Ontario is as diverse as it is vast. Each region, each county offers unique experiences unlike that of anywhere else. Here are five destinations for the whole family to enjoy.
The Mennonite history is integral to the development of Ontario. Ride a horse-drawn trolley to Old Order Mennonite Farms and a sugar bush to tap and taste maple syrup and snow toffee. The St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market is the largest agricultural market in Canada. Bring your appetite. Walk or cycle trails into the quiet of Ontario’s past. Explore shops and crafts of St. Jacob’s, from the Quilt Museum to the Maple Syrup Museum. The Aberfoyle Model Railway is the most intricate and amazing “0-scale layout” in North America. In nearby Kitchener, THEMUSEUM features five floors of interactive exhibitions, programs and events for children and families to inspire imagination and education.
Dive Brockville Adventure Centre leads us to countless shipwrecks from the St. Lawrence River shipping route for some of the best fresh water diving in the world, as well as to Centeen Park, Canada’s first underwater sculpture park, which includes human sculptures. The Brockville Railway Tunnel underneath thecity centre was Canada’s first railway tunnel, and is now part of the Brockville Trail System. We pass through coloured lights and the sound of a train barrelling straight toward us. Rent canoes, kayaks, or take a river cruise through The 1000 Islands and view castles, mansions, and lighthouses. Fifteen of the islands along the shores of Brockville are available for picnicking and camping.
Cradled between Lake Superior and the Canadian Shield are six Provincial Parks with endless possibilities for hiking, cycling and paddling, and in winter, fat biking and ice climbing. Outdoor Skills and Thrills guides us to the Mecca of climbing in North America in any season. Rent a boat from Sail Superior to sail along the rugged coastline. There are 150,000 lakes and rivers in the region for the best fishing in Ontario. The largest amethyst deposit in Canada is here. Grab a bucket and digging tools for rock hounding at Amethyst Mine Panorama. Jump out of a textbook and into 1816 at Fort William Historical Park, an interactive living museum of 42 authentically reconstructed buildings on a 25-acre site. All those working at this trading post are churning butter, baking bread, chopping wood, building canoes and preparing for meals and a rendezvous with dignitaries.
Located at the southern end of Lake Simcoe, Georgina Island’s Nanabush Trails follow the path of the Chippewa to a wigwam village and wildlife viewing, as well as provide opportunities for learning about the history, culture and nature of the island. Clearwater Farm emphasizes place-based learning and provides unique experiences from planting in the herb garden to building forts, and from unstructured digging in the dirt to yoga at sunset. The aim is to connect children with nature, eco-friendly choices and growing healthy food. My son would never try kale, and now he’s eating it out of the ground! Nearby, The Roc offers a range of outdoor sports from a climbing wall, and a low and high ropes course in summer to tubing, tobogganing and skiing in winter. There are ample opportunities for fishing and leisurely hiking in Sibbald Point Provincial Park. For the ultimate rush, rent a jet ski from Lake Simcoe Watersport Rentals and rev up screams of excitement.
The inspiration of The Group of Seven and the gateway to 30, 000 islands of Georgian Bay,the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, offers endless boating, hiking and cycling along wooded trails. Midland Tours offers boat cruises. The Wye Marsh is a quiet protected wetland for walking and paddling as well as an education centre to appreciate birds, turtles and frogs in their natural habitat. At Rounds Ranch there is a petting zoo, and all sorts of activities from tractor rides to pony rides, pedal cart races to duck races, and obstacle courses to corn mazes. Castle Village and Enchanted Kingdom Park features a wooded trail to childhood fairytales. There are archery games in the woods; medieval armoury artifacts; a zip line and a slack line; and escape games. Midland is also home of the Butter Tart Festival. There are plenty of these sweet pastries to be found.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.