Sometimes you just need a weekend getaway with some of your best girlfriends, which is exactly what I did recently. My friend Kristin and I left the boys behind and headed to Orillia and Ontario’s Lake Country, a quick hour and a half drive north of Toronto. We were looking for a weekend where we could unwind and enjoy the outdoors and Ontario’s Lake Country had just what we needed – culture, adventure, nature and great food. Watch the video above to see what we got up to and read below for more great ideas on what to do, eat and where to stay in the region.
What To Do in Ontario’s Lake Country
Orillia is situated right on the shores of Lake Couchiching. In the summer months, Couchiching Beach Park is filled with families and friends enjoying the water. There are playsets to help the kids burn off some energy and a boardwalk perfect for meandering your way around the green space while watching the boats enter and exit the Port of Orillia.
The downtown centre of Orillia has a fun, arsty vibe. Public art installations can be found lining the streets, all thanks to their annual Streets Alive outdoor art project. You’ll see giant guitars, metal maple leafs, and oversized wooden chairs all individually designed and painted by local artists.
Pop into the Orillia Museum of Art and History to see more local and regional art on display. The exhibits rotate often and give you a chance to learn about the local history and culture through various programming and activities.
If you love live performances, then catch a show at the Orillia Opera House. They produce professional theatre during the summer and present concerts and educational programming throughout the year.
To fully appreciate why this region is called ‘Ontario’s Lake Country’, you have to take a scenic flight with Lake Country Airways. Flying out of the Orillia-Rama Regional Airport, they offer 20-minute and 1-hour scenic flights of the region in 3-4 person sea planes. Taking off from the waters of Lake St. John is thrilling in itself, but soaring above the area gives you a chance to get an incredible perspective on the changing landscape below.
Segway Tour at Hardwood Ski and Bike
Just outside of Barrie you’ll find Hardwood Ski and Bike. This 4-season, multi-use outdoor park boasts over 100km of mountain biking and ski trails through hardwood and pine forests. Try something different and sign up for a Segway tour with Go Tours Canada. They offer 30-minute and 1-hour tours through the forest. If you haven’t been on a Segway before, they’re so much fun! Individuals of all fitness levels will be able to quickly pick up how to ride a Segway as the guides will train and lead you through the trails.
Hiking in Copeland Forest
If you prefer activities that keep you grounded on both feet, then head to the Copeland Forest. The Copeland Forest is a 4,400 acre Resource Management Area in Simcoe County and features trails from 2km to 13km in length. The forest is beautiful and quiet and is full of towering old pines, unusual mushrooms and plant life, and a variety of other trees. The trails are used by hikers, mountain bikers, and even horseback riders! It’s perfect for all ages and fitness levels.
Where to Eat in Ontario’s Lake Country
In the heart of downtown Orillia is Sanafir, a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant. It’s owned and operated by Sam, a chef originally from Egypt, trained in French Classical Cuisine, and with over 29 years’ experience. Everything is made from scratch using recipes he learned from his mother, sister and master shawarma makers he used to work with. Kristin and I devoured the shawarma platter, complete with spit-roasted chicken on a bed of pita, served with garden salad and rice. Sanafir is the only restaurant in the area serving this cuisine and once a month they showcase a night of belly dancing performances.
If you’ve planned a scenic flight with Lake Country Airways, then don’t miss dining at Tailwinds Bar and Grill. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, they offer up an extensive menu in a cozy, aviation-inspired restaurant. Kristin and I particularly enjoyed the nacho platter, the turkey cobb salad, and chicken burger.
A quick 5-minute drive from Horseshoe Valley Resort is Amiche Restaurant and Social House. This Italian restaurant offers up delicious and fresh menu items in a warm and casual environment. Highlights include their assorted bruschetta, coconut shrimp, flatbread pizzas, and capellini pomodoro. It’s a great spot to sit back and reminisce about the days’ events.
Where to Stay in Ontario’s Lake Country
There are a handful of options of places to stay when visiting Ontario’s Lake Country, including two I’d recommend, Stone Gate Inn and Horseshoe Valley Resort. If you’re basing yourself in Orillia, spend the night at Stone Gate Inn. It’s about a 5-minute drive from the city centre and offers up 48 hotel suites including studio, executive, and luxury suites, some of which come with fireplaces and jacuzzis. The rooms are well maintained and clean, beds are very comfortable, and the staff are extremely friendly. Your stay also includes a deluxe continental breakfast and complimentary hors d’ oeuvres on Friday evenings.
South of Orillia is Horseshoe Valley Resort. This 4-season resort is very popular in the winter months due to the ski-resort located on the property, but it attracts visitors all year long. You could easily spend an entire weekend just on the resort property itself with all the amenities and activities they offer. There’s a golf course, tree-top trekking, mini-golf, outdoor pool and even a water slide set up on one of the ski runs in the summer months. Indoors you’ll find another pool, hot tub, fitness centre, and arcade room, sure to keep the kids entertained. If you’re staying for a weekend getaway with friends, opt for the deluxe-bed suite. It comes with 2 queen-sized beds, a sunken sitting room area with an electric fire place, and a spacious washroom for all your pampering needs. There are a number of restaurants found on the resort and a buffet breakfast is available at an additional cost.
Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored by Ontario’s Lake Country and Simcoe County Tourism. All views and opinions remain my own.