The hustle and bustle is inescapable when you live in a big city like Toronto. We’re always itching for a little escapism, whether it’s to de-stress, boredom or simply the adventurer in you. Traditionally that means planning a big trip down south or going up north to what’s considered to be “cottage country”. But the truth of the matter is, you don’t need to set your gaze that far to get away from it all.
Tucked away to the east of Toronto, in the rolling hills of Central Counties are home to farms, wineries, boutique shops, and restaurants that will make you say “I had no idea these were out here!” Your weekends are about to get a lot more interesting as I introduce to you A Country Path.
A Path YOURS TO DISCOVER
On license plates all over the province, we see Ontario’s slogan, “Yours to Discover”. A Country Path lives up to those words, setting a mapped route that takes you through 11 attractions nestled in the towns of Clarington, Enniskillen, and Bowmanville.
Linked by a great scenic drive, there’s a little bit of everything along this path. From an organic beef farmer, country herbalist, potter, general storekeeper, miller by the pond, cider maker, wine maker, and owner of an eclectic gift store, there’s fun for the whole family.
Sipping, shopping and savoring our way through
On a beautiful fall weekend afternoon, two of us, a Torontonian couple, set out to wander through A Country Path at our own pace and discovered a whole new world simply an hour away from home. Here are the spots we stopped by and what made them worth a visit.
Exclusive ciders you can’t get anywhere else
Our first stop was to Geissberger Farmhouse Cider. A local family run business producing sweet apple cider since 1970, we had a chance to meet Garry, one of the two Geissberger brothers.
With the storefront set right in the living room of their home, we got a real sense that this was a home-grown business built from the ground up as a labor of love. Dedicated to producing ciders of the utmost quality and taste, all apples used are from the Region of Durham and completely pure from any additives or preservatives.
With flavors ranging from traditional apple to apple peach, apple raspberry kiwi, apple pear, and even sparkling varieties, our tastebuds were dancing with delight to their taste. To add to traditional ciders, they also have apple cider vinegar on hand which is known to have an abundance of health benefits.
One thing that really impressed at Geissberger Farmhouse Cider was their attention to detail with packaging. Traditionally, most cider comes in large jugs. The problem with this is that over time, the cider naturally starts to ferment with the introduction of oxygen which causes the jug to expand and quick expiry. Ingeniously, most of the Geissberger cider comes packaged in a bag-in-a-box, vacuum sealed, and attached with a built in spout, extending shelf life to a year if unopened and up to 3 months after opening. This unique concept earned them the 2013 Food Innovation Award from the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association.
Knowing we couldn’t get this cider in Toronto, we excitedly picked up two boxes of ciders and a bottle of the vinegar. This was only the beginning of our loot!
More than just a general store
On the outside, the Enniskillen General Store may just seem like any other convenient store but step inside and find a store steeped in history, local goodies, and ice cream cones stacked sky high. Starting off as a post office in the 1840’s, it’s gone through quite the few changes, turning into a butcher shop in the 1900’s before turning into a general store in the mid 1980’s.
It was amazing seeing all the locally produced goods for sale in the store that ranged from honey, tea, maple syrup, hand-made soaps, candles, and signs. It’s always great to see local businesses supporting others in the community.
The best part of the store has to be its ice cream. Serving up the decadent Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream, you just can’t help yourself from indulging in the mega tower of ice cream that they serve up in a cone.
As lovers of Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream, we picked up not just one but three tubs. Luckily, the car was packed with a cooler in the trunk to bring these bad boys home.
Where relaxation meets herbology
Right across the street from the general store is another shop along the path, Timeless Essentials, grown out of love for creating handmade artisan soaps, bath and body products. As a certified herbologist, Crystal has taken her knowledge of natural health to create products that focus on reducing the number of chemicals used and ensuring everything is from the highest quality ingredients.
Not only known for handmade soaps, bath and body products, Timeless Essentials also has an impressive line jams, jellies, marmalade, essential oils, and gourmet mixes.
I was definitely impressed with number of flavors of jam that were lined up in stacks of rows. Their home-made quality really makes it look like they were made from that relative living out in the country side.
It was irresistible not to bring anything home so we ended picking up a orange/grapefruit marmalade to try.
Water powered mill with tons of goodies
Tyrone Mills was the next stop on our path and what we found inside was completely not what I was expecting. Like the general store, the mill’s history dates back 168 years and has seen it through variations of a grist mill, flour mill, lumber mill, apple cider production, tour center, bakery, and rural community center.
Today, on top of being an all-around store for flour, honey, cheese, bread and local cooking products, Tyrone Mills provides lumber for the community and makes delicious cider donuts.
What amazed me the most about the mill was just how well it is preserved to give visitors a feel for what it was like decades ago. Take a tour upstairs and find a workshop that still leverages water-powered tools like the band saw and belt sander. Outside and just around the corner is a working lumber manufacturing operation that the owner, Robert Shafer, still runs in conjunction with the store. Walking up the wooden steps to the top of the hill, you also get access to a beautiful and serene pond and from here you can hear the tumbling roar of the water that powers the mill itself.
Just like every other stop along the way, we snacked on a cider donut as we explored the grounds and also bought a few blocks of local cheeses and honey.
Delightful fruit wines
Nestled at the foothills of the Oak Ridges Moraine is the award winning fruit winery, Archibald’s Estate Winery. With a 40-acre property, this winery has become a local attraction because of it’s beautiful countryside, pick-your-own orchard, apple market and of course its fruit wines.
During our wine tasting, we had a chance to try for free a mix of dry, off dry and dessert wines. Wine connoisseurs may shoot me for saying this but I was most surprised with was just how comparable these wines are to the traditional grape wines. With my palette which favors light, crisp, fruity and sweet tones, I found these apple based wines both refreshing and delightful.
The concept of fruit wines isn’t completely new but has been slow to adopt with the die hard wine fans but if you keep an open mind, Archibald’s Estate Winery really hits it out of the park with their quality and variety of wines, perfect for almost any meal pairing.
Having loved the experience so much, I picked up a bottle of their sweet peach dessert wine to share with friends and family at home.
CULINARY EXPERIENCE TO DELIGHT
To close of our day along A Country Path, we made reservations at the newly opened Tetra Kitchen and Vines in Bowmanville. Opened on September 5, 2014, this restaurant has become the new “it” spot for top-notch dining experiences in the region.
A brain child of Chef Chad, Mike Homer, Ryan Johansen and Penny Johansen, they’ve put together a menu that features an exciting mix of modern dishes with interesting spins to them. In addition, wherever possible, the kitchen features produce from local farmers and suppliers.
From appetizer to main to dessert, Tetra provided an incredible dining experience that left us saying “wow” at every turn. While eating, I found myself picturing us sitting in a restaurant along King Street West in Toronto before I snapped back to reality that this was all happening in Bowmanville.
I also loved the sophisticated and contemporary decor, that matched their high ceilings, sophisticated lighting, and upscale vibe that echoed throughout.
A Country Path is waiting for you to discover so what are you waiting for? For more on the path, make sure you check out all the stops along the way and create your own adventure today.
Will is the writer behind Going Awesome Places, an inspirational travel blog that features detailed itineraries, tips and tricks on how you can travel more luxurious, cheaper, and smarter.