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Awesome Things To Do In Yarmouth, NS

If you haven’t been to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in your lifetime, you are definitely missing out. Make plans as soon as possible to get yourself to the Acadian South Shores of this Maritime Province in Canada!

Yarmouth is incredibly photogenic and I’m not talking about this awkward model in the shot that you are about to see below. From shipyards to wharves, murals, museums and picturesque Main Street, this town has it all for the eye! If you’re looking for a visual journey, the incredibly colourful Acadian South Shore is for you. In fact, it’s such a cool spot to be, the area’s history predates Samuel de Champlain’s introduction to the shores of Nova Scotia.

Yarmouth is the kind of place where everyone talks to everyone, no matter where you are from. Usually, the conversations open up with where are you from and who’s your father? Sometimes there was “what’s your mother’s name”? And if you are going to cross the street, that car almost 2 blocks back is slowing down to give you ample time to cross the street. They take it a little slower out there and I like it.

Have I sold you on Yarmouth, Nova Scotia yet? I will take you on a deep dive into the awesome things to do in Yarmouth.

I was graciously hosted along with many other travel writers and content creators in Yarmouth for media tours before and/or after the Travel Media Association of Canada conference.

Things to Do And See in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

The first thing you’ll want to do to really get to know the town of Yarmouth is to explore on foot. My personal favourite ways to get a feel for places are walking tours or taking turns down back roads on my bike. The history of Yarmouth is full of architecture, history, folklore and legends. As it’s a marine town, it has a deep connection to the fishing industry and to this day attributes the vast majority of its revenue and employment to the working wharves, working fish plants and working Museums.

Yarmouth Walking Tours

Should you take a walking tour of Yarmouth? Yes! Meet a local and take a 90-minute walking tour with Yarmouth Walking Tours. Candice Phibbs guides tourists (and residents) through the Town of Yarmouth’s Heritage District and waterfront area. Learn about the ghost at Frost Park, the rich founding families, the shipbuilders, their careers and the homes they built. You can also listen to some of the family drama stories along with their homes. Included in my tour was a visit to The Yarmouth County Museum.

Kathryn at the mural on water street in Yarmouth

Take a Bike Ride

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Yarmouth was pop into a local bike repair shop to pick up new lights and a tire pump. I asked the guy where he likes to ride and Cape Forchu Lighthouse was his recommendation. So that’s where I went on my first ride! 11.9 km each way from my Airbnb. There are some hills and I met a headwind going in. Made a stop at Fish Point for the Lost At Sea memorial to catch my own wind and found some great views. I lucked out with a gorgeous day and great ocean views all around! 

The second time I was heading out with my bike, I stopped at Heritage Brewing and solicited bike route advice there. Heidi recommended Pickney’s Point. It’s a fishing wharf that is relatively flat to get to. A longer ride clocking 19km each way. On a calm weather day, it’s a good ride. 

So, the moral of the story – ask the locals. Don’t be afraid to inquire – “What’s your favourite bike ride here?”

Fish Point Memorial Yarmouth, Nova Scotia with bike in front of the monument to the lost at sea

W. Laurence Sweeney Fisheries Museum

Are there museums in Yarmouth? Yes! Located at 112 Water St., if you’re looking for an authentic and preserved piece of shipping history, this is it. At the W. Laurence Sweeney Fisheries Museum, displays have been reassembled to reproduce the waterfront of Yarmouth’s past.

You will walk across a floor built of authentic wharf planks, head up to the second floor and stand at Laurence Sweeney’s original desk and imagine you are in charge of the wharf! Even better, head up to the wheelhouse and pretend to be the ship’s captain.

 

Firefighter’s Museum

The Firefighter’s Museum is the place to come in Yarmouth to discover the history of firefighting in Nova Scotia. Here you can see the different fire engines that were used in the area from the 1800s to the 1930s. From antique hand-drawn and operated engines to a Chevrolet pumper.

Head up to the second floor to see the photos of the ill-fated Fleurus and see the life preservers saved from that ship. I will not give too much away about this story. However, there were elephants walking the streets of Yarmouth in June 1963.

Vehicle from Yarmouth Firefighter's Museum

 

Taste the Wine & Beer of Nova Scotia

Is there craft beer in Yarmouth? You bet. It’s no secret that I’ll travel for good beer. If you’re thinking the same, I’d highly suggest you check out Tusket Falls Brewing Co, Rudder’s Seafood Restaurant & Brew Pub and Heritage Brewing in Yarmouth. There must be something about the proximity to the saltwater that makes these brews so good. The ales and sours were very palatable and mild. These flavours can only be found in this part of the Maritimes, so run to Yarmouth!

Among my favourite beers are:

  1. Crack of The Rock Blonde ale at Tusket
  2. Wheat King Pineapple Wheat at Heritage Brewing
  3. Kilometre 0 cream Ale at Heritage
  4. Blonde Rock at Rudders

Each brewery features pouring samples, glasses and flights along with merchandise for sale.

If you choose not the drive and want some local guidance, enlist Wine & Beer Tours Of Nova Scotia – you won’t be sorry!

Beer flight at Rudder's Seafood and brew pub in Yarmouth at Sunset on the patio

 

Climb The Light House at Cape Forchu

What is the lighthouse at Yarmouth? It is the Cape Forchu Lighthouse! IF you ever have the chance to visit – here are some highlights of this apple core lighthouse you can take it in:

– Climb the Light!  Take a guided tour into the lighthouse tower, learn some interesting facts about Cape Forchu and enjoy spectacular views. It’s only 77 steps! Don’t forget to get a selfie from the top.

– Discover the Leif Erikson Park with walking paths, picnic sites and benches, providing front-row seats for amazing sunsets.

– Meet “Foggy” the 50’ whale skeleton on display in the park. Yes, it’s real.

– Tour the lightkeeper’s residence It is a provincial heritage property complete with museum artifacts.

– Finally, have lunch on the deck or inside the Keeper’s Kitchen café. The smoked salmon sandwich is great. Others enjoyed the lobster roll.

This is one of the destinations I visited by bike on my own. I also returned with my guided group.

  • Cape Forshu Lighthouse for a distance

Go Foraging

Can you go foraging around Yarmouth? You can definitely forage along the side of the road and we did along Yarmouth Bar. These are all plants you can eat and add to a salad or use as the base to your greens or add as flavour to your cooking. I’m not one to go out of my way to pick weeds to eat, but my interest certainly peaked when I learned what we could find. We found lamb’s quarter (pigweed), sea oats, sea rocket, beach peas and more!
Does anyone have any good recipes?
Foraging on Yarmouth Bar - wild fennel

Discover The Night Sky

If the weather allows, see the night sky the way it was meant to be seen with the naked eye. Take a trek to Deep Sky Eye Observatory on 338 Frotten Road. Long before light pollution was a problem, the stars used to dance and shimmer off the water. The Acadian South Shores is North America’s first certified Starlight Tourist Destination (as issued by the UNESCO-backed International Starlight Foundation).

Sadly, the weather did not cooperate during my time there. I was unable to capture fantastic photos of the sky and stars at night at the Deep  Sky Eye Observatory. Rumour has it, late, on a clear night, you can see the Milky Way, Saturn’s Rings, and the spiralling arms of distant galaxies. Of course, it’s best done in an indoor, 9-foot dome that houses a Celestron 14” Edge HD telescope on a CGE Pro mount. I’m no expert, but that’s my wager and I wish I had more time in Yarmouth to go back and try again! Next time.

Where to Eat in Yarmouth

This is not the place where I am going to list a bunch of restaurants to dine at in Yarmouth. Pretty much every food establishment serves lobster. And seafood chowder. It’s fresh and from the sea right outside the door. For those who do not eat seafood, you can order chicken and meat. Fairly basic fair. What is lacking is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s hard to find a bell pepper anywhere or a decent salad. You can definitely get french fries and potatoes.

You will not find large chain restaurants or a Starbucks in the main area. Be prepared for restaurants to close before 9:00 pm in the evening, so plan your dining and evenings accordingly.

What To Do Outside of Yarmouth?

The maritime history of Yarmouth is quite legendary and to this day, shipbuilders and lobster fishermen still call Yarmouth home. And operate from their docks. The town is built around the proud traditions of the sea. Keep that in mind when you visit.
Lobster fishing boats in Yarmouth Bar wharf
If you are flying to Halifax, Nova Scotia in order to visit Yarmouth, there are a couple of places along the way I recommend a stop at.

The first is Boxing Rock Brewing Company in Shelburne for lunch and a pint. Local folklore says that Boxing Rock in Shelburne Harbour is where bickering seaman were left by their captain to sort out their differences. The choice: box until only one could return to the ship or shake hands and share a beer. Either way, there are only a few short hours until high tide and the choice would be made for them.

The second stop is the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown. Birchtown was the first free black settlement in Canada with the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists. Loyalists are those who were loyal to the Crown (England) and were promised land in return for their loyalty. These black settlers weren’t treated very kindly in many situations. If you have descendants who escaped slavery in the 1780s and made their way to Nova Scotia, this is one of the best places to do your family history and tree.

I hope this inspires you to travel to Yarmouth and the Acadian South Shores of Nova Scotia! Please do say hi to David Sollows when you get there. He’s a retired school principal, sings in a Celtic band and was my tour guide.

Land’escapes – Ontario’s Newest Outdoors Oasis

The Park at Land’escapes, off of Highway 62, south of Bancroft, is one of Canada’s most unique private conservation and recreation communities. Unique in the way that it is an exclusive, members-only wilderness park for all seasons. Meaning once you have a membership, you are welcome to visit and bring guests with you. Members can explore 26,000 acres without overcrowding or waiting for a site and have a true wilderness experience.

Getting out into the wilderness and enjoying nature is something that’s always been very important to me. Growing up, we lived on the edge of the city of Belleville. At the end of our road, were acres of seemingly uninhabited land. It was heavily treed and owned by a farmer, but we used it to explore all year long. Unless we were stealing his strawberries from the farmer section of the field a couple of kilometres away, he never bothered with any of the neighbourhood kids. We built forts, we flexed our girl guides skills of compass and orienteering, fire building, s’mores making but more than anything, we simply explored.

As a child, my parents took me camping every summer. Whether it was in the 1000 Islands or into the Muskoka area or going all the way to Newfoundland with our camper trailer and back, we did it. We hiked, we biked and we foraged wild berries. The pull to the outdoors still tugs like comfort from my childhood. I want my children to have some of the same experiences I have. 

Selfie in a kayak with kids in canoe and on sup in background

Why Land’escapes?

Living in increasing over-development and urban density, it’s extremely key to me to have a place to escape the noise and pollution. I need somewhere to go to reset my mental health. I like the ability to paddle on a glassy lake and safely bask in the sunshine. It’s nice to snowshoe across many miles without another soul to bother me. And it’s essential to have a plan to leave behind these wonderful green spaces for my children and for their futures. 

It pleased me to hear about a project preserving and protecting landscapes right here in Ontario called Land’escapes. I was lucky enough to spend some time there last summer when the land was first purchased. The kids held frogs in their hands, jumped in the lake and learned about foraging wild mint. Fortune was mine to revisit it earlier this week.

The Park is focusing on conservation and low-impact recreation. There isn’t heli-skiing or motocross here, but there are many kilometres of hiking trails and quiet lakes to explore. The land is formerly a logging property – industrial timber operations – that has been abused in a variety of ways throughout its history. Park operations are busy removing leftover scrap metal, debris, vehicles, tires and waste. The hope is that this will help restore the land back to a natural oasis.

Waterfall on Land'escapes property

The Benefits of Land’escapes

More and more we are learning about the benefits of submersion in nature. The idea of outdoor schools and forest bathing is becoming more and more popular. The Scandanavian outdoor school concept was never seen outside of that region. Now, outdoor courses and school terms are creeping into North American curriculums. What was once an idea that someone in the city would laugh at, is now the desired activity. Judging by rates for summer camps, parents will pay for their children to get that exposure.  

Being in the outdoors has become the antidote to stress. It’s also the prescription for lowering blood pressure, stress levels and anxiety. Doctors are legitimately writing prescriptions for people to get passes to Parks Canada and Ontario Parks. We are being encouraged to enjoy the outdoors on a regular basis to help improve our moods. It sounds like it’s pretty critical to our survival to have beautifully conserved greenspaces we can access.

There are over 150 kilometres of marked and mapped hiking trails to explore over the 26,000 acres of territory at Land’escapes. Over twenty-five quiet lakes beckon you to play as no motorized vehicles or watercraft are permitted. All quiet recreation. Endless paddling awaits!

That’s a lure to me. The freedom to be out there and be able to teach my kids to canoe or stand up paddle board on the water without fear of being injured, having close calls with drunken cottage boaters. I don’t have to own a canoe to go on a canoe trip in The Park. What if I told you that you could go on a canoe portage camping trip and not have to haul your canoe overland? 

SUP at Landescapes on Dixon Lake

(Not that I am ever afraid of a canoe portage, but if I don’t have to haul my canoe and just take my camp gear, I will!)

The Park is On The Mend

With membership comes access to premium amenities like a gear library, you can book a guided tour or participate in a workshop on mushroom foraging or birding. Members can paddle to the end of one lake, leave that canoe and hop into a new one waiting at the next lake. It’s the portage less portage!

Currently, there are 20 camping spots ready for use. Canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are in place and ready for recreation. Hiking trails are marked and blazed. Turtles are crossing, elk are grazing and herons are flying.

Over the next couple of months, there will be more campsites ready for members to use. Have you always wanted to try to hike out and camp? This is your chance to learn!

Backcountry campsite at landescapes

Nature Addict

It’s no secret that I am like a wildling, born to be outside or on the water. With the craziness of construction and congestion in the city where I live, you can bet I’ll be taking full advantage of everything Land’escapes has to offer. You can find me on Jacko Lake on a kayak or on Dixon lake teaching my kids a killer j-stroke.

SUP on a lake in Ontario at Land'escapes

Disclaimer: We are pleased to partner with Landescapes for their values and commitment to conservation and leave no trace style. I am happy to access this beautiful wilderness and also take ownership of its care for generations to come.

Estrella Damm Culinary Tour Stop: Toronto

Ever since I visited Barcelona with my children, back in April 2019, I have been obsessed with the idea of returning. Travelling with my kids is fun, but in doing so, I didn’t really get to experience all of the food and drink options I would have done without them. I got to taste some beer and wine and it was at a small restaurant off La Ramblas that I first tasted Estrella Damm. This was not a beer I had tasted in Toronto!

Estrella Damm stock shot on the Mediterranean with food

Estrella Damm is widely known as the number one beer in Barcelona. Commonly referred to as the “Mediterranean Lager” in Europe, Estrella Damm has not deviated from the formula created in 1876 that uses only barley, malt, rice and hops. It was the dream of August Kuentzmann Damm and his wife, Melanie to brew beer when they fled the Franco-Prussian War to the Mediterranean coast to brew beer. For over 140 years, the fields of hops and barley have been prepared for spring. Then harvested for the malt boxes, fermentation and lagering.

The beer, Estrella Damm lager is a golden colour with tones of amber and slight shades of green. A lager beer is one that is brewed and conditioned at a low temperature. Estrella Damm is bright with small bubbles and smells of fresh spices. I must mention here that the beer itself is brewed with 100% natural ingredients. Very European (like their bread, bread in Europe is way better). Being a lager loving girl, it’s definitely one I’m happy to drink and enjoy.

Estrella Damm in Toronto

For the month of May, Harriet’s and a few other restaurants in Toronto will be partnering with Estrella Damm. The Estrella Damm Culinary Journey will showcase a signature food pairing that is complemented by a cold Estrella Damm beer. To start the Estrella Damm culinary journey off right and get into a Spanish mood, be sure to take set yourself up with a Spanish-style snack. Andalusian olives and Mediterranean herb flavoured potato chips along with an Estella Damm will work very well!

Estella Damm afternoon snack with olives and chips

I decided to check it out myself at the rooftop patio of Harriet’s with my good friend, Chris from Rudderless Travel and Roadtrip Ontario. This is a restaurant I have been dying to try since it opened at 1Hotel Toronto. Luckily for me, it’s a hop, skip and a jump away from where I live so I didn’t have to walk very far. If I was going much further, I definitely would have taken an Uber.

Chris Rudder and I with Estrella Damm beer at Harriet's rooftop patio and bar on top of 1Hotel Toronto

The night was a perfect temperature and I was able to wear a sleeveless romper. I had bought this romper many months ago and was dying to wear it out. Chris and I each ordered a couple of Estrella Damm beers. We also dined on two of the suggested food pairings. The first on the list is Beef Tsukane. That is bacon-wrapped beef balls with Gochujang BBQ sauce.

Beef Taksune, Bacon wrapped beef balls with Gochujang BBQ sauce, comes with a cold bottle of Estrella Damm at Harriet's rooftop bar

The second food item we had paired was Chicken Katsu Sando. That is Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Coleslaw, Gochujang BBQ Sauce.

Estella Damm and Chicken Katsu Sando - Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Coleslaw, Gochujang BBQ Sauce at Harriet's rooftop patio in Toronto

Being a red meat girl, I can definitely attest to being in love with the beef dish.

The view from our table of the city was really cool. For anyone coming to the city of Toronto and looking for a real urban dining experience, this is it. Being up here there is definitely a great way to feel part of the hustle without walking in the middle of the hustle.

View of Toronto from Harriet's Rooftop patio and bar at night

Where to savour Estrella Damm in Toronto

Throughout the city of Toronto, there are other restaurants participating in this culinary journey of Estrella Damm as well! You can partake in the pairing and enjoyment at Goodson Queen, Goodson DM, Mrs Robinson, Mira, Atai Bistro, Atai 36 @ Knots, Trattoria Mercatto, Madrina, Café Dip, Shook, Patria, Parcheggio, Beaumont Kitchen, Tapagria, Ricardas, Mexitaco By the Bluffs, Mexitaco on Victoria Park, Mexitaco Cantina, Barrio, Chica, Campo, Prohibition, Babel, Tapas at Embrujo, iSLAS, Bar Isabel , Leña, Middle8, DaiLo, and Mercado Negro.

Many of these restaurants are bookable on the app Open Table. They are conveniently located in the downtown area. Most locations are close to Toronto transit or be sure to take an UBER so you don’t drink and drive.

Hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy Estrella Damm in Toronto!

 

Estella Damm being enjoyed at Harriet's by the author, Kathryn

 

I was gifted this dinner experience to cover the Estrella Damm culinary journey in Toronto.

I don’t enjoy every beer I taste, but I certainly enjoy Estrella Damm.

Why Winter Camping in Ontario Is Awesome

Winter camping was one of those things I tried as a novelty. My first trip was to Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park. When Ontario Parks invited me to experience yurt winter camping at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park during the first week of March, I laughed at the thought of me hanging out and sleeping in the cold, crisp Canadian air. Then, I jumped at the chance once assured the yurt was heated! Winter camping in Ontario is awesome.

Truly it is. Although Ontario is a year-round camping province, I had never camped outside of the summer months. Now, winter camping (or even winter glamping) is something I have now done year after year.

Camping in the winter is beautiful and still. The air is fresh and crisp. The people are few and far between.

Cyprus Lake Bruce Peninsula Yurt 4 winter camping exterior from water

Over the past couple of years, winter camping has become one of the hottest trends in outdoor adventure. Winter camping in yurts or winter camping in a rustic cabin is amongst the most popular activities. Hard-core adventure seekers and back-country enthusiasts still camp in wintertime. The camping season in Ontario does not end on Labour Day in September! The best part is, you don’t have to be an experienced camper. Camping novices can try a yurt or a rustic cabin in the woods.

So let’s pull on the long underwear, pack the hot chocolate and let’s check out all of the exciting winter camping (and winter glamping) options in Ontario.

Winter Camping in Ontario

From luxurious fully catered, resort-like settings complete with restaurants and flush toilets, to self-catered heated cabins and yurts with comfort stations, or self set up hot tents and RV camping in Ontario Provincial Parks, there’s something for almost everyone.

Spending the night in the great outdoors during any season is good for your soul. When you are camping and spending more time in nature, you’re surrounded by trees. This means you are breathing in more oxygen and less urban pollution. Your body will be much healthier and will function better when there’s more oxygen.

Contact with nature has been found to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, help prevent disease, and reduce stress levels. If that doesn’t attract you to the great outdoors, what will? Ontario Parks has 26 Provincial Parks that are open during the winter season. Services and facilities range from day use only to front and backcountry camping and roofed accommodation.

Different Types of Winter Camping

As mentioned, there are many ways to camp in the winter in Ontario. You can find luxurious glamping tents that are at fully catered, resort-like settings complete with restaurants and flush toilets (maybe even a private bathroom). There are many places to book self-catered heated cabins and yurts with comfort stations at many of the provincial parks or at some private facilities that can be accessed on Airbnb. For the hardcore camping enthusiasts, you can still set up your tent at a campsite or hike a few kilometres out and have a backcountry experience.

Back Country Camping in Winter

Backcountry camping in winter can also be called cold camping. What cold camping means is that you don’t have heat in your tent. There’s no stove and there certainly isn’t electricity. Much like a summer backcountry excursion, everything you take in with you, you have to take out. This is a hike it in and hike it out situation. The bonus part of doing this in winter is that you can often transport your gear and food on sleds if there is enough snow.

Only attempt cold camping if you are an experienced camper who can meal plan. You will need to understand how to stay dry and warm and why wearing cotton while cold camping is bad. This is a situation where tents and sleeping bags have to be rated for extremely cold temperatures. Test out your camp stove at home before taking it cold camping to ensure it works in such cold temperatures.

Hot Tent Camping in Winter

Camping in a hot tent is really interesting. Your hot tent has your stove right inside. And the chimney runs out the ceiling of the tent. So this is a very warm and cozy method to camp and a good way to dry out gear. These tents and the gear are expensive to beginners, but once you have built out your kit and you are comfortable with your gear, it’s less daunting.

There are many different kinds of tent canvas and tarps and stoves to build out your site with and of course, there are many safety lessons to learn before you do this on your own the first time.

There are many sites throughout the provincial park system you can bring your top tent set up. Once you have the right gear and everything set up properly, you can be comfortable for days on end as long as you’re happy to cook over a fire in the ground.

Hot tent winter camping in Mew Lake campground at Algonquin Provincial Park

Yurt Winter Camping

One of the most popular new adventures is winter camping in yurts. Yurt winter camping often referred to as glamping, is a comfortable way to ease yourself into the winter overnight, outdoor experience without exposing yourself to the elements. A yurt is a soft-sided structure. It’s made of heavy-duty canvas and is on a platform, off the ground. Many yurts have electricity and are heated either by an electric stove or by a wood-burning fireplace. It is rare to find yurts with running water.

Like camping in a tent, you need to keep your food out of the yurt. Food should be stored in the trunk of your vehicle or in food storage lockers. Any scent of food in a yurt is an invitation for an animal to try to make its way in. Cooking in yurts is dangerous and should not be done due to the flammable nature of the structure.

Very few yurts have access to private washrooms. Provincial and national parks have comfort stations for use as well as outhouses. Yurts in Ontario are available to book through Parks Canada, Ontario Parks as well as at numerous private campgrounds across Ontario. These are great options to introduce kids to winter camping, you can read all about my son and I camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park here.

Parks Canada Cyprus Lake Campground Yurt 4 interior

RV Winter Camping

If you have a recreational vehicle and you use it in the summer, chances are good can use it in the winter. That is the ultimate comfort in camping. As a camper who actually sleeps on the ground, in tents and have hiked and canoed my gear through lakes and over hills, I personally do not consider RV a camping vehicle. An RV is a cottage on wheels. Private and comfortable bedroom, flushing toilets and an equipped kitchen? You can take that mobile cottage to the campground and plugin for your water and electricity. I have seen many RV’s in MacGregor Point provincial park over the winter.

Sounds like a perfect retirement plan if you ask me!

Cooking While Camping In The Winter

Cooking while winter camping is exactly the same as cooking during summer camping, you just need to dress for it. The same equipment is required – fire, frying pans, gas stoves… But you’re wearing gloves in sub-zero weather. It’s important that you plan a menu for us that consists of pre-cooked protein foods (steak, chicken and dumplings if you eat meat) that only need to heat over the flame for a short period of time to eat along we easy to prepare side dishes. Preseason food and pack it in your cooler.

Even in the winter, the food needs to be stored away from your accommodations. Lock coolers and bags of groceries in your trunk or some campgrounds, like Cyprus Lake in the Bruce Peninsula, have food storage lockers.

Many yurts come with a BBQ for you to use at your site. Trust me when I say that as a single mom camping with kids, it makes your life easier.

woman bends over, cooking in a skillet over a fire in Algonquin Provincial Park

The First Winter Yurt Camping Experience

My first winter camping in Ontario experience was a (glamping) camping trip in a Yurt at Algonquin Provincial Park. My friend, Brian from Luxography Photography agreed to join me for a few days hiking, exploring, cooking and taking a thousand pictures of the lake and surroundings.

When Brian and I pulled up at yurt #49 at Mew Lake yurt in Algonquin Park, I was stunned looking at this green canvas thing on a wooden platform. When we opened the door to the yurt, any apprehension I had was gone. I’m usually up for any adventure, so there wasn’t a whole lot of worry about what we were doing. However, for below zero weather and snow in the short-term forecast, I was wondering what I had agreed to.

Yurt at Mew Lake campground in winter

Inside the yurt, there are 2 bunk beds, the bottom bunks are a double and the top a single for a sleeping total for six people. I can see a family up to six people in there, but I can honestly say that a travel party of 6 adult friends might find the conditions cramped. We brought our own sleeping bags and pillows as your own bedding is required. There is also a table, some plastic chairs and a heater. Between the two of us, we each had ample space and never once did I find it crowded. There is a comfort station with heated water for showering as well as three sinks, hand dryers and flush toilets about a 4-minute walk from the yurt.

Also, this yurt had electricity!

interior of yurt #49 at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial PArk

The winter lake view was amazing, simply breathtaking – frozen lake, a dusting of snow on the trees, barely a soul in sight. And it was quiet. Wonderfully and delightfully quiet.

Mew Lake in March at Algonquin Provincial Park

Things To Do At Algonquin Provincial Park In The Winter

While we were at Algonquin Provincial Park, there were a couple of families with younger children in Mew Lake and my first thought was – hey, there isn’t a playground for these kids… What are they going to do? I realized that everywhere there was their playground and an opportunity to use their imagination.

The coolest and most Canadian attraction to the Mew Lake campground – the skating rink that is there! There are hockey nets and sticks to play with – right beside the comfort station.

Snowshoes are available for rent at the park gates for a reasonable price. Other Ontario Park locations that offer snowshoe rentals are Arrowhead, Frontenac, Killarney, Pinery, Wasaga Beach and Windy Lake.

Hiking trails are open during the winter months, depending on skill level and weather, these are mostly manageable, ice grips (ice cleats or crampons) might be required.

Nineteen Ontario Parks locations offer cross-country ski trails with 450+ km of trails with about half groomed or track-set. Many have warm-up shelters and/or cabins with wood fires and even hot chocolate to warm you up! Cross-country ski rentals are available at Arrowhead, Pinery, Wasaga Beach and Windy Lake.

Snowshoes for rent at Algonquin Provincial Park

The Visitor Centre is open daily for bird watching, book purchasing and has world-class exhibits on Algonquin Provincial Park’s natural and human history. During any season, the Visitor Centre at Algonquin Provincial Park is worth a visit. Be sure to check out and read here all you can explore: Algonquin Provincial Park Visitor Centre; behind the scenes

How’s The Wifi Out There?

Like many campgrounds, they are not in dense, urban areas. Unfortunately, there is not a 5G tower on each corner and service can be spotty in the great outdoors. This is what some people will call a drawback – there is no wifi at the campground unless you are bringing your own. At Mew Lake, to have wifi access, we had to drive 20-25 minutes to the Algonquin Visitor’s Centre to use theirs. If you are looking for a digital detox, go camping.

Important to keep in mind, an iPhone looks for a stronger signal everywhere and in the sub-zero weather, the battery drains itself in a matter of minutes.

Winter Camping in a yurt at Algonquin Park #mewlake #algonquinpark #yurtlife #glamping #wintercamping #travelblogger #femaletravelblogger #ontarioroadtrips #yurtcamping

 

Are You Ready to Go Camping In The Winter?

No matter how you decide to camp in the winter in Ontario, you have to make sure you have the proper equipment. You need warm sleeping bags and durable tents. You need cooking equipment that will operate in sub-zero temperatures. It’s imperative you have a  wardrobe to keep yourself dry. Also, you must prepare to keep yourself fed and hydrated.

Once you are prepared, the fresh air is all yours. Get out there and enjoy winter camping in Ontario.

To book an Ontario Parks yurt or rustic cabin or backcountry or car camping site, be sure to check out their booking site here: Ontario Parks Reservations

To book a Parks Canada yurt or Otentik, be sure to check out their booking site here: Parks Canada Reservations

If you would like to check out Ontario’s Glamping hub, look here: Glamping Hub Ontario

Happy camping!

 

Disclaimer: Ontario Parks has provided me with the stay in a yurt numerous times in the past, but in no way swayed us into having a good time. Opinions are always mine.

 

Tobermory Ontario: Best Things to See And Do

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.

We subsequently visited Tobermory in the summer of 2018 as we loved it so much and enjoyed everything the area has to offer. The Bruce Peninsula is stunning. The town of Tobermory is quaint. The grotto is right out of this world!

While summer is the main time to visit Tobermory, it can also be a destination for winter warriors as well.

 

How To Get To Tobermory From Toronto

The drive to Tobermory, Ontario from our home in downtown Toronto is approximately 4 hours. The most direct way from Toronto is north on Highway 427 to the 401. Take Highway 401 westbound to the 410 and then take the 410 north. That highway eventually becomes Highway 10 and you will drive north on it until you reach a set of lights with a Champ Burger on one corner and a Super Burger on the other corner. We highly recommend Super Burger. Turn left and drive towards the town of Shelbourne. Follow the street signs that point north towards Own Sound. Once you reach Owen Sound, follow highway 6 north.

To get to that part of Ontario, you’re not driving on mega highways with rest stops. You will be driving through small towns. Once you head north of Orangeville, the next biggest city is Owen Sound. If you wish to purchase any groceries for your stay, Owen Sound is the best bet. If you want to pick up a snack or meal at a fast food place or use a washroom, again, Owen Sound is the safe bet.

We enjoyed our time in Tobermory in the summer of 2017 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 boasts an abundance of things to do!

Tobermory, Ontario Lighthouse at Big Tub Harbour

Best Things To See And Do In Tobermory, Ontario

Here is the list of the best things to do and see in Tobermory, Ontario with kids. This is based on the activities my children enjoyed there. By no means is this a list of everything to do in Tobermory.

Shipwreck Boat Tour in Big Tub Harbour

Tobermory is one of the best places to see shipwrecks in Ontario! 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 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! Note – the boats can get very crowded fast. Either get a seat up top for premium viewing over the side or stay down below at the glass bottom.

Sweepstakes, shipwreck in Big Tub Harbour, Tobermory - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario With Kids

Diving and Snorkeling in Tobermory

In this same harbour where you can take a glass-bottom boat over the shipwrecks, you can scuba dive and snorkel over them as well. There are a few designated diving sites and a number of shipwrecks to see!

For certified scuba divers, you must register in advance with Parks Canada. There are only certain times of the day scuba divers are allowed in the area. Be sure to hit up the Divers Den for all of your diving needs in Big Tub Harbour. Going into the shipwrecks is not permitted, but observations from around them absolutely are. Snorkelers do not need to register in advance with Parks Canada, but there are certain areas in the water that you will have to stay clear of. This harbour sees so many large boats filled with tourists, please follow all of the rules and regulations.

Kayaking in Tobermory

You can absolutely kayak in Tobermory as well! There are kayak rentals from a number of outfitters in Tobermory. Dunks Bay, south of Tobermory is a good place to launch and paddle around. Cyprus Lake and Cameron Lake and calm and picturesque places to paddle.

It is possible to kayak to Flowerpot Island from the harbour in Tobermory. You would need a sea kayak. It takes about an hour to get to Flowerpot Island and it will take you much longer to get back as you’ll likely be fighting wind and waves. It’s not uncommon to see swells of up to 5 feet, so please only venture out there if you are an experienced paddler. You can camp there overnight if you’re not up to going back and forth in one day. Be sure to register for one of the six sites well in advance.

Flowerpot Island

Flowerpot Island is only accessible by boat from Tobermory, Ontario 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 - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario With Kids

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

How To Get To Flowerpot Island

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 hiking 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

 

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 and I was back in the winter of 2021. 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.

The natural arch, Grotto rockface, Tobermory Bruce Peninsula National Park

Covid Protocols and The Grotto, Tobermory

Reservations for parking at the Grotto for the summer of 2021 will be available online on April 29th 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.

 

Enjoy 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 Tobermory and see the boats in the harbour with ice cream in hand, you won’t be sorry!

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.

Tobermory Brewing Company

If you’ve been reading my blog posts and following me for a while, you know what a craft beer lover I am. In fact, Ontario craft beers rank as some of my favourites in the world! So no trip to Tobermory is complete without finding a brewery. And I found Tobermory Brewing Company. It’s Tobermory’s first and only brewery, a restaurant and a beer store. Sweet find, definitely worth a visit to sample the brew. The older woman hostess wasn’t over-friendly – I think she wanted me to leave because I had children with me, but the beer made up for it.

Women with children enjoy craft beer too. We enjoy the artisan work involved. Trying to turn us away with your 40-minute wait and its really crowded speech is not cool.

Tobermory Brewery Flight Sampler on the patio facing the sunset

Visiting Tobermory Ontario In Winter

If you plan to visit Tobermory in the off-season, you need to understand that a lot of what draws people to the area is not available then. The town of Tobermory, in the winter, is essential shut down. The only shops you will find during the week that are on are the LCBO and the Foodland. Maybe the brewery on the weekend is open, but you should call ahead and double-check before you go to the Tobermory Brewing Company or any other restaurant you’d like to dine at.

Most accommodations in and around Tobermory are closed between Thanksgiving and the May long weekend. For our winter trip, we camped at Cyprus Lake in a Yurt.

There are definitely one-day activities during the winter you can check out in Tobermory.

Parks Canada Visitor Center and Look Out Tower

In the town of Tobermory, you’ll find the Parks Canada Visitor Centre and the hike to the lookout tower. To get there from downtown Tobermory (Litle Tub Harbour), it takes approximately 10 minutes.

The Parks Canada Visitor Centre is an entertaining place for kids to learn about the shipwrecks of the area, the marine life, the geography and the grotto. We spent more than an hour in there for time reference. The curation of the information and all of it is in French and English, is really quite spectacular.

Parks Canada visitors centre bruce peninsula interior display

Once you’ve discovered all there is to discover inside the visitor centre, get outside and hike to the lookout tower. The lookout tower is 65 feet tall and is 112 steps to the top. From the lookout tower, you can see the town of Tobermory, Little Tub Harbour and the outlying islands.

Parks Canada aerial look out point from tower of Tobermory

Hike to Little Dunks Bay Look Out

Honestly, if it wasn’t December and there wasn’t snow and ice on the rocks, you’d think it was still summer to look at the colour of the water. Those Caribbean hues of Georgian Bay hold even when it’s below zero on the thermometer.

The hike to Little Dunks Bay Look Out from the tower is less than a kilometre and on the day we went, we were the only people on the trail. This is a very secluded little cove. The hike is relatively easy, the ground is flat and the path is very well worn in. The view is priceless!

Little Dunks Bay look out point in December

Where to Stay in Tobermory Ontario

My kids and I have stayed at the Blue Bay Motel as well as another location we do not recommend. We are booked to return to the Blue Bay motel this coming summer.

Take your family on a road trip – check out BOOKING.COM today (affiliate link, I make a small commission if you make a booking at no extra cost to you)


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Kingsville Ontario – What To See And Do On A Day Trip

Kingsville Ontario is Canada’s most southernmost town and is absolutely dripping with charm and history. There is no better time in Ontario to stay close to home, so enjoy a staycation and shop local! You’ll qualify for a tax credit in 2022 if you do. With so many amazing places in Kingsville to drink in, dine at, explore and shop, why not plan a day trip there? Let’s dive right in with the best places to eat, drink, browse and shop in Kingsville! 

Where is Kingsville Ontario?

Kingsville is a town in Essex County in southwestern Ontario, Canada. Believe it or not, the latitude that Kingsville is on is the same latitude as Northern California! The area is primarily agriculture, fruit farming and wine.

The town sits on the northern shore of Lake Erie. The closest city is Windsor. If you are driving from Toronto, the primary route will be the 401 to County Road 27. This drive time is approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes.

Day Trip to Kingsville – Shopping

I highly recommend you start your first day at Colasanti’s Tropical Garden in northern Kingsville with a friendly game of indoor mini-golf. This 18 hole course is easy enough for any and all travel companions you would have with you. When you’re done that, hit the games in the arcade. Collect tickets from all of your video game wins and trade them in for a prize when you’re all played out. 

You can enjoy a sit-down lunch in the tropical-themed dining area and be sure to save room for dessert. Be sure to allow some time to shop for home decor and plants here. This is a place that’s hard to leave without a shopping cart full of bonsais and succulents!

Colasanti's Tropical Garden mini golf in Kingville Ontario

Did you know that Kingsville’s premier olive oil and vinaigrette tasting bar can be found at Cindy’s Home & Garden? There are over 60 different flavours of extra virgin olive oil! This is the place to learn about tasting and pairing olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette with your favourite foods and wines. 

Cindy's Olive Oil tasting bar in Kingsville

If you like to shop for a variety of plants available all year round, you’ll be blown away by the selection at Anna’s Home Garden & Wellness. There are lots of locally planted and potted flowers and topiaries for the home and garden to choose from. 

Anna's Tropical plants in Kingsville

Pay a visit to Point Pelee Winery on Seacliff Drive in Kingsville to shop for the best local wine. See if you can pre-book a wine tasting. Try the Lola Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend and maybe you’ll have a new favourite red. I’m only a fan of white wines in the summer, but I really liked the Lighthouse Reisling!

Pelee Island Winery white wines for sale

Downtown Kingsville Ontario

In Downtown Kingsville, you’ll find an incredibly picturesque downtown area. For shopping local, I can’t recommend The Local Maker enough! This is a cute shop on Main Street where 30 local artisans bring their wares to sell and all work together to keep it running. Lots of kitschy but also a lot of great gifts to be bought here.

Windsor Essex sticker and custom t-shirts at Local Maker in Kingsville

 

Kingsville Craft Beer and Bites

Straight across the street from The Local Maker is The Grove Brew House. This is Essex County’s first brick-and-mortar brewery. Secondly, The Grove Brew House boasts quite a few of its beers on tap. A great tasting flight to try that I had is the clean and crisp Paradise Lager, Private Beach Coffee Blonde and a special run of Sasquatch Small Batch – if it’s still on tap. They also make their own gluten-friendly, no-sugar-added hard seltzers. Lunch here is also great, my son and I had a nice meal here.

Beer flight at The Grove Brew House Kingsville

Almost kitty-corner to The Grove Brew House in Kingsville, is the Kingsville Brewery Taphouse. There are 5 beers on tap here – Light Eh! lager, Hefeweizen, Czech Lager, an India Pale Ale and a barrel-aged stout. Flights come in tastings of 4. Pair your flight with a plate of nachos, you won’t be sorry!

TWEPI Kingsville Brew in Kingsville Ontario, Essex County

 

Where to Stay In Kingsville Ontario

If you decide to stay in the area of Kingsville, be sure to check out these cute locations on the map below. Adjust your dates and see what’s available!
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(I receive a tiny commission on any booking you map through the above map. This is at no extra cost to you.)

And that’s a wrap on your day trip to Kingsville Ontario. From mini-golf to olive oil to local breweries, there is something for everyone to enjoy here.

Interested in other places in southwest Ontario? The Windsor International Film Festival (click here) is a great place for the girl’s weekend getaway. Are you a whisky lover like me? You’ll want to take the J.P. Wiser Experience tour (click here) of the Hiram Walker distillery.

Things to do in Kingsville Ontario in a day. From breweries to olive oil to shopping for year round plants, there is something for everyone!