cootes paradise skating

You can night skate on a giant frozen marsh just outside of Toronto this winter

Cootes Paradise is a beautiful nature getaway and the largest, most diverse sanctuary in the Royal Botanical Gardens spanning over 600 hectares. 

Its marsh is the biggest wetland at the western end of Lake Ontario and once frozen over in the winter, one of the most beautiful spots to ice skate near the city. 

After just a one-hour drive from Toronto, you can be surrounded by old-growth forest on all sides as you glide across the 4.5-kilometre-long river-mouth marsh. 

The RBG routinely checks on the ice at Cootes Paradise to ensure it's safe for skating and updates are posted online and on-site every week. Paid parking is available at 335 Longwood Road and Coronation Arena. 

Due to its popularity, this winter the skating spot will even include floodlights for nighttime skating, a fire pit, as well as food and drinks from the Collective Arts Container. 

During the weekends, a more extensive food menu of kimchi hotdogs and braised beef sandwiches will be available to purchase in between your time on the ice. 

Princess Point, from which access for ice skating is found, connects to six kilometres of trails and scenic lookouts where you can expect to see wildlife even in the dead of winter. 

Due to its location at the very tip of the lake, the area sees hundreds of species of birds every year as a migratory bird flyover zone. Spring and autumn are the best times for bird sightings, though you might spot a bald eagle this time of the year. 

Make a day of it by exploring the other natural areas that connect to the RBG like Hendrie Valley. Access its trails from the Cherry Hill Gate along Plains Road just 10 minutes away from this marshy paradise. 

Lead photo by

Troy Mitchell

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