Ontario Tourist details some of the greatest sightseeing attractions and tourism service providers in the province of Ontario.

Gord and Nancy Bell give you special insight into just some of the many different means to see this great province of Ontario, by land, water or air.

The fall colours are at their peak in Northern, Central and Southern Ontario most often between late September to mid October , and what better way to see them than from the air in a 1930's BiPlane. You could cruise Lake of Bays in Muskoka on a 100 year old steamship replica, the SS Bigwin or take a ghost walk in Huntsville's own Muskoka Heritage Place.

Nancy writes articles on Niagara Falls, the Ontario Butterfly Conservatory and the visual wonder that is Algonquin Park as well as other unique places to visit and stay in Ontario. There's even insightful information on pet friendly accommodations in Ontario for those that can't leave home without Fido.

Ontario Tourist provides you with not only a comprehensive listing of lodges, resorts, inns and B & B's but also the inside story on what to see, and where and when to see it.

Ontario Tourist provides you with not only a comprehensive listing of lodges, resorts, inns and B & B's but also the inside story on what to see, and where and when to see it.
 
May is Moose Watching Month in Ontario.
Moose come out near the HWY 60 corridor in Algonquin park to replenish their bodies with salt water from the marshes and the new plants that are sprouting. They usually stay in one place for a longer period while refueling after a long Winter.  Great photo and video opportunities are in the early morning and in the late afternoon and evening. I find the best results between KM 20 and 30 on HWY 60. You may not see a moose yourself but it's a good indicator when you see cars parked at the side of the road.  They have seen a moose! See more about Algonquin park at  www.algonquinpark.on.ca  Algonquin Park is located near the village of Dwight and close to the town of Huntsville, Muskoka

Snowmobile trails have opened for the 2015 Winter season in parts of Central and Northern Ontario.
At the time of writing, trails north of Bracebridge throughout the Huntsville area up to North Bay are Green for Open and as well as up farther North in the Timmins area.  The Timmins area trails were the first to open this year around Christmas time.

The snowmobile season is getting shorter due to climate change so each week the trails are open is precious. All the volunteer run snowmobile clubs update the OFSC - Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs with trail conditions each week. You can find a map with the details under the Trip Planner tab at www.ofsc.on.ca
They also have a smartphone app that you can buy for use on the snowmobile trails for the latest conditions and so you won't get lost! 
There are places that cater to snowmobilers. Some are on the trails or nearby. They have the latest maps and can tell you about the weather conditions, where to get gas and food, and  trail conditions on the ground. Some have webcams so that you can see for yourself how much snow they really have.  You can find a list at http://www.cottage-resort.com/snowmobile.htm
 

November is the Best Month for Ontario Storms and Storm Chasers!

If you are a Canadian, when you meet people, what's the first thing you talk about?  It's usually the weather. In North America, we have this fascination for the weather. It's like the ultimate reality TV show. The Weather Channel has made a fortune on our addiction to weather reports. We have access to Doppler radar to show the last 3 hours of a storm's path and Intellicast to predict the storm's path for the next 24 hours. Lightning and thunder storms, rain storms, snow storms, sunrises, sunsets, rainbows, are high on our list of must see experiences!
 
The west side of Ontario is all lakes. From Windsor to Thunder Bay, there's Lake St. Clair, Lake Huron, Georgian Bay, which is as big as a lake, and Lake Superior.  Ontario has many lakes throughout the province. From the miles of shoreline, you can watch the storms come in.
 
Our family had a cottage vacation home on Georgian Bay just up from Wasaga Beach. We were right on the water. The view was west across the water as far as the eye could see. The storms could be seen a long way off coming from that direction.
 
We have a place on the water in Muskoka that faces east. We don't get the storms from the West but when they come from the east, we can see them coming from over a mile away.
 
With storms, there's the "calm before the storm" . There's wind that sways the trees. There's rain that comes gently down, misty curtains or as walls of water.
 
You can enjoy the coming storm as you sit in front of a fire, safe inside a building or you can dress for the experience in rain or snow gear.
 
Are you a storm watcher or a storm chaser?
 

 

Where do all the Moose Hide during hunting season? - in Algonquin Park !

Moose are not stupid. They know when it's hunting season.  When the time comes each year, they migrate to Algonquin park as a safe haven.  No hunters allowed in Algonquin park!  It's sounds funny but they seem to know where the boundary line is.  If you are not a hunter, Algonquin park is the perfect place to visit to see moose - either in the park's interior or along the HWY 60 that runs right through Algonquin park.   The males have grown their full rack of antlers.  Photo opportunities are everywhere.

Fall Colour Tours in Ontario - You Gotta GO!

Summer weather has returned to Ontario at the end of September. Warm days and cool nights have made it great for sleeping at night and exploring the countryside during the day. The fall colours season is just starting in  Northern Ontario. Spectacular reds and oranges in the trees can be seen in Northern Muskoka around Huntsville, Baysville and Algonquin park. You can view vistas of coloured trees by taking a driving tour around Lake of Bays and half way through Algonquin Park. (The eastern half isn't as pretty!) You can go up the Dorset fire tower for a view that goes for miles. Take some holidays or even call in sick from work as the leave start falling from the trees soon. Stay overnight at one of many lodges, inns or resorts.  While you are out and about ,check out where you want to stay at Christmas and New Years holidays.

Family Vacations in Ontario's Cottage Country

Summer holidays in Ontario run from the end of June until the end of August. Two months when the public school children are out.
Ontario has some special tourist accommodation products that you won't find anywhere else in the world.  In Central Ontario, it's called Cottage Country because there's so many cottages outside of the city. In Northern Ontario, they are called "camps".  In Sudbury, you say you are going to 'camp' - means the same thing as someone from Toronto saying that they are going to the "cottage". (In southern Ontario, if you said you were going to "camp" it would mean that you are sleeping in a tent!)
These 'cottages" can be anything from one room cabins to luxury vacation homes. People from the city use cottages as their summer home but there's also a number of cottage resorts throughout Ontario.  Some are fishing camps, some are family oriented, most are self catering with kitchens in each cottage. Some have lodges that offer home cooked meals or fine dining. Almost all are family owned and operated.  The owner is also the grass cutter, water ski boat driver, fire lighter and cottage cleaner. It has been this way for generations.  You'll also find the same people come back year after year to the same cottage during the same week. Their children play with other children that they grow up seeing each summer.  Some of the families stay in touch with each other throughout the year.  Cottage Resorts offer a personalized family vacation experience.  Making memories that you will remember for years to come.

 Moose Sightings in Algonquin Park  by Gord Bell

See moose from the safety of your car in Algonquin Park in May and June. Moose can be seen after the snow melts, at the side of the highway drinking up the salty water.  This replenishes their bodies after a long winter.  You shouldn't get too close as these animals are huge so you don't want to take the chance that they will step on you.  Most of the time they will eat and drink while you take their picture.
 
Moose are herbivores so they eat plants ... not people. It's hard to tell the males from the females.   The antlers are starting to grow out again on the males.  You can see the moose antlers in the photo I took in late April 2014.  We saw two males at different spots along HWY 60 on a Sunday afternoon. A trick to finding moose is to look for cars parked along the side of the highway.  They are stopped because they saw something.!

 

A Bad Day of Fishing is Better than a Good Day at Work!

Lake Edge Cottages is a small, pet-friendly, housekeeping cottage resort offering our guests rest and relaxation where one of the activities enjoyed by many, is fishing. They are on the eastern shore of Katchewanooka Lake, one of the quieter lakes in the Kawartha Lakes region on the Trent-Severn Waterway, in the boundaries of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources fishing Zone 17.

Fish species found in our waters include Walleye, Bass (both large- and small-mouthed), muskellunge (muskie), carp and panfish like perch, crappie and sunfish. Carp and panfish can be fished all year round, otherwise the fishing season starts with walleye on the 2nd Saturday in May to muskie on the 1st Saturday of June to bass on the 3rd Saturday in June and ends for walleye on the 15th of November and December 15th for muskie and bass.

Do check your regulations before heading out because there are varying possession limits for the different species as well as size limitations on some (walleye must be between 35-50 cm and muskie must be greater than 112 cm in length) as well as a fishing sanctuary at Young’s Point from November 16 to after the 2nd Saturday in May every year. All these measures are in place to help promote a healthy fish population. People can fish from either shore or boat. They have 450’ of shoreline with 4 docks where both young and old alike fish from. Some will also venture to Young’s Point or the village of Lakefield to fish from the public access points. For those that prefer to fish from a boat, they have complimentary canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and rowboats to use, and a small fleet of outboard motor powered boats for rental. If you happen to have a boat of your own, they have launching and docking facilities for boats up to 24’ in length.    www.lakeedge.com 

 

 

ENJOY TWO MORE WEEKS OF WINTER FUN then... It will be Gone  by Gord Bell

Two more weeks of Winter Fun in Cottage Country, Ontario. That's one hour north of Toronto, north of Barrie which includes Orillia, Gravenhurst, Haliburton, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Algonquin park and Muskoka all the way up to Parry Sound, North Bay, Sudbury. The snowmobile trails are still in pretty good shape which is amazing for March. Road travel will be rough on your sled as there isn't much snow there. Warm conditions have started melting the snow which means that the rivers and narrows are starting to flow creating thin ice in some places for snowmobilers and ice fishing. The stakes marking the snowmobile trails will be coming off the lakes by the end of March.
The tubing hill at Arrowhead park in Huntsville is open however the skating trail is deteriorating because of the warmer weather and high volume of use during March Break.
Cross country skiing, dog sledding and snowshoe trails are still in good to excellent condition throughout Central Ontario.
Downhill skiing resorts will be operating until at least the end of March.  The snow and colder temps this week has extended their season.
Wildlife is on the move too. Many opportunities to see deer and wild turkeys as they roam around look for food as the snow melts.
 

 

MARCH BREAK WINTER ACTIVITIES in Ontario  by Gord Bell

The weather forecast is for a colder Winter and a colder Spring and that sure is happening.  Some places in Ontario were seeing minus 30 C degree mornings at the end of February... way below normal.  What this means for the Outdoor winter fun enthusiast is that winter sports will be available throughout the month of March and into April. In years past, the winter snow and ice conditions were melting away by mid March - Not this year!  Snowmobile trail conditions are the best they have been in years, There's a great depth of ice for ice fishing on Ontario lakes. The snow base for skiing and snowshoeing is thick. Dog sledding will be offered until the end of March because the trails are in great shape too.  For the Alpine ski areas that have made snow - they could stay open well into April, maybe until Easter long weekend!?  Golf and ski at Easter in Ontario.  Wait and see...

2014 Canadian Pond Hockey Championships in Haliburton, Ontario  by Gord Bell

The 2014 Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships Event happens Haliburton, Ontario in the Haliburton Highlands Jan 24- 26 and Jan 31 - Feb 2, 2014  This is the way hockey used to be played!  Volunteers  have made 32 rinks on Head Lake, next to the village of Haliburton, with snow for boards and 2 feet high nets.  There's six players on a team, no goalie and no slapshots. The village is a great venue for players and spectators.  You can walk into town for food or shopping or to get warm! Accommodation is nearby.  Great fun for the whole family. http://canadapondhockey.ca/

Enjoy Winter with some Family Fun at Ontario Winter Carnivals  by Gord Bell

Ontario Winter Carnivals are taking place throughout rural Ontario in 2014. Burks Falls has Winterfest mid January. Port Sydney, Muskoka has a Winter Carnival during the fourth week of January. Peterborough has Polarfest at the end of January.  Apsley, Dorset, Dwight, Haliburton and Baysville have their Winter Carnivals in February.
 
Activities include: Pancake breakfast, Dinner Dance, children's games and entertainers, food and more special winter food!, moose tongues, beaver tails, maple snow taffy, dog sled rides, horse drawn sleigh rides, hot air balloon rides, children's snowmobile rides, hockey games.
 
Huntsville, Muskoka does something different.  They have a Winter Comedy Festival at the end of January. Brent Butt and Jim Belushi are the headliners for 2014.
 
Kearney, north of Huntsville in February and Minden, Haliburton Highlands in March, have dog sled races.

Where to see Sea Monsters in Ontario  by Gord Bell

Did you know that Lake of Bays, Muskoka has it's own version of the Loch Ness Monster?
 
Lake of Bays which is found in North Muskoka, 2 hours north of Toronto, with the towns of Dwight, Baysville and Dorset on it's three corners, has had sightings of the Lake of Bays Monster since the 1950's .  It inhabits the deep 250 foot plus waters near Black Point, Bigwin Island and Fairway Island.  Some say its a large fish called the sturgeon. Or it's a variety of ling that has grown to enormous size.  Captain Bruce of the Lake of Bays Boat Tours speak about the monster on his cruises.  The children are especially interested.  Sightings have been mostly by fishermen... some even in the winter when a person saw a huge shadow pass underneath them. Stories of the Lake of Bays Monster have been passed down from generation to generation. There's even a short video taken in 2011

 Hoax or not?  A Big Fish Story? This is another interesting tourist attraction that makes for a good tale around the campfire or when you are out fishing on Lake of Bays with your buddies.

Where and When to See the Best Fall Colours in Ontario  by Gord Bell

The leaves on the trees in Ontario Canada change colour in September and early October. Fall Colours tours are very popular for families in cars, for bus tours for those who don't have cars and don't want to drive, motorcycle groups, or antique car groups. You can go for the day or stay overnight at hotels, inns, lodges and resorts.  Canada's famous maple leaf changes from green to a bright red or orange, yellow, burgundy.  It's like mother nature uses a paint brush to change the trees in the Fall.  The boat Ontario government does a report each week for the different regions in Ontario.  They measure how close the leaves colours are to being the best time to see. (Called "Peak" time or Full Colour time)  They also measure the amount of  "leaf fall" or the amount of leaves that have fallen or blown off the trees.
Northern Ontario starts peaking first, followed by Central and then Southern Ontario.  My suggestion is to travel during the week when it's less busy. The last last weekend in September and the First weekend in October as well as Thanksgiving weekend, are so popular that there are traffic jams on HWY 60 leading into the west gate of Algonquin Park.  See the fall colour report at

Walking with the Dead by H.P. Quinn

The Ghost Walk in Huntsville’s own Muskoka Heritage Place provides a delightful opportunity to dive into both history and creepy stories of times past. Hosted by authors Andrew Hind and Maria Da Silva, guests of this walk are guided under lantern light and are exposed, with a twist of macabre, to the rich culture and history of several buildings within the village. Whether it be stories of the phantom organist in Loyal Orange Lodge or the eerie sounds of children’s laughter in the blacksmith’s shop, guests are immersed in both the supernatural and everyday tales of the historical building along the trek. Guests are also given time throughout the walk to explore the buildings themselves and experience their own ghostly encounters. The hosts are available for questioning during these times and can provide a wealth of information about many spooky locations across Ontario.

This adventure with the dead lasts approximately two hours and is held once a year at Muskoka Heritage Place. Please visit http://www.muskokaheritageplace.org/en/ for more information on this historical gem in cottage country.

 

Airplane Sightseeing Tours and Adventures  by Gord Bell

Consider Ontario Fall Colours Tours from the air. The leaves change colour in Ontario from late September to mid October.
 
Have you ever flown in a 1930's BiPlane aircraft? I did,  in Ottawa at the Canada Air and Space Museum. Weather permitting, sightseeing airplane rides are offered in anopen cockpit 1930's biplane. You need 2 people in the cockpit.  You need to be able to climb in on your own.  If you are not in good physical shape, there may be an issue boarding the aircraft.   There are trips of various lengths at different prices and you can pay extra for a video of your trip done by a Go Pro Action Video Camera . Trips are offered over the Ottawa River, Gatineau Hills and you can fly over the Parliament Buildings.  Only in Canada!  In any other country it would be a "no fly" zone.  http://www.aviation.technomuses.ca/visit_us/at_the_museum/biplane_rides/
 

 

Cruise Lake of Bays, Muskoka on the S. S. Bigwin  by Gord Bell

A piece of history is now floating again on Lake of Bays, Muskoka. The SS Bigwin is a 100 year old steamship that took royalty and movie stars to the Bigwin Inn on Bigwin Island in the early 1900's.
The boat fell into disrepair and sank off Bigwin Island. A group of local volunteers pulled it out of the water in 1991 and stored it in a field. Restoration began in 2002 and was completed in 2012 through fund raising and government grants.boat
 
Muskoka's newest tourist attraction sails out of Dorset, Ontario several times a week.  It can carry only 32 passengers at a time so you must reserve ahead. You can't just show up.  If the hour long trip fills up in advance, they usually schedule a second trip (and possible a third one)
 
The first time I went and tried to get aboard was in early July on a last minute basis. They were full and had to add early trips that day. I made a reservation by email and was able to take my trip during the last week in August. Because the boat is powered by an electric motor, it runs quiet. They have set up chairs with deep cushions on the upper deck but there's a limited number so its best to get there early or you'll be sitting on a hard wood bench. The first mate or purser (I'm sure what her title was) stays up on the upper deck.  I found that the sun was real hot on the upper deck and after a while I had to look for shade below deck. There's lots of room and lots of windows in the captain's cabin behind or beside the captain. The purser or the captain are happy to answer any questions.  There are stairs to get on the boat and narrow doorways so its not for people with disabilities. For reservation info see www.ssbigwin.com
 

 

Unique Wedding Venues in Ontario  by Nancy Bell

Many Ontario Resorts offer wedding facilities, a select few have their own historic chapel on the property.  This means that everything - the ceremony, reception and accommodation for wedding guests - can happen in one place.  Some examples are:
 
Horseshoe Resort in Barrie offers the Ellesmere Chapel.  It is located on the original site of the Ellesmere Family cabin.  It provides an intimate wedding venue for 60 people.
 
Viamede Resort in Woodview provides the intimacy of a 19th century chapel on their property.
 
The Westover Inn in St. Marys has a beautiful stone chapel built in the 1930's and is surrounded by pine trees, set atop a small hill.
 
The Inn On The Twenty chapel in Jordan stands in the middle of a large vineyard.  It is a former farm building that has been redone as a chapel.
 
The Horizons North Fishing Resort in Marten River offers an intimate service in their country chapel. 
 
Wedding ceremonies on a ship are also popular, many include dinner and dancing as well as the ceremony.  Some of the companies offering this are:
 
Scugog Island Cruises, Port Perry:  http://www.buildyourcruise.com/wedding-cruises.html
Lady Muskoka, Bracebridge:  http://www.ladymuskoka.com/
Muskoka Steamships, Gravenhurst:  http://realmuskoka.com/
 

Tall Ships coming to Georgian Bay Ontario in August  by Gord Bell

Ontario Tourist Experiences: Tall Ships 1812 Tour  coming to Georgian Bay, Ontario.
To commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, the Tall Ships will be touring the Ontario Great Lakes stopping in Brockville, Toronto, St. Catherines, Sault Ste Marie, Midland, Owen Sound, Collingwood, and Hamilton August 16-18  Owen Sound, Collingwood Ships include the brigantines Fair Jeanne, and the Playfair, and the 157’ topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore II
August 24, 25 Midland / Penetanguishene : Niagara - an accurate reproduction of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victorious flagship from the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie .  Madeline – a reconstruction of a mid-19th century schooner . Liana’s Ransom - a two masted, gaff rigged, square top sail schooner, commonly used by privateers during the War of 1812.
http://www.tallships1812.ca/tour-dates.html
 

Unique Events - Muskoka Clam Race, Ontario by Gord Bell

Once a year at the end of July, the Tapley family of Bondi Village Cottage Resort holds a Clam Race.

What is a clam race?  It's a unique, one of a kind event, held for the last 27 years in Muskoka.

Think of this event something like a horse race only with clams, This year 42 clams were entered in the race. The clams are gathered on the day of the race from Lake of Bays. At 7pm they are presented for registration with a name, given a number and placed on the starting line in the Bondi Resort swimming area.  Everyone in attendance wears a festive hat. The names of the clams change from year to year depending on current events. Some examples of clam names are : Clamtastic, ObiWan Clamobi, Clamentine, My wild irish Clam ...

Before the event begins, the crowd is entertained by the Muskoka Music Men, an acapella group who sing barbershop quartet favorites.

It's a festive time with food and drink served. Once all the clams are placed at the starting line, fireworks are let off and the race begins.

Overnight the clams move off the starting line in either direction. At 8:30am the next morning, the judge comes out with his measuring tape to see which clam when the farthest.

The winner claims the Chowder Bowl Trophy and bragging rights until next summer.

Explore Niagara Falls, Ontario by Nancy Bell

Niagara Falls Ontario is an awesome destination with much to offer to tourists in Ontario and around the world.  
 
Foremost are the falls themselves.  The Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America and possibly the most well known in the world. 
 
It can be seen from many different viewpoints: 
 
At Journey Behind The Falls you are taken 150 feet down by elevator to corridors behind the falls.  The Cataract and Great Falls portals are openings where you can see the water falling in front of you.
 
The Maid of the Mist is North America's oldest tourist attraction, visitors have enjoyed these tours since 1846.  The boat will take you from the Canadian docks past the base of the American Falls, then into the basin of Horseshoe Falls.
 
A Niagara Falls Helicopter Tour will take you along the Niagara River from the Whirlpool area, over the Whirlpool Rapids and the Rainbow Bridge.  It passes by the American Falls and Skylon Tower, then goes over the Horseshoe Falls. 
 
Climb or take an elevator up the Skylon Tower, 236 m high, and see the falls from high - great photo opportunities and a breathtaking view. The Skylon Tower also has a revolving restaurant and this is a perfect place to relax, have a gourmet meal and see the Horseshoe Falls.
 
Horseshoe Falls has recently been in the news on the Amazing Race Canada TV show as the location for the start of the race.  In June 2012 it was also the location of a history-making event when high wire walker Nik Wallenda successfully crossed the Horseshoe Falls. 
 
  
The city of Niagara Falls provides many other adventures:
 
The Bird Kingdom is the largest free-flying indoor aviary in the world.
http://www.birdkingdom.ca/
 
The Butterfly Conservatory features over 2,000 colourful, tropical butterflies.  The paths wind through a rainforest setting.
http://www.niagaraparks.com/niagara-falls-attractions/butterfly-conservatory.html
 
The Waves Waterpark is located in the Americana Conference Resort and Spa.  It offers a wave pool, water slides up to 3 storeys high, kiddie pool, giant tipping bucket and more.
http://www.niagarafallstourism.com/play/themeparks/americana-conference-resort-spa/
 
Clifton Hill offers attractions, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and shops, providing a fun experience for all ages.
http://www.cliftonhill.com/
 
Marineland is one of Ontario's favourite summer attractions.  It features the largest collection of Beluga whales in the world.  There are shows, rides and both sea and land animals. 
http://www.marinelandcanada.com/
 
 
 
Spend a day or a few days in Niagara Falls Ontario !
 
 

TreeTop Trekking in Huntsville, Ontario by Gord Bell

TreeTop Trekking in Huntsville is located on the Deerhurst Resort property, north of HWY 60 and north of the decommissioned airstrip. There's lots of parking. They also have courses in Barrie, Ganaraska and soon in Brampton. treetop
 
After you sign all the paperwork, you are put in a harness with multiple safety lines and given a helmet. To get to the courses, (there are seven) you walk uphill for about 10 minutes into the bush. You should know that there's no smoking on any of the courses and no washrooms in the trees. You have to go before you go!
 
There's beginner , intermediate, advanced and expert courses.  I didn't go on any of the Expert courses but to go on the Dragonfly zip line course with the seven zip lines, I had to go on at least one advanced course. The other courses all have a zip line as part of their mix of activities so you'll get to zip line no matter what.
 
The orientation course is 3 feet off the ground.  Safety rules are simple - always be attached, always be attached, always be attached! . One person in our group had trouble having little upper body strength. If you have no physical fitness, you may want to sit this one out.
 
The guides were everywhere for great support. They reminded you about what to do next. They told you about the best way to cross a section of the course and gave lots of encouragement along the way.  One trick I learned was that if the section was too demanding, (one section had the log steps so far apart that you had to leap from one to the next, which I wouldn't do) you can always continue along the cables on each side.
 
When I got stuck in the middle of a zip line course because I missed grabbing the rope at the end, the guide was right there helping me through what to do to get back to the end platform.
 
I didn't try the Tarzan rope swing at the end of the visit but it looked like fun. You are harnessed in so there's no freefalling. Not quite like Tarzan does it.  I saw others enjoying the experience.
 
At the beginning, you are told the courses will take approximately 3 hours. Its a good idea to go in prepared with water.  I forgot water but they had some for us just in case.
 
TreeTop Trekking is one of those must do "bucket list" experiences.

 

Cruising in Muskoka by Nancy Bell

Muskoka has a number of boat excursions available where you can enjoy a meal, an afternoon or evening travelling on the water to enjoy the beautiful scenery that this region has to offer.
 
 
Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre - Gravenhurst www.realmuskoka.com
This centre is open year-round and offers information on the history of boating in Muskoka, in particular the steamship, boat-building and resort era.  It has Canada's largest in-water collection of antique and classic boats and North America's only in-water exhibit of working antique boats.  It offers exhibits, a speaker series and live demonstrations.
 
The Heritage Centre is home to 3 ships:
 
The R.M.S. Segwun, North America's oldest operating steamship, was built in 1887.  The Segwun was originally a paddlewheeler and sailed on the Muskoka lakes from early spring to late fall, carrying passengers, mail and freight to resorts and villages not served by the railways.  Today the Segwun sails from June to October and offers a variety of cruises on the Muskoka lakes throughout the day and evening.  It is also available for weddings.  It has a capacity of 99.
 
The Wenonah II was built in 2002, with the appearance of a ship from the early 1900's.  It combines the charm of that era with modern conveniences including air-conditioning and an on-board elevator.  The Wenonah II also offers a variety of cruises similar to the R.M.S. Segwun and is available for weddings.  It has a capacity of 200.
 
The Wanda III was built in 1915, it was originally commissioned for Mrs. Timothy Eaton of the Eaton department stores.  In 1996 it was rededicated the Wanda III and the Muskoka lakes became its home.  The Wanda III is a private charter vessel and hosts social celebrations and corporate events for up to 24 people.
 
 
Lady Muskoka - Bracebridge www.ladymuskoka.com
The Lady Muskoka travels downstream along the Muskoka River and proceeds towards Lake Muskoka.  Upon entering Lake Muskoka it explores numerous private islands on its way to "Millionaire's Row", with many summer homes built before the turn of the 20th century. 
 
The season is from May to October and the ship is available for afternoon, evening, lunch, dinner, wedding, private or corporate function cruises.  The Lady Muskoka can hold up to 300 people.
 
 
Sunset Cruises - Bracebridge  www.sunsetcruises.ca
Sunset Cruises was formed to enable passengers looking for an alternative to the larger ships.  
 
The M.V. Idyllwood is a restoration/reproduction of a 1920's private yacht.  It offers 4 hour picnic cruises and 1 hour cruises from the end of June to the Labour Day weekend and accommodates up to 12 people.  It is also available for private bookings. 
 
The Peerless II was built in 1946 to enlarge the marine delivery fleet of the British American Oil Company.  It was built entirely of steel and could hold up to 8000 gallons.  The Peerless II continued to deliver gas and oil products until 1994 when it was sold to become a private vessel.  Sunset Cruises purchased the vessel in 2003 and restored it.  Since 2010 it has been offering luncheon, afternoon sightseeing, dinner and private cruises.  The cruises are available from the end of June to the fall.
 
 
Lake of Bays Boat Tours - Lake of Bays www.muskokaboattours.ca
Come and discover one of the most beautiful lakes in Ontario - Lake of Bays.  You will enjoy a cruise aboard the "Vicky J", a deluxe pontoon boat.  Daily tours depart from the Riverfront dock in Baysville and run from July to Labour Day and again from late September to Thanksgiving weekend for the fall colours. 
 
It is also available for private charters, catered dinner cruises and for water limo service. It holds 12 people. 
 

Ontario Butterfly Conservatories by Nancy Bell 

 
A butterfly conservatory is a zoo that is intended for the breeding and display of butterflies.  At the end of the 1970's live butterfly exhibits became popular in England, butterfly conservatories can now be found throughout the world.  Butterfly conservatories are open to the public, usually a double-entry door is used to make sure that no butterflies escape.  Exploration of conservatories can be either with a guide or on one's own  Generally the best time to see butterflies emerging from their pupae is between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.  Many species of adult butterflies live only 1 - 2 weeks, however some, like the Monarch butterfly can live to 6 months or even longer.
 
There are 3 Butterfly Conservatories in Ontario; in Niagara Falls, Cambridge and Baldwin/Georgina.
 
 
Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory
It is located on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden, 10 minutes north of Niagara Falls.  There are over 2,000 butterflies of 45 different species.
 
There is a short video presentation at the beginning of the tour then a self-guided walk of the conservatory begins.  The paths wind through a rainforest setting, past a pond and waterfall then lead to the Emergence window.  This is the area where the butterflies leave their pupae to take their first flight.
 
This attraction is open year-round except for December 25.
 
Contact the conservatory at 905-356-8119 or http://www.niagaraparks.com/garden-trail/butterfly-conservatory.html for more information.
 
 
Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
At lease 2000 tropical butterflies and moths of approx 40 different species are on exhibit here.  The butterflies and moths originate in Costa Rica or the Philippines, most are sent to the conservatory weekly.  Some are reared onsite so that visitors can see all 4 of the growth stages.  This conservatory also has an Emergence window where you can see them take their first flight.
 
The conservatory is open 7 days a week in the spring and summer (March 1 - October 15) and closed on Mondays and selected holidays during the rest of the year.  It is also available for weddings, meetings and children's groups.
 
Contact the conservatory at 519-653-1234 or http://www.cambridgebutterfly.com/ for more information.
 
 
"Butterflies and Blooms Butterfly Conservatory"
This conservatory is located at the Blue Willow Garden and Landscape Design Centre in Baldwin.  It is open daily from June to August and offers hourly tours.
 
Visitors will be able to explore the conservatory and identify various chrysalis and cocoons, watch them emerge into butterflies and view a number of displays. 
 
Contact the conservatory at 905-722-5849 or http://www.bluewillowgarden.com/conservatory.html for more information.

 

Unique Places- Arowhon Pines in Algonquin Park by Theresa Puplin 

Off the beaten path, at the end of a winding forested road, lies Arowhon Pines on Little Joe Lake.  Open spring, summer and fall, Arowhon welcomes guests who yearnparks for peace and quiet in the wilderness.

 Guests stay in charming rustic rooms in log cabins along the lake, each with its own bathroom.  The cabins have common lounges where guests from around the world gather around a real wood burning fireplace and share stories of the day’s adventure.  

 The chance encounter with a moose or other wildlife, while on the water or by foot, is real and  one of the best parts of your stay.  Follow the shorelines by canoe or kayak and paddle a series of lakes with names like Lost Joe, Tom Thomson and Burnt Island.  Park your canoe at a number of campsites, enjoy a picnic lunch al fresco and plunge into refreshing cool waters.  You might be followed by a family of loons or an otter or beaver.  There are miles of hiking trails directly adjacent to the property.  Be still and watch for moose, black bear, fox, deer, turtles and over 250 species of birds.  Guests also sail, play tennis and relax in the sauna. 

 Arowhon rates include accommodation, three meals per day (famous for its food, Arowhon serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a heritage six sided log dining room with central towering fireplace and wraparound veranda overlooking the lake) and use of all the recreational facilities at the resort and in Algonquin Park.   www.arowhonpines.ca

 

 

A Vacation at an Ontario Provincial Park by Nancy Bell

parks Did you know that there are more than 330 Provincial Parks in Ontario? Consider staying at one of these parks for a vacation this year! Ontario Parks offer many different types of experiences for the Ontario Tourist.

Summer camping is popular, daily or weekly site rentals have been available for many years. More recently a number of Ontario Parks are also offering a Seasonal Campsite Program where some sites are available for summer rental.

Ontario Parks is now piloting 2 new types of roofed accommodations for rent at some of their sites. For example:

The Camp Cabin is an enclosed wooden structure that includes 1 queen bed and 1 double bed with a single bunk, mattresses, log furniture, propane fireplace, mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker, screened porch with 2 muskoka chairs and gas barbeque.

The Deluxe Tent includes 2 queen beds, mattresses, log furniture, mini-fridge, coffee maker, screened porch with 2 muskoka chairs and gas barbeque.

Winter accommodations and activities are also available at some Ontario Parks. 

Yurts are semi-permanent canvas-covered structures that are mounted on a wooden deck about two feet off the ground. Yurts can accommodate up to six people.

Activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and skating are available.

Visit the Ontario Parks website, www.ontarioparks.com , for more information on what is available to you at each park.


Pet Friendly Accommodation in Ontario

pets This is an interview with Peter and Pam Fischer, the owners of Lake Edge Cottages, Lakefield, Kawartha Lakes, www.lakeedge.com about Pet Friendly Accommodation in Ontario

What does "pet friendly" mean to you?
To us, pet friendly means welcoming pets no matter their age, size, breed or number, within reason.  It means, trusting our guests to control their own pets whether on-leash or off-leash. It means welcoming pets in all of our cottages, in the boats, in the lake and throughout our entire property. It means welcoming pets as part of the family. They are our fur-kids.

Do you have pets?
We have two.  Our cat named Felix who came to us as a tiny orphan from the bush who we now call our giant puma. He's less than 10 lbs. Our dog named Floozee who was born on a farm near Lakefield to a German Shepherd mix Mom and a pure bred Akbash Dad. She's a beautiful 90 lbs.

What types of animals do you cater to and what do you offer?
We welcome both dogs and cats and have had the odd bird, bunny and guinea pig. We offer a place to vacation with their owners. A home away from home. A place to run, play, swim and sleep with treats on arrival for everyone.

Do you charge extra for pets?
Yes, we charge $10 per day for the 1st pet and $5 per day for any additional. Our guests are glad to pay the fee and know that bringing their pets with them on vacation is a privilege. We often donate a portion of our pet fees to animal rescue organizations.

How do you deal with people who have allergies?
We are a pet-friendly cottage resort and we do not hide the fact. If people have allergies to anything they must do due diligence before planning their vacations to any location. Most people with allergic reactions to pet hair also have allergic reactions to pollen, trees, plants etc. If anyone inquires who has severe allergies that cannot be controlled with medication, we will recommend other resorts in the area.

Does everyone that stays with you bring a pet?
Close to 90% of our guests have a pet or two with them. Those that don't are well aware that we are a pet-friendly property and enjoy visiting with the other guests and their pets. When people who love dogs come together, it is quite a beautiful thing. People are drawn to Lake Edge because we are pet-friendly and once they are here, they often return throughout the year. The majority of our guests have been here before and many have become very good friends.

What is the strangest type of pet that has stayed with you?
None of the pets have been strange, but some of their circumstances have  been unusual, such as the two giant Neopolitan mastiffs that travelled by car all the way from Alberta to enter a dog show, or the husky that flew in from California to see the snow, for the first time. Then there is Buddy the cat who flies in from Regina twice a year with his Dad because he does not like to stay at home alone. 

Are you a member of any pet friendly organizations?
We are not members of any pet friendly organizations but we are connected to and support many rescue organizations which we help out with donations, gift certificates etc. for their fund raising events. There are amazing groups looking out for the welfare of dogs and cats who have had misfortunes in their lives.  It’s truly remarkable the time and effort the volunteers put into rescuing animals from all sorts of tragedies all over the world. We have had a number of rescued dogs from New Orleans' Katrina stay with us.  What lucky animals to have found forever homes and be taken on vacation too! If anyone is looking for a dog, getting a rescue is one of the best ways.

Do you have contacts in the area if a pet gets sick or hurt?
5 minutes drive from us, in Lakefield is the Village Animal Hospital. The staff and doctors are great and will look after our 4-legged guests without a problem. They also have a 24 hour emergency care hot line.  That's where we take Floozee and Felix for their check-ups too.

Please describe Lake Edge Cottages.
Lake Edge Cottages is an Award-Winning, 4-Season, Pet-Friendly resort in the Kawarthas. We are only 1.5 hours from Toronto, just north of the city of Peterborough near the lovely village of Lakefield which has all amenities. Our 8 Cottages are 1 and 2-bedrooms with everything you need while on vacation. 4 of them also have private hot tubs. We're located right on the edge of Katchewanooka Lake on 12.5 acres with walking trails and a heated 12x40 ft. pool (pool for 2-legged guests only).


Not Just A Fishing Lodge - Luxury in the Wilderness

This is an interview with Roxann Lynn, Moose Horn Lodge, Chapleau, Ontario
www.moosehorn.net

fishing What types of fish do your guests catch?
Walleye, pike, smallmouth bass, brook trout, whitefish.

Any records been set?
No but some big fish have been caught.

What is the best times of the year to fish?
May-Oct. All months are good.

What are the fishing services you provide?
Guides, motor boat rentals, fish cleaning We offer packages deals which includes a premium cottage, boats & motors, unlimited gas and bait. Guide available.

Where do you guests come from? Access by road? By Water?
Michigan, Ohio, Ontario. We are road accessable

Do you provide meals?
No. All cottages come with complete kitchens and bbqs.

Describe your accommodations.
Cottages are second to none! with 3 or 4 bedrooms, 1 or 2 bathrooms, all white pine, cathedral ceilings, laminate wood floors, complete kitchen, 3 piece bathroom, hot and cold running water, electric heat, satellite tv, french doors and tre windows on front of cottage, deck with propane bbq.  All of our guests have told us that they have never stayed in nicer cottages anywhere.

Is your lodge Family Friendly? What other activities do you offer besides fishing?
Yes we are family friendly. We have a clear spring fed lake that this great for swimming, an outdoor hottub and sauna, a basketball net, texas horseshoes, gamesroom/exercise room, large tv in gamesroom.

Would you describe your place as rustic, luxury in the wilderness or somewhere in between?
Luxury in the wilderness.

What have I missed?
We are not just a fishing lodge but because of the beautiful cottages that we have, we are now getting more guests that just want to relax and a lot that want to get back to nature. We have lots of wildlife for wildlife photographers and peace and quiet for those looking for a getaway. We have loons and beaver on the lake as well as bald eagles that land on the island across from the lodge.


Fishing has gone High Tech in Northwestern Ontario by Gord Bell

Scott Kast, one of the family members that owns the Tomahawk Resort, www.tomahawkresort.com was interviewed about Families and Fishing at Lake of the Woods in Northwestern Ontario. The Kast family has been operating Tomahawk Resort for over 67 years.

fishing What types of fish do your guests catch?
 Lake of the Woods is one of Ontario's Premiere Fishing destinations. Walleye, Pike, Muskie, Bass, Trout 

What are the fishing services you provide?
Guides, motor boat rentals, fish cleaning.

Scott's answer blew me away! Guides are available but have been replaced by electronics.  All of the boats are outfitted with Marine GPS units with Lake of the Woods map chart software and fish finders.  If you haven't been on the lake before, you follow someone else on the first day. Your GPS box will keep track of where you went and how to get home. No more getting lost on the lake and no more running aground on the rocks which save nasty repairs to boats and boat motors.  The guests have a lot more confidence when they are out in the boats.

Another high tech service that they offer is a 24 hour a day webcam so you can see the weather conditions at the resort www.tomahawkresort.ca/ReginaBayCamera.cfm. The camera can zoom in or pan at your command.

Where do your guests come from?
They are Americans and Canadians. Tomahawk is near the United States border and only 3 hours from Winnipeg.

Do you provide meals?
Tomahawk Resort offers self catering housekeeping cottages. You can dine out in towns nearby if you don't want to cook.

Is your place Family Friendly? What other activities do you offer besides fishing?
It sure is family friendly. Tomahawk Resort offers deluxe lakeside cottages, houseboat rentals and an RV trailer park with campsites. There's a playground, swimming area, sand beach, water slide, volleyball net, canoes and paddleboats. Three golf courses are within an hours drive.


Unique Places to Stay for Ontario Tourists

This is an interview with Pat Peterson, Islandkeeper Bruce Bay Cottages & Lighthouse, Bruces Mines, Ontario
www.brucebaycottages.com

lighthouse What makes your place special and unique?
The 1907 McKay Island Lighthouse is the only housekeeping lighthouse in Ontario. Guests can step back in history and be a keeper of the light as in days gone by. The lighthouse and McKay Island are steeped in history and are a token to Ontario's marine history. Another unique element is that the lighthouse is on a privately owned island.

Why do people stay with you rather than somewhere else?
The uniqueness of the McKay Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse offers an amazing panoramic view of Lake Huron, the sky and the horizon. The closeness of the lighthouse to the Town of Bruce Mines which offers all amenities.

Is your place Family Friendly? Pet Friendly?
The McKay Island Lighthouse is family and pet friendly.

What activities do you offer?
All guests walk the nature trails and use the complimentary canoes, one man kayaks when they wish. Fox Den Beach has a raft and is the favourite place to swim. Complimentary bikes are available to bike the islands road. Geocaches are planted on the islands for the guests to find. We do not offer organized activities.

Would you describe your place as rustic, luxury in the wilderness or somewhere in between?
It is somewhere in between rustic and luxury wilderness. The lighthouse has been fully modernized with indoor plumbing and all the conveniences.

Where do you guests come from? How far away?
Most guests are from Ontario , Michigan, and Ohio however thanks to the web some guests have been from Europe

Access by road? By Water?
The lighthouse is accessible by car. At the end of Bruce Bay Road you drive over a bridge to French Island and then a causeway to get to McKay Island.

Do you provide meals?
The Lighthouse is a housekeeping lighthouse with a fully equipped kitchen for cooking. Restaurants are only a short drive away.

Describe your accommodation.
The lighthouse is located at the point of the 15 acre McKay Island located on the North Channel of Lake Huron. The lighthouse was built to serve the timber industry and today the standard guides freighters into Trap Rock and boaters into the marina. The view from the living room window is lapping waves, the horizon and the occasional freighter. You can still climb the ladder to the beacon's rampart (quaintly referred to as the 'widow's walk') for an amazing panoramic view of the North Channel of Lake Huron. Each season's view is unique. The two upper level bedrooms have been renovated and returned to their original appearance with the original pine floors, batten board walls and ceilings. The colours throughout the lighthouse are white, battle ship grays and Georgian Bay blues. Treasures found in Lake Huron adorn the stair well. The original Lighthouse documents are available for viewing in addition to a collection of Historical Books of the area and of lighthouses. There is a deck by the water to enjoy the outside life with a bonfire pit and picnic table close by. The island scenery is breathtaking, and truly provides visitors with an Escape to Nature.

The first 22 acre French Island is where the 8 rustic cottages are located.


A Farm Stay Experience

Interview with Sue Solf, Owner and operator of Foymount Farm, Cormac, Ontario located in the Ottawa Valley
www.foymountfarm.biz

farm What makes your place special and unique?
We are a farm stay experience where people can pick fresh vegetables from the garden, collect eggs and milk a cow.

Why do people stay with you rather than somewhere else?
Families with young children like to give their children the experience of farm life, helping to look after the animals and ride a pony along the trail and around the farm are some of the reasons why they choose to stay with us.

Is your place Family Friendly? Pet Friendly?
Our accommodation is ideal for families and people with pets. We have over 100 acres of farm land and trails. People like to bring their family pet on holiday with them and we have had all sorts of pets accompany their owners from mice, cats and dogs to horses. Children especially like the freedom the farm has to offer and Parents can relax while the children play in this safe environment.

What activities do you offer?
We like to give children the experience of riding a pony. Natural Horsemanship lessons are always available regardless of the weather in our indoor arena. All the family can get involved in farm activities if they choose.

Would you describe your place as rustic, luxury or somewhere in between.
Our comfortable accommodation is set in the beautiful Ottawa Valley surrounded by tree covered hills.

Where do you guests come from? How far away?
We have guests from all over the world who come to experience life on the farm and/ or family reunions. A lot of people come to get away from the city and reconnect with nature.

Access by road? By Water?
Access is by road.

Do you provide meals?
Our cottages have full kitchens and BBQ's for our guests to provide their own meals. Fresh eggs, milk and vegetables may be available depending on the time of year.

Describe your accommodation.
Our accommodation comprises of two guest apartments that have their own full kitchen, lounge, bedrooms, bathroom, washing machine and dryer, and woodstove. Towels and bedding are supplied.


Farm to Table Fine Dining at Elmhirst's Resort elmhirst.ca

farm Farm to Table is more than a concept at Elmhirst's Resort - the commitment to producing and providing local food to dining room guests begins with the large vegetable garden, greenhouse with herbs, raising Pekin Ducks, Emperor Geese, turkeys and Black Angus Beef on the Resort farm.

Menus feature “Elmhirst’s Own” brand and local producers. Chef Douglas Hope cures, hot and cold smokes poultry and beef for his Charcuterie Platter - a tasty and decadent selection of homemade cheeses, duck pate, heart jerky, smoked trout, cured beef and pork with special breads - served on a wooden platter.....ideal for sharing.

Elmhirst's Own Black Angus Beef is offered on the Signature Steak page in the Hearthside Menu.

Boutique Ontario (and some BC) wines are presented on the all-Canadian Wine List to compliment the locavore menu. Tastings are held in the Wine Cellar - an intimate venue for receptions and special occasions.

Sunday Brunch is a must....fresh pastries and breakfast items compliment the carved roasts, seafood, salads, breads, hot and cold selections, made-to-order crepes and decadent desserts, along with the view of Rice Lake and the enjoyable entertainment provided by Ron Goodacre on the piano make this a wonderful weekend outing.

The local menu, view of the lake, atmosphere and decor, friendly service team and commitment to fresh combine to deliver a fine dining experience to guests.

Elmhirst's Resort is a family-owned and operated cottage resort on the north shore of Rice Lake. The Resort is open year round for dining, weddings, conferences and meetings. Special packages including cottage stays and meals are offered to showcase locavore dining.

Reservations made be directly with the Resort or through Open Table, an on-line booking system.