About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, ands show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”
Belleville is a special place, and its waterside setting has much to do with that. This pretty city sits on the expansive Bay of Quinte at the mouth of the Moira River, a position that places its picturesque downtown district along a riverside trail. Here are our suggestions on how to spend a day (and perhaps the night) discovering this quaint place and the caves just beyond it.
In the morning:
Leaving downtown Toronto, head east on Highway 401 to Belleville, the drive takes about one hour and 45 minutes. From there, continue to your first stop of the day, the Tyendinaga Caverns and Caves. Once you exit onto Highway 37, take a quick right on Cannifton Road and, after roughly six kilometres, make another right on Harmony Road.
Billed as Ontario’s largest natural cavern, The Tyendinaga Cavern and Caves are a must see. Book a guided tour in advance (offered only on weekends from now through Thanksgiving) to discover fossils dating back hundreds of millions of years and, for a moment, experience what it’s like to be beneath the earth in total darkness.
There is also a wishing well and a hobbit-sized passageway that leads to a deeper cave (a hit with kids brave enough to squeeze through it). Above ground, there is a lookout offering panoramic views and a designated picnic area, so consider packing some light snacks.
Drive into downtown Belleville for lunch at Birdy’s Fine Casual Dining, a family restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is crowd-pleasing (think classic burgers, omelettes, vegan options and kids’ meals) and its chicken club sandwich, served on a kaiser and topped with a tangy pickle, is a bestseller.
In the early afternoon:
After lunch, visit Market Square, where the Farmers’ Market is held year-round on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. After checking out its fresh offerings, step into the nearby City Hall, a handsome 1872-built structure with original bricks, eye-catching stained-glass windows and dazzling views of the Moira River.
Make time to explore the many independent shops along Front and Bridge streets. Funk & Grüven has a superb offering of antiques, while the Boretski Gallery is a go-to for vintage clothing and accessories. And be sure not to miss the Belleville Art Association’s gallery, a non-profit organization that features monthly exhibitions by local artists, as well as interesting workshops and events.
Follow Bridge Street up the hill, and away from the downtown shops, to admire Belleville’s picture-perfect Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian homes. Perhaps the pinnacle of preserved architecture here is the Glanmore National Historic Site, a Second Empire-style home built in the 1880s for the ciy’s wealthy Phillips family.
Four generations of Phillips lived here and it’s a maximalist’s delight, chock-a-block with ornate furnishings, personal belongings and art; it also offers an intriguing look at the upstairs and downstairs dynamic between the family and their servants. After Glanmore, stroll over to Ann Street, just minutes away, to enjoy the Corby Rose Garden, a tiny rose-dotted park donated to the city by Belleville’s Corby family in 1905.
After, be sure to check out Zwick Centennial Park, a lively greenspace with paved, waterfront walking trails for stretching the legs and taking in the view. Follow your walk with two pit stops: Donini Chocolates for hand-crafted goodies (the couverture milk chocolate bark with salted caramel is sublime) and Grills Orchards, a country market with possibly the worlds’ best homemade cookies and butter tarts – all enjoyable reminders of a day spent in Belleville.
In the evening
Treat yourself to dinner at Linguine’s, the award-winning, family-owned restaurant that’s been a Belleville culinary stalwart for more than two decades. It’s reassuringly old-school with comfort classics like simple garlic bread and creamy penne with a vodka sauce.
If you feel like putting your drive back to Toronto on hold, stay overnight at the Montrose Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast and tearoom housed in a spectacular mansion overlooking the Bay of Quinte. It was built in 1916 by a former mayor of Belleville and is one of the most striking examples of antebellum architecture in Ontario. The engaging innkeepers, Suzette and Roger Mcllmoyle, are always on hand, and overnight rooms are on offer until the last weekend of October, while afternoon teas is offered until mid December.
For the drive
No need to make things so “complicated,” just listen to the hits of one of the Canada’s most successful musical artists, who also happens to have been born in Belleville: Avril Lavigne.
Note: times are suggestions only
- 8:30 a.m. Leave Toronto
- 10:30 a.m. Tyendinaga Cavern and Caves
- Noon Market Square, City Hall
- 1 p.m. Downtown Belleville
- 2 p.m. Belleville Art Association Gallery
- 3:30 p.m. Glanmore Historic Site
- 4:30 p.m. Corby Rose Garden
- 5:30 p.m. Donini Chocolates and Grills Orchards
- 6:30 p.m. Linguine’s