Pat Mitchell remembers the day she headed east from Toronto with her sons for a country drive. Within half an hour, she discovered a beautiful conservation area, with trails and a lovely picnic area.
They had just set out lunch beside Duffins Creek when a Blue Heron suddenly flew out of the water.
“We’d never seen one before and it was awesome to see it in flight,” Mitchell remembers.
Highway 7, between Ottawa and Toronto, provides lots of such offerings!
Close to Markham, for example, there’s the quaint hamlet of Green River and the Seaton Trail, which meanders south beside West Duffins Creek.
The 12-kilometre trail doesn’t take long to walk and you’ll be taking the same ancient hunting and fishing routes, which later became the site of pioneer gristmills.
The Pickering Museum Village offers the chance to see a complete village with pioneer general store, blacksmith, barn, church, bandstand, schoolhouse and homes.
Structures transported from sites around the GTA were fully restored and now host hands-on learning experiences. (Check out picnet.org/pmv)
As you drive along Highway 7, take note of the rambling brick, frame and occasionally stone farmhouses dotting the countryside, mostly examples of mid-19th century Gothic Revival.
They can often be seen perched on the promontory of a rolling hill, protected by a stand of pine or maple trees.
Peterborough is a pretty city with an old centre of beautiful old houses, a 55-acre zoo (peterboroughutilities.ca/Park_and_Zoo.htm) and if you drive through on a Saturday, the oldest farmer’s market in Ontario (peterboroughfarmersmarket.com). It has been open every Saturday since 1825.
Check out the abandoned mine in Marmora, a small town settled in the 1820s because of the area’s rich iron deposits.
Long abandoned, the mine is officially classified as a lake because rain and underground streams have filled it. But it’s a great — and safe — place to explore.
For a different kind of leg-stretching exercise, think horseback riding. Eastern Cowboy Horseback Adventures, near Parham (a little west of Perth), developed out of a cattle farm that had cowboys on horseback herding cattle, and repairing fences. There are plenty of horseback trails through fields, woods, past lakes and ponds, for rides from an hour to full day for the whole family (minimum age 10). easterncowboy.com.