As we enter into our second pandemic summer where travel is limited, I have enjoyed rediscovering Ontario and finding places in our own backyard to savour. Our kids need to get out of the city and enjoy themselves, and we could definitely use a change of scenery. Although there’s no telling exactly what will be open this summer, here are five activities for the family that can be added to your summer bucket list.
1. Hit the beach
Some people like to spend days at the beach sunbathing; others just like to walk on the sand in the morning or evening; and children tend to spend hours frolicking in the water. This is an obvious summer activity, so I have researched three new beaches to avoid your becoming bored of visiting the same ones. Ontario is home to over 250,000 lakes so there are so many beaches to explore that you could probably choose a new one each weekend of your life and still not cover all of them. I would recommend trying these three this summer:
2. Take a road trip
Our children always enjoy a road trip…as long as it doesn’t go on too long. While some kids might be antsy, with games and activities loaded into the car, you can keep them occupied until you reach the destination. Here are three interesting Ontario road trip ideas:
Depending on what’s open, there are many Ontario adventures to explore including:
4. Discover Bruce’s Peninsula
Arguably one of the province’s most cherished natural areas, Bruce’s Peninsula offers a wonderful place to explore. In hand with endless parks and trails, attractions include:
Ontario offers several opportunities to explore the dark, quiet world of caves. Some trips we are considering include:
Bruce Peninsula is located at the northern tip of Southern Ontario, separating Lake Huron from Georgian Bay. Tobermory is at the north end of Bruce Peninsula; Sauble Beach at the south. It is about three hours from Toronto. This is one of the prettiest parts of the province, with the largest nature reserves in Southern Ontario. Bears, rattlesnakes, loons, herons, and all manner of interesting animals can be found here.
Georgian Bay is known for its rugged landscape, clear cold water, and stone beaches. Lake Huron is clear, blue and sandy. Sauble Beach is the second longest freshwater beach in the world with 11 kilometres of sandy beach.
We recently spent five nights in the region and recommend five sights that are a must see when here:
1. Play on the sand and in the water at Sauble Beach.
Sauble Beach is the world's second longest freshwater beach, after Wasaga. We have such bounty in Ontario. Sauble Beach is known for fabulous sandbars stretching hundreds of feet out into the water. The water is crystal clear such that you can see your toes when you are walking in the lake. The beach strip is great for younger adults who want the beach vibe next to the strip but the north end of the beach is perfect for families who don't want to deal with the crowds. We swam every morning between 10 am and noon at the north end of the beach and pretty much had a good stretch of the beach to ourselves. We swam every evening between 6 and 8 pm and again pretty much had the beach to ourselves. The water in August is refreshing. I suspect it would have been a bit cold in June and July but our four children could not have cared less. Bring a football, a couple of frisbees, your beach toys, along with some inexpensive floaties. Your children will spend two hours in the lake playing and wave surfing without once asking for their electronics. And the sunsets are gorgeous! Sauble Beach is definitely a highlight of this part of the world.
2. Visit the Grotto.
The Grotto is an Ontario heritage site and is spectacular. There is no other word for it. You have to book your parking and access to the hiking trails well in advance, particularly in the summer and on long weekends. We instead rented a hard hulled Kodiak with boat operator from Divers Den in Tobermory for two hours. We docked a hundred yards away from the grotto and snorkeled in. This cost $400 plus tax and was money very well spent. The water is blue and green and clear clear clear. The rock formations and underground caverns and caves are breathtaking. The grotto itself is a treasure and feels like a magical secret cave when you are swimming in it. You can also jump off the large rocks into the clear water. This was a highlight of our trip. Our children begged to go back a second day but we could not afford to rent the boat again and had not booked access to the hiking trail...otherwise we would have been back at least two days in a row. This is a must see in this part of the world.
3. Go splunking.
There are a bounty of caves in this part of the world. We visited Bruce's Caves for our hike but there are many options from which to choose. After a bumpy drive into the parking area, we enjoyed an easy 15 minute walk into the caves. The vegetation around the caves was lush and mossy and green. The caves themselves were very interesting with strange rock formations, narrow passageways from one cave to the other, high steep rocks to climb, deep gulleys to explore, and in general very interesting rock formations that we had not seen before. The children were enchanted. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon.
4. Go see Flowerpot Island.
Whether you arrive by ferry boat or private charter, Flowerpot Island is something to see. Manitoulin Island is a three hour journey by ferry, but Flowerpot Island is a mere 25 minute journey from Tobermory. The island has lots of interesting stone formations and sights to explore. It is named for the one intact flowerpot rock in the lake along with one flowerpot that has partially fallen but remains interesting. The third flowerpot sunk into the lake a while ago. Just the unusual nature of the rock formations makes this visually curious. Spending time in nature exploring the island is a refreshing break from whatever you do every day for work. It will reset your priorities spending time in such an awe-inspiring environment.
5. Eat local.
There are many local eateries and small groceries that sell homemade goods. We loved the homemade cookies, fresh ice cream, and homemade burgers from North Sauble Meats N More. Sitting down to eat burgers off the barbecue with fresh corn was a pleasure. Kelsey's in Owen Sound, at the foot of Bruce Peninsula, was also just excellent. We visited three days in a row and their chicken with sweet and spicy Thai sauce was exceptional as were their quesadillas, broccoli and cheddar soup, and homemade biscuits. Everything we ate was fresh and delicious...a culinary delight. A good trip should involve good food and this one did not disappoint.
Bruce Peninsula is well worth seeing. You are guaranteed to come away with a deeper appreciation of the stunning beauty available to us in Ontario along with a plan to return someday real soon.
Entrepreneur and mom to four amazing kids
Q: Why did the can crusher quit his job?
A: Because it was soda pressing.