Fall colours in Ontario's Bayfield

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Autumn’s miracle is under way — leaves of green turning gold, crimson or one of the shades found only on Tom Thomson’s palette.

Colour change in Ontario should peak over the next five or six weeks. Catching it takes a bit of luck, but fresh information is at your fingertips.

Many fall foliage fans rely on ontariotourism.net, the official website of Ontario Tourism.

Travel-promotion officer Jack Lynch says 30 contacts regularly report the percentage of colour change in their particular area, the dominant colours and the best locations.

That information is updated every Monday and Thursday through Oct. 25, and is also available by phoning 1-800-ONTARIO (1-800-668-2746).

Ontario Parks has something similar at www.parkreports.com/fall/, that includes estimates of the percentage of leaves that have fallen. Staff at Algonquin park share tips at www.parkreports.com/parksblog.

Great fall drives? Tourism websites are full of them. Some of the best suggestions may come from folks you know who prowl back roads for the perfect maple or, like my wife and me, find themselves in spring and summer assessing unfamiliar byways for their fall potential.

Places and/or routes we remember include:

The Georgian Bay side of the Bruce Peninsula. Take County Road 9 from Colpoys Bay, just north of Wiarton, to Lion’s Head, via lovely Hope Bay, then, if you’re up to sharp bends, the aptly named 40 Hills Road north to Dyers Bay.

The Haliburton region. Every September for decades we took 45, from just east of Orillia, and then 503 through such metropolises as Sebright, Uphill, Norland and Gooderham to tiny Cardiff, where my mother-in-law lived. Returning via Highway 28, south through Apsley, Burleigh Falls and Peterborough, is rewarding, but watch you don’t you get sidetracked in the nearby Kawartha Lakes (Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon). Save it for another time.

Lots of wonderful colour can be found within 90 minutes of London. Bayfield, where huge maples line the streets, is a natural — but go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

En route, seek out quiet, rural roads, preferably ones following or criss-crossing water.

Get out a map, draw a big circle around home and look inside it for the faint, blue lines tracing such waterways as the Thames, Maitland, Ausable, and Avon rivers, and Catfish Creek.

Consider conservation areas for the winning combination of big trees, water — even if it’s just a pond — and picnic spots. A really helpful map at www.ontarioconservationareas.ca helps you check their location and facilities by typing in the name of your community and a certain radius in kilometres.

More Ontario travel news:

The Apple Pie Trail, a tourism event in and around Grey County, is going ahead despite a spring frost that hit orchards hard. Blue Mountain, the resort near Collingwood, is offering an Autumn Experience Package to tie in with the Trail. Visit www.applepietrail.ca.

Maxxim Vacations’ week-long Cabot Trail Discovery package includes airfare to Halifax, a rental car, accommodation and admission to several Halifax and Cape Breton Island attractions, such as the renowned fortress of Louisbourg. The tour is priced at $1,399 per person from Toronto. Maxxim also has an eight-night, self-drive package in Newfoundland, available through September, priced at $1,539 per person from Toronto. Visit www.maxximvacations.com.

The Royal Ontario Museum has two exhibitions on the War of 1812. Afterimage: Tod Ainslie’s Vision of the War of 1812, are photographs taken with three pinhole cameras that document many of the war’s historically significant sites. It’s on until Feb. 24. The second, which has an indefinite run, is Sovereign Allies/Living Cultures: First Nations of the Great Lakes. It features nearly 100 objects and original art works and videos of elders and historians reflecting on the war and on First Nations beliefs and cultural practices today. Visit www.rom.on.ca/exhibitions/special/afterimage.php and www.rom.on.ca/exhibitions/special/first_nations.php.