PLAYING OUTSIDE – 10 ONTARIO ADVENTURES IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
It’s June and the days are finally getting longer and warmer providing the ideal enticement to get outside and play. While the record high water levels on Lake Ontario have restricted many activities on the Toronto Islands, until at least the end of the month, there are a few local spots of note to soak up some sunshine and nature.
The Leslie Street Spit, officially known as Tommy Thompson Park is an extraordinary wildlife and bird-watching area jutting out into the lake. An active construction landfill site, it’s open to the public on weekdays from 4pm-9pm and all day on weekends. The bike ride to the lighthouse affords spectacular views of the skyline and you can forage for discarded bricks rounded into softness by the lake currents. They make great tea light and candle holders! Plus there are also guided nature walks.
Or if you’re on bikes and feeling ambitious, you can take the Martin Goodman Trail west past the Exhibition to Humber Bay Park for a different perspective of the city.
If you’re looking to get out of the city to explore, but don’t want to contend with traffic snarls or head too far afield for your adventures, there are some great family options within an hour. Pleasure Valley in Uxbridge offers group horseback riding on 225 acres of tranquil forest trails. Or if you want to mix up your quiet time with some more rambunctious fun, Cedar Park Resort in Bowmanville has waterslides, splash pads, mini-golf and 30 acres to explore.
Heading west out of the city there are two amazing options within two hours. Just north of Guelph on the Grand River is the stunning Elora Gorge. For an action-packed tour of the area, you can go tubing past the 22-metre high cliffs. There are also sport fields, a splash pad, fishing access and camping facilities. Afterwards you can explore Elora, an adorable community and mill town. And if it’s Sunday, the Aberfoyle Antique Market is a sprawling area filled with dealers of all shapes and sizes.
Another outdoor adventure spot nearby is the Kelso Conservation Area on the Niagara Escarpment. You’ve probably passed the little ski hill on the 401 about 45 minutes west of Toronto and may not know that it offers a range of summer activities including hiking with spectacular views, mountain biking, swimming, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding in the reservoir. There are also campsites available and a Friday night outdoor movie series in August featuring Trolls and Finding Dory.
Additionally, along the Halton Hills/Escarpment range Rattlesnake Point and Mount Nemo feature fantastic hikes with caving features and swooping turkey vultures. Rattlesnake Point also has campsites and a very active geocache, a GPS-guided treasure hunt.
Of course if you have a few days and feel like venturing further afield, legendary and treasured Algonquin Park offers spectacular car camping, backcountry canoeing and hiking possibilities along the old, decommissioned railway line. Plus for camping adventures without making the financial and space investment in gear, you can enlist outfitters at Canoe Lake or Lake Opeongo. Other options include renting from MEC and now you can even borrow tents and cooking equipment locally by joining the Toronto Sharing Depot.
And while it’s absolutely epic with azure waters and spectacular rock formations, Bruce Peninsula National Park and the grotto, at the northern end of the Niagara Escarpment get extremely busy, and with free National Park passes for Canada’s 150th, might be better saved for next year.
But even if you decide to forgo the car and kick back in your yard or one of the city parks, a little fresh air and playtime goes a long way.