Drone image of an Ocala Winery & Orchards with a farm in the background Photo courtesy of Ocala Winery & Orchards

Durham Region North

From lake to lake — Scugog to Simcoe — Durham Region North is a rural Ontario destination known for rolling farmlands, charming towns, and the Oak Ridges Moraine, one of the most important formations in Ontario’s greenbelt. All that, plus a vibrant arts and cultural scene.

Day One

A tree stump with ornate carvings Image courtesy of Scugog Shores Museum Village and Archives. Photo credit David Brooks
Scugog Shores Museum
Scugog Heritage and History

Some believe the word “Scugog” comes from the Mississauga “sigaog,” meaning “waves leap over a canoe.” Others, that it’s an Ojibwe word meaning swampy land. Either way, Lake Scugog is at the heart of Scugog Township, and the result of the Scugog River being dammed in 1834. Scugog Shores Museum, located on Scugog Island overlooking Port Perry, is a great way to get a sense of the history. The island is home to the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, owners of local attraction Great Blue Heron Casino, and hosts of the annual Mississauga First Nation Pow Wow. To explore the cultural history of the Scugog watershed before Europeans arrived, visit the museum’s Ojibway Heritage Interpretive Lands. You can also get a sense of 19th century daily settler life at the Scugog Shores Museum Village.

A man and a woman sit on a stage together with legs crossed Image courtesy of Theatre on the Ridge
Port Perry
Gallery Hopping in Port Perry

Hard to think of a nicer lakeside spot than Port Perry with its Victorian-era downtown that brims with boutiques, restaurants, galleries and antique shops. (Its charm makes it a frequent film and TV shoot location.) Port Perry is also a base for festive goings on, including Theatre On The Ridge, The Dragon Boat Festival and the award-winning Port Perry Fair. Make time to gallery hop though, since there’s an abundance of possibilities: Meta4 Contemporary Craft Gallery, Croftbeg Studio/Gallery, and Kent Farndale Gallery, among others. Be sure to visit Scugog Arts, a community arts hub featuring cultural events, local art – including the work of artists from Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation – and more.

The Piano Inn and Cafe, located in a red brick building with green accents Image courtesy of the Piano Inn & Cafe
Palmer Park
An Afternoon in the Park

Palmer Park is part of Port Perry’s appeal, a scenic waterfront right downtown. Perfect for a picnic, it’s also conveniently close to restaurants and cafés, including the lakeside Boathouse Grill, Piano Inn and Café, and The Pantry Shelf. Water is a theme, with a splash pad for the kids and plenty of folks fishing nearby. (In winter the lake is dotted with ice fishing huts.) Summer Saturday visitors will want to check out the Port Perry Lakefront Farmers’ Market for its local products and artisanal goods. Adjacent Bird’s Eye Park provides tranquil walks with stunning views of the lake.

An apple hangs from a tree on a sunny day. A green barn can be seen in the background Image courtesy of Ocala Winery & Orchards
Ocala Winery & Orchard
Visit the Vines

Just a twelve minute drive south west of Port Perry you’ll find Durham Region’s only grape grower, with twenty-five varieties of fruit and six varieties of grapes. Ocala Winery & Orchard dates back to 1912, and you can still enjoy the century-old apple orchard — and maybe a wine tasting too. (If beer’s the thing, drop by local craft brewers, Old Flame Brewing Co. back in town.) Dinner in Port Perry is always a good option. A few popular spots include The Foundry Kitchen & Bar, Pickles and Olives Bistro, and Marwan’s Global Bistro.

The entrance to the town hall theatre, a brick building with movie posters beside the doors Image courtesy of Port Perry BIA. Photo credit Melissa Rada
Town Hall Theatre
Go to Town (Hall) for Entertainment

The Town Hall Theatre building has been a Port Perry landmark in the community throughout its century-and-a-half history. And what a history it is: it’s served as municipal town hall, fire station, courthouse, roller skating rink, undergarment factory, movie theatre, and, since the 1970s, a live performance venue. Today it’s a prime spot for award-winning plays and musicals, live jazz, blues and classic rock, comedy, improv, kids shows and more – check the events calendar for more. No wonder it’s considered the centre for performing arts in Durham Region.

Day Two

The uxbridge trails on a bright, sunny day. Lush green trees can be seen lining the trail Photo courtesy of Julia Shipcott, Uxbridge BIA
Uxbridge Self-Guided Art Tour
Art in the Valley

Uxbridge Township is officially designated “The Trail Capital Of Canada,” given its 220 kilometers of managed trails. But the town of Uxbridge itself, located in an Oak Ridges Moraine valley, is also known for its art and artists, as a self-guided downtown walking tour reveals. Uxbridge also has a strong music history, with one of its earliest industries the Uxbridge Organ Co., established in 1872. Its legacy as a music town lives in in the Music Hall, known for excellent acoustics and beauty, its balcony graced by original opera chairs behind a carved iron railing. Should you need caffeination one favourite is The Bridge Social with its pithy slogan: “Coffee. Trails. Repeat.” Uxbridge is also chockablock with restaurants of all kinds, from tacos to sushi to deli to burgers, making it an ideal lunch stop.

The Thomas Foster Memorial, made from beige brick, with a green domed roof Credit: Rick Harris.
Thomas Foster Memorial
The Taj Mahal of Ontario

The Taj Mahal in India, dating back to 1632, was the vision of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Thomas Foster Memorial, dating back to 1935, was the vision of one-time Uxbridge boy Thomas Foster, who’d visited the Taj Mahal and was inspired to construct his own mausoleum. Foster, who went from working as a butcher’s boy in Toronto to becoming the city’s mayor in 1925, left behind this eye-catching monument, a startling sight on a hilly road in rural Ontario. A beautiful one too, with marble, frescoes, stone pillars and stained glass. During summer months you can hear live music, from folk to jazz.

A woman sits on a bench next to a statue Photo credit: The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario.
Leaskdale Manse
Anne of Leaskdale

Beloved children’s book author Lucy Maud Montgomery is best known for Anne of Green Gables, set in Prince Edward Island. But she wrote 11 of her 22 published novels in Leaskdale (just north of Uxbridge) from 1911 to1926, where she lived with her minister husband and her sons. Today her husband’s church, St. Paul’s Presbyterian, is a museum filled with L.M. Montgomery memorabilia and the manse has been restored to reflect what it was like in the famous “Anne-with-an-e” author’s time. If you want to explore the area a little further, try driving the Leaskdale Loop, a 20 kilometre cornucopia of maple syrup, farm fresh vegetables, baked goods and local honey.

A family sits outside in the winter, they are all wearing winter clothing Image courtsey of Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival. Photo Credit Ron Dempster.
Sunderland, Cannington, Beaverton
The Villages of Brock

Durham Region’s northernmost township is Brock, bordered by Lake Simcoe on the west and home to three distinct villages. Why not visit each one as you make your way to the shores of Lake Simcoe. Sunderland, in the midst of farmland, is home to the historic Sunderland Town Hall (1871), the hundred-plus years fall fair, and the popular Maple Syrup Festival. Cannington has both the charm of Victorian era architecture and the practicality of being a great jumping off point for hikers. Finally it’s Beaverton, where the Beaver River and Lake Simcoe meet. Cottagers and day trippers alike enjoy Beaverton’s harbour by summer, and winter months bring avid ice-fishers to its shores. Have a peek at The Old Stone Church, a modest yet striking building from the mid-nineteenth century, and one of the few original stone churches in Canada.

Beaverton Town Hall Players
Let Them Entertain You

Local theatre with a heartfelt motto: “Let Us Entertain You,” The Beaverton Town Hall Players put on concerts, musicals, comedies and dramas in the restored 1910 town hall-turned-performance space (check for dates and times before visiting). Boasting a friendly, intimate atmosphere, the theatre group’s mix of professional and amateur players has delighted audiences for the past three decades.

Your trip at a glance

This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please CONTACT US.

All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.