Southern Ontario

Fall Colours, Fishing and Apples Galore

Travel north about a 1 ½ hours from Toronto and you are soon in the wide open farming country of Southern Ontario very near the shores of Georgian Bay. Some of this vast expanse of land is part of the Niagara Escarpment and known, not only for farming, but for its arresting scenery. Georgian BayGrey County and St. Jacob’s county both border this enormous fresh water bay which is part of Lake Huron and also connects with Lake Michigan. This is fisherman’s paradise and visitors won’t be disappointed if they try out the wonderful fresh water fish available. Most famous is Georgian Bay White Fish which is truly tasty and succulent. One of the best fish restaurants around is Henry’s Fish Restaurant (3282 Ogden’s Beach Road, Midland) on the Wye Heritage Marina in picturesque St. Jacob’s county.

St. Jacob’s county (on the east side of Georgian Bay) is Amish country; so expect to see horse-drawn buggies on its tranquil country roads. In the midst of this beautiful farmland is modern day Midland, the location of a fascinating archaeological site. Sainte Marie among the Hurons (16164, Hwy 12, Midland) is a replica of the first European settlement in Ontario and the reconstruction is in the original location. Spread over several acres, it recreates the living and working conditions of the original Catholic mission. The story of the first interaction of priests and Native Americans in the early 1600s is truly fascinating. 

St Jacobs Farmers' MarketAnd perhaps one of the best times to come is in the autumn, when the forests in this region put on an astonishing display of fall colour. Trees such as maples, hickory, poplars, white birch, elms and more will all change hue as the nights draw in. The diversity of shades is nearly indescribable, from velvety purples to burnished ochres, golds to rust toned browns, bright reds to zingy oranges and everything in-between; the array is truly breath-taking. This phenomena is all due to the diminishing light of this season and its impact on the chlorophyll in the leaves.

Nature’s fireworks are a wonderful vista in autumn and every bit as enchanting in Ontario as on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. 

Drive west, following the Georgian Bay, and you will discover lovely spots such as the port city of Collingwood and also the Blue Mountain Resort nestled in the nearby mountain range. 

St Jacobs Mennonite © Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership CorporationWest of Blue Mountain is scenic Beaver Valley. Known for its orchards, it is a beehive of activity during harvest time. Beaver Valley is also a visual spectacle in the autumn with its engaging fall colours, abundant trees and orchards heavy with apples.

And these apple trees produce hundreds of tonnes of fruit. Migrant workers arrive in droves to help with the enormous amount of work involved in the harvest operation. And during the harvest, gorgeous apples desserts start turning up in local restaurants. I tried an apple strudel type dessert that was utterly delectable at the Pottery Restaurant at the Blue Mountain Inn (110 Jozo Weider Blvd, The Blue Mountains). Versions of the region’s famous butter tarts appear featuring apple flavours (and disappear quite quickly) and apple crumble is incredibly popular as well. Of course, there is the ubiquitous apple pie to enjoy. Yum!

Ekarenniondi Rock - entrance to the afterlife according to the Putin local tribeCider is also a product of the apple harvest and craft ciders are now doing a booming business. The Beaver Valley Cidery, a family farm on Beaver Valley Road in Kimberley, grows heritage apples for their craft brew. The cider is fermented in small batches from select varieties of apples grown in their orchards or supplied by neighbouring apple growers. Every step, from pressing to bottling, is performed with care. Come for a taste of fresh brew and a wander through the orchards. Another organic farm is the Apple Top Farm on 416476 10th Line, Clarksburg near Blue Mountain. Also well worth a visit to try out their ciders and apple desserts.

Tree top experienceThe Northwind’s Brewery and Restaurant on First St. in Collingwood is well known for craft beers but will have cider on offer during the apple harvest.

After enjoying desserts and cider, you may want to take part in a few activities to burn off those calories. In Collingwood, the Scenic Caves Experience offers terrific tree top walks as well as exciting zip-ling. The guided tours here include a mild hike through an area which has a whole complex of caves, once used as accommodation for first nation tribes. A particularly interesting rock formation named Ekarenniondi is considered, according to first nation lore, to be the entrance to the afterlife. A spectacular 420 ft. long suspension bridge spans a unique valley on the property which has been named an UNESCO heritage site. This is partly due to the presence of Northern red oaks growing here and other unique flora. Views over the bay from this bridge are truly spectacular.

The Blue Mountain Resort features soft adventure during the off season for all age groups.  Bicycle rentals are available and they have their very own zip-lining experience. Very popular with visitors it the gondola ride (the one skiers use in winter) to the top of the mountain where there are spectacular views and hiking. Another activity is enjoying paddle boats (pedalos) and kayaks on the man-made lake in front of the Westin Trillium House Hotel.

Kolapore SpringsIf you are an angling fanatic, then pond fishing might be right up your alley. The Kolapore Springs Fishing Adventure located in Thornbury, another port town along the Georgian Bay, will organise to take you out on its pond and also local streams for a day of glorious fishing. 

This part of Ontario is a unique place to visit at any time of the year. But a holiday here during autumn will guarantee your fill of crisp, clear days as well as apples, harvest events and colourful scenery. Any tourist will be transported during this special time of year.

More information

The Westin Trillium House, Blue Mountain costs from 159 CAD per night during low season (April to June & October, November) and from 199 CAD per night during high season (July, August, January, February, March).   

Comfort Inn on 980 Kind Street in Midland, Ontario has prices from 83 CAD per night.

For flights and package holidays to Canada visit America As You Like It.

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Lynn Houghton

Travel writer & photographer

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