Drone image of Pickering Marina: marina in foreground and Pickering in background Photo courtesy of Sage

Durham Region South

Durham Region South is conveniently located a stone’s throw from Toronto and offers day-tripping possibilities galore. The region hugs Lake Ontario from Bowmanville to Pickering, making it easy to skip from location to location — and savour lakeside vistas. The lake and the land have held significance for centuries, as the Mississaugas, a branch of the Ojibwa Nation, moved into region circa 1700.

Day One

Two people sitting in chars in front of an art display presenting to an audience Visual Arts Centre of Clarington. Documentation from artist talk: prayers for a word (or a lack that builds the world) by Joshua Vettivelu, February 4 – March 6, 2022, curated by Matthew Kyba (@thejewishryangosling Instagram). Photo by Áine Belton (@ainebelton Instagram).
Visual Arts Centre of Clarington
Small Town Charm in Bowmanville

Known for both its art exhibitions and unique location, the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington is in a 19th century barley mill on the banks of Soper Creek. It features both local and national contemporary visual art (and a glorious loft space with original wooden beams soaring overhead). It’s also an education centre, hosting artist talks aimed at making art an interactive exchange of ideas. Regular visitors, get your hands wet! Painting and pottery classes are on offer.

Bowmanville is a charmer with its walkable historic downtown, classic Canadian main street, and grand Victorian mansions. Caffeinate at Roam Coffee or The Toasted Walnut (the latter also serves up homemade meals) or shop at Market By Dream Day (“your one-stop shop for everything local.”) Once the sun is over the yard arm consider a visit to local craft brewery, Chronicle Brewing.

A shop with many baskets filled with apples. Other related goods are on shelves on the walls Photo courtesy of Archibald Orchards & Estate Winery
Tyrone Mills
Powered by Water (and Apple Cider)

Alternatively, spend the first half of the day out at Tyrone Mills. For over 170 years Tyrone Mills (a thirteen minute drive north of Bowmanville) has served as a grist, flour and lumber mill. Today, it still uses water power for lumber manufacturing and flour production. Take a tour of the mill or sample local wares and baked goods (apple cider donuts, anyone?). Speaking of apples, en route to the mill drop by Archibald’s Estate Winery, specializing in apple wine recipes. Discover the many temptations of apple-based wines, from sweet to dry, in a complimentary tasting.

URBN | MRKT Oshawa
Nosh In Oshawa

Opened in 2021 in a downtown Oshawa landmark, the former RBC building, URBN MRKT has quickly become a favourite spot, with tasty snacks ranging from Korean barbeque to classic Quebec poutine. It’s the place to shop for farm-fresh local produce and artisanal products — more an experience than a stroll through your average grocery store! If a sit-down restaurant’s your thing, downtown Oshawa has plenty on offer, including Street MoMo’s Indian-Asian cuisine or The White Apron’s “comfort classics.”

A turn signal showing left and right arrows Image courtesy of the Canadian Automotive Museum
Oshawa Museums
Bookend your Day with Art…

Visit Oshawa’s Robert McLaughlin Gallery, known for the most extensive collection in Canada of the Painters Eleven — Ontario abstract painters who helped popularize the art form. While the gallery’s main focus has historically leaned European-ward, you’ll also find striking work by Indigenous artists. As for the gallery’s name, it’s a tip of the hat to the founder of what became General Motors Canada. (The auto baron’s former residence, The Parkwood Estate, also makes for an interesting visit.) The RMG itself was expanded in 1987 by famed architect Arthur Erickson, who created its dramatic, light-filled lobby.

…or Bookend your Day with History 

Oshawa is sometimes viewed as the eastern anchor of the Greater Toronto Area, and it’s rich with history. For example, the automotive legacy — it’s historically known as Canada’s Motor City, as a visit to the Canadian Automotive Museum demonstrates. You’ll find another significant vehicle display at the Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum, with the largest collection of military vehicles in North America. To learn about the history of Oshawa residents, including the area’s Indigenous past and the history of its Black population (the latter dating back to at least 1850), head for the Oshawa Museum, nestled on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Day Two

A large fancy house with a flower garden in front Image courtesy of Lynde House Museum
Lynde House Museum
The Oldest House In Durham

Whitby is home to the Lynde House, named for Jabez Lynde, a United Empire Loyalist who served in the war of 1812. During that time his home became an inn, a tavern, and a supply depot where the British and First Nations militia could load up heading to battle. Since then the house has moved twice (with thousands lining the streets to watch) to its current location. In summer, savour Clarissa Lynde’s Heritage Kitchen Garden, with plantings typical of the 1800s — chamomile, calendula, yara, savoury and the like. Or drop into the little brick building next door, the Warren General Store, for gifts, home décor and sweet treats.

An art gallery with glass walls Image courtesy of Station Gallery
Wend Your Way Along The Waterfront Trail

Before exploring Ajax’s impressive 400 hectares of open space, parks, playgrounds and conservation areas, consider a lunch stop. Two possibilities: The Portly Piper for classic pub fare, or Maimana Naan & Kabab for its cultural crossroads of Afghani, Indian, Greek and Iranian-inspired cuisine. After that, yes to exercise! No better place than the Waterfront Trail, winding through Ajax’s lovely parks. Along the way, linger at Veteran’s Point Gardens. It’s a contemplative spot where you can absorb the history of Ajax and World War ll, and its intriguing design conjures up the shape of a ship.

A neat cafe with open space and plants Image courtesy of Chúuk
Pickering Nautical Village
Relaxing In The Village

Frenchman’s Bay is home to the unique waterfront community of Pickering Nautical Village. Between the beach, the boardwalk, and the boat launch there’s something for everyone. (Including a splash pad, swings and slides for the kids.) Open Studio Art Café has live art (life drawing) and live music (open mics and concerts). Dining choices range from North American bistro fare at Port, with waterfront views, the Mexican-inspired Chúuk, and Zeera By The Bay for traditional Indian food. (Note too that Pickering is home to mouth-watering Caribbean deliciousness, found at Beryl’s Pepper Pot, Roti N’Ting and Yardies Carribean Cuisine, among others.) For afters consider GrandDad’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlour, home to every conceivable flavour of Ontario favourites: Kawartha Dairy, Chapman’s, and Central Smith.

St. Francis Centre; Herongate Barn Theatre
Be Entertained in a Former Church…or Barn

Have a look at what’s on at St. Francis Centre for Community, Arts & Culture or the Herongate Barn Theatre. St. Francis, built in 1871, is an excellent example of High Victorian Gothic church architecture. It’s also an excellent example of a state-of-the-art performance space for music, theatre and comedy. A fifteen-minute drive away you’ll find another unique entertainment setting: Herongate Barn Theatre, housed in a century-old dairy farm. Dine in a former bull pen or hay manger then head up to the renovated loft for laughs or gasps — the Herongate specializes in staged comedies and mysteries. Check the event calendars to keep up with the wide variety of events at these venues.

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.

Ontario Culture Days thanks its tourism partners DURHAM REGION for their support and assistance with this article. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.

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