Why haven't I been here before? This affluent community of 183,000 on the shores of Lake Ontario is an easy one-hour drive from Niagara. Better still, you don't have to take busy Highway 403 to get there. Once over the Burlington Skyway,
take the first cutoff at Burlington to Lakeshore Road and hug the shoreline to one of the most active downtowns I've ever visited.
We concentrated our visit on the historic main street-Lakeshore Road (Highway #2) - between Navy Street and Trafalgar Road, steeped in history and culture with an array of architecturally-preserved buildings dating back to the 1830's. Now they are magically re-born as boutiques, myriad shops, art galleries, gourmet food purveyors, bakeries, flower shops, wellness centres and of course, restaurants.
Hot dogs are serious business at
The Butchery and Seafood Restaurant. Street vendor, Derek Rens, set-up outside, had little time to talk, busy serving his dogs to a hungry Saturday morning crowd. Right next door at
Cobb's Bakery, the aroma of freshly baked hot cross buns yanked us inside. Taking a fresh aromatic batch out of the oven, baker Shelley Thompson said, "The aroma always gets you first, and then after you've tasted a sample of our buns, you're hooked." We left with two dozen - still warm.
When time to rest our feet, we checked out a new restaurant that's created a local buzz. A half-hour wait to get into
The Works is worth it. The menu consists of gourmet-style burgers, about 70 from which to choose with an array of different sauces. The burgers are served in tin pan trays, and drinks are poured in measuring cups. Onion rings are served on a spike, and you shake salt and pepper out of light bulbs. Get the picture? A meal for two with soft drinks cost about $25.
Afterwards, we needed to walk. Off the main street, we discovered the
Oakville Museum where we were lucky to see the last day of a Boy Scouts display. The museum is now closed until mid-May for renovations.
In the neighbourhood, thirty or forty homes date back to the 1850's, many with plaques outside indicating who first owned the home and their occupation.
Jude's Anglican Church built in the 1880's dominated the sky.
At municipally-owned Lakeside Park, we enjoyed walking along the shoreline of Lake Ontario and discovered a boater's paradise, the spectacular Oakville Harbour.
We needed more time to explore, so we roomed for the night at the Holiday Inn, ten minutes from downtown. Our room with a balcony overlooked an enclosed pool where youngsters attending a hockey tournament were enjoying themselves. We joined them. It's a nice facility and at $135.00, it didn't break the bank.
That evening, we drove to Kerr Village, a quirky area of Mom and Pop stores near the downtown. We were looking for the
Moonshine Café that promised live entertainment each night of the week. When we first met co-owner John Marlatt, the twinkle in his eye and the infectious smile told us we were in for a treat. We were not disappointed. The band, Root Magic soon had us out on the dance floor or was it a table top?
Returning to Niagara, we visited Bronte Creek Provincial Park, north-west of Oakville on the Oakville-Burlington border. The daily vehicle fee to enter the park was $16. The annual Bronte Creek Maple Syrup Festival was taking place. The last two days of the festival are Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1. This is a popular family event, and we learned the
making of maple Syrup is a hurry-up-and-wait business. During the summer months there's camping, hiking and a giant outdoor pool to keep everyone happy.
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.