I’ve always had a strong affinity to both nature and animals. I enjoy my time in the city but must always remain connected to nature in some capacity. There are several spots in and around the GTA that allow me to do so. Here are some of my favourites…
- The Bruce Trail – The Bruce Trail is one of my favourite places to go for a hike. It runs from Niagara all the way to Tobermory, making it Canada’s longest footpath. In addition to the beautiful scenery, there is a wide array of interesting flora and fauna to be seen. It’s just as beautiful of a hike in the winter as it is throughout the rest of the year.
2. Mountsberg Conservation Area – This is a great place for fishing, canoeing, hiking and mountain biking. They even have a Birds of Prey Show and a Raptor Centre that lets you get up close and personal with a variety of bird species.
3. Cootes Paradise – This place is magical! Take a walk along the boardwalk and you will have a chance to see cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, chickadees and woodpeckers. Bring some bird seed and they will usually eat right out of your hands. I’ve also seen squirrels, ducks, swans and a raccoon along the trail.
4. Kerncliff Park – Take a stroll along the boardwalk and have a chance to see turtles, snakes and a variety of bird species. It’s a very well maintained park with a beautiful view of the city from the top of the cliff. My favourite thing about this place is that it’s usually pretty quiet which is perfect if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
5. Lowville Park – Great place for the whole family. After enjoying a leisurely walk, have a relaxing picnic by the creek. This place is beautiful in any season. The best time to go is early in the morning as it’s usually not very busy.
6. Hilton Falls Conservation Area – There are a few different trails that you can take to get to the falls. They range in difficulty and there are options to bike, walk or cross-country ski in the winter. The falls are beautiful – a perfect spot to enjoy lunch with family and friends.
7. Terra Bleu Lavender Farm – I didn’t even know that this place existed until I saw an ad for it in a magazine. Aside from tours of the beautiful lavender fields, they sell numerous lavender products including ice cream and honey. It’s a great place to spend a few hours enjoying the fresh air and lovely scenery. They are open from early June to late August.
8. The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada – Love this place! The donkeys here are well taken care of and the staff is great; very knowledgeable and friendly. You can even sponsor a donkey and help with the cost of care for this often forgotten equine. Many donkeys are abused or sold to slaughterhouses if they cannot find a home after their work life has come to an end. Spend an afternoon with these lovable creatures and you will have a newfound appreciation for these beautiful animals.
9. Devil’s Punchbowl Conservation Area – Really unique scenery on the Niagara escarpment. The hike down to the waterfall is a little treacherous (make sure to wear appropriate footwear) but once you get to the bottom, you will see that it was worth the effort. I’ve been here in both the summer and the fall; it’s amazing how different it looks in each season. The best time to visit is in the Spring and Fall when the water is flowing. Numerous movies and television shows have been filmed here as well which is pretty neat! (Don’t forget to check out the Market & Bakery down the road – their pies are delicious).
10. Dutch Mill Country Market – This is a great place to visit if you want to escape the city and have a taste of country living. In addition to their adorable farm animals, they have a store and a restaurant where you can get delicious soups, sandwiches and baked goods. They also have fresh fruit and vegetables for sale. Step outside and interact with goats, peacocks, llamas and other farm animals.
11. Christie Lake Conservation Area – Great place to spend a few hours in the summer. Bring a picnic, go for a dip in the lake or take a hike along the South side of the conservation area. They also offer canoe and kayak rentals.
12. Rockwood Conservation Area – This is one of my favourite places to hike. The scenery is beautiful and there are lots of activities to keep you busy. The hiking trails are well maintained and you will come across neat little caves and ruins along the way. It’s also a great place to fish, kayak and canoe. Camping is available here from April to October.
13. Rattlesnake Point – Choose from four different hiking loops varying in length and difficulty along this twelve kilometer trail and stop at one of its five lookouts for a beautiful view of the Niagara Escarpment. The scenery here is stunning and there are options to camp, rock climb or enjoy a relaxing yoga session in the park once a week in the summer.
14. Scarborough Bluffs – The Scarborough Bluffs AKA The Bluffs are a beautiful place to escape from the busy city. There are two options – you can either go to Bluffs Park for a view from on top of The Bluffs (pictured below) or head to Bluffer’s Park to see them up close. Enjoy a relaxing picnic with family and friends or take a dip in the crystal clear blue water reminiscent of a tropical island. There are several parks and hiking trails to choose from – a girlfriend and I went for a hike at Bluffs Park and really enjoyed it. This stunning escarpment is well worth a visit.
“The earth has music for those who listen.” – George Santayana