Spring Road Trips: Five lesser-known Ontario destinations
Travelling in winter can feel like a daunting endeavour, what with weather-related concerns and the need to pack all that extra outerwear. Once the sun swings back around, a spring road trip can be the perfect antidote to the winter “blahs.” This spring, skip the busy tourist attractions and head to one of these five lesser-known Ontario destinations. Whether you’re travelling with kids, your partner or seeking solitude in a beautiful setting, each of these attractions has something unique in store. After making sure your vehicle’s ready to roll, pack some snacks, crank up the tunes, and prepare to leave winter in the dust!
For many urban travellers, the goal of a trip is to feel as removed as possible from the big smoke. City noise, pollution and congestion can take a toll over those long winter months. For a breath of fresh air, hit the road to enjoy one of these two naturally beautiful sites– both of them closer to the city than you might think.
On the banks of the Grand River and the Irvine River – surrounded by Mennonite farmland- the town of Elora is widely regarded as a particularly picturesque destination. Many of the local buildings have been beautifully preserved, dating from the early 1800s. Full of galleries, coffee shops, art studios and inviting restaurants (even a historic cinema!), Elora has something on offer all year round. A variety of live music events, craft fairs, and antique shows attract travellers from all over the country, and the ever-evolving schedule of events ensures that there’s always something new to discover at each visit.
In the springtime, Elora’s adjacent gorge is the main attraction for nature lovers. Boasting 80-foot limestone cliffs (with the water at their feet), the gorge is both spectacular and calming. With caves to explore, trails to hike, and water to splash in, there is truly something for everyone. If spring weather doesn’t provide ideal swimming conditions, kayaking down the Grand River is always an option. Families can also enjoy camping and fishing on the riverbank, and a spring visit means you’ll avoid the summer camping crowds.
For cyclists, Elora can be reached via the Trans Canada Trail, which links the town to other nearby communities. Elora (and the adjacent gorge) is a mere 30 minutes from the 401, with the drive from downtown Toronto taking less than 2 hours.
One of the Niagara Escarpment’s “Halton Parks,” Mountsberg Conservation Area focuses on kid-friendly fun, with an impressive array of seasonal events and activities. This spring, children can learn how maple sap is tapped, with a stop at the Sugar Bush in Mountsberg’s “Maple Town.” Kids can also visit with baby animals, and burn off that pent-up road trip energy by racing around the impressive play barn – a lofty structure outfitted with ladders, climbing ropes, slides, and swings.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy the “raptor experience” at the park’s center for birds-of-prey. Demonstrations and performances make this an exciting educational experience, and the opportunity to get up close to a majestic golden eagle is a definite thrill. See kestrels, great horned owls, sparrow hawks, and bald eagles in meticulously designed natural enclosures.
For travellers seeking a quieter experience, a walk down one of the park’s hiking trails serves perfectly. Bird-watching opportunities abound in Mountsberg, and anglers can spend a peaceful afternoon by the waterside. Spring is a perfect time for a solo horseback ride, along serene, carefully-marked trails.
Naturalists with be impressed with Conservation Halton’s efforts to maintain forest resources sustainably, with continual improvements to local wildlife habitats. They use innovative environmental practices to manage water supplies, and environmental education is a fundamental initiative for the organization.
Mountsberg Park is located at 2259 Millburough Line in Campbellville, 90 minutes from downtown Toronto.
The Barrie Automotive Flea Market
Anyone with an appreciation for antique automobiles will enjoy this next attraction, just 90 minutes north of Toronto.
Thousands of vendors – many specializing in hard-to-find car parts – will gather near Barrie this spring for the 37th annual market. With shows and awards for classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles, this event is an opportunity for pure entertainment, as well as a chance to buy or sell vehicles and collectibles. There’s an auction, a “Show & Shine,” a sales corral, and a campground that is conveniently located nearby. Described as “a car lover’s dream,” this is a family-friendly experience, with kids under 12 attending free.
The campground offers more than 1000 spots, and camping fees also include admission to the market. Nearby, the waterfront town of Barrie is a popular destination for live theatre, concerts, dining and shopping. Local April highlights include a craft sale and a maple syrup festival, and in May the town celebrates the Waterfront Festival, featuring live bands, buskers and a midway. Admission to the festival is free.
The Barrie Automotive Flea Market takes place from June 6-9, at the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds: 180 8th Line South, Oro-Medonte, ON.
The Sault Ste. Marie Science Festival
If you’re looking to venture further north (taking in spectacular spring scenery en route) this event is packed with activities for kids and adults alike.
Learning opportunities are hands-on during this week-long festival, run by Science North. The winner of the 2017 Festivals & Events Ontario “Best New Festival” award, it engages with a series of performances, demonstrations and live experiments, utilizing natural and applied sciences. The Science Carnival is a festive highlight, with exhibitors boasting interactive science and technology activities for curious scientists of all ages. Visitors can hold a giant horned beetle, have their face painted, or visit one of the many science vendors from all across Canada.
With a focus on inclusion, Science Festival has something on offer for the budding enthusiast and the expert — it even includes specialized programming for seniors, as well as a math outreach initiative. For students, the festival is an invaluable opportunity to meet professionals working in scientific fields and to learn about potential career paths in the science and technology sector.
The Science Festival is a partnership with nine organizations, and this will be the fifth year for the popular event. Sault Ste Marie is a world-class destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts, situated on the shores of two great lakes. While in the area, be sure to take advantage of the many camping, hiking and fishing opportunities nearby.
Sault Ste. Marie’s Science Festival runs from April 22-27, 2019, with activities at several different locations throughout the city. The Science Carnival is hosted by The Machine Shop: 83 Huron Street, Sault Ste. Marie, ON.
Haliburton Grey Wolf Sanctuary
The Haliburton forest has housed its resident wolf pack since 1993, and visitors can glimpse these animals in their natural habitat from the site’s observatory. The installation of live wolfcams makes a sighting even more likely, as the wolves roam freely throughout 15 acres of protected woodlands.
Animal sightings aren’t the only opportunity awaiting visitors. The 5000 square foot facility boasts a cinema and a retail area, as well as various exhibits – all highlighting wolf habits and behaviour. The centre is also fully accessible.
Admission to the Wolf Centre includes full access to other activities in the Haliburton Forest, including nature trails and the nearby Logging Museum (which focuses on the history of settlement in the area). For kids and animals lovers, “Hershe the Moose” is always available for a visit, as are the site’s friendly barn animals.
The Wolf Centre opens on Victoria Day. It can be found at 1305 Redkenn Road, Haliburton, ON.
Travelling in spring allows you to beat those summer road trippers to some of Ontario’s most enticing destinations. With so many options to choose from, there’s no need to stick to tried-and-true tourist attractions. Think outside of the box this spring, and prepare to be surprised, entertained and amazed by the province’s rich heritage and natural beauty.
Getting your vehicle in tip-top shape is an essential step before starting any road trip. The Oil Change app makes a routine oil change a quick, painless process. Toronto drivers can call (613) 484-8498 with any questions for the Oil Change App’s team. This spring, contact us to make sure your car’s ready for the open road.