The Frontenac Arch in Winter: A UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
It would be a huge change, but my husband, our two children and I were up for the adventure when we decided to relocate to Brockville, Ontario. We instantly fell in love with the small town quaintness and incredible beauty of the 1000 Islands region, part of the Frontenac Arch, a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve.
But what is a biosphere reserve anyway? Simply put, it is a region so globally special that is recognized by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) for its ecological, historical and cultural significance.
There are only four in Ontario, 18 in Canada, and 669 Biospheres in the whole world.
Within the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, there are some truly Amazing Places. These places were nominated by the locals as key places to visit. They are rich in history, known for their breathtaking views, and great opportunities to explore the outdoors. There are sites for all ages and abilities, and many can be visited year round.
Keeping my kids busy in the winter can be a challenge. Here’s our favourite picks of family-friendly Amazing Places for the winter months.
Some things to do may not be available due to COVID-19.
Many tourism experiences require advance bookings or have restrictions in place due to COVID 19. It is important to check directly with the business operator before you travel. Get the most up-to-date information now.
Looking to keep your kids busy this winter? Check out these family-friendly experiences in one of Ontario’s Amazing Places.
I recommend starting with a visit to the Aquatarium in Brockville. It offers a hands-on experience for all ages and abilities to learn about the history, geography, wildlife, and recreation that makes this area so unique. My kids love the interactive displays, seeing the fish swimming in the tanks, and watching the otters play.
Foley Mountain Conservation Area is a great family-friendly spot so grab your snowshoes and explore the 10 km of easy-to-moderate trails. Walk out along the accessible walkway to Spy Rock for an unprecedented view of the Upper Rideau Lake and the town of Westport.
The Silver Queen Mine Trail in Murphy’s Point Provincial Park is perfect for families looking for a short, easy winter trail. This trail has lots to see and explore. All the park's trails are perfect for snowshoeing, and 20 km of trails are groomed for a variety of styles of cross-country skiing.
Looking for a bit more of a challenge? Winter hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are waiting at Gould Lake Conservation Area. The Mine Loop Trail was once the heart of the region's mica mining industry. My kids love scrambling up and down the path that follows the shoreline of Gould Lake. Be prepared to forge your own path, though, since the trails are not groomed in the winter.
The Rideau Canal lock stations can supply a fun-filled day of exploration. Jones Falls boasts the highest lift of the canal system at 17.8 m (58.4 ft) so expect lots of hills to climb as you explore the four locks and restored buildings. Whitefish Lake is a popular lake for fishing year round, so if you are missing the pull of a fish on your line, be sure to bring along your gear.
Lower Brewers lock station might appeal to those looking for a more leisurely stroll. Cross the timber swing bridge and you will see Donner Studios and stunning views of the Cataraqui River. Sit at the base of the lock and you might see a bald eagle circle overhead while you try your hand at ice fishing or just some fun in the snow.
According to the locals, this is the best spot for family fun. The stretches between the locks provide an abundance of winter recreation. The small village of Seeley’s Bay is a perfect place for skating, snowmobiling, hiking, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing.
The Thousand Islands Parkway is a wide-open playground on a winter day - walk, snowshoe, ski or fat bike. With large snow griping tires, fat bikes allow for any path to become a cycling path. Looking for a kid friendly trek? Park at Mallorytown Landing and travel east 2.3 km. Take a breather at the historic marker for Chimney Island. It was once a wartime garrison after the War of 1812.
By Liz Harder
Liz is an aquarist and educator who loves to make science fun. She is the Amazing Place project coordinator for the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network.