Maple season is upon us and there’s no better place in Ontario to indulge in some of this sweet nectar than the Headwaters Region! Bursting with experiences, check out all the ways you can enjoy maple including great eats, experiences and more.
What better place to start than visiting one of the local Credit Valley Conservation Areas? On select weekends and throughout March Break, both Island Lake Conservation Area and Terra Cotta Conservation Area host Maple in the Park where visitors travel from station to station and learn about the history of maple syrup, how to collect it, and more. What makes this extra special is that Terra Cotta partners with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation to share Indigenous teachings surrounding the changing of the seasons. It’s certainly not to be missed during maple season! That’s not all though as guests can also enjoy Maple Syrup by Lamplight with an after-hours interpretive wagon ride at Terra Cotta and an illuminated guided tour on foot at Island Lake. And brand new this year, guests 18 years of age and older can try their hand at making maple syrup with the Sap to Syrup experience at Terra Cotta!
Elliott Tree Farm
A number of local businesses in the Headwaters Region also offer their own maple experiences, starting with the Elliott Tree Farm. They may be a big name at Christmas time but they also have plenty of fun to offer once the sap starts flowing! Their Weekend Maple Syrup Experience begins with guests heading to their new Horse Barn Canteen for a fantastic pancake brunch. Once you’ve had your fill, follow the sugarbush trail where you’ll visit their sugar shack and check the buckets, taste raw sap, and enjoy some maple sugar and maple toffee on the snow all while learning about the discovery, heritage and production of maple syrup. Once you’ve had your fill, head to their Heritage Barn to see what other treats they have to take home like a bottle of their award-winning maple syrup.
Heartwood Farm & Cidery
Next on the docket is Heartwood Farm & Cidery located just outside of Erin. They have two fantastic experiences to offer guests. The first is their Family Sugarbush and Farm Yard Adventure, a 90-minute guided outdoor experience geared towards school-age kids. They’ll enjoy a kid-friendly primer of the maple syrup process, a maple-focused scavenger hunt, and greet Heartwood’s farm animals including pigs, llamas, and more. The other is their Weekend Secrets of the Sugarbush where you’ll enjoy a 90-minute experience all about the art and science of crafting maple syrup. Taste the process as sap turns to syrup as you sip on a mug of what owners Val and Brent call their “sweet maple tea”. Take a walk amongst their beautiful forest and don’t forget to pop into the cidery to warm up before you depart! Two of their ciders are sweetened with maple syrup right from the farm so be sure to give the Forest Garden and Freckled Countess a try.
Of course, this round-up wouldn’t be complete without Alabaster Acres. Brand new for 2023, you can sign up for one of their maple experiences. The first is Alabaster Acres’ Maple Maker Workshop where you learn to make maple syrup from scratch and take the fruits of your labour home with you. If you’d rather have a private workshop, their Maple Masters is for guests looking to make their own gifts as you can custom bottle and label the syrup you make. Alabaster Acres’ other experience is their Maple and Mini Goats Family Adventure. Geared towards young children, this educational adventure teaches the little ones about the syrup production process followed by some quality time with their mini goats!
Maple Eats and Treats to Enjoy
The Headwaters Region is bursting with great eats and treats for both locals and visitors to enjoy during the maple season. These spots are not to be missed for a stellar sappy adventure!
A pancake breakfast is a perfect way to start your day and there are not one but three options for this in the Headwaters Region! Both Island Lake and Terra Cotta Conservation Areas have flapjacks waiting for you as well as the fine folks at Elliott Tree Farm. If you find yourself in Orangeville, Greystones Café has a maple blueberry scone as well as a maple butter tart that will tickle your taste buds. Since you’re there, be sure to pop by Wicked Bakeshop and grab some of their maple shortbread cookies and their maple pecan shortbread bars. Of course, a dose of caffeine is always a good idea and the maple latte from the Tin Roof Café in Erin is one of the best around!
Of course, there’s more to be found than just pancakes in the Headwaters Region! One great option is Spirit Tree Cider where they make a fantastic maple bacon foccacia pizza made fresh in their wood oven. It’s definitely a unique combination as sweet and savoury maple bacon mingles with cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and a tomato sauce base. In Orangeville, you’ll find the Barley Vine Rail Co where they put their spin on the iconic chicken and waffles. Buttermilk-marinated fried chicken is dusted with cajun spices alongside a Belgian waffle and everything is drizzled in their famous housemade chili maple syrup.
Though there’s no better place for a dinner straight from the sugarbush than at the Millcroft Inn’s Headwaters Restaurant. Their roasted parsnip purée is exquisitely seasoned with winter spices that perfectly complement the smoked maple bacon within the dish. Plus their ravioli is stuffed with smoked maple mascarpone that brilliantly highlights the sweetness of the squash. However, the cream of the crop is definitely their signature honey and maple dessert. Nestled in a dark chocolate tart shell, honey mousse is paired with maple crémeux and then beautifully decorated with honey and maple leaf sugar cookies. Not to mention their maple-inspired cocktails perfectly round out the entire experience!
Where to Stay
If you’re going to be indulging in a lot of these activities, it’s going to make for a long day. Why not turn it into a maple-themed weekend getaway in Headwaters? Naturally, the Millcroft Inn has crafted an amazing Magic of Maple package for guests to make it easy for you. This accommodation package includes two maple-flavoured treats as well as a bottle of maple syrup produced right from the trees tapped on the property. During your stay, sign up at the front desk for a guided walking tour of their sugar bush which ends with a tasty taffy-making demonstration. You may need to warm up afterwards so pre-book a spa treatment with that sappy goodness – only available during maple season!
Although if you’re looking for something a little more rustic, Elliott Tree Farm is the perfect spot with their Settler’s Log Cabin. Surrounded by the same mature maple forest where visitors enjoy their sugarbush experience, Elliott Tree Farm offers a true country getaway for those looking to escape the everyday. Snuggle up in the king bed as the woodstove crackles away to keep you nice and toasty. Cook your meals over the campfire or pop them on the barbecue. You’ll have all the utensils you’ll need for your visit though this is certainly more of a backcountry experience as there is no running water. The newly built outhouse is just steps away and solar panels will keep your devices charged, though chances are you won’t be using them much as you unplug and enjoy your surroundings!
As you can see, there’s no better place to embrace the season of maple than in Headwaters. You better get moving though as it won’t be long until the sap stops flowing and you’ll have to wait until next year!
Story by Lindsay Davies
Lindsay Davies is a crazy Canuck who’s been bit by the travel bug. Proud to call Ontario home, she loves exploring the province and beyond. As a graphic designer and social media marketer by trade, she travels the world while sharing her adventures to inspire others on her blog, I’ve Been Bit! When not behind her computer screen, Lindsay is in her natural habitat when she’s chasing waterfalls, exploring new trails, frolicking on ice roads (don’t knock it until you try it!), and indulging in the odd glass of wine, beer, or cider. Chances are you’ll be able to spot her by some funky coloured hair or a wacky pair of tights she’s wearing! Follow her adventures on Facebook (@IveBeenBit), Twitter and Instagram (@IBBtravel).