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The Loneliness Of Single Parent Vacations

Standing on the top of Castelo de Sao Jorge in Lisbon or at the entrance to Guell Palace in Barcelona or on the balcony of our hotel room in Cannes looking down at the Mediterranean Sea, I felt liberated to have gotten to that point, solo with my kids. As far as single parent vacations, this was the pièce de résistance. Lisbon, Barcelona, Marseille, Cannes, Milan and Paris with my nine year old daughter and five year old son. The trip, an early birthday present for my girl. For her 10th birthday, she requested a trip to Cannes, France. I was happy to oblige. She had clearly inherited my incredible sense of wanderlust and adventure.

I had made all travel plans, booked flights, buses, trains, hotels and coordinated so many variables such as walking distance from train station to hotel, that it was a very proud feeling that it all came together. Only I did it, alone, proof that a woman can attain and achieve a solo holiday with her children. I had scrounged, saved and hid away money, budgeted everything to the penny. There’s satisfaction in never having to see that spread sheet again. And an immense fulfillment in having made the plans for a one parent holiday with the kids. I was always the planner anyway, but this time there wasn’t anyone else to bounce ideas off of.

In the dead of night, while I huddled in the toilette with an iPad and headphones or propping up the screen with my suitcase, the pride was sometimes pushed over by a void, something that was missing. There wasn’t another adult by my side. Missing was someone to hold a conversation with that’s not about farts. An accomplice to laugh with, to wink at, to hold hands and pull in tight. It’s a feeling of loneliness and realizing that this was indeed a feeling of single parent vacations.

The pleasure and loneliness of single parent vacations

Meet The Feeling Of Loneliness of Single Parent Vacations

 

I have traveled solo in the past of my own volition. I have been the epitome of a solo female traveler. One who travels with friends too. There have been media fam trips, I have done numerous road trips with the kids in our home province and even took my son to the Caribbean for a work-vacation, but this is a different kind of trip. It smacked me with a deep emotion one night. This was the first real vacation without their dad. They missed him, he was clearly missing them and I figured that out. I’m not “fun daddy”.

Make no mistake, I’m not saying the trip was awful because I did not have my partner by my side. That’s far from the truth. The trip in a whole was a success and I certainly did not need someone beside me during this trip. The nights were a little lonely as my babies slept. Who really sleeps the entire time their kids sleep? And those waking hours had me thinking a lot. 

Wine for one? The pleasure and loneliness of single parent vacations
Wine for one.

Hell Broke Lose

 

A week into the trip, I had one of those awful nights that you don’t get in the parenting manuals. I went to bed feeling really beat up emotionally. It was the kind of night where the kids have breakdowns and run around and don’t listen to you and fight with each other and when you try to sit them down and talk about the situation, then they just cry instead of responding. Back in Toronto, it’s easier to handle because their dad can step in and we divide and conquer.

In a hotel on La Rambla in Barcelona after midnight? Nope. No support like another parent at all, it’s all me.

them versus me. loneliness of single parent vacations


The kids thought my frustration was funny one couple nights ago when it was almost 1:00am by the time they went to sleep. They weren’t laughing the next  morning when I dragged them out of bed. The hotel we were staying at stops serving breakfast at a certain time so we needed to get moving. And guess what? There’s no winners in any of these hard moments.

I’m certainly not happy because my kids won’t listen to me first and foremost and secondly because now some of our precious vacation time has been wasted in lieu of moments of discipline. 

Whether it be time that we could have been in a museum or time that they could have spent going to bed at a decent hour, it was gone. The time that night was spent instead sitting on the floor of our hotel room picking up pieces of a smashed souvenir that one of the kids threw in a tantrum. And then that time had to be spent talking about respect for each other, respect for where we are, respect that we have to show other patrons of the hotel and that acting like animals will get us shown the door. Things I thought they had known as we travel a lot.

3 of us on the road. The pleasure and loneliness of single parent vacations
And Calm Again

 

It was close to midnight by the time the showers were finished, tears were wiped, the kids were in bed and the lights out. 

I had illusions of a planned out day in the outskirts of Barcelona the following day, but bets were on tired kids who had only six hours of sleep two nights in a row having other plans. I accepted the fact that for two days in a row, I’m not going to experience anything but the inside of the hotel room or riding in a loop on one of those tourist sightseeing buses.

There was still plenty of time for us to be happy together. This was a foreign country to them. Foreign languages were spoken, they were out of their element and I needed to allow them to adjust. I needed to take some time and chill out.

Bath time. There is pleasure, but also some loneliness in single parent travel

What is most important is that we are here together and we still have time to make up for it. There will be another day for another adventure.

The Loneliness of Single Parent Vacations, is it that bad? My solo parent holiday in Europe with my kids was a success for the most part, but there was some moments. It's a feeling of loneliness and realizing that this was indeed a feeling of single parent vacations. Missing was someone to hold a conversation with that’s not about farts #soloparenting #singleparentvacation #lisbonportugal #barcelonaspain #larambla #lisboaportugal #marseillefrance #cannesfrance #parisfrance #milanitaly

 

***This blog post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you choose to make a purchase by clicking on the link, I will receive a commission. It pays for my word babies to continue to be vomited into the universe 😉 ***

Living In Toronto With Kids – What It’s Really Like

Many of you know my family and I for our travels around many destinations in Ontario and even farther away. Some of you know we live in Toronto, Ontario. Some of you did not and that’s okay because you’re going to hear all about it now. We are living in Toronto with kids.

Toronto is Canada’s self professed economic engine of the country. It’s the capital of the most populous province in the country and we think that everything revolves around us. I mean really, we have the smartest folk here, right? We are the base and hub for all the top educational institutes, industry and transportation. Not to mention we have the best sports teams here! If you haven’t been to a Toronto Wolfpack rugby game yet, what are you doing?

Miss M of the Toronto Nomads Junior team escorts Toronto Wolfpack player onto field #runwiththepack #defendtheden #torontowolfpack #torontonomads #rugbygirl

Toronto Girl To the Core

I was born in Toronto and spent my infant years being pushed around in a pram on the boardwalk in the east end. Due to the nature of my father’s career, we were transferred around the province of Ontario quite a few times in my youth. I always had one mission: get back to Toronto. And I did. Right after high school, I packed up the U-haul with a friend and we took off west on the 401. I was heading back to Toronto for school.

View of Toronto from Billy Bishop airport

It’s been 20 years since my triumphant return to Hogtown. Oh gawd, I’m really dating myself by not using “The 6ix” or “T-Dot”, aren’t I? My children were born in the same hospital I was born in. While I have flirted with leaving a couple times, I even bought a house in the suburbs and wanted to raise my children out there thinking it was the better option, I always end back up here. Toronto is my better option, especially in the neighbourhood and complex I currently live in.

Living In Toronto With Kids

Our condo townhouse is pretty awesome for Toronto living. I made the best decision for me by buying into the Toronto real estate market in more than a decade ago—actually my parents made me do it. That is a story for another day, but my family benefits from that decision now.

We enjoy our two generous sized bedrooms plus a loft. The kids currently share a bedroom. When they are ready to have their own separate spaces, the loft is ready for my son. The living room and dining room are open concept and the kitchen is right by the front door. I never thought I’d like to walk into my home and it be a kitchen, but it’s handy for disposing of our compost, recycling and garbage.

I even work from home, because commuter life takes away from my time with my children. When I log out for the day, we love to roam around. We have a great pedestrian lifestyle here. In a city with millions of people, everywhere we want or need to go is a quick streetcar or subway ride away. Part of the allure of living in Toronto means that within minutes I am eating some of the best cuisine from around the world because it’s within a 15 minute walk or transit ride from my front door. And my kids have benefited from this! Their palettes are pretty diverse.

Having a family means needing to have access to green space and amazing amenities in the immediate area to keep the kids occupied. Rain and well let’s face it, deep freeze (hello Canada!) days mean time spent will generally be spent indoors. We’re not cooped up in our place though! We have a gym, a library with a children’s section and a movie theatre on our P1 and P2 levels.

brother and sister at High Park, Toronto

Busy Family Life

Having a career and busy kids with extracurriculars means we don’t have a lot of time for landscaping and yard maintenance. I also cannot fathom what life would be like if I had to shovel our front steps and driveway and sidewalk. Not even on the weekend! No way would I want to sacrifice my sleep on a Sunday to get up and clean off a walkway. I am so grateful for our landscapers and yard maintenance staff who take care of all the shovelling, salting and sanding in the winter.

boy wearing a blue jacket walking through the puddle to play in the city of toronto

I have neighbours that have bought units in the complex for their parents as well. It’s pretty amazing to have such a fantastic community living situation where parents are close by the the children. All of the amenities and conveniences are great for empty nesters and seniors. I can’t fathom my parents living in a cookie cutter suburb house and having to shovel their driveway at this point in their lives.

Winter sidewalk in Toronto

Always Things To Do And See

There is definitely no shortage of things to do with your kids in Toronto! Between our amazing art galleries, museums, shopping malls, Ripley’s Aquarium, aquatic centres, amusement parks and Toronto City Parks, we do not get bored. Sometimes, I believe it’s fair to say that between multi-cultural festivals, events and school related activities, there is often too much choice and too much to do. That’s a pretty good problem to have.

Iconic Toronto sign #xoTO at Nathan Phillips Square

Advice For Families Moving To Toronto

I often get asked for advice from families about moving to Toronto or buying in Toronto. I can understand how the older generation thinks that having a detached house with a picket fence is the way to go, but society has changed. And real estate developers are getting in line with this thinking too. Having family size condo units with two or more bedrooms are really key to for raising children in cities. Amenities in complexes and access to conveniences for growing families is really important as I have mentioned before.

The outdoor terrace at Daniels DuEast offers a comfortable, open, and totally re-energized space. Here, you'll find inviting dining spaces and BBQs for al fresco meals, a play area for the kids and so much more. Day or night, the terrace is set to be your sanctuary.
Outdoor terrace – Photo from Daniels DuEast Facebook Page

Daniels, a condominium developer is moving forward with creating spaces for growing families to flourish in Toronto. They are moving forward with building new developments with the green space that kids need to run around, play zones, gyms for physical health and fitness for parents, co-working spaces to cut down on commute times and garden plots to help foster that sense of community between residents and neighbours.

The Kids Zone is an innovative centre where your little ones can explore a variety of activities and play structures. For quieter times, there is the a padded kiddie corner, perfect for nestling in with a great book. Learn more here: www.danielsdueast.com
The Kids Zone Photo from Daniels DuEast Facebook Page

The Daniels Corporation is currently building three towers in the east end of Toronto in the neighbourhood known as Regent Park. You can check out the buildings here: DanielsFamilyLiving.com. If Mississauga is your speed and works for your lifestyle, Daniels has a development going up there as well.

ARTWORKS Tower knows that sometimes to be inspired, you need to let loose...and the Arcade is the perfect spot to do so. This old-school Arcade will bring fun and competition together with ping-pong tables, pool, arcade games and more. Want to join in on the fun? Join the Inner Circle for before-the-public perks and benefits. Learn more here: https://artworkstower.com/inner-circle/
Photo from Daniels Artworks tower Facebook Page

It is so possible to have a fantastic life in the city with your children and it starts with where you decide to call home. Are you looking to make an affordable real estate investment in Toronto? Care to enjoy the lifestyle I have? Need to ditch the commute? Want to have more time to spend with your family? Thinking about what it would be like to live in a close knit community and have access to everything you and your children need? My advice is to get in as an original owner of a unit in a new development in Toronto.

Raising kids in Toronto? Of course! Here's the goods on Living in Toronto, Ontario with our urban kids!

Disclosure: I have participated in a paid partnership with Daniels. Opinions in this post are my own.

 

What You Need to Know About West Bay, Roatan, Honduras

I have a secret destination… and this destination has been gaining traction slowly and I wish it wouldn’t. It’s the island of Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras. I’ve been there twice! The first time I travelled there was for my “Baby-moon” and the second time was for a belated honeymoon. I love it so much there that I want to keep it all to myself because it’s that great. Here’s what you need to know about the area of West Bay, Roatan Honduras if you are considering a trip there.

locals in West Bay playing and jumping off the pier in Roatan, Honduras

 

Where is Roatan?

Roatán is an island in the western Caribbean, about 65 kilometres off the northern coast of the country of Honduras. It is located between the islands of Útila and Guanaja, and is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

West Bay is the western tip of the island.

How To Get To West Bay in Roatan, Honduras

If you are departing from Toronto or Montreal, the only airlines that fly direct to Roatán are Sunwing and Air Transat and they are seasonal.

From USA cities, American Airlines flies to Roatán from Miami and Dallas. Delta Airlines flies to Roatán from Atlanta and United Airlines flies there from Houston.  Alternatively, you could fly to the mainland of Honduras and then take a charter to the island.

Roatán Juan Manuel Galvaz airport is in Coxen Hole. West Bay is a half hour from from the airport. In Roatán, they drive on the right side of the road, just like mainland Canada and United States.

Iconic wreck in Roatan's Mahogany Bay

What’s So Special Here?

The island of Roatán is steeped in hundreds of years of pirate lore, buried gold, slaves, and settlers from Spain and England. Both Spanish and english are main languages spoken on the island. Tourism is the main industry in Roatán and the scuba diving is world renown.

I have been fortunate enough to fall asleep on the beach daily in West Bay and also pass my Open Water scuba diver certification. Mega props to the guys at TGI Roatán (it is a SSD dive shop, although it used to be PADI when I was certified) and to Ruben – the instructor who was so patient with me. The team at TGI Roatan were top notch and I highly recommend them for your diving needs. The dive masters were fun and interested in everyone else having a good time and diving safely. Pro tip for travellers looking to do diving certifications – do all your classroom lessons at home and save the open water work for the destination. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to spend any time in a classroom when you could be experiencing paradise.

Learning to scuba dive with TGI in Roatan, photo by Mike Pelosi

The coral reef around Roatán is the second largest in the world behind the Great Barrier Reef. It also keeps sharks out of the swimming area. According to scubageek.com: “Roatan’s reef is home to an amazingly diverse population of aquatic life. The island has a fringing reef system: the coral reef extends directly from the shoreline. As a diver or snorkeler, this means that all the best sites are mere minutes from the shore.” And I will attest as a novice, that is was the perfect environment to get my certification – everything felt so safe.

sunset at Henry Morgan Courtyard beach in West Bay in Roatan, Honduras

Where To Stay In West Bay, Roatan

Both times I have travelled to Roatan, I have stayed at the Henry Morgan Resort in West Bay. The Resort is an all-inclusive. There is a beach bar area that serves buffet lunches which is pretty much the same thing everyday. There is a restaurant inside which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at specific times. The staff is very friendly and will go out of their way to serve/assist you or even just to smile and say hello. They get to know your names and they greet you. It’s like a first class operation despite the lack-lustre food.  Drinks are a-plenty though and there’s never a complaint on that!

Henry Morgan Courtyard grounds in West Bay Roatan, Honduras

Next time I return, I would like very much to try the Mayan Princess Resort next door to the Henry Morgan Resort or swing around to the the Sandy Bay area and try Anthony’s Key. The Henry Morgan Resort and Mayan Princess Resort are located in the perfect location on the beach to walk either way for shops, bars, more beach, more diving, great swimming, fantastic water, everything. You cannot beat the location.

sunset on the beach at Henry Morgan Resort, Roatan, Honduras

If you would rather do a more self catering type stay in West Bay, a quick search brings up the following locations on the beach: Coconut Tree West Bay and Bananarama Dive and Beach Resort.

Want to know some of my thoughts on staying in all inclusive resorts? Check out this article linked here.

double hammocks on a balcony at Henry Morgan Courtyard grounds in West Bay in Roatan, Honduras

Where To Eat in West Bay and West End

West End, West Bay? What’s the difference? West Bay is the resort area and just east is the town of West End.

WEST BAY:

For the best food in the area, there’s a super addictive pizza joint at Bananarana Dive Resort called PizzaRama Brick Oven Pizza. If fine dining is more your speed, check out Vintage Pearl Restaurant and Wine Cellar. It’s a lovely upscale restaurant.

WEST END:

If you’re feeling ambitious, take a water taxi to West End and go to Sundowners. It’s owned by Canadians and I will vouch for the best cheese burger on the island there. Try it, you won’t be sorry!

sandy main street in West Bay Roatan, Honduras

Prefer to stay in the town of West End over the resort area of West Bay where you can hang at an authentic beach bar?


Booking.com

Sundowners in West End, Roatan Honduras

What Else Is There To Do In Roatan?

Aside from diving all the amazing ship wrecks and walls, swimming, snorkeling over the coral reef, sleeping on the beach and eating, there is an Iguana Farm to visit, zip-lining and dune buggies to rent on the island. You can also charter boats to hang out on and also take a glass bottom tour.

Iguana Farm in roatan honduars

As my own personal disclaimer, neither time I visited the island with my children. I was not looking for family friendly activities or things for kids to do.

The currency used in Honduras is called lempira. US dollars are widely accepted if you can bring it with you when you travel there. If you use an ATM (of which there are NOT many – there are only 2 ATMs in West Bay, one is in the lobby of the Mayan Princess and there are 3 in the West End), they will give you lempira.

As with any destination you visit, you need to mind your personal safety. Take proper precautions to enjoy your identification, money and credits cards are safe. Do not hitchhike or walk alone at night.

Both times I visited, the trips were a week long. The end of the week made me sad to depart, but I am always happy to get home.

Over view to West Bay Roatan Honduras #WestEnd #MahoganyBay #CoxenHole #ScubaDiving #AdventureTravel #divingvacations #BayIslands #Snorkeling #BudgetTravel #childfreetravel #allinclusivetravel #CaribbeanBeach

 

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Why I Took My Son Winter Camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park; The Parenting Hack of Divide And Conquer

Parenting your kids and figuring out how to play to their strength is tough. First of all, nothing with kids is ever constant, you get used to one method, and then they change. In that aspect, kids are kind of like flowers that change from season to season. No two flowers require the same amount of water or sunlight to grow. You have to nurture each one individually and figure out what they need to blossom. Then you feed that flower and watch it grow. That’s what we are doing in our house, with our kids. One got to go winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park and one did not.

Little Man and I walking up to the camp office in the snow at MacGregor Point Provincial Park to get checked in #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

I have a 9 year old daughter (wait, she’s almost ten as she will remind you) and a 5 year old son with vastly different interests.  One loves and needs to be outdoors running around, the other would rather be indoors reading books, especially in winter. In order for each one to have their bucket’s filled, they require a different amount of sunlight, food and love. So we adapt to that. And this is how we devised the parenting hack of divide and conquer. Each child gets to spend a few days with one parent. It’s often easier on the solo parent that way too.

Little Man helping unload supplies from our Ford Escape for winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

It’s is pitched as one on one time to the kids and it makes them happy. Each child gets what they need for a few days and personally, I get to see my child thrive. Total proud mom moments.

When Ontario Parks and I initially discussed a yurt winter camping experience, I intended on bringing both of my children, but a week or so before we went, I changed my mind. This was not something my daughter was going to enjoy like my son was going to, so I let it go with her. She protested the trip, didn’t want to miss school, her friends and instead of debating or arguing, or making her come I let her know she can stay home with her dad.

Green Ontario Parks yurt for winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY kathryn dickson

Just Little Man and I Went Winter Camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park

Well, just little man, myself and “Uncle Brian”. Brian is my friend and photographer who accompanies me on camping trips. He was my wedding photographer way back when! Side note – Brian is the reason why I actually end up with photographs of myself with the children that are not selfies. And mainly plans the menu, that’s really useful because he’s a good cook. I’m the Queen of hotdogs and burgers on the fire. He’ll actually marinate steak in advance. More on food preparation and cooking while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park below.

Little Man and I walking on Old Shore Road Trail at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

I really enjoyed my stay last winter in a yurt at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park. Yurt camping in the winter, aside from being in an RV, is pretty amazing. For people who like to be outdoors, but don’t want to be cold when they sleep, winter camping in a yurt is the way to go! I don’t mind cooking and spending the majority of my time outside as long as it’s not -30 outside!

I plan on making this a winter tradition, especially after seeing my son enjoy himself for our few days out there, this is really well suited to his personality!

Little Man walking away, clearing snow off the railing on Old Shore Road Trail by visitor's centre MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

What’s In The Yurt?

The yurts at MacGregor Point Provincial campground sleep 6. And they have electricity! There are two bunk beds, the bottom bunks are a double and the top is a single bed. I can see a family up to six people in there, but I can honestly say that a travel party of six adult friends might find the conditions cramped.

Inside yurt #60 winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

Inside yurt #60, right bunk bed winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

Inside yurt #60, left bunk bed winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

At the site next to us, there were four adults in a yurt and they seemed alright. We brought our own bedding, sleeping bags and pillows as the bunkbeds only have a mattress on them for campers. There is also a table, four plastic chairs and a gas stove for heat. The gas stove is temperature controlled and kept us very toasty through our stay! My nightly trick was to put the boots and socks in front of the fire to make sure they were dry and warm for the next morning.

Safety note: Never put your belongings directly on the fireplace and keep them a safe distance away.

Inside yurt #60, keeping boats and socks and mitts dry and warm while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

Outside the yurt, campers get a fire pit, kitchen shelter, picnic tables, and propane barbeque with side burner. The kitchen shelter is slightly elevated. You likely cannot notice in any pictures I post due to the snow, but there is a ramp up the shelter making the kitchen shelters and yurts accessible. Ontario Parks has really made an effort in terms of making their beach and roofed camping accommodations accessible to everyone.

Fire! Little man getting a lesson in building fires from Brian while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February! #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #campcooking

Green Ontario Parks yurt with accessible ramp for winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

How Do You Prepare Food For Winter Camping in Ontario?

You will need to bring your own pots, pans and cutlery. Just like cooking at home, I like to keep the whole meal preparation process simple! Every morning I would boil water on the side burner of the BBQ for instant oatmeal. I actually forgot my instant coffee at home and was devastated. Have no fear! The park office sells coffee to winter campers if you are in a pinch! If you have to drive to Port Elgin to coffee, it’s not very far. The closest Tim Hortons is a 10 minute drive. I did not see a Second Cup, Timothy’s or Starbucks in the town.

Cooking while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February! We wrapped chicken breasts, cherry tomatoes and provolone cheese in tin foil and put it on the BBQ #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #campcooking PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO LUXOGRAPHY

For lunch and dinner, we cooked primarily on the barbeque during this stay. We were hit with bouts of freezing rain and that made cooking on the open fire hard. Utilizing the BBQ in the kitchen shelter was easy for us. Brian had marinated and prepared some chicken and dumplings ahead of time. I had also brought some freeze dried and dehydrated goods from MEC that you just added water to. They were surprisingly good! We drove into Port Elgin to purchase pre-made burger patties and buns on our second last day.

Cooking while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February! We BBQ's burgers one day! #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #campcooking PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO LUXOGRAPHY

Do not cook inside the yurt. It’s not remotely safe. I am going to confess that we ate inside there a couple times because it was really cold. We stored our food in a cooler that we kept outside during the day. At night, while bears are not a concern during the winter, we still locked up the food in the trunk. I actually stored Little Man’s chocolate milk carton (accidentally) in the snow beside the ramp. You know when kids just put things down sometimes? Yeah…

Dishes get washed outside. Pro tip: Boil water while your are eating. Pour that water into a plastic tub with dish soap to wash your dishes after you eat. Dispose of the used water in the outhouse.

Cooking while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February! Enjoying rehydrated food inside the yurt from MEC #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #campcooking

 

Where Do You Do Your, You Know… Business?

I’m sure by now you have noticed that washroom facilities and running water are lacking in this yurt. No worries! There is a comfort station with heated water for showering as well two sinks, electric hand dryers and flush toilets a 2 minute walk from the yurt. The comfort station is also where you get your potable water from to wash your dishes and cook with in the laundry facilities.

Birch Boulevard Campground Park map for facilities and camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. Yurt #60 and comfort station highlighted. #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

There was an outhouse right next to our site. We (I) used it once in a pinch, but not more than that as the water is turned off at the outhouses and you cannot wash your hands after doing your business. Oh the joy of the subzero temperatures!

Park map for facilities and camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

 

What Is MacGregor Point Provincial Park?

You’ll find MacGregor Point situated on 7 kilometres of the shores of Lake Huron in south western Ontario. Get yourself to Port Elgin, then head south for a few minutes. It took 2.5 hours to drive there from downtown Toronto.

The Ontario Provincial Park is open year round and is a popular camping destination. Known for being a hot spot to observe and view migratory birds and a ecologically diverse natural places. I believe that translates to a pleasant dream for a geologist.

Like a lot of provincial parks in Ontario, summer activities that are popular at MacGregor Point Provincial Park are swimming, hiking, bird watching, canoeing and biking. In the winter, it’s a different spot! The hiking trails have turned to cross country ski trails and one of the campgrounds that closes off to campers open up to snowshoers! There is a skating rink by the visitor’s centre that is maintained by camp staff and a skating oval is created at the Cedar Lane Campsites.

Skating at MacGregor Point Provincial Park oval. Photo courtesy of Ontario Parks
Skating at MacGregor Point Provincial Park oval. Photo courtesy of Ontario Parks

There are 16 yurts open year round for campers in Birch Boulevard Campsites loop. It was surprising to find a lot of hard core RV campers that actually live there for months on end in the winter. There were Christmas decorations still up at some sites. Looks like it would be a blast to have a community of folks who could meet and do that.

Trail leading to the Visitor Centre on Old Shore Road Trail at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

Get Outside!

My son and I spent so much time on our snowshoes and hiking the Old Shore Trail by Lake Huron. The Visitor Centre was not open while we were there, however it does open for select dates such a Family Day. We hiked past it a couple times on the trail and on our way to the playground.

20 Photos That Will Inspire You To Snowshoe at MacGregor Point Provincial Park #FindYourSelfHere #OntarioParks #YoursToDiscover #DiscoverOntario #DiscoverON #Snowshoe #MacGregorPoint #ProvincialPark #MacGregorProvincialPark

The hiking trails turn into cross country ski trails and they were being used a lot while we were there. We did not snowshoe on those trails as it would be dangerous to get in the way of the skiers. There are signs telling snowshoer’s to not go on the trails. Again, it’s best to snowshoe at the Nipissing Campground area as it’s closed to campers for camping in winter.

Little Man at the playground while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

Little Man was really into running ahead on the trails and roll down any snow pile he could find! He was in his element of no walls, barriers or restrictions. We had no where we were in a hurry to be and that meant he had freedom to roll and laugh and play. He was so in the moment and carefree.

Like I said at the top of this post, I’d really like to make this a yearly tradition with my son. It’s a great bonding experience for us and it’s so lovely to see my downtown, urban kid thrive out in nature. I think he actually prefers it out there! I know I do.

Little Man and I looking out at Lake Huron while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #lakehuron PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

 

Not into camping at all, but still want to enjoy the hiking, skating, skiing and snowshoeing in the winter at MacGregor Point Provincial Park? Check out other accommodations in the area.
Booking.com

Want to reserve your Ontario Parks getaway? Check out upcoming events across the province in 2019 and go #FindYourselfHere, click here!

Happy camping!

Yurt #60, I went winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February with my son, but not my daughter. It was an amazing experience for him #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

Disclaimer: We were guests of Ontario Parks during our visit in MacGregor Point Provincial Park, but in no way swayed us into having a good time.  Our views remain our own.  

Yurt #60, I went winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February with my son. It was an amazing experience for him and I recommend it highly for anyone seeking some extra adventure in life #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort – What To Expect When You Arrive

One of the best things you can do before you go on vacation is to research where you are going and know what you are getting when you purchase your vacation. One of the worst things you can do is to know too much about where you are going before you go, set the expectation bar too high and then feel an overwhelming amount of disappointment in the end. Not like that could ever happen if you happen to be vacationing at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort though! However, I’m going to give you the low down on what to expect when you arrive at this gorgeous all inclusive resort in Turks and Caicos.

I am lucky enough to have been to Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort four times now. Four times at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and one time at Beaches Negril Resort and Spa. At this point, I feel I am qualified to give you a very educated assessment of what you are walking into and it’s really hard to be disappointed!

Grounds of the French Village outside our room. What To Expect When You Arrive at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort #beachesresorts #beachesturksandcaicos #beachesresorts #turksandcaicos #allinclusiveturksandcaicos #pls #providenciales #beachesmoms #beachvacations #allinclusivebeachvacations #familyallinclusive #bestallinclusive #familytravelblogger #bestfamilytravleblogger #femaletravelblogger #torontomom

Our First Visit at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort –

We Didn’t Know What To Expect When You Arrive!

Our first visit to Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort was January of 2016. My family, along with another family with a daughter the same age as my daughter traveled together. We booked the trip 10 months in advance on a fabulous sale on the Beaches Resort website for 65% off and then flight on seat sale with Air Canada. All told, for my family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children ages 1 and 6), we paid just over $6,300 Canadian for 5 nights/6 days. We booked a Caribbean Village double room, which is one of the least expensive room categories. Worth noting, every year there is a price increase and therefore our package prices have gone up incrementally.

One of the keys to making your vacation at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort a success is to book well in advance. As you get closer to the travel dates, the price rises as the less expensive room categories typically sell out first.

Arrival at the airport was very much like any other Caribbean island airport. You get off plane in the heat, walk down the stairs from the plane to the tarmac, get ushered into airport, line up at customs to be admitted into the country, then carry on to get your baggage. Round trip airport transfers from PLS are included in your resort price, so you do not need to worry about booking a separate shuttle.

We exit the airport, hang a left out the door and then follow other families to the Beaches Resort desk and line. It felt like was a little disorganized and here didn’t seem to be any line up or structure, just check on with the gentleman with the clipboard and then he told you where to put your baggage. It seems the shuttles were packed in by number of people who would fit, a family of 4 would be sent with a family of 3 and a couple, etc. It’s not a big deal. If you are travelling with another family, let them know and they will hook you up together.

View from third floor, west wing room in Caribbean Village at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort

Let Me Tell You About The Rooms!

After dropping a couple off at the first stop, the French Village at Beaches Resort, we carried on to drop off at the Caribbean Village where our two families were staying. We were greeted with a “welcome punch”, with rum for the adults! Boom, that’s what I needed! That’s something you can expect when you arrive at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort! This is an an inclusive resort, so put your wallet in the safe in your room and don’t take it out again until you leave.

If you do not check in online in advance, you will have to take the time to check in with all of your personal information on the iPad they provide to you. I highly advise you to take care of that in advance so you can get to your room faster and then into the pool or on the beach faster.

During our first visit, our west wing, third floor room was ready for us and off we went to drop our bags. Walking in, we were happily surprised by our ocean view. I’ve been to other all inclusive Caribbean Resorts in the past and unless paying for the upgrade, an ocean view was not included. Not only could we see the ocean, but we also could see the Iguana pool and bar, a basketball court and a giant chess board.

Morning view of palm trees and pool in the French Village when having coffee. Grounds of the French Village outside our room. #beachesresorts #beachesturksandcaicos #beachesresorts #turksandcaicos #allinclusiveturksandcaicos #pls #providenciales #beachesmoms #beachvacations #allinclusivebeachvacations #familyallinclusive #bestallinclusive #familytravelblogger #bestfamilytravleblogger #femaletravelblogger #torontomom

For our subsequent trips, we have stayed in rooms in both the French and Italian Villages

Twice we had a luxury walk out room in the French Village. I really like that room category for a couple reasons. One, it’s easy access to the pool. Two, it’s easy access to walk to Cafe de Paris in the morning to get coffee and pastries. Three, I can have my morning coffee outside on the patio and it’s glorious!

If you would like a room tour of our double walk out room in the French Village, look no further! I have a video here for you.

Our stay in the Italian Village is one I would love to repeat if budget ever allows. I traveled with my son, my sister and her 2 boys. We had the pleasure of staying in an Italian Oceanfront Concierge Family Suite with Kid’s room while at Beaches Resort for Social Media On The Sand! It wasn’t the room we were originally booked into, it was a fluke upgrade.

Oceanview window in Italian Village

The room was PERFECT for us! This room features a king size mahogany, four poster bed, adorned with a plush duvet, lounge sleeping chair, 42′ flat screen TV plus a bar area with its own refrigerator and microwave. The kids enjoy mahogany bunk beds with a trundle; a 27′ flat screen TV; a multi-function game table; a built-in, nautical, mahogany storage wall unit; its own closet; and a vanity unit with basin and mirror. The bathroom hosts a two-basin mahogany vanity with a wall-mount makeup mirror and hair dryer; a whirlpool tub; a separate rain head shower; and a private water closet. It was nicer than our house. The ocean view was so calming! Our room number was 3205 in the Italian Village, Almalfi Building and it was beyond perfect! I’d book this room again in a heartbeat!

Room tour? Sure thing! It’s right here:

What Should You Do First?

Well, there’s a lot you could do first! My kids are normally really antsy by the time we have dropped our bags off in our room. They want to get dressed and get in the water. Honestly, I do too!

Pirate Island is a great first stop to get your feet wet. The kids all love it and they never, ever tire of it. The lazy river was a hit with the adults. Sometimes it does get busy there are we have been unable to find available loungers out of the sun, so we hop over to the next pool outside Bobby Dee’s where the kids can get their first taste of a swim up bar. The pool water in that one is a little colder than expected considering the heat, but it is refreshing!

toddler boy wearing teal coloured rash guard sits on the edge of the lazy river with a toy pirate ship in his hands at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort

At Bobby Dee’s, you can grab snack foods (onion rings, chicken fingers, fries, burgers) that will hold you over until dinner. Bobby Dee’s is open really late so if you want a cheeseburger at midnight, this is where you go.

The pool closest to your room is also a great choice to hang out in. There is a feature pool in each village with a swim up bar. You can’t go wrong, I swear!

While still on your first day, I suggest registering the kids in the children’s programming through Camp Sesame for later in the week. You will need their passports to do this, so don’t lock them in your safe yet. Oh and this is included – does not cost extra!

French Village feature pool, swim up bar and hot tub from above

Where Should You Eat First?

The answer to where you should eat first is EVERYWHERE. Spoiler alert, there’s not a bad meal to be had at this resort, or at least not one that we found. Service from staff everywhere was top notch.

There is a restaurant that requires reservations and that is Kimonos. Kimonos is a Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant. You can make that booking through the concierge in your village’s “front desk”.

The sleeper hit restaurant for dinner that we found on our last trip was Bombay. It’s an Indian restaurant and the food was divine! It’s tucked into a back corner, but it’s worth finding. We loved it so much, we dined there twice.

Left overs from an amazing Indian meal at Bombay

If you like buffet breakfasts, I recommend Mario’s in the Italian Village or Guiseppe’s in the French Village. One of my favourite restaurants there is Barefoot By The Sea. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, it’s not a problem. Alert your server ahead of time and they can help you out.

If you’re looking for an adult evening out, the adult only restaurants are Le Petit Chateau and Sky. If you’re going to go to sky, get there in plenty of time to catch the sunset. Almost everyone else would have the same idea, so trust me when I say to get there in plenty of time. If the sun is going to be setting at 7:00pm, try to get there for 6:00pm.

 

What Are The Best Activities For Kids There?

Swimming, swimming and more swimming! You need to know that most things on the resort are included. Yep, it does not cost extra to hand out at the swim up bar. Tire those kids out at the feature pool, going down the water slides at Pirate Island (be aware of some height restrictions), playing chess on the giant chess boards, send them to the free tennis lessons first thing in the morning, take them to build a bear (this costs extra). Pick up snorkel masks and fins from the dive shop and get the kids out looking for fish.

Mother and daughter snorkeling at Grace Bay beach

If your kids are confident to go beyond snorkeling and venture underwater, SNUBA is an option to try out! It’s a hybrid of scuba diving and snorkeling. I was lucky enough to try it in October of 2018. Check out my SNUBA experience here.

Also, here’s a secret that not everyone knows – during the week there is a train that goes from village to village and also stops at the entrance to Pirate Island. You can ride it around and around. The kids go nuts for it.

Happy boy looking out side of train ride at Beaches Turks and Caicos

Best Time To Visit Turks and Caicos?

Turks and Caicos is in the Caribbean islands, so anytime that is not hurricane season is a good time to visit. Hurricane season is typically July to September.

I have been to Turks and Caicos once during October, the remainder of the times at the end of January. For me as a Canadian, escaping the cold is paramount, anytime I can get away from the snow, sleet and sub-zero temperatures in a good time. However, as there is a lot of demand to escape the cold from my fellow Canucks, the demand drives up the price. While weather wise, this is the best time period, price wise it is not.

It has been reported that the least expensive time of year to visit Turks and Caicos is April and May.

 

Beaches Resort is Environmentally Friendly

As of November 1st of 2018, plastic straws were eliminated from the resort. Sorry fruity, frozen cocktail straw-loving fans! In fact, the entire Sandals and Beaches brand is eliminating plastic straws. The company is performing a complete audit from front to back of house. They are looking to determine what other environmentally friendly changes can be made that leaves a better legacy for the next generation.

Back to our cocktail loving friends, eco-friendly paper straws are available at the bars upon request. However, maybe it’s time to invest in a reusable metal straw and carry it there with you for your Pina Coladas because the Sandals and Beaches company loves the ocean and the ocean and all of it’s inhabitants will love them back for it.

 

Rumours of Closure

There have been rumours of closure of this resort circulating on the internet. Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa will be closed from September 3rd to October 15th in 2019 and from September 7th to October 22, 2020. Then beginning January 2021 for an indefinite period. This is by no means a permanent closure nor is the resort in financial trouble. I still encourage you to vacation with your family there outside of these proposed closure times.

 

What To Expect When You Arrive at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort. Here's the low down on what you need to know #beachesresorts #beachesturksandcaicos #beachesresorts #turksandcaicos #allinclusiveturksandcaicos #pls #providenciales #beachesmoms #beachvacations #allinclusivebeachvacations #familyallinclusive #bestallinclusive #familytravelblogger #bestfamilytravleblogger #femaletravelblogger #torontomom

 

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

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

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

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

My Personal Favourite Places To Explore In Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

Here are their secrets they have let me in on!

SAINTS AND SINNERS TRAIL

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

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

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

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

Contributed by Ayngelina Brogan – Bacon Is Magic

DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL

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

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

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

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

Contributed by Mike Armstrong – Daddy Realness

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

PORT HOPE SALMON RUN

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

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

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

Contributed by Kevin Wagar – Wandering Wagars

BATHTUB ISLAND

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

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

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

Contributed by Liliane Fawzy – My Toronto, My World

ENJOY MUSKOKA DURING THE WINTER SEASON

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

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

Contributed by Gregory George – followsummer

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

VOYAGEUR CANOE TO TORONTO ISLANDS

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

Contributed by Margarita Ibbott – DownshiftingPRO

EXPLORE ONTARIO

NIAGARA JET BOAT

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

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

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

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

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

Contributed by Amanda Knapper – SillyMummyFT

Niagara Jet Boat, Amanda Knapper, SillyMummyFT

 

SOARING OVER NIAGARA FALLS IN A HELICOPTER

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

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

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

Contributed by Yashy Murphy – Baby And Life

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

DINING IN THE DARK AT O NOIR

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributed by Akanksha Pandya – Akanksha.ca

 

PORT DOVER, EVERY FRIDAY THE 13TH

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

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

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

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

Contributed by Chris Mitchell – travelingmitch

port dover, every friday the 13th

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

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

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