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Waterloo Region Fall Family Fun

Never being one to sit still, when Waterloo called, I answered. And I’m very glad we did as the Waterloo Region is perfect for fall, family fun weekends. There is nothing better than a quick road trip to explore a close by area that you haven’t devoted the appropriate amount of time to.

The kids were hosted in the Waterloo Region for Fun By Day and Fear By Night.

All of our experiences and reactions are genuine and we actually experience it all as opposed to simply posing for a photo.

A little over an hour from Toronto lies the beautiful Region of Waterloo. Waterloo Region is an easily accessible destination for families driving via the 401 or by train. And for Family Fun in the fall, this region should be on your list for a road trip! 

Walter Beale Trail in Kitchener Waterloo Region

Why Visit The Waterloo Region?

The Region of Waterloo combines a couple of cities – Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, as well as the townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich. There are many charming rural roads to drive between them lined with farms. You can visit stunning scenery while walking on trails alongside the Grand River. While you are exploring between the cities and townships, there are cute stops you can make along the way like the Montrose Kissing Bridge (one of the oldest covered bridges in Canada) or St. Jacob’s Farmers Market. 

While the cities are considered to be large, you’re never far from lots of green space and room to breathe fresh air. The cities have built a lot of parks and outdoor spaces. And at this time of year, those green spaces are turning to spectacular autumn hues of reds, oranges, and yellows. It’s perfect for fall outdoor activities for families.

Amidst all of the outdoor space, the Waterloo Region is home to a number of craft breweries and restaurants that boast food from nearby farms. As my readers know, I will travel for beer. You’ll find farmers’ markets, farm visits, and other attractions that are family fun during the day, along with scarier attractions at night that will make you jump!

Canoe The Grand River - canoe and kayak rentals in Waterloo Region

What To Do This Weekend in Waterloo?

Waterloo is not too far away from the Greater Toronto area, so you can jam-pack an itinerary for the day or plan to spend a whole weekend! With so many options for fall activities, it’s a good idea to book in advance and line your timings up.

Here are some of the fall activities for kids and the whole family if you are heading to the area. First up – fun family fall activities you can do during the day:

Canoe The Grand River with Canoeing the Grand  

There is nothing better than a fall paddle and there is something about the beautiful perspective of the autumn hues from the water. The Grand River is an oasis of a beautiful display of fall colours in October. This is an amazing fall activity for kids as they can sit up front of the canoe while the parent (or adult) does the work. My son and I shared a canoe while my daughter kayaked solo.

The Grand River has a mighty current that will gently pull you along if you need to take a break from paddling. You can choose from different time slots and lengths of courses to take. We did a 5km paddle that dropped us in at Woolwich.

Canoe The Grand rents kayaks and canoes and can be found at 3734 King Street East, Kitchener. You can park there and they will shuttle you to your starting point or they will designate you to start elsewhere and finish there. Please consult the guide and their website for more information.

Canoe The Grand River in Waterloo Region

Hike Alongside The Grand River at Walter Bean Trail

Waterloo itself has more than a dozen different trails throughout the city. The Walter Bean Trail is a long, 17.4-kilometre trail that’s classified as moderately challenging. For those with kids, you don’t have to do all of it and can stick to the easier parts by Schneider Park – where you can find free parking for your vehicle. Please note that the parking lot isn’t large, so plan to go early to secure a spot. The trail is really picturesque and for autumn hue hunting, it’s a nice place to be.

It’s also a stone’s throw away from Canoeing The Grand, so your family can combine two outdoor activities around one location.

Walter Beale Trail in Waterloo Region

Have A Farmtastic Fun Time at Snyder’s Family Farm

My kids and I did not allot enough time – we think – to Snyder’s Family Farm. We arrived close to 2:00pm and stayed all the way until closing time. Our advice? Plan to spend at least half a day with the family at Snyder’s Family Farm. This is also a good place to plan to get lunch as there is a grilled cheese double-decker bus and a burger hut. 

There is honestly enough to keep the kids entertained here for hours from a jumping pad and a jumping pillow to a corn maze you can spend an hour in and a hayride and play areas. There was also a puppet show, there are play ground areas for smaller children, a pumpkin patch you can get your pumpkins from as well as a bake shop you can make purchases at.

Synder's Family Farm in Waterloo RegionFor an extra add-on special experience for the family, you can rent a campfire pod. Campfire pods are available to book and you will be assigned a team member who takes care of bringing wood to the fire and keeping it going. That means it’s your family’s job to sit back and relax and let someone else look after your pit.

As if the experience alone wasn’t amazing enough, you can order food and drinks directly to your pod. While the kids delight in roasting marshmallows for s’mores, mom can enjoy a local beer from Block 3 Brewing Co.

Snyder’s Family Farm can be found at 936685 Blenheim Rd, Bright, ON N0J 1B0. It’s approximately 25 minutes of a drive from Canoeing The Grand.

Synder's Family Farm Smores in Waterloo Region

Although fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, the tone changes in the fall to fear! After a fall family fun day, the spooky and scary come out to play!

 

Snyder’s Family Farm becomes the setting for Fear Farm!

The Fun-tastic Farm turns into a haunted hayride through cornfields and forests. Keep your wits about you, you don’t know who or what is lurking where! Multiple themed hauntings will keep you on your toes and not sure what’s around the corner.

Skeletons in an old car Synder's Family Farm Fear Farm Waterloo Region

 

Screampark  at Bingeman’s

Running select nights between now and Hallowe’en, be prepared to get your scare on because Screaming Season is here. Screampark takes brave souls through 6 horrifying attractions meant to leave you shaking in your shoes!

While the gory and terrifyingly dead cast members won’t touch you, they certainly can death stare you down as you visit The Lot, Soulless Swamp or Devil’s Hallows. You might even find yourself being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. 

The kids were definitely terrified. As a tip – there are emergency exits. Should you find yourself too scared to continue and it’s okay to jump out.

Fear Farm or Screampark are not recommended for anyone under the age of 12.

Braving Screamparks at Bingemans Waterloo Region

Where to Stay in the Waterloo Region

We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Kitchener. The DoubleTree by Hilton Kitchener is located close to the highway in the southern part of the region. It’s very close to Bingemans, to Canoe the Grand, and has many shopping conveniences.

The rooms are comfortable and spacious, perfect for family stays. My kids and I were quite comfortable. The restaurant is delicious for breakfast – while the service is buffet, we had eggs cooked to spec. The staff are lovely and kind and the price point is affordable.

DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton Kitchener lobby

 

Where to eat in Waterloo? Well there are lot of chains restaurants, but there are many locally owned and operated resturants

What my kids and I got to do in this mini-itinerary is a small tip of the iceberg. There are so many fantastic family fun activities during the day for the whole family. And don’t forget the fear-by-night attractions that the Waterloo Region has to offer. It will definitely entice you into wanting to return.

Synder's Family Farm campfire pod happy kids

Quebec’s Eastern Townships – Plan The Perfect Long Weekend

The kids and I were hosted by Québec’s Eastern Townships (Tourism Eastern Townships) to explore. We spent 3 nights and took in all of the quaint charms of the region that we could. We are never coerced into having a good time. Opinions are always ours.

Do you want to take a road trip to a Quebec destination with French and English language and culture?

Beautiful countryside?

Ready access to nature, bike and hiking trails?

Delicious and fresh farm-to-table cuisine?

The Eastern Townships of Québec will check all of the boxes.

Spend a long weekend in Québec’s Eastern Townships and you will most certainly head home from this special corner of Québec with a desire to return!

What are Quebec’s Eastern Townships?

The Eastern Townships is a place that will take your breath away! While we’ve only had the pleasure of being there in the summer, it’s a year-round destination. Around every corner are a picture-perfect village, historic building, farm, mountain, lake and a culinary adventure. Romance, outdoor activities and vineyards dot the landscape with a lust for life. Wildflowers grow in fields alongside the roads beckoning you to stop. 

There are 114 towns and cities that make up the Eastern Townships all connected by roads across the 9 territories.

North Hatley alley signage

Where are Québec’s Eastern Townships?

The Eastern Townships of Quebec are approximately 6 and a half hours from downtown Toronto. The major city of the region is Sherbrooke, Quebec. You’ll find this area right on the Vermont, USA border area of Quebec which is why there are strong English communication skills in pockets of the area.  

What Are the best activities in the Eastern Townships?

There are many ways to fill your time in the Eastern Townships. For this itinerary, we are going to focus on the area of Magog, Hatley and Coaticook.

Magog is the bigger city in this area with the city amenities.

North Hatley is quaint and reminds us of a beautiful French town. The streets are walkable and the people are personable. The entire town is scenic and photo opportunities are on every corner.

Coaticook is a medium-sized town, known for its dairy production.

 

Kayak tour in Cherry River 

Sometimes the best way to appreciate the environment is through actual exploration of it. Take a kayak tour through the Cherry River (Rivière-aux-Cerises), a wonderful open-air classroom to observe the more than 20 plant and animal species that appear on the endangered list as well as introduce yourself to an easy and gentle water sport. Set against the backdrop of Mount Orford, the ecosystem of the Cherry River Marshland is a relaxing adventure to observe birds and maybe see a couple of beavers here and there. 

The waters are calm are appropriate for all skill levels and family members.

Kayaking with kids on the Cherry River in Eastern Townships of Quebec

Parc national du Mont-Orford

Hike – Many trails up Mont-Orford lead to stunning lookouts, vistas and picnic areas. Plan to spend hours on the trails, many of which are boardwalks built out from the rock. While some of the trails are really tough, a few of them can be tackled by all family members and the rewards are worth it.  

Kayak or SUP – For a relaxing day on the water, there are kayak and SUP rentals at Lakes Stukely. For a nominal price, you can spend an hour, a half-day or a full day. You will have to pay to enter the park. And the beach! It’s a wonderful place to bring the kids and play!

Daughter with her kayak rental at Lakes Stukely, Eastern Townships

Head under ground at Épopée Capelton (Capelton Mines)

Did you know that there is a rich mining history outside of North Hatley? Capelton Mines was originally opened in 1863. The property owner at the time found copper, iron and sulphur. Combined together, that is called chemical pyrite. At the time of the discovery, copper was more valuable than gold! The mining at Capelton Mines stopped in 1907 as they were running out of chemical pyrite and the entrances were all filled in.

The Capelton Mine is one of the oldest industrial mining complexes in Canada. Many years after its closure, the property, along with the abandoned mine was purchased in 1995 and a family business was born. Now you can tour a piece of history in the Eastern Townships. 

You board a truck and head up the mountain to the original entrance where your guide will lead you in and explain the mine, how it worked and show you some of the tools that were once used.   

While only a few floors can be explored on a guided tour, it’s very impressive!

Pro tip: This is a major area cycling junction here. Also, this is a great spot to get lunch.

Head under ground at Épopée Capelton (Capelton Mines) in Quebec's Eastern Townships

Acoatica at Parc Découverte Nature

The Acoatica experience is unlike anything you’re ever experienced before. At Acoatica, you learn about and go through the lifecycle of a fish. Through the use of a video game, you create a large reef of fish and then your objective is to go through the different stations collecting points. Through the “learning activities” by way of a video game, you understand the habitats, feeding and how to better the chance’s of the fish survival. The end goal is to help save an endangered species in the video game.

For a lunch option – and part of the admission – you can catch and prepare your own fish on site. There is a river to catch a trout in. Acoatica supplies you with a fishing pole and bait. They also have an outdoor barbeque area, an herb garden and provide seasonings for a culinary experience.

Disclosure – we did not catch a fish and eat it. My son wouldn’t allow this so we got some feed and fed fish in another area instead. I am familiar with catch and release. I haven’t eaten a fish that I have caught since I was a little kid.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to fill your water bottle before arriving

Little boy feeding the fish Acoatica at Parc Découverte Nature

Mini-golf at Glo Golf Aventures

A one-in-a-million experience! Inside a repurposed church, Glo Golf Adventures is an 18-hole

Mini-golf course played in the dark where the balls and decor glow.  It’s a big visual trip! Wear white shirts so you can see the crew you are with easily. If you do not understand French, you can understand mini golf.

Each hole is a different theme where you will find yourself in a Museum of horrors, in space, in a castle, in the mouth of a shark and more! Perfect for chilly evenings or days when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Glo Golf Adventures in Coaticook

By day: Hiking trails and the suspended footbridge at Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook

Very worthwhile hike alert! There are trails of 3 to 20 kilometres you can take and explore about the Gorge de Coaticook. Be sure to make your way across the massive suspension bridge across the Gorge of Coaticook, which is 50 meters in the air. If you are afraid of heights, do not take the bridge.

Other attractions of the park include observation towers, a cave – which we went into, a dam, an operational hydroelectric power station, cascades, a round barn, a flower garden, a horseback riding centre, a mini farm, and the majestic Gorge of the Coaticook River. The trails are family-friendly and the main ones accommodate hikers and walkers of all levels.

Protip: Bring refillable bottles of water with you as there are refill stations along the way.

By night: Foresta Lumina at the Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook

After sunset in the gorge, the enchanted forest comes alive with the myths of Quebec, inspired by the fictional tales of the region. Through lights and sounds, the transformed 2.5-kilometre walking paths and suspension bridge introduce you to “Margaret” the main character at

the heart of the narrative told throughout the ‘enchanted forest’. As a ‘Luminaries’ (a visitor to

Foresta Lumina) you embark on an immersive experience that beckons you to come and come back again.

The entire experience takes about an hour and a half, so plan accordingly if bringing your children with you. Strollers are not recommended, if you have baby carriers for the younger ones, it’s a good option to have.

Where to stay in Eastern Townships of Quebec

There are quite a few options of boutique and smaller hotels in the area to stay at. It’s rare to find large chain hotels, which adds to the charm of the area. In the Eastern Townships, the kids and I stayed in two amazing accommodation choices.

La Station du Chêne Rouge

The first is La Station du Chêne Rouge in Hatley. This is glamping at its finest. We had a super cozy cabin in the woods where we had our best sleep in months. Station du Chêne Rouge offers 10 short-term 4-season ecolodges, 10 campsites and 5 seasonal ready-to-camp ecolodges on a platform scattered over 150 acres at the top of the mountain. 

The cabin we stayed in had a loft with a mattress and a bed on the main floor. There was a small and very basic cooking area along with a fire pit for relaxing at night. It wasn’t overly secluded as we had fellow glamping neighbours within 100 feet of us, however, it was quiet and we were unbothered by others. Our cabin did not have electricity or a toilet, but we could still get a hot shower and a place to do our business at the comfort station under the main office. You cannot drive up to the cabin and will need to bring your stuff to your site either in a wheelbarrow or on your back.

The grounds are beautiful to walk around or drink a coffee and watch the clouds roll by.

This spot is located 15 minutes from Sherbrooke and from the village of North Hatley. We highly recommend here for off-the-grid relaxation.

La Station Chêne Rouge est située dans les Cantons-de-l’Est in Quebec Eastern Townships - glamping

Hôtel Chéribourg

The second place we stayed at was Hôtel Chéribourg in Orford. As an asterisk to our stay – we arrived there on a Sunday, very late in the afternoon. What I learned is that not much is open in the area on Sunday at that time. The restaurant was closed so we ordered delivery pizza from town and it took close to 2 hours to arrive. The outdoor pool and kids’ activities closed before we could get out. The kids and I swam in the indoor pool and enjoyed it. In the morning, my son enjoyed the kid’s club before we checked out and drove back to Toronto.

Hôtel Chéribourg has a cheerful vibe, known for its spa experiences and food. Our room was a 1 bedroom suite that had a kitchenette and a living room. We could drive our vehicle right up to the front door to unpack and repack with ease. The balcony off the bedroom faced a quiet, residential neighbourhood.

Hôtel Chéribourg exterior in Orford, Easter Townships of Quebec

We would return to both locations and would spend more time at each in the future.

Where to Eat in Québec’s Eastern Townships

Food is part of the culture in the Eastern Townships and no dining experience will be alike. Everything is market fresh. So many of the ingredients are locally sourced. It’s mindblowing.

La Caravane

The first dining experience we had was quite literally in someone’s backyard at La Caravane. La Caravane, on the roadway heading into North Hatley, serves Italian pizza and pretty much that’s it. It was incredibly unexpected to be in such a homely atmosphere with everyone who worked there being a member of the family. 

The pizza was delicious. Drinks handcrafted. Mind blown!

l’Auberge La Chocolatière

Artisan chocolate for breakfast? In the town of North Hatley, yes. Expertly make into pancakes or crepes or drizzled onto french toast. It’s French-style heavenly food on a plate. 

l’Auberge La Chocolatière is a hotel and a restaurant

Microbrasserie Coaticook

Always been a sucker for a brewery when I travel, this trip wasn’t complete without a visit to one. The patio here is a great draw with a constant lineup on a sunny day for a spot. Beer in the sunshine is never a bad way to spend a dinner hour. 

Of note – there were a lot of families there at the same time we were. I like seeing this as I don’t feel alone being with my kids at a brewery all the time.

Craft beer and menu at Coaticook Microbrasserie

Laiterie de Coaticook Ltée

After dinner at the Brewery, cross the street for Ice cream for dessert at the Laiterie de Coaticook Ltée. Laiterie de Coaticook Ltée is one of the largest ice cream manufacturers in Quebec. On a summer day, there’s no better place to get dessert.

Laiterie de Coaticook Ltée in Quebec's Eastern Townships

Now is the time to visit Québec’s Eastern Townships

The Eastern Townships of Quebec are the region I had always wanted to explore. I feel like I have seen a small corner and I know I definitely want to encounter more. There is so much to eat, drink, bike, drive and experience in Québec’s Eastern Townships. This scenic, quaint and charming area is a gem to behold.

One long weekend will draw you in, but it will definitely encourage you to plan a return trip.

 

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.