Travel: Ontario Roadtrip, Part 1

In October of 2020 I went on a road trip around Ontario. I figured that if I couldn’t travel anywhere internationally (due to covid-19) I would look around Ontario, particularly since the fall colours can be much nicer out here than my home province of Manitoba. This road trip was excellent; there’s a lot to see and try in Ontario, from hiking in amazing provincial parks, to sampling the wares at roadside fruit stalls, to products in local bakeries, and the wine regions. This post will be full of photos and the text will mainly be recommending photo spots and things to try such as food, coffee, and wines. Note that I’ve posted a lot more photos over on my travel website: https://patrickphoto.smugmug.com/Travel/Ontario-Fall-2020-folder.

I booked two weeks off work but almost didn’t get to go, as the coronavirus was becoming more of an issue and some areas of Ontario were going into strict lockdowns right around the time I left. I was worried that I would have to modify my route or cancel the trip entirely, but I was lucky enough to miss the strict lockdowns, and still got to do some wine tastings here and there in the Niagara region. Here’s a map of the route:

Algonquin Park and Around

This was the second time that I’ve been to Algonquin Park. Huntsville is a nice place to stay, as is Bancroft (where I stayed last time). Both have a Kawartha Dairy outlet and the ice cream is amazing, and the portions are ridiculous. Southwest of Huntsville there’s a fruit winery called Muskoka Lakes; it seems like it’s expensive to visit and do a tasting, so it’s cheaper to just check the local section of an LCBO if you’re interested.

Photo tips:

  • For photographers going for sunrise shooting, note that you can buy a day pass for the park pretty easily from a vending machine at the office at either gate
  • The Big Pines trail has some amazing gigantic trees
  • The Centennial Ridge trail has a nice viewpoint; when the trail splits you can go in the reverse direction and get there with less walking. Faces the sunset. I haven’t see the views from the other side of the ridge
  • Booth’s Rock trail is supposed to have a nice viewpoint as well. I haven’t done it yet but from my research the viewpoint should face sunset
  • The viewpoint at the Hardwood Lookout trail wasn’t too great in my opinion. But there’s a cool tree there growing on a rock with a long root snaking off into the distance
  • In Port Sydney south of Huntsville, there’s a twisty old maple tree growing out over a river, with red leaves in the fall
  • There are a lot of waterfalls around Huntsville
  • East of Huntsville, south of Algonquin Park there are trails that seem promising for viewpoints, such as the Circuit of Five Viewpoints trail or the Crests of Kennisis trail

To Killarney Park

It’s worth stopping in Killbear Park to get a shot of the leaning pine tree. It just lost a branch, which died and fell off, which makes me wonder how much longer it will last. I stayed in Sudbury which is an ok base of operations for Killarney Park if you aren’t able to stay in Killarney itself. In Sudbury, Salute Coffee and Old Rock Coffee were quite good. It’s just over an hour drive to get to the park from Sudbury.

Photo tips:

  • The Crack is the main trail in Killarney but be prepared for two hours each way (not counting stopping for photos along the way), and note that if you go for sunrise or sunset, you’d be doing a two hour hike in the dark
  • The Granite Ridge Trail is great, there are old cars near the beginning, a man-made forest that offers interesting opportunities for photos, there’s a viewpoint at the top (head to the right when you think you’re at the end), and some cool old weathered pines at the top (an old car is right on the trail, but if you go through the man-made forest just before that you’ll find more old cars)
  • I didn’t think the A. Y. Jackson Lake was anything special in terms of photo subjects
  • There is a lot of potential along the Georgian Bay shoreline for rocky foreground shapes
  • I wasn’t able to see any great compositions of the lighthouses near the Tar Vat Trail
  • If I recall the trail name correctly, the Chikanishing Trail has a nice viewpoint of Georgian Bay (and possibly some nice shoreline rock formations but I didn’t go to the end as it was getting dark), but we aware that it can be hard to find the trail markings, maybe go with a friend and/or don’t go when it might get dark on the way back

On to Manitoulin Island

I stopped at a few places to find Espanola Coffee beans and the ones I found were quite good, the El Salvador beans. Manitoulin is an interesting place; it’s in Ontario and is a large freshwater island, but the landscape reminded me of rural Manitoba. If you’re interested in first nation culture there is a lot to see here, craft stores, art galleries, tours, etc. When you’re visiting Bridal Veil Falls I’d recommend stopping at Main Street Express for a sandwich (I had the pulled pork, amazing) and Manitoulin Chocolate Works for the cupcake with cheesecake filling. I didn’t try too many other places, but I had a bunch of highly rated little restaurants marked on my map, so it’s worth doing a bit of research.

Photo tips:

  • Bridal Veil Falls were very nice, I was there around the beginning of October and there were tons of salmon in the pool below, also note that if the stairway down to the falls is closed there’s a parking lot further down the road with a trail that goes back to the base of the falls
  • A popular trail here is the Cup and Saucer Trail, the viewpoint faces the sunrise (not too long of a drive from the main town, Little Current, and not too hard of a hike in the dark if you’re going for a sunrise shot), there’s some nice open forest along the hike
  • A side trail on the Cup and Saucer is called the Adventure Trail and it was great, short, a bit dangerous in some places, but you’ll be rewarded with some cool staircases and rock formations

This post was getting long so I decided to split it into two parts. Keep an eye out for the next installment, or follow the blog to get an alert when it’s posted. To finish things off, here are a few non-artistic shots of interesting things from the trip.

– Patrick

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