both, the American and Canadian Falls and we also saw the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, followed the Niagara River from the Whirlpool area and rounded up near the Rainbow Bridge. It was like getting the best and fastest tour of the area. We had our infant and toddler with us for this Niagara helicopter ride and the kids were mesmerized from the moment we took off. Kids were given noise cancelling headsets and the adults ones had the option to listen to an audio tour that informed us about the history of the area.

This splurge worthy Ontario attraction is definitely worth every dollar and should be on your list of things to do in Niagara Falls Canada with kids or without!

Contributed by Yashy Murphy – Baby And Life

Soaring over Niagara Falls in a Helicopter with Yashy Murphy, Baby And Life

DINING IN THE DARK AT O NOIR

If you want a unique place to go to in Toronto that is indoors and involves food, you have come to the right spot to find out exactly where to go. The award for the coolest restaurant in downtown Toronto has to go to O Noir. You’re not just paying for food, but an experience of a lifetime!

The concept of the very well known restaurant, O Noir, is for people to try and understand what life is like for the visually impaired for a short amount of time.

When you entire O Noir, you are presented with the menu before you go into the darkness. There is even a “surprise” option to make your time there more exciting! The waiters you will be interacting with are blind, just as you will be when you enter the dining area.  When it is your turn to go inside, you will be asked to make a train with several other guests and your party while someone will lead you to a seat (a seat that you cannot see AT ALL). There, they will explain where your fork, knife, and napkins are before returning shortly with your ordered food.

This is where things get really tricky; try coordinating with a table full of people who cannot see ANYTHING. Your other senses are heightened to the max as you try to communicate with your company, guess the food in front of you, or simply eat without making a mess! Your imagination runs wild as you try and figure out which part of the restaurant you are seated in, how big the place might be, where the waiters are coming in/ out from and predicting how much of your food is left!

This experience will give you a feel of what it is like for the blind to do simple tasks every day. It is amazing to see the discipline that the staff have, working quickly and efficiently to ensure great customer service, which can require a lot of patience when you are dealing with people who are experiencing something for the first time.

Lucky for everyone, the paying process happens outside of the darkness, or that would be a whole other level of challenging. This is something I believe everyone should try at least once in their lives! Imagine being able to say that you have had the experience to dine in the complete dark.

Contributed by Akanksha Pandya – Akanksha.ca

 

PORT DOVER, EVERY FRIDAY THE 13TH

In 1981, a strange tradition was born in the relatively sleepy Ontario town of Port Dover. It was decided that every Friday the 13th a motorcycle rally would happen, and that riders from all across North America should come. Seems reasonable enough, right?

What started as a pipe dream turned into a reality, and nowadays any Friday the 13th in Port Dover can fetch as many as 100,000 riders from around North America and the world. It is, however, somewhat weather dependent as when the Friday the 13th falls in the winter it, sadly, attracts many fewer riders. However, the opposite phenomena is also true, with some summer events reportedly attractions 150 to 200,000 riders.

When I spoke to townspeople there, I expected people to scold the behaviour of the different motorcycle groups, but the response was quite the opposite. Many said that groups like the Hell’s Angels had even sold clothing and the like and donated some of the proceeds back to the community. Naturally, there was some mild trouble here and there but they said, for the most part, it was a really welcomed event in the community at large.

It doesn’t get much more unusual than that, and tourists and Ontarians come from far and wide to take it all in. Take note of the next Friday the 13th, and head to Port Dover!

Contributed by Chris Mitchell – travelingmitch

port dover, every friday the 13th

I hope this list from some of my favourite Toronto based travel bloggers has helped to inspire you on your next trip to Ontario! And if you already live or work in Ontario, hopefully you have some inspiration to go looking for exciting and unique places in Ontario to explore!

Looking for exciting and unique places to explore in Ontario? I asked a bunch of local travel bloggers and here is where they recommend #greycounty #salmonrun #porthope #portdover #devilspunchbowl #exploreontario #discoverontario #bathtubisland #niagarafalls #jetboat #helicopter #onoir #Kathrynanywhere #torontobloggersco #Torontotravelbloggers

 

Epic Hikes With Kids – Dundas Peak and Tews Falls Trail, Ontario

The Bruce Trail is a hiking trail in southern and central Ontario, stretching 890 kilometres. The Bruce extends from the Niagara River in the south, to the tip of Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula in the north. As far as epic hikes with kids, the entire Bruce Trail is great. But, there are parts here and there that are so worth seeking out to show your kids. For information purposes and to highlight a really worthwhile area, especially to see the fall colours – I’m going to focus just on Dundas Peak Trail and Tews Falls in Dundas, Ontario.

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

Dundas Peak and Tews Falls Trail

This has been the year of hiking for my children and much of it has taken place on the Bruce Trail. The Dundas Peak Trail and Tews Waterfalls is the third amazingly epic hike Miss M and Z Man had in 2018. To be fair, we’ve been on quite a few great hikes this year. The Cyprus Lake Trail to the Grotto, just outside Tobermory comes to mind, but it didn’t reach “epic” status. The Grotto itself is magnificent and there is a separate post on that found here. To reach epic status for me, there has to be magnificent waterfalls and spectacular look outs with an element of danger and a life learning lesson.

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

The day we visited the Dundas Peak Trail was a really busy and popular day. We attempted to do things by the book and park in the designated parking lot. If we had done that, we could enter through the proper entrance. However, the parking lot was full, cars were parking up and down the highway, people were making the pilgrimage on foot and there were line ups of people just to enter. Me being me, I always look for alternative locations or alternative ways to get to where we want to be. We drove all the way from downtown Toronto, so I wanted to see something! Since Webster’s Falls parking lot and entrance was the exact same situation, we drove into the town of Dundas and parked in a residential neighbourhood. We entered the conservatory from a trail in the south end. Please note that increased parking in the residential neighbourhoods is dangerous and can impede emergency vehicles. This should not be your go-to parking destination.

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

The draw for us and for everyone else coming was the changing of the leaves colour wise. We went on Thanksgiving Monday and the leaves were still quite green, but they were definitely on their way to being changed into a gorgeous autumn hues of red, orange and yellow.

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

The Dundas Peak and Tews Falls Trail is a 3.9 kilometre total hike

The milage is according to information I got from the All Trails app I use on my iPhone when hiking. Much of the route we did was uphill and the Miss M and Z Man handled it like champions. I like getting the hard part out of the way right off the bat. For an idea on the height, Dundas Peak is twice as high as the American side of Niagara Falls. Tews Falls are 41 metres high.

 

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

First, we headed towards the peak lookout, which has become one of the most popular and coveted – must have – Instagram photos of this year. I got the other insta-worthy destinations, Barron Canyon Trail and Skinner’s Bluff earlier this year. Selfishly, I wanted one or two of those Instagram photos too. I wasn’t alone in my desire that day and I guess at that time – it was early afternoon. There were more people there than I could have imagined, but I still got what I wanted.

 

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

Total side note, yes I take my kids to cliffs and grottos and caves. If this is your first time checking out my stuff, please don’t send me a note about my irresponsible parenting. I do not and will not put my kids in a bubble. They are learning about nature and boundaries and consequences, which in my eyes are great life lessons. 

This was not a strenuous hike for the kids, nor was there any point that they wanted to quit. As per usual, I carried Z Man on my back for the majority of the distance between Tews Falls and the look out point on Dundas Peak Trail.

There are some area where railings/barriers are in place so that visitors do not fall.

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

Due to the popularity of the location on the day we visited, instead of taking the main trail to Tews Falls from the look out, we took a side trail for 0.8km. Then, we joined up with the main trail for the remainder of the hike to Tews Falls.

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

Tews Falls are stunning!

If I wasn’t with my kids I would have traversed down into the crevice to get a ground or a POV shot. Safety first! It is advised that visitors stay on the marked trail at all times. The shots from the top of the falls level are still pretty good!

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

Worth noting, there are no washrooms or garbage receptacles along the trail. What you hike in with, you leave with. Please don’t leave garbage behind, stuffed into a tree or discarded into the bushes, it’s not nice to nature.

Tews Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

The parking lot for the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is open from the end of May until the end of October. The parking fee for each vehicle is $10. There is also a per person admission fee of $5 for each visitor aged 5 and up.

If you are looking to get to Webster Falls, be aware that there is not a hiking trail between Tews Falls and Webster’s Falls. Access from the parking lots and highway only.

Epic Hikes With Kids - Dundas Peak and Tew's Falls Trail, Ontario #discoverON #exploremore #DUNDASPEAK #MANONT #DUNDASONTARIO #TEWSFALLS #getoutside #liveoutdoors #ontarioparks #welivetoexplore #familytravelblogger #hikingwithkids #kidswhohike #hikingmom

Family Friendly Fun in Norfolk County, Ontario

I had realized awhile ago that there was so much of Ontario I had not yet seen or experienced. And that was a shame, because it’s my own backyard, literally. So, I looked at the parts I was not yet familiar with and started to plan new routes for us to explore. It’s worth noting that I pretty much accept any challenge that involves exploration, right? Right. I don’t like to sit still and with my kids in tow, I need to be sure we’re hitting the most family friendly places out there. We’ve been to so many new places in the province now! 

Norfolk County might not appear to be Ontario’s great, premiere vacation destination on the surface. It’s not exciting or cosmopolitan like Toronto or full of history and decorum like Ottawa… Or so you think. Once you look at the charm that’s there, you find Ontario’s South Coast and a flourishing wine, craft beer and agri-tourism industry. Aside from that, it’s a quiet, green place to spend a weekend or take a mid-week trip, only two hours from downtown Toronto. And you find a relatively unknown area – or unknown to us not from the area – for family friendly fun in Norfolk County.

toronto kids on a bridge in waterford, norfolk county

Anyway, this summer, I kept my kids quite busy between our experiences at Bonnechere Provincial Park, venturing into the Grotto on the Bruce Peninsula and hiking. They were ready to slow it down a bit. Norfolk County provided for them a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle they are used to living in the city of Toronto and I wasn’t able to drag them out on to cliffs this time. And it’s just what we needed to enjoy the last week of summer before school started and I head back to the all too familiar grind of working in reality TV. 

 

Where Is Norfolk County?

Norfolk County is made of quite a few small towns in the southwestern part of Ontario. Head southwest from Hamilton or west from St. Catharines/Niagara Falls and you’ll be there in under an hour. It’s important to mention that due to the size of Norfolk County and how spread out everything is from each other, a vehicle is required for touring around.

norfolk county map
from Google maps – map of Norfolk County and surrounding area in Ontario

What Exactly Does Norfolk County Consist Of?

Turkey Point Beach on the South Coast

Turkey Point Provincial Park has a wonderful beach on Lake Erie in the village of Turkey Point. It’s shallow and sandy, which makes it great for kids. Expect to make plenty of sand castles here. The swimming area at the main parking lot in the village is marked by a buoy line and the Ontario Parks website says there is no undertow here. It’s approximately 2 kilometres long and easily accessed by car with a large parking lot. It’s a day use area and if you are just a day visitor opposed to a camper in the camp ground, there is a fee for your car.

The day we were there was not overly busy, we carved out our own space fairly close to the water. I happen to drive around naturally with a pirate ship, sand pails and shovels in the trunk of our Ford Escape, so for Z Man, he was set for fun.

toronto kids at turkey point beach

 

Long Point National Wildlife Area

It’s definitely worth the drive down Long Point towards the sand and pit formation to see one of Canada’s officially designated World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. This is an incredibly important area for wildlife in Norfolk County. There is a diversity of habitats such as marshes, dunes and beaches that are home to more than 75% of migratory birds in Canada. Over 80 bird species nest there!

Long point sunset cruise wetlands

You can see the marshes from the water and find a secret beach if you know someone who knows how to get you there. For that, you need to look up Captain Graham with Long Point Island Huggers. Graham Ferguson is a really jovial, comical, warm man with a great personal backstory of how he came to chartering boats through the marshes. He takes his pontoon boat that accommodates groups and people of all ages for wonderful cruises from sunrise to sunset. Captain Graham is so knowledgable about the area that you’ll leave the cruise with a whole new appreciation of the wetlands.

sunset at long point

Words cannot describe how beautiful the sunset from the water is or how excited my son was to “feed the fish”, so you’ll just have to see for yourself:

 

Night Time Star Gazing

Z Man is space obsessed and what I did not realize is that Norfolk County is pretty spectacular for star gazing. When the skies are clear, there is an observatory at Long Point Eco Adventures that offers stargazing tours. It is quite prudent to point out that for an amateur like me, a star gazing app on a smart phone is enough to impress a four year old boy.

With the app and the naked eye, we were able to find Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and numerous constellations. We were unable to find Uranus or Neptune, so it looks like we will have to go back and try again.

The last time I saw stars like that was in November 2006 in Namibia, close to Sossusvlei.

 

Apple Hill Lavender Farm and Raging Bull Pottery

An absolute must-go-to experience in first half of the summertime in Norfolk County is lavender farms. The photos and the scent are just to die for. In late August, around the time we visited, most of the lavender had been harvested. However, you can still find some purple in the fields.

lavender at ground level

But here, despite the lack of the deep purple fields I expected, lies the beauty in childhood wonder. My kids had no preconceived notions of what a lavender field should look like. All they knew is that they were in a field and they could run up and down the rows. It’s moments like that, I sometimes take for granted. Miss M and Z Man don’t have freedom like that in the city. So, I let them run. I just let that opportunity be exactly that. No one else was there in the way, no one else dictating rules to them. They just got to explore.

apple hill lavender farm girl in background

lavender farm boy running

The Apple Hill Lavender farm consists of more than just lavender fields. There are sunflowers, a small bee apiary and lots of apple trees. In the old farm house, you will find a shop to purchase lavender products, hand crafted body care products and Ragging Bull Pottery. Ragging Bull Pottery sells handmade, award winning porcelain by artist Melissa Schooley. If you’re looking for an amazing local artisan for house wares, this is it.

lots of apple trees

There is no admission fee for a self-guided tour. There is a fee for a group tour with live demonstrations and professional photo shoots. Located in Windham Centre, Ontario.

 

Bonnieheath Estate Lavender and Winery

Still on the lavender fields, but this one is different. Not only is Bonnieheath known for the lavender, it’s a beautiful winery too. Pulling up in your car here is an experience, it feels like an “estate”, like a French Chateau.

the french chateau exterior of bonnieheath lavender and winery

This is the kind of place where you can order a glass of wine, then take a walk outside and wander through the lavender fields. Oh and wander through the vineyard too. At the very back of the vineyard you find a wetland. And it’s intentional. The wetland is an environmental project growing native grasses and windflowers to promote biodiversity and attract wildlife back to the area.

wide shot of lavender farm from abocewide shot of lavender farm from above

In addition to selling wine and ciders, you can also purchase lavender infused food products, like salt and pepper, tea and chocolate. My kids consumed that chocolate faster than anything.

Try and/or buy the Folkin’ Hard Cider. You won’t be sorry.

Bonnieheath wine grapes

Toronto kids looking for frogs in wetland

Again, no admission fee. Located in Waterford, Ontario.

toronto kids enjoying time outside eating lavender infused chocolate

Burning Kiln Winery

When it comes to Ontario Wines, I’m really picky. There have been quite a few that have not sat right in my stomach. I went through the tasting menu here and tried all the wines expect one. I liked all of them. So much so, that I bought quite a few bottles of wine to take home. I’m normally not a Riesling fan, but guess what? Loved their Riesling!

white, rose and red wine tasting list

While I was doing the tastings, the kids were welcome to play with balls and skipping ropes outside, no problem. There is a restaurant and we ate dinner there. While there is not a kid’s menu, Miss M and Z Man really enjoyed splitting the lamb and I had fish tacos.

winery building in norfolk countyHere’s where I am going to give a really interesting piece of agriculture fact and history to you. Norfolk County was once renown for tobacco farms in Canada. It’s part of “Ontario’s Tobacco Belt” and was very prosperous here until the early 2000’s when Ontario started to implement smoking bans. Many farmers have turned their fields into growing ginseng, asparagus, pumpkins, squash and now there are vineyards. Why am I telling you this? On the site of Burning Kiln, was once a tobacco tract.

Vineyard at burning kiln winery

The original barn has been reconfigured and pays homage to it’s history. The bulk tobacco kilns were repurposed to implement the grape drying art of “appassimento”, which is a technique that started in Italy to really enhance the flavours. And let me tell you, one taste of their Kiln Hanger cabernet franc and you’ll know what I mean about how good they are.

red wine making process

Burning Kiln Winery is located right across the street from where I was staying at Long Point Eco Adventures with the kids. Located approximately 3km from Turkey Point Beach.

street between where i stayed and the winery

 

Ramblin’ Road Brewery

What happens when kids go to a brewery and they get to eat a bowl ice cream? Mom gets to try craft beer in peace. The idea of serving ice cream at the brewery is pure genius!

When you hang out socially with me, you learn a couple things fairly quickly. I am a cream ale and an IPA fan. And for hangover breakfasts, I will drink a stout. Long story short, I know my beers. Ramblin’ Road Brewery did not disappoint me in that department and I was presented with something new – Ontario’s first potato beer, it’s called Dakota Pearl Ale. I was able to taste the Country Pilsner, Country Cream Ale, Country Lager, Dakota Pearl Ale and 3D Triple Chocolate stout. While the Dakota Pearl Ale was smooth, had a great golden-straw colour with a white head and a nice floral aroma, it is one touch too hoppy for me.

Brewery Farm owned by picard

I purchased the 3D Triple Chocolate Stout and the IPA Unleashed. First, I’m a real sucker for chocolate and stouts. The IPA has a bitterness of 48 BU’s, making it a little sweet. The brewery has lots of other products by the parent company for sale such as kettle chips, peanuts and cute t-shirts.

picard property

Located just north of Delhi, Ontario.

 

Vanessa’s Bees and Apiary Tour

The highlight of the week for Miss M was the Apiary Tour. Interestingly enough, she was really hesitant about donning a protective suit and going anywhere near the bees. My somewhat sheltered, urban, Toronto kids in an apiary. Who would have thought?

apiary at long point eco adventures

Let’s be real, kids bring a certain element of the unknown to any situation. Taking them into the apiary, putting on the protective suits and bringing them close to the bees was a calculated risk. As in risk for the bees! I wondering if one of them was going to scream or freak out or knock something over or scare the bees and ruin the work that Vanessa and Cam had lovingly put into the apiary. Turns out my hesitations were unfounded. Again, my kids impressed me. They put on the suit without question and excitedly went towards where the bees were kept. Not only that, Miss M had a drone bee in her hand.

my daughter with a drone bee on her hand

The kids got to experience the whole inner working of the hive. Learn about how drone and worker bees come to be. Learn about the Queen Bee and what happens to the Queen when a new one comes along – spoiler – it doesn’t always end well. It was beyond educational and exciting.

kid holding a honeycomb

My kids went willingly out of their comfort zone. Maybe it was the promise of honey tasting after all that would be over. Maybe it was knowing we were going to make a candle out of beeswax that they went through with it. All I know if they did and would do it again.

Check out their little video here:

 

What Else?

These are the places we went and experienced personally, but that doesn’t mean that’s all of it! What else is there to see or do for family friendly fun in Norfolk County?

  • The Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum in Waterford
  • Port Dover Harbour Museum
  • Zipline at Long Point Eco Adventures
  • Kayak Tours through Big Creek National Wildlife Area
  • Fishing Tours
  • Zodiac Boat Tours

summer flowers close up

What’s great about this region, especially if you are from the Toronto area, is that you can come for a weekend or two or three and not even fit in everything I’ve listed above. You could just focus on one area like Long Point and Turkey Point in one weekend.

Long Point Eco Adventures zipline platform

Go and check out Norfolk County is my advice. Do it before it turns into the next Prince Edward County and you can’t book accommodations anywhere. You can impress your friends with your knowledge of this wine region long before they’ve even heard of it.

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FAMILY FRIEDNLY FUN IN NORFOLK COUNTY, ONTARIO #longpoint #norfolkcounty #familytravelblog #bestfamilytravelblog #kidsfriendlyactivites #ontariotravel #roadtrips #discoverON #kathrynanywhere #torontofamily

The kids are I were guests of Norfolk County Tourism in August, 2018. We were given accommodation and experiences in exchange for an honest review. Our opinion has not been swayed in anyway.