3 Toronto Suburban Gems to Avoid Carpocalypse

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.

Toronto Oakville 01

Toronto Oakville 02

Toronto Oakville 04

Toronto Oakville 03

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.

Toronto Scarborough Bluffs

Toronto Scarborough Bluffs

Toronto Parking Enforcement

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.

Toronto The Guild 01

Toronto The Guild 02

Toronto The Guild 03

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.

Jim Chai Kee 004

Sam Woo 003

Toronto 168 Tea Shop

Readers, what parts of suburban Toronto should we explore next?

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  • Wolfgang

    Have you gone to Burlington yet?
    Just a bit further out of the city than Oakville, has a beautiful Downtown core.

    If you do have a car and want to really go for a daytrip outside of the GTA, I can recommend Grand Bend on Lake Huron. Nice beach town, shouldn’t be too busy during the week. You can also make a stop at the Pinery Provincial Park and London or Kitchener/Waterloo on your way back to Toronto. This is only suitable if you have a few days available, otherwise it makes for a very long day trip, as it involves quite a bit of driving.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Wolfgang – that’s for the suggestions, those are all new to us. Burlington sounds ground for our typical Fri-Sun NYC weekend getaway. I don’t mind long day trips though with wife I try to keep things more sane so we might do Grand Bend when we can fit it in for a US holiday weekend.