On our honeymoon, my husband and I drove 13,000km across Canada. It was then that we dubbed Ontario ‘the province that never ends’. Three times the size of my native Germany (with a fraction of the population), it literally takes 24 hours to drive our home province end-to-end. And that’s in fair weather, I might add. It is a place of tremendous geographic diversity and immense natural beauty. You can experience life at 30 degrees below or above zero. (Celsius that is.) Once you’ve left the larger cities behind, there is only the occasional sprinkle of urbanization. Mostly you’re left with farmers’ fields, the “Canadian shield”, forests, open skies and lakes. So. Many. Lakes. (And shipwrecks!)
Each of the four seasons leaves its mark on the land. The return of the herons to the rookery behind my house is a sure sign that Spring is on its way, as is watching the progress of the ice out on the lake. The trilliums, Ontario’s official flower, come out in swathes breathing new life onto the forest floor. Shortly after that, the arrival of the hummingbirds and all manner of bugs lead the way into Summer. ‘Tis the season for life outdoors: canoe trips, s’mores by the campfire, patio season. Nothing beats jumping in the lake on a hot Summer day. Then in late August the days start getting a tad shorter, the nights cooler, the weather remains pleasantly warm. Fall is here, and it’s by far my favourite season. Sweater weather, foraging for mushrooms, hiking. Even the sauna starts getting fired up again. And just like that the first snowflakes fall and Winter arrives. We layer up and lace up. Skating and x-country skiing are favourite pastimes around these parts. Some of us have a go at Winter camping, sleeping in an igloo and all, while others cherish the warmth of a fireplace until we come full circle.
I love a good map and hitting the open road (yes, the two can coexist). I also love Ontario and its seasons, and I’m happy to share a few favourite discoveries that I’ve made over the years:
- A plethora of large roadside structures such as the Wawa Goose, White River’s Winnie the Pooh or the UFO monument in Moonbeam. Small town Ontario loves these, and I confess, so do I.
- Ontario Parks and Conservation Areas. Some are more widely known, others more of a lucky find. Be mindful that campground and backcountry reservations can be hard to come by in high season, and that on occasion you’ll need to be creative around accessing beaches and trails (go early or late in the day, go midweek vs weekend).
- Superior country. Home to our province’s only designated wilderness park (Pukaskwa National Park), Lake Superior Provincial Park and Sleeping Giant to name a few. This is a vast area, not to be missed by any lover of hiking, fishing or incredibly scenic drives. Simply put: it’s a different world.
- Quirky places like the Shania Twain shrine in Timmins (it’s seen better days), the Watershed Truck Stop in Gogama, and a store by the name of Fishy Fishy Bang Bang in Espanola, just North of Manitoulin Island.
- Prince Edward County’s award-winning wineries & breweries, views of Lake Ontario and the Mustang Drive-In (which happens to be run by two of my best friends!)
- Lake Huron and Georgian Bay and their Caribbean style waters. There are places that will make you doubt you’re only a few hours from Toronto.
- Biking the Niagara Parkway, hiking in the Niagara Gorge and finishing the day with a glass of wine from a Beamsville Bench vineyard, where my preferred Niagara Escarpment libations originate from.
Claudia originally hails from Germany. Over the past fifteen years she has fully embraced life in Ontario and become a Canadian citizen. She has also already mapped out her next road trip.