Top road trips in southern Ontario
Reflection in the Grand River of the back of Elora Main St. stores.
Within the past 12 years I have travelled to and written about more than 200 travel destinations, many within a few hours drive of Niagara. That said, I’m often asked what are my favourites. Well, I’ve finally taken the time to think back and jot them down.
Before I begin, I should say that I have learned to love the journey just as much as the destination. My primary route to get to a place, when possible, is usually the back way, not the highway, preferably with lots of twists and spectacular scenery. I don’t sweat about getting lost; I’ve found some of my most interesting adventures that way. Another thing that makes for a pleasant journey is to travel on the arm of someone you love.
The following are the Coles Notes version of some of my favourite trips.
(159 kilometres from Thorold — the centre of Niagara)
This is a jewel of a city located on the Avon River, surrounded by a plethora of affordable eateries, restored Victorian homes on streets lined with majestic mature trees. We fell in love with their walkable downtown filled with plenty of unique shops and a majestic 12–sided red brick building with Queen Anne features built in 1898-99 that serves as their City Hall. The place was buzzing with life. Stratford Tourism offers two free escorted walking tours, a Downtown Historic Tour and a River Walk Heritage Tour.
And, of course, there’s the Stratford Festival, which serves up top-notch live theatre. This season’s calendar opened in mid-April with the musical 42nd St.
This is the home of teen idol Justin Beiber and your teenagers can get a free map from the tourist folks outlining his favourite places.
www.visitstratford.ca or 1-800-561-7926
This lovely 177-year-old village is a place that will grow on you the minute you arrive. It’s located on the Grand River where the Elora Gorge begins. Check out the magnificent waterfall and the high rock known as The Tooth of Time, behind the Elora Mill Inn.
We continued to explore the shops, boutiques and restaurant found on Mill and Metcalfe streets. One unique shop is The Village Olive Grove. It’s one of the few stores in Canada that sells (and allows you to sample) exceptional olive oils and vinegars. One site not to missed is the reflection in the Grand River of the back of the downtown stores.
www.elorafergus.travel or 519-846-0971.
Lindsay is the gateway to the Kawartha Lakes tourist region. It’s pretty as a picture. One of the main features is Kent St., the town’s wide main street. It looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. The first to fall under the lens of my camera was the renovated 1893 Academy Theatre at one end of town. If you can still get tickets Canadian comedian Rick Mercer appears on stage May 24 and 25. Lindsay’s renovated City Hall and Firehall also weren’t too shabby to photograph.
Their Saturday morning Farmer’s Market proved to be a real farmer’s market. It was filled with real farmers who sold produce they have grown on family owned farms for centuries.
www.elplorekawarthalakes.com or 1-866-397-6673.
Like many of my trips, you have to look beyond what’s found in the tourism publications to experience a community. It’s more than the location of the Ontario Police College. It has a large farming community. Take a ride along the back roads where you will share the road with an industrious Amish community that travels by horse and buggy and operates farms without most modern-day luxuries. Aylmer’s indoor/outdoor Farmer’s Market held on a Tuesday is top-notch. Check out the nearby quaint village of Sparta where you’ll come upon examples of restored period homes dating back to 1825.Don’t miss visiting the Winter Wheat attraction set in a five-acre forest of towering pines.
www.alymer.ca or 1-519-773-3164.
When you discover this lovely community that hugs the northern shoreline of Lake Erie you’ll be charmed. Nothing shouts. When we walked their tiny main street, which consisted of restored century-old stores, we could feel the past. At one end was one of the prettiest habours in Ontario. The whole world slows down when we walked the mature tree-lined side streets where we found historic turn-of-the-century homes that called out to be photographed. If you decide to stay over, there are plenty of cozy bed and breakfast places to choose from.
www.norfolktourism.ca or 1-800-699-9038.