Mia Goes M.I.A.: Ontario’s Hidden Gem, Bruce Peninsula

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I had always heard of how beautiful Bruce Peninsula National Park is, so when it was announced that all national parks would be free for Canada 150, I jumped on the opportunity to visit Bruce Peninsula.

Bruce Peninsula National Park is a true oasis just a four-hour drive from Toronto, making it an easy weekend trip from the city. The park itself straddles the Niagara Escarpment meaning there is plenty of forested area to hike. The park is also quite famous for its Grotto, a limestone cave overlooking Georgian Bay’s clear waters.

I had originally planned to go camping in the park, but it seems everyone else had the same idea as me. By the time I called to book a site, there were none left for the entire summer. Instead I ended up renting an Airbnb in Tobermory for the weekend. Valuable lesson learned, if you want to camp, you need to book way in advance.

The town of Tobermory in itself is an attraction, and where I was staying was just a short 10-minute drive from the entrance to the park and a 15-minute bike ride from Singing Sands Beach. It proved to be the perfect location to really experience all the area has to offer, and on top of that I had a chance to sleep in a comfy bed away from mosquitos.

It is hard for me to describe just how beautiful Bruce Peninsula truly was. Someone had told me that it looked similar to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Turquoise clear waters, beautiful rock formations, greenery all around you. It was the most magical place that I have ever experienced in Ontario, and one of the most beautiful places I have seen in all of Canada. It is a must experience spot with plenty to see and do. I wanted to share with you some of my highlights from the weekend in case you decided to plan a trip to Bruce Peninsula.

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The Grotto

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I made my way to the Grotto around 10 am Saturday morning thinking I was early enough. To my dismay, when I arrived I was told the Grotto was already full for the entire day and to come back earlier the following day if I wanted to see it.

I came back on Sunday at 8 am and got in without any trouble. Lesson learned, if you want to see the Grotto you have to go early because the time slots for the day fill up quickly.

The view of the Grotto was definitely worth the early morning wake up call. The waters inside were a combination of turquoise and deep blue, and there were plenty of cliffs in the area that allowed for stunning views. While some were swimming down below, the water was freezing, so I decided to stay on top and just take in the fresh air and stunning sights.

The Bruce Trail

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I discovered the Bruce Trail by pure luck. I didn’t really have hiking in my itinerary, but when the Grotto was full on the first day a park worker recommended I check out the Bruce Trail. I was told the best entrance to the trail would be off Emmett Lake Road.

The hike was honestly the highlight of my trip. It wasn’t the easiest, but if you follow the white markings you will be fine. There were plenty of look out points that made for the perfect views of the crystal clear waters down below. Every stop we made, the sights got more and more beautiful. There was also a beach below the trail (be warned, this is no sand beach, but instead covered in rocks so shoes are a good idea). While the water was freezing cold, it was too beautiful not to take a swim. Go in head first, I promise it will feel great!

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 The Town of Tobermory

The Town of Tobermory is about a 10-minute drive from the park and it is a must during a weekend stay in the area. The town is so quaint with so much to see and do.

Food: I was told that Tobermory is quite famous for their local fish and chips and so for lunch I stopped at Shipwreck Lee’s Pirate Bistro. Their fish and chips lived up to the expectations.

Dessert: After the delicious lunch I stopped by the Sweet Shop to satisfy my sweet tooth. This was heaven on earth. I decided to stick to my weekend theme and ended up trying their Bruce Trail and S’mores ice creams.

Drinks: After eating, I highly recommend a stop at the Tobermory Brewing Company and Grill to try some local brews. My personal favourite was the Sailor’s Delight.

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These were a few of the highlights from my getaway to Bruce Peninsula National Park but honestly no matter what I tell you, I am not going to do the park justice. It is truly breathtaking and the views are worth a trip. It was just one of those reminders that there is so much beauty right in our backyard.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first national park visit and cannot wait to cross another one off my list this summer? Any recommendations? Maybe I will even camp out this time!

Until I go M.I.A. again,

xo,

Mia

 

Mia goes M.I.A: Blue Mountain Resort

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After living in the Southern United States for seven years, returning to the cold winters of Canada wasn’t an easy task. For the first few years, I decided to hibernate from November until May, however this year I made a pact to myself to get out and enjoy winter, starting off with a weekend getaway to Blue Mountain Village and Resort.

Blue Mountain is just a short two-hour drive from Toronto, making it the perfect weekend destination to escape the city. The ski resort has 42 runs accessible from 16 different chairlifts there are slopes for all different levels. When your legs are tired from the day on the hills, there is an adorable European style village to get some shopping done, or find a spot to sit down for Après. There are also several hotels and cottages in the area to stay and get your zzz’s.

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What to do:

On my recent trip to Blue Mountain I arrived bright and early to make sure I would get a full day on the slopes. I really wanted to check out all the sides of the mountains. I even dared myself to go outside my comfort zone and try some double black diamonds.

After one tumble it was time to take a time out. It is a ski tradition of mine to stop a hot chocolate break. I made a stop into Bullwheel Pub. This pub is the only one located on the South end of the mountain and offers a beautiful view of the slopes. The rustic deco makes you feel like you are inside a cabin.  It offers delicious Canadian comfort food. I had the chicken fingers and mac and cheese along with my hot chocolate.fullsizerender-5

After a full day of skiing and some sore muscles, it was then time to relax at my favourite après spot, Rusty’s at Blue. Rusty’s is located right at the base of the slopes in the village. It offers a beautiful view of the mountains and live music in the afternoons and early evenings which offers the perfect atmosphere to unwind with a beer in hand.

Next it was time to shop until I dropped. The Village at Blue Mountain has so many unique stores, boutiques, and even candy shops. My personal favourite spot is Red Devil Sports. They have so many vibrant outfits, that is where I got my favourite ski jacket.

After dropping off all those bags, and a delicious dinner (you can find my favourite spots for food under where to eat) it was time to put the dancing shoes on. I went to check out Twist Martini Lounge Bar and absolutely loved the elegant interior, delicious cocktails, and amazing DJ that had me moving all night long.Screen Shot 2017-02-18 at 6.56.48 PM.png

Day two of the weekend I needed some serious R&R after all the skiing and dancing, and so I made a trip to the Scandinavian Spa. The spa is located just a shot 10-minute drive from the mountains and with big trees surrounding it, it is very secluded and tranquil. I arrived early to make sure I would have a spot in their famous baths. Basically you rotate from hot to cold baths which is meant to cleanse the body and get blood circulation going. I must say I felt surprisingly energized afterwards.

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Where to Eat: 

The Village is packed with amazing restaurants for all taste buds but the following are a few of the spots I really enjoyed on my recent trip.

After a full day of skiing, my legs were exhausted and I didn’t want to venture far from the hotel, so thankfully there was Oliver and Bonacini Café and Grill right in the lobby, and what a teat it was. The restaurant offers a fine dining experience with a beautiful view of the village. The food was delicious to say the least. I absolutely loved the Miso Glazed Salmon.

The following day for lunch I was craving more of a carb loaded meal to say the least, and so I made a stop into Firehall Pizza Co. I absolutely loved the decoration, modelled after a Northern Ontario Firehall. The menu itself was a pizza lover’s dream. They had everything from the Sexy Texy Mexy (a Mexican style pizza) to the Meat Head (self-explanatory) creative and delicious.

For the last supper I decided to go Greek and give Tholos a try. The restaurant was so beautifully put together. It really transforms you to an ancient Greek ruin. I love the interactive experience this restaurant has to offer, from dancing and traditional plate smashing. And of course the food is delicious. I personally love the Stuffed Florina Peppers.

Where to Stay:
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If you are looking to stay in a luxury hotel for the weekend, the Westin Trillium is the place to be! I had a beautiful room that overlooked the skating rink, village, and the mountains. There was so much space and a fireplace to warm me up after a day on the slopes. The hotel really payed attention to detail, from their custom made soaps and shampoo, to bed side mist supposed to help you sleep better. The bed was heavenly. In fact, this was probably the most comfortable hotel I have ever stayed at. Besides the incredible lodging, the hotel has so much to offer, including their own mini spa, with two hot tubs and a heated swimming pool, perfect after a long day of skiing.img_0729

I think the whole experience at Blue was an eye opener for me. I realized that Canadian winters can be enjoyable if you embrace it. Secondly I learned that Ontario has so much to offer. Having had the chance to ski at Whistler last year, I was very impressed with what Blue Mountain had to offer, from the ski experience, to their village, to their nightlife. I will definitely be making a trip back there soon, and I hope you will as well!