A water channel-turned-marina of the Oakville Harbour as seen from Lakeshore Rd. (Zoran Bozicevic/QMI Agency)
Oakville: All I can say is why haven't I been here before?
This charming community of 183,000 located on the shores of Lake Ontario is an easy one hour drive from Niagara. And better still, I didn't have to take the busy Hwy. 403 to get there. Once I crossed over the Burlington Skyway I took the first cutoff at Burlington to Lakeshore Rd. and hugged the shoreline to one of the most active downtowns I've ever been too.
My wife and I concentrated our visit on the historic main street - Lakeshore Rd. (Hwy. 2) - between Navy Street and Trafalgar Road. This area is steeped in history and culture. We found an array of architecturally preserved buildings dating back to the 1830s. They were now re-born as boutiques, shops, art galleries, gourmet food purveyors, bakeries, flower shops, wellness centres and, of course, restaurants.
WHERE TO EAT
We had a wide choice of places to eat. Hot dogs are serious business at The Butchery and Seafood Restaurant. When we were there, street vendor Derek Rens set-up outside and had little time to talk. He was too busy trying to serve up his special dogs to a hungry Saturday morning crowd. Right next door at Cobbs Bakery, the aroma of freshly baked hot cross buns drew us inside. Baker, Shelley Thompson told me, as she took a new batch out of the oven, "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 it was time to rest our feet we checked out a new restaurant that's created a buzz with the locals. Chances are, you'll have to wait about a half an hour to get into The Works but it was worth it. The entire menu consists almost of gourmet style burgers. There are about 70 to choose from with an array of different sauces. The burgers are served in tin pan trays and drinks come 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 put us back about $25.
After the meal we needed to walk. Off the main street we discovered the Oakville Museum. We were lucky enough to see the last day of a display on Boy Scouts. The museum is now closed until mid-May for renovations. In the neighbourhood were 30 or 40 homes dating back to the 1850's. Many of these homes had plaques outside indicating who first owned the home and their occupation. Jude's Anglican Church built in the 1880's dominated the neighbourhood.
At municipally owned Lakeside Park we enjoyed walking along the shoreline of Lake Ontario and within walking distance discovered a boater's paradise, spectacular Oakville Harbour.
WHERE TO STAY
Although we had planned to stay the day we decided we needed more time to explore so we took a room for the night at the Holiday Inn (www.hioakville.com or 1-800-842-0092) at 590 Argus St., about 10 minutes from downtown. Our room with a balcony overlooked an enclosed pool where youngsters attending a hockey tournament enjoyed themselves. We joined them. It's a nice place and at $135 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 (www.themoonshinecafe.com) 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 on the dance floor - or was it a table top?
BRONTE CREEK PROVINCIAL PARK
Returning back to Niagara we visited this provincial park (www.BronteCreek.org) northwest of Oakville on the Oakville Burlington border. The daily vehicle fee to enter the park was $16. We were there for the annual Bronte Creek Maple Syrup Festival, which ends Sunday. 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.
Oakville didn't disappoint us.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
www.oakville.ca or 1-877-625-8455.