simcoe county

How to spend 36 hours in Simcoe County this winter

Simcoe County, bordered by Lake Simcoe in the east and Georgian Bay in the north, is the largest county in Ontario, with a diverse countryside of expansive, internationally important wetlands and the rugged Niagara Escarpment to boot. 

The raw natural beauty and excess of recreational outdoor activities found in the county just a half an hour drive north of Toronto make it a well-worth destination no matter the time of year.

Every small town also offers its own set of restaurants, cafes, boutiques and antique shops to explore in between all of the trail hikes, skiing, snowtubing and fat biking that you're bound to get up to during a visit. 

Here's how to spend 36 hours in Simcoe County. 

10 a.m. Take a ski or snowboard lesson at Mount St. Louis Moonstone 

Getting the day started on an active note feels appropriate given how much this area loves its winter sports. Don't worry if you're not a particularly skilled skier or snowboarder, an hour lesson at Mount St. Louis Moonstone will teach you the basics. 

Once you learn how to stop and turn like a natural, brave a few runs on your own. There are over 35 different ski slopes with varying difficulties.

1 p.m. Head to Quayle's Brewery for an apres-ski lunch 

Breweries, cideries and distilleries have been popping up all over the county in the last few years and now several dozen different options span the 4,860 square kilometres. 

Just a 10-minute drive from Mount St. Louis, Quayle's makes the beers on tap with hops that are farmed on-site. There's also a food menu, plus, outdoor firepits and a skating rink on the massive property. 

2 p.m. Drive to Midland for wildlife viewings at a marsh or a walk through a museum

Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre is just north of Quayle's and a pretty epic spot to walk off lunch. There are boardwalk trails, lookout towers and tons of wildlife within the 3,000-acre marshland. 

Midland is also home to the Huronia Museum where you can learn about Indigenous history with a walk through a Huron/Ouendat village.

Sainte-Marie among the Hurons also recreates Ontario's first European community to show what the old French Jesuit settlement in the area would've been like. Just keep in mind Sainte-Marie among the Hurons is temporarily closed for the season. 

4 p.m. Check-in at a swanky ski resort and prepare for more outdoor fun 

There are plenty of spots to stay in Simcoe County but The Inn at Horseshoe Resort keeps you close to the action with trails and winter activities offered on the resort. 

5 p.m. Flip a coin for dinner. Heads: Crazy Horse Sports Bar & Grill. Tails: Eleven01 

Crazy Horse Sports Bar & Grill and Eleven01 Taphouse and Kitchen both offer a tasty meal just steps away from your hotel suite, so you can leave the car keys back in the room and unwind with a beer or two. Don't overdo it though, the night's still young. 

7 p.m. Soar down the longest hill in Ontario after dusk in a snowtube

You've had time to recover since the ski slopes, now it's time for snowtubing, which is about triple the fun at night. Horseshoe has the longest tubing hill in Ontario at well over 2,000 feet. Book a three-hour tubing pass and get in as many runs as you can until 9 p.m. 

10 a.m. Kick off the day with a hearty breakfast

Who doesn't love eggs and bacon with their wake-up from a small-town greasy spoon? Loobies may not look like much but they do a mean (and definitely not lean) breaky on the cheap. 

11:30 a.m. Unwind in relaxing hot baths at Vetta Nordic Spa 

This Finnish-inspired Nordic spa has it all: RMT treatments, warm relaxation pools with waterfalls, cold plunge pools, steam rooms and wood-burning sauna rooms. We can't think of a more perfect follow-up to a day of outdoor activities. 

1 p.m. Head to the other corner of the county to discover one of its most charming downtowns

It might be a bit of a drive from Oro-Medonte but you really can't experience Simcoe County without spending some time in Downtown Collingwood. First on the agenda should be lunch either at Bent Taco or Black Bellows, if you're feeling smashburgers, corn chowder and beer. 

Then get to shopping in the array of downtown shops. Metra and Awear are trendy clothing boutiques, Haven meets all your home and decor needs, and The Hive and Coriander stock unique gift and wellness items. And don't even think about skipping The Candy Factory

Butter Gallery is just one of the downtown art galleries worth popping by. Lit fans should also leave some time to browse Collingwood's favourite indie bookstore that comes with a vast selection of good reading material. 

4 p.m. Snack break! Pick up some of Nicky's donuts 

Nicky's Doughnuts and Ice Cream makes their donuts fresh daily and there are always unique flavours like orange hibiscus or Bavarian cream cheese and cherry. Grab a box, and maybe one for your friends back home, too. 

4:30 p.m. Take a sunset stroll along the Georgian Trail 

Hustle over to the harbour for sunset. The Georgian Trail runs along the southern shore of Georgian Bay for optimal views of the sun going down for the day. The observation deck also looks out to Millennium Overlook Park across the way. 

6 p.m. It's dinner time, at one of the hottest restaurants in town 

The Pine offers a five-course tasting menu made entirely with local, farm-fresh ingredients. You better book ahead to get a reservation as tables fill up fast at this foodie spot where each course is prettier than the next. 

Lead photo by

Olivia Little

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