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Budget thrills on Ontario day trips

DOUG ENGLISH, Special to QMI Agency

Winemaker Jamie Quai samples some red from the barrel room at Quai Du Vin near
Sparta. The winery makes both grape and fruit wines. (QMI Agency files)

Winemaker Jamie Quai samples some red from the barrel room at Quai Du Vin near Sparta. The winery makes both grape and fruit wines. (QMI Agency files)

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What's the most popular type of travel?

Broiling on a beach in the Caribbean would be a good bet. Cruising the world's oceans -- and, increasingly, its rivers -- is another.

But I'd bet a loonie or two on something that can be done on the spur of the moment on even a tight budget day-tripping. And I'd wager we'd do a lot more of it if we had any idea just how much there was to see in what amounts to our own backyard.

That's where a new province-wide initiative should help. Ontario has been divided into 13 tourism regions. Each has a regional tourism organization (RTO) whose goals include attracting more visitors and generating more economic activity. (See mtc.gov. on.ca).

For instance, Region 1 (ontariossouthwest.com) runs between Windsor/Essex and Haldimand County and from Lake Erie north to the borders of Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington counties.

Region 1's website invites visitors to sign up for a free electronic newsletter. It's loaded with ideas, some of which may surprise even veteran day-trippers. A recent newsletter highlighted the following five wineries and one craft brewery:

* Burning Kiln Winery in St. Williams, which released its first wines in the spring of 2011. Tours and tastings are available. Visit burningkilnwinery.ca.

* Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery, near Harrow, in Essex County, whose retail centre is described as a Tuscany-style "old-world" building with balconies overlooking Lake Erie. Visit sprucewoodshores.com.

* Smith and Wilson Estate Wines, on Hwy. 3, west of Blenheim, whose vineyards are on a third-generation century farm. Visit smithandwilsonestatewines.ca.

* Quai du Vin, on aptly named Fruit Ridge Line, west of Sparta, which sells both grape and fruit wines and puts on events with live entertainment. Visit quaiduvin.com.

* Birtch Farms & Estate Winery, on a back road north of Woodstock, which lists 17 fruit wines on its website and has a playground, bakery and cafe.

* Railway City Brewing Company, in St. Thomas, whose products include Dead Elephant Ale, named for Jumbo, the famous circus giant who died after being hit by a train there in 1885. Their website, railwaycitybrewing.com, encourages visitors to drop in and watch the brewing process.

Poll

Have you travelled at all this summer?


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