I’ve done my fair share of road trips with Maxwell since she was a newborn and as difficult as it may be hitting the road with a teeny tiny traveller, we have created memories that will last a lifetime. That being said, road trips with a toddler are NO JOKE! I’ve learned that a) it’s best to not schedule the days and to go with the flow because at this age, everything is unpredictable – sleep, mood swings…you name it and b) if you must go, don’t do it alone! My girlfriend Solmaz (and one of my favourite travel bloggers/writers behind TheCuriousCreature.com) invited Max and I to tag along with her and adorable son Luka to explore Grey County and I couldn’t say no to discovering one of the most picturesque Ontario destinations. So armed with backpacks crammed with snacks, juice boxes and an iPad downloaded with a seasons worth of Paw Patrol, we were off.
As two marginally intelligent women and traveling mamas, we were smart enough to add two stops on route to Grey. One to change diapers and let the kids stretch their legs then a little over the half way mark to our final destination, we took some time to explore Scenic Caves Nature Adventures. It was actually our second time visiting this spot. The first was last winter where Maxie and I went snowshoeing along the grounds. Experiencing this tourist attraction in the summer months may be my fave because there are a ton more things to explore on the grounds for every age. Solmaz and I were blown away to be honest at how many child-friendly activities were offered there. There’s tons of nature hikes on site, but there is also a super cool Gemstone Mining activity where kids can go panning for semi precious jewels to take home with them, mini-put, the infamous 420 ft long suspension bridge, a massive playground, bird feeding and Rocky the Train. Luka and Maxwell could have rode on that thing for hours. In hindsight, this could have easily been a full day stop, so if you plan to head up there, make sure you give yourself enough time to explore and also make sure to wear closed toes shoes (THEY ARE MANDATORY!).
If you’re traveling sans toddlers you can also enjoy other dope activities like zip-lining down Ontario’s largest twin zipline, treetopping adventures and discovering the unique caves and caverns that were formed by ancient glacial ice. I’ve yet to try these things but if there is ever a chance I am back in the area and have someone to watch Mawell, the zip lining will be the first thing I do. There is food is available on-site with a seasonal BBQ during this time of the year. We ordered yummy chicken burgers and the kids got chicken tenders and fries. There’s also a snack bar that is opened year round and tons of souvenirs available for purchase. Personally, I found the prices are reasonable based on what you get. General admission will run you $26.50 for adults and $24.25 for youth (under 18) + HST. Group rates are also available and this gives you access to the playgrounds, caves, all the nature trails for hiking, the suspension bridge, train and tractor rides. The mining, mini gold and all other activities cost extra. Prices can be found on their website.
WHERE TO STAY
We ended up staying in Georgian Bay, which was a first for me, at the beautiful and quaint Cobble Beach. Ask anyone who has stayed there what they think about it, they will not stop talking your ear off – it’s that amazing. If you’re looking for a road trip getaway to somewhere a bit off the beaten path, you’re going to want to book this spot IMMEDIATELY. The property sits on an expansive 574 acres and is located only 10 minutes from Owen Sound, in the Township of Georgian Bluffs. Surrounded by the most perfectly clear lake water and views, every where you turn looks like a painting.
The property is known for it’s epic, world-class golf course and from what I hear people travel from far to play 18 holes here. The Inn at Cobble Beach also has a spa, plunge pool, 2 immaculate tennis courts, almost 20km’s of trails, 10 guest suites in the main building and 5 newly built, stunning lakeside cottages. You guys, the accommodations are TO DIE FOR. Bright, airy and minimal. At first we were going to just get separate guest suites but decided last minute it would be a good call to shack up in a cottage for our two night stay. It worked out perfectly because we were able to enjoy some much needed wine-time at night in our living room once Luka and Maxwell went to bed. We each had our own spacious bedrooms and bathrooms (there are two of each in every cottage) a small kitchen set-up with all the necessities we needed to keep items refrigerated or up during our stay.
Cobble Beach is year round resort with plenty of things to do each season, but I will say this, summer and fall really are great times for those heading up with families. The beach club has a park for kids, canoes and kayaks for those who want to be in the water. The trails are a perfect spot for long walks or runs to take in the fresh country air. It really is a dream. We brought strollers for the kids but turned out we didn’t even need to. You can rent this jogger caboost, which can actually connect to a bike, bicycles, and even helmets from the Own Sound Tourism Centre. These two loved being shuttled from the cottage to the club house for meals in it (not the golf cart LOL) and it’s super cute.
So the Inn at Cobble Beach is really small, however they do offer onsite dining in the club house at Sweetwater Restaurant. They offer a daily buffet brekkie each morning that we absolutely loved. Baked goods, cereals, yogurt with the fixings to make your own bowl situation, with of course traditional breakfast chow we all know and love like eggs, bacon, with mini french toast and mini pancakes that were the perfect size for the kids to handle and feed themselves. We did our dinners at the hotel as well, just made sense, and was easy seeing as though the club house was literally 30 feet from our cottage. If you’re there during the weekday, don’t miss Pizza Night on Wednesdays. It’s so bomb. It ends promptly at 6pm though so make sure to get in early. We lost our minds over the wood oven pizzas that the mamas paired with a yummy Pinot Grigio and the kiddos the region’s finest apple juice LOL! It and was not to be outdone by our final dinner of the Atlantic Salmon served on a bed of coconut rice with broccolini, curried mango and acidulated raisins. That plate was packed with the most insanely delicious flavours. I should mention that the menu is seasonal so this salmon dish has been updated and altered slightly on their current Fall/Winter menu but still sounds just as good.
WHAT TO SEE
There are loads of activities within a short driving distance that will easily keep you and the family entertained and seriously, at a price point that will not break the bank. Here’s some stops that I would highly recommend should be on your “MUST-SEE” list if you make the trek to Grey County/Owen Sound.
Ummmm hello, this place under promised and seriously over delivered. Harrison Park is a dream and made of about 40 hectares of of streams, trails, gardens, playgrounds, forest and green space. Similar to Scenic Caves, this could easily be a full day experience for anyone that loves the outdoors or has kids. On the grounds you’ll also find a full serviced campsite, dining options, outdoor musical instruments, a swimming pool, basketball courts, a bird sanctuary, boat rentals, mini-put and more.
Just a short walk away from the park’s core, is also Weaver’s Creek Falls, a small waterfall that we were able to trek to in only a few minutes with the kiddos. It’s amazing that so much nature and beauty was so accessible. But you know what, besides the playgrounds (which was almost impossible to peel the kids off of) we really enjoyed our paddle boat experience on the Sydenham River. Luka looked like he had a blast and as for Max, she gave me a couple heart attacks on our little boat cruise, wanting to jump off to go pet the geese and then spent the rest of the time barking instructions to me as to which way she wanted to go.
Now that I think about it, waterfalls seemed like a theme on this trip. We snuck in a quick visit to Inglis Falls on the day we were departing back to Toronto and we were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to catch views of this beautiful site. Located within the 200 hectares that make up the Inglis Falls Conservation Area, the 18 meter high cascade brings tons of visitors each year.
Also in the conservation area, you will find almost 8km’s of nature trails in varying difficulties, historical grist mill, geological potholes, picnic facilities and access to Bruce Trail. Entrance into the grounds costs a mere $6 per vehicle, heads up they only take cash, and once you park, you are only steps away from the falls. Impressive because that pretty much makes it stroller and wheelchair accessible. There are a handful of steps, maybe no more than 6 or so, that will bring you to the lookout point where the kids watched the water, however the falls can be seen without going down them.
Grey Roots Museum
So this turned out to be the perfect rainy day activity. The site was actually a lot larger than we anticipated housing both Grey Roots Museum and Moreston Heritage Village on the grounds. We popped in to let the kids take in the summer exhibit “Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforest”. They were both obsessed with the Owl that they got to watch eat it’s dinner of mice and pet snakes, while I almost passed out in fear. I love that this place has tailored activities for toddlers. During the month of October, they will start “Toddlers Take The Museum” a morning series of stories, songs and crafts lead by a Grey County Early Years Literacy Facilitator for toddlers and pre-school ages kids and its FREE!!!!.
Other Notable Mentions: The Flying Spatula Diner
Well, there is no trip up north complete without a heritage diner experience. We were told we MUST not miss a chance to hit up The Flying Spatula before heading back to Toronto so we did exactly that. We were so determined to eat lunch there even though it was in the middle of nap time, Solmaz went in and pre-ordered our food and got everything set up allowing me to stay in the car while Max got some much needed sleep after our Inglis Falls excursion. What makes this spot so special? Chef Greg Galoksa, who has appeared on foodie reality show Chopped Canada, the original decor and of course the joint’s main server Nina. Seriously, between the comfort food and Nina, I would make the drive up there just to eat and then go back home. I splurged a bit and decided to go all in with the fish tacos and fries, then finished it off by splitting a slice of coconut cream pie with Solmaz. It was so damn good, I ordered an entire pie to go…but wait for it, then accidentally left it behind in the midst of packing up all our stuff. I realized this when we were about 8km’s away and still turned around to drive back to get it. IT WAS THAT GOOD. And you know what, Miss Nina was waiting by the door for me withe pie and homemade cream all packed up. That’s what I call good people.
I’m not sure if this has convinced you to visit Grey County but I will tell you know, writing it has definitely convinced me to go back. I would love to rediscover this area in the fall with the beautiful colours of the changing leaves. A special thank you to the Visit Grey team for hosting us last month and helping us put together such an epic itinerary. We were wiped by the time we got back to Toronto and it took me two days to recover but Luka and Maxwell had the time of their lives, which is what it’s all about.