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.”
With its rural landscape – there seems to be farm stands selling fresh eggs and corn around every turn – it hardly seems possible that Innisfil is located merely an hour’s drive from Toronto’s urban landscape. A day trip to this rural town along the western shore of lake Simcoe, and just south of Barrie, will leave you feeling like you are far away from the city.
In the morning:
Grab a breakfast smoothie to enjoy in your car as you drive north on Highway 400 toward Barrie. After 60 minutes take the exit for Cookstown, located in southwest Innisfil. This area is known as the antiques capital off southern Ontario, with several opportunities to shop, browse and barter.
Located in a beautiful 100-year-old barn, the Cookstown Antique Market features 35 dealers selling everything from delicate glassware to home accessories and vintage clothing. The market is spread over two floors, with 6,000 square feet waiting for you to discover.
Once you’ve scored your secondhand treasures, drive less than 15 minutes to the 400 Market. Only open on Saturdays and Sundays, it features numerous vendors selling typical flea market merchandise – like T-shirts and smartphone cases – in its main area, while the adjoining Roadshow Antiques is full of surprises.
The 32,000-square-foot centre features stall after stall filled with vintage furniture pieces, rare collectibles and bric-a-brac, such as retro glass Coke bottles stilled filled with pop.
By now, your stomach may be starting to grumble, so pack your purchases into the trunk and drive to Friday Harbour Resort. This community on the shores of Lake Simcoe features a marina, beach, restaurants and more – and much of the property’s amenities are open to the public.
Once parked, walk over to the Beach Club Restaurant. While its seaside-chic decor is comfortable and inviting, you may find it hard to resist the views of Lake Simcoe from the patio. As for the menu, you can choose from classics such as fish and chips and burgers, all with a twist. Everything here is Mediterranean inspired. Its classic cheeseburger is made with a juicy lamb kofta patty rather than beef, while its fish and chips features a helping of coleslaw spiced with za'atar seasoning.
In the afternoon:
Ward off your post-meal sluggishness with a little movement. If you want to experience Lake Simcoe, rent some watersport equipment – paddleboards, canoes, kayaks or water bikes – from the resort’s Outdoor Activity Centre.
If you prefer to stay on land, you can rent a bike to explore the nearby Nature Preserve at Friday Harbour. This 200-acre sanctuary features accessible trails that weave around tall trees and cross over small streams, offering an idyllic escape from the bustling marina area.
If you prefer indulging in some retail therapy, stroll over to shops located at The Promenade at Friday Harbour. Stop into K9 Pawvengers for treats for your pup, Sweet Harbour Toy & Candy Co. for some Kawartha Dairy ice cream, and Feather and Stone boutique to peruse its curated mix of clothing and accessories.
In the late afternoon:
Wrap up your lakeside sojourn by driving back to Cookstown to Laura’s Farm Stand, which is open from late July until October, to get some fresh produce to take home. It is also home to impressive sunflower fields that are in bloom during August and September.
A one-kilometres trail weaves through the farm’s flower fields, and you can pick your own flowers – including zinnias, cosmos, dahlias and gladioli – to take home with you. If you visit around mid-September or in October, you can select your own pumpkin from the farm’s patch.
For the drive
Innisfil isn’t just farms and antiques. During your drive, listen to the “Innisfil Accelerates” podcast, which explores the town’s tech startups and the topic of smart cities. Host Danny Riendeau interviews a different expert in each episode.
Drive north of Highway 400
NOTE: Times are suggestions only
For a portion of this trip, the writer was hosted by Friday Harbour Resort, which did not review or approve this article before print.
- 10 a.m. Cookstown Antique Market
- 11:30 a.m. 400 Market
- 1 p.m. The Beach Club
- 2 p.m. Lake Simcoe or the Nature Preserve at Friday Harbour
- 3:30 p.m. The Promenade at Friday Harbour
- 4:30 p.m. Laura’s Farm Stand