It’s no surprise I love traveling to Canada.  Last year, we visited three provinces and I can’t wait to go back to each of them.  A few weeks ago, we made some stops in Southwestern Ontario to experience a traditional, snowy Canadian scene.  We were not disappointed.

Ontario is large, so this is not exhaustive by any means.  We visited the tiny little southwestern corner to see Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Scandinave Blue Mountain Spa.  And of course, we stopped by Niagara Falls on the way home.

Bruce Peninsula National Park

I had anticipated seeing some of the ice caves I’ve seen so many pictures of.  They weren’t quite the ice caves I was expecting, but there was a lot of show, some great hiking and sunshine.  Since it’s off season, they were working on repairing some of the trails.  So, there were a few detours.  If you go in the winter, you absolutely need snow boots, as all the trails are covered in snow.

The parking lot closest to the Grotto was closed because of snow piled up.  So there was only one lot open.  Keep this in mind, because it means a lot longer hike.  It costs $10 to enter the park, and you register you name and car info on a sheet and leave it inside a little hut.

The hike to the Grotto is snowy, as I said, so you will need boots.  The path is through the woods, but parts of it are right by the frozen lake.   As you can see, you can actually walk on top of it if you’re as brave as Jared.

Once you get to the Grotto area, you can walk down by the water and walk up on the rocks to see the beautiful overlooks.  The water is a beautiful blue-green color and really incredible in person.

I’ve seen pictures of this place in the summer and it looks incredible.  (It also looks seriously crowded, which is why I wanted to see it on off-season so we could selfishly have it to ourselves.)  One of my favorite parts was the packed snow right by the water.  It was so cool and surreal… and slippery.  Lots of ice, so be careful!  (Yes, I slipped and fell a few times.)

Scandinave Blue Mountain Spa

We stayed in Collingwood and ate out at Northwinds Brewhouse and Kitchen.  The food was good and presented beautifully.  I’m not a beer-drinker, but Jared said he had “a good one.”  So, if you trust his opinion, then you’ll like it!

The spa has a strict no cell-phone policy, and had signs everywhere saying to respect the silence and quiet.  I really appreciated that.  So, I didn’t get any pictures of me soaking in the tubs (not that you want to see that), but I did sneak a few from the window.

The location is perfect.  It’s in the woods with some views of the nearby mountain and trees.  As you walk toward the entrance, spa music plays from speakers along the path.  It definitely sets the tone.  You can reserve massages, but I waited too long.  I called three weeks ahead of time, and they were already booked up.  So if you want a massage, book early.

We went on a Wednesday, which meant we paid only 50 CAD a person, instead of the normal 60.  You can stay all day, but we only stayed about 3 hours.  So, what did we do you ask?  Well, we soaked in the many hot pools, all different temps.  We went to the Eucalyptus steam room, a sauna, a relaxation warm room and a hot tub with a waterfall.  I soaked my head in it’s amazingly warm goodness multiple times.  It was like a warm water head massage, and the whole experience was just as amazing as I hoped it would be.  I can’t wait to go back and stay all day.  There is a cafe, so it’d be easy to do.

Niagara Falls

Of course, if Niagara Falls is on my route, I want to stop by.  We paid 10 CAD to park and walk up.  It actually made a perfect stop on the road trip.  If you’ve never been and you’re going to stay for a weekend, check out this post I wrote a few years ago for more details on the area and things to do.

There is a welcome center with bathrooms and yes, a Tim Hortons.  (Or as my friend Tommy likes to call it “Timmy Ho-Hos”)

The falls are large, loud, and wet.  You will get wet no matter what season you visit, and that’s the fun of it!  My favorite spot is the very top where you get to see the water rushing down into the bottom.  It’s very cool.

That’s all we did in a whirlwind two days of Ontario.  I can’t wait to go back.  Have you been to southwestern Ontario?

Nina Thomas

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