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An abundance of natural scenery and stops that will inspire and delight summer travellers are hallmarks of the iconic summer road trip in Ontario.NORTHUMBERLAND TOURISM

The road trip is a quintessential summer pastime for many Canadians.

The pandemic has only fuelled that desire. A Leger study found 76 per cent of Canadians surveyed had a new appreciation for the outdoors, especially travelling within Canada. That desire is likely to be just as strong this summer, with many people in the province making plans to go on road trips this spring and summer.

Laura Lukasik, manager of tourism and special events for the City of Brampton, says tourism in the city northwest of Toronto is exploding, to the point where she’s having challenges finding new spaces where people can host events.

“After being in lockdown or travel restrictions for two years, there is a pent-up need to get out and see new places beyond our backyard and reconnect with friends, relatives and the outside world,” says Eileen Lum, tourism manager, Northumberland Tourism. Northumberland County is a region that lies on the north shore of Lake Ontario between Toronto and Kingston.

“Social interaction is a very basic human need. Getting out and having some freedom to experience or explore new regions, new places is so beneficial to individual well-being, because more than ever we crave and can fully appreciate the value of new experiences for both personal growth and fulfillment.”

Northumberland Tourism has developed a road trip digital guide (The Great Northumberland Road Trip), released this month, that offers a visual and immersive way to help visitors explore the region.

“For the past 24 months we have been monitoring consumer tourism data and research to understand how Ontarians feel about travel and their level of comfort during these past two years,” Lum says.

“From staying only in their own community to willingness to venture beyond, Ontarians have indicated that a road trip is on the top of their bucket list. While they feel driving by car and staying within Ontario is the safest, they also want to go back to places that are familiar, places they have enjoyed or loved pre-pandemic. Our digital guide will provide this and also introduce visitors to untravelled paths in Northumberland County … [providing] many travellers with ideas for a short or longer overnight getaway, highlighting the very unique or authentic experiences in Northumberland.”

Ontario has so much to offer when it comes to a road trip. Here are some ideas depending on what kind of experience you’re looking for.


GOLF


When it comes to golf, Ontario has no shortage of courses to play. If you charted a course east to Prince Edward County, Barrie to the north and Brantford to the west, you’d find more than 100 courses.

Lionhead Golf and Country Club in Brampton, which is a semi-private golf club with two championship courses, has been around since the early 1990s. The opening hole on the Legends course sets the stage for the entire course well: beautifully set with an elevated tee, a nice plush landing area, and a picturesque second shot over the Credit River.

If you’re planning to build a weekend or multi-night stay around golf, Hockley Valley Resort in Headwaters is a well-loved destination for enthusiasts that pairs world-class golf with great food and fine wine.

Golfers are greeted by beautifully treed holes to start, which are designed by the esteemed golf course architect Thomas McBroom, and latter holes are built into a valley floor.

There are stunning views throughout, with the 18th hole being particularly memorable with a creek and a pond. Greens are smaller, and there are no sand traps, making the course challenging.

If you’re staying overnight after your round, Hockley Valley Resort and Spa offers a luxurious experience with modern amenities that include a gym, full-service spa, sauna, and both an indoor and outdoor pool.

Hockley also has three restaurants that focus on local farms and artisans: Babbo lounge, Restaurant 85 and the Cabin. Adamo Estate Winery features a tantalizing mix of whites, rosés and reds.

Topography, bluffs and scenic views are what set apart some of the great golf course designs around the province. Northumberland County has 11 courses in its region – from the par 71 Timber Ridge Golf Course in Brighton, which was voted eighth in Ontario as the people’s choice for top golf, to the championship par 70 Port Hope Golf & Country Club along Lake Ontario, with holes dating back to the 1890s.


FAMILY FUN


If you’re planning to travel with kids in tow, there is plenty to keep the entire family amused in York Durham Headwaters, which is home to many farms and rural landscapes. Key cities in the region include: Markham, Vaughan and Richmond Hill in York Region; Oshawa, Uxbridge and Port Perry in Durham Region; and Orangeville and Caledon in Headwaters.

In this vast region, there is no shortage of places where children who are animal lovers can get one-on-one experiences at farms. The Piggy Pile Up Experience at Ontario Honey Creations in Mulmur lets children feed and give belly rubs to the farm’s resident KuneKune pigs. At Forget-Me-Not Alpacas in Beaverton, children can learn all about alpacas in a farm tour, and take home alpaca yarn and handcrafted alpaca products.

Other farms you might want to visit in York Durham Headwaters are: Brooks Farms in Mount Albert; Heartwood Farm and Cidery, in Erin northwest of Halton Hills; Lionel’s Farm in Whitchurch-Stouffville, which has pony rides and a unique petting zoo; and Forsythe Family Farms near Uxbridge, which has trails, tours and educational programs.

For kids interested in animals without fur, the Reptilia Zoo, with locations in Vaughan and Whitby, is a collection of Canada’s largest reptile zoos and conservation centres, hosting more than 250 species of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from all around the world.

If thrills are what your family is seeking, check out Treetop Trekking Ganaraska, a zipline adventure located within the 11,000-acre Ganaraska Forest, which is a breathtaking destination in itself that has numerous trails on which you can hike, bike and horseback ride. Another action destination is Brampton; where kids can find splashy summer fun at Wet ‘n’ Wild waterpark and indoor rock climbing at Toprock Climbing.

Opening for the season on June 25 is the St. Marys Quarry in the southwestern Ontario town of St. Marys. There you’ll find Canada’s largest freshwater swimming pool, featuring stand-up paddle board rentals, and a cliff jump (water levels permitting). New this year is the SuperSplash Fun Park, a floating playground for ages six and up featuring such obstacles as the 14-foot tall Ice Tower, which challenges you with free climbing, and the Action Tower, which is 12 feet tall and acts like a giant slide.

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From left, the Reptilia Zoo has more than 250 species of reptiles, amphibians and arachnids; Forget-Me-Not Alpacas has a farm tour; and Ontario Honey Creations lets children feed and give belly rubs to the resident pigs.CENTRAL COUNTIES TOURISM


FOR THE LOVE OF NATURE


An escape to nature is just a car ride away, even for those living in the heart of Toronto, with Ontario boasting a lush and varied outdoor world.

If you want to park the car for a spell and head out on two wheels, Northumberland County offers up hundreds of miles of rolling hills and spectacular vistas for cyclists: Shelter Valley Road near Cobourg; the Trent River Truckin’ route, a 63-kilometre trail with amazing vistas of the Trent River; and Presqu’ile Promise cycling route, a 69-kilometre trail that takes you along the lovely countryside of Colborne, the shores of Lake Ontario, the charming town of Brighton and Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

York Durham Headwaters Trail Talks is a great way to reconnect with the natural world and take in the raw beauty of the Island Lake Conservation Area in Orangeville. Trail Talks is a podcast and audio tour with facts and stories that teach people about the importance of land conservation, as well as the history and heritage of the park.

Credit Valley Conservation is a wondrous area of parks, trails, rivers and streams for those who revel in hiking, fishing, cycling, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, or just going for long walks.

If you’ve packed your fishing gear, you can find world-class fishing at such places as Rice Lake. Part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, this lake is known for largemouth and smallmouth bass and is home to one of Ontario’s most productive inland fisheries.

St. Marys is another stop nature lovers will want to make. The town has improved its trail system and partnered with Ontario By Bike to make the town a bike-friendly destination. The Yak Shack is a free kayak loan program that lets you explore the Thames River and Trout Creek waterways on a kayak.


ARTS AND CULTURE


Getting out and exploring nature is food for the body and soul, but Ontario offers so many choices to stimulate the brain, as well.

Brampton is one of the province’s arts and culture capitals. The Rose Theatre, a state-of-the-art performing arts venue in downtown Brampton, is a destination for local and world-renowned performers. Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives is a key cog in Brampton’s “Culture Master Plan,” which is a vision for the arts that sees it as a vital economic generator.

Other notable places you will want to visit include Westben near Cobourg, the first performance barn theatre of its kind in Canada with 400 seats indoors, and which features opera and river dance. Northumberland is anchored by the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, which is an atmospheric theatre that offers live performances, films and concerts, the Art Gallery of Northumberland in Cobourg, and The Colborne Art Gallery, which is an artist-run co-operative of photographers, painters, sculptors, printmakers and other artists.

Summertime is also a time for many festivals throughout the province. The Vaughan International Film Festival (June 20-23), Markham Music Village Festival (June 17-18) and the Markham Jazz Festival (Aug. 19-21) are all back up and running this year.

St. Marys offers a wealth of cultural and heritage experiences, with landmarks throughout the town, art exhibitions at the St. Marys Station Gallery, and an exploration of the roots of baseball at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Stratford Festival is a summer-time staple of the area.

Homecoming Heritage is also back in St. Marys after a two-year pandemic-related delay; this celebration of the community runs from June 30 to July 3. “St. Marys has held a Homecoming – originally called an ‘Old Boys’ Reunion’ – since 1899,” says Town of St. Marys events co-ordinator Andrea Macko. “In modern times, a homecoming has been held once every decade since 1990 and has attracted thousands of people home to St. Marys for a fun weekend of catching up with old friends and making new ones. It’s a very special tradition for our community.

“This summer, we’re making up for lost time by combining the 2020 Homecoming – cancelled due to the pandemic, of course – with another beloved tradition, the Heritage Festival.”

A parade, street dance and fireworks will kick off the party on July 1 and will be followed by a street festival, heritage tours, reunions and a licensed concert on the next night.

“Closing ceremonies and local entertainment round out the weekend. Everyone is excited to reunite, live and in-person. There is a sense that this Homecoming Heritage weekend will mark the end of the darkest days of the pandemic, and St. Marys is ready to celebrate,” Macko says.


FOODIE FARE


The second annual Brews & Food Fest at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys brings together 18 Ontario craft beer vendors and eight food trucks into one location.

And throughout the summer, take a drive out to the St. Marys Farmers Market, which runs every Saturday morning and includes live music and family-friendly activities. Vendors are dedicated to delivering fresh, local fruits, meats, cheeses, baked goods, vegetables and herbs. Keep an eye out for Strawberry Shortcake Day, which is normally held the second last Saturday in June.

“In addition to the market, St. Marys boasts a fabulous foodie scene,” Macko says. “Delight in locally made chocolate, an independent coffee roaster, an expansive spice store and a delectable cheese shop. There’s also a variety of independent bakeries offering homestyle or haute goodies. In the north end of St. Marys (accessible by car or by one of our scenic trails), whet your whistle at Broken Rail Brewing, which brews small-batch beers in a nationally designated former train station.”

The Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour, a self-guided tour with dozens of stops along the way, is a must for those with a sweet tooth; and you won’t want to miss the experience of having a farm-to-table lunch at Headwaters Farm in Cobourg.

“After two years of restrictions, people are definitely eager to get on the road and see something new,” says Kelly Deeks-Johnson, tourism and economic development manager at the Town of St. Marys.

“But people, especially families with little ones, want to ensure that they’ll be able to proceed with their trips as planned with no hiccups due to public health restrictions. Road trips are a great way to see our incredibly diverse province while limiting risk.

“Road trips are a classic summer activity – especially in a province where winter weather can wreak havoc on travel plans. During the summer months there are seemingly endless experiences for road trippers. Exploring new sites close to home seems to be a new and engaging trend and Ontario is ready to welcome its locals.”

ONTARIO STAYCATION TAX CREDIT

In an effort to encourage Ontario residents to explore the province this year, the provincial government’s temporary Staycation Tax Credit for 2022 allows Ontario residents to claim 20 per cent of their eligible accommodation expenses. That would include staying at a hotel, cottage or campground. When filing your personal income tax and benefit return for 2022, you can claim eligible expenses of up to $1,000 as an individual or $2,000 if you have a spouse, common-law partner or eligible children. This is all to help the tourism and hospitality sectors recover from the financial hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re an Ontario resident on Dec. 31, 2022, you are eligible for the tax credit.

SOURCE: ontario.ca/page/ontario-staycation-tax-credit

TIPS TO SAVE ON GAS

As everyone who has driven past a gas station lately knows full well, gas prices have ballooned. Here are some tips to give your bank account a break:

  • Ease up on the gas pedal. Aggressive driving tactics such as quickly accelerating use up more gas.
  • Avoid blasting the A/C. Air conditioning pulls energy from the engine.
  • Fill up earlier in the week. Gas prices tend to rise as we get closer to weekend.
  • Don’t pay more for premium fuel if you don’t need to. Regular fuel is likely fine.
  • Get better gas mileage by removing any weighty stuff from the trunk. And check your tire pressure.

SOURCE: CANADADRIVES.CA

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