Toronto-born Jason Bangerter arrived at Langdon Hall in the fall of 2013 as executive chef of the Country House Hotel & Spa and winner of five AAA/CAA diamonds and Conde Nast Traveller magazine’s best hotel in Canada.
Getting outdoors and escaping the city in Waterloo Region is easier than you can imagine and lots of fun. It may not have the obvious tourist draw of Niagara Falls or Wasaga Beach, but what Waterloo Region does have is simply grand. The Grand River to be exact, the largest river the begins and ends in Southern Ontario.
Waterloo Region has the benefit of not being over crowded like popular destinations such as Niagara on the Lake and Prince Edward County. Both amazing places to visit, but if you want to escape your neighbours…
Only 1.5 hours from downtown Toronto, the back country roads are as free of traffic as you’ll find in all of Southern Ontario. If sharing the road with a horse and buggy is too crowded for you, then perhaps you’ll slide into a canoe for a lazy paddle on the Grand River, or jump on a bike to cycle through the trails and side roads in Mennonite Country. Either way, you are outside and adventure is waiting for you.
Canoeing the Grand – 3734 King St E, Kitchener – Located just outside of downtown Kitchener, you can park your car and rent a canoe, kayak, or tube. One hour to 8 hours, the choice is your as long as you are back by 6 p.m. when they close.
The Grand River is an easy paddle, so you do not need a lot of river experience under your belt to give it a try. In fact, I saw quite a few young families enjoying a day on the river and the kids all appeared to be under 12 years of age. As long as the life jacket fits, everyone is welcome.
Canoeing the Grand has done all the planning for you. Pick the length of time you are looking to be on the water and they will drop you off at a launching site that will get you back to base camp within your time limit. Of course, they aren’t responsible for wildlife sightings, so they are not to blame if you stop to watch the birds or try to capture a photo of a river Otter making his appearance.
Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen because, when the sun is out, you don’t want to get burned. To cool off just splash yourself with some cool and refreshing river water.
Cycling through Mennonite Country with Grand Experiences – 1441 King St N, St. Jacobs – If a guided adventure is more your style, join up with Grand Experiences in St Jacobs and begin a half day cycling adventure. Follow along the Conestogo River and then veer off into Mennonite Country where you will want to make sure you have plenty of cash and an empty backpack to store your Mennonite finds.
The countryside is rolling and perfect for cyclists of all skills. It is a half-day cycle, so it’s perfect for kids that are a bit older, or that are used to cycling adventures.
The first portion takes you on a trail that mirrors the Conestogo River where you will see plenty of locals with their fishing rods in the water looking to catch dinner.
Past the river you will find yourself cycling the back roads and trails through the Township of Wellesley, which has some amazing Mennonite bakeries and home-based businesses, all of which you can visit. On the tour I was on, we stopped for Buttertarts in Hawkesville at Sunny Crest Bakery and a quilt shop in the home of a local Mennonite family. I would never have known it was there if it wasn’t for our guide.
Each cycling adventure is unique because it is all about you and what you like. The beginning and ending are the same but where you go in the middle is different every time.
I loved both of these outdoor adventures and the best part is I barely ran into another tourist. I had the entire adventure all to myself. A rare treat in Southern Ontario and only to be found in the Waterloo Region. It’s simply Grand.