Toronto’s ever-worsening traffic snarl in the lead-up to the 2015 Pan Am Games sent us scurrying to the suburbs. The received wisdom is a day trip to the Niagara region, which is a long drive and appears not without heavy weekend traffic from locals visiting their cottages.
Oakville is an affluent lakeside community with deep British roots reflected in dream homes that count their age in centuries. We learned of it through friends living there, and joined them a couple years ago for the Oakville Jazz Festival. It is roughly a hour drive without traffic from downtown Toronto, though what makes it appealing is it the opposite direction as downtown from the airport, only 30-minutes drive from the airport in the direction of Hamilton. This is a nice base for a day to Niagara and a day to Toronto. Chain hotels are mainly mid-range brands such as the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, Oakville which goes for 28,000 points/night.
On our visit last weekend my wife arrived a day later due to a forgotten passport, so we self-catered lobster congee, a full 1-lb lobster in a huge bowl of congee (get it before 11 am for the breakfast special!) from Toronto’s House of Gourmet, met her at the airport, and she dined on the picnic tables overlooking Lake Ontario.
Immediately to Toronto’s east the land rises from the lake to create the dramatic Scarborough Bluffs. Not well publicized for tourists, there are various parks with views interspersed among private properties. Scarborough Bluffs Park is particularly dramatic. It overlooks Bluffer’s Park which has a beach and marina, and on a weekend is jammed with locals and Toronto police issuing parking tickets. Stick to the quiet parks.
A couple miles further east is a park called The Guild which has a dramatic outdoor stage where a performance was just finishing as we approached. Lovely gardens.
North of Toronto lie Richmond Hill and Markham which would be generic corporate park suburban misery if not for some of the best Hong Kong food and supermarkets this side of the Pacific. There are many business hotels from the familiar brands and ability to descend to Toronto for a visit by car or park and ride. You can start a day with Jim Chai Kee’s shrimp wontons, lunch at Sam Woo BBQ, afternoon tea at Tea Shop 168 and throw a dart for a random dinner choice. From the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North it is possible to walk to two strips malls loaded with great Chinese restaurants.
Readers, what parts of suburban Toronto should we explore next?