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Kite-flying, farmer’s markets, forests begging to be explored. It seems as though there’s a little something for everyone on the fringes of Toronto.
Sports fans will find themselves at home in Hamilton, base of the Hamilton Tiger Cats and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
A pleasant port city wrapped around Lake Ontario, midway between Toronto and Niagara-On-The-Lake, Hamilton has plenty to see and do; the Royal Botanical Gardens, Dundern Castle (a neoclassical pile built in the 1830s) and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. It’s also a pleasant base for outdoor types who can take advantage of the many waterfall trails which circuit the city, including its most spectacular viewpoint, Webster’s Falls and the imaginatively named Devil’s Punch Bowl.
Horse drawn buggies are common in this charming rural backwater with its Mennonite heritage and gentle pace of life.
A pleasant place to shop, St Jacobs is well known for its farmers’ market whose old fashioned building was destroyed in a fire in September 2013, although the market remains open, and a new building is being constructed. But with plentiful historic shops selling artisanal crafts and quaint introductions to local produce and crafts, such as the Maple Syrup Museum and the Quilt Gallery, it a lovely place to step back in time and experience the joys of days gone by.
1 hour 20 minutes
Nicknamed the loveliest town in Canada, Niagara-on-the-Lake has seen its retirement population soar thanks in part to its mild climate and scenic location where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario.
Rich in history and at the heart of Canada’s wine region, this charming 19th century village makes a pleasant day trip, with the opportunity for cultural exploration at the Fort George National historic site or fine dining at one of several historic hotels. It can also be used as a great base for visiting the town’s more famous neighbour, Niagara Falls, where you can raise your blood pressure a little with white water rafting, bike tours or simply walk across the border to New York.
1 hour 30 minutes
Collingwood and The Blue Mountains
Just two hours out of town, the Blue Mountains offer scenic views, skiing and snow sports in the winter and mountain biking, caving, hiking and even nearby Wasaga beach in what’s known as locally as ‘green season’.
The area offers you options. Stay in the village itself, with its eclectic mix of cafes, après ski and shops, or nearby Collingwood on Nottawasaga Bay with its nautical heritage. If you plump for Collingwood, nature lovers will be pleased to find Canada’s ‘sixth great lake’ on their doorstep, where you can explore the nearby wildlife.
2 hours 5 minutes
For true adventurers, the call of the wild can be heard at Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, just three hours’ drive from Toronto. The reserve houses rolling pine forests, clear lakes, rivers and the world’s largest canopy walk; enough to ensure you’ll be kept busy.
Perfect for those who like their holidays activity packed, visitors can try snowmobiling and dog sledding in the winter months, or wilderness camping, fishing and mountain biking during the summer. With its clear skies free from light pollution, Haliburton Forest offers views of the night sky of which city dwellers can only dream, so telescopes at the ready.