Ours to Discover

Ours to Discover: Sugar shacks, A sweet drive

Celebrate the ultimate Canadian treat – maple syrup – with a visit to one of these Ontario sugar shacks

By Karen Kwan Wheels.ca

Feb 20, 2022 5 min. read

Article was updated 3 months ago

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About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to get ready to explore — but only if COVID-19 conditions make it safe to do so. 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.”

One of the sweetest Canadian adventures you can go on in late winter is to visit a sugar shack. Luckily, we have plenty of maple syrup producers waiting to be discovered a few hours’ drive outside of Toronto. While many have had to limit their experiences for visitors this upcoming season, there are still plenty of maple farms that will be open for tours, tastings and shopping. The season kicks off in early March, so bundle up – much, if not all, of your visit will be outdoors – and get ready to learn more about this iconic Canadian staple.

Richardson’s Farm and Market

Buy tickets in advance for the Family Experience at Richardson’s Farm and Market in Dunnville, a 90-minute drive southwest from Toronto and located next to Grand River near the north shore of Lake Erie. At Richardson’s you’ll get to tap a tree, learn how to boil sap in a hollow log and enjoy a decadent pancake brunch. In addition to the maple goods (think butter, sugar, toffee, salad dressing and tea), you can also stock up your pantry with the farm’s fruit and veggies. For a self-guided experience, tour the grounds on your own and learn about maple syrup through the informative storyboards that you’ll find along its trail. Before you leave, pick up a breakfast kit complete with pancake mix, sausages and maple syrup to take home.

[caption id="attachment_165484" align="alignnone" width="2560"]Ours to Discover Tour guide Jim Douglas shares information about how maple syrup is collected and processed, as well as some of its health benefits, with guests on the Richardson’s Farm and Market sugar bush tour.[/caption]

Trillium Ridge Sugarworks

Although its pancake breakfasts are on hiatus this year, Trillium Ridge Sugarworks, located a two-and-a-half-hour drive east of Toronto on Highway 401 – and then a short drive north from Exit 566 – is worth the trip. It features 100 acres with an impressive 10,000 taps, so you can experience a healthy, invigorating dose of forest bathing while wandering around the sugarbush. After you’ve racked up some steps on your Fitbit, and have seen the tapped trees firsthand, head back to the shack to purchase some syrup, which won second place in last year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Its’ delicious flavour is courtesy of the sugarbush’s limestone-rich soil, according to owner Terry Gervais.

Pefferlaw Creek Farms Maple Syrup

Enjoy a sleigh ride at Pefferlaw Creek Farms Maple Syrup in Uxbridge, just over an hour drive north from Toronto, and devour maple taffy after your tour of its pancake house (if it is open). Pefferlaw Creek has something for everyone: a demo for kids on how to tap a tree and hang a bucket to collect the sap. For mom and dad, the chance to learn all about the technical side of a certified organic maple syrup operation. Its sugar bush spreads out over four forests totalling 400 acres, with 40,000 taps. At the store, pick up a taster pack, which features the four different grades of syrup so you can taste test what you learned on your tour. There is also Pefferlaw’s must-not-miss syrup aged in bourbon barrels. You can drive to the farm by heading north on Highway 404 before heading east on Regional Road 31 and then north again on Concession Road 6.

Mountsberg Sugarbush

For a magical winter night, reserve a spot on an evening tour of the Mountsberg Sugarbush, located an hour’s drive west along Highway 401 from Toronto near Campbellville. Held Thursdays to Sundays, the excursion includes a guided tour of its trails, a wagon ride, and local musicians performing by the fire pit. Families with young kids will want to visit Mountsberg’s daytime Maple Town, which is jam-packed with activities – think maple samples, scavenger hunts, a natural playground built from repurposed trees, and sheep, donkeys and goats to meet in the animal barn.

[caption id="attachment_165483" align="alignnone" width="2560"]Ours to Discover It's maple syrup season, the Mountsberg sugarbush has been producing for more than 150 years, tapping it's approximately 300 sugar maples each spring, transforming the clear sap into sweet maple syrup.[/caption]

Wheelers Maple Products

A three-and-a-half-hour drive east of Toronto in the Lanark Highlands, you will find Wheelers Maple Products. The site includes a sugar camp, pancake house and a museum that holds a Guinness World Record for having the largest collection of artifacts about maple syrup. After you learn about how Indigenous people discovered and used maple syrup, and the production techniques utilized by settlers, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for that sticky, sweet deliciousness you pour onto your flapjacks.

At its pancake house, be sure to also try the sausages, they’re homemade. Don’t be shy about chatting with the staff; they’re likely a Wheeler since the operation has been family-owned since the farm’s first trees were tapped in 1978. They will know the ins and outs of maple syrup production and the must-see sites on the farm.

For the drive

Get into a maple syrup frame of mind by listening to the “Making Maple Syrup!” episode of the podcast “Getting Dirty,” where guests Cynthia and Ritchie Duffy talk about the syrup-making process. They also cover how to tell good syrup from bad – so you’ll be an aficionado by the time you arrive at the sugar shack.

COVID-19 need to know

Ontario is follow provincial COVID-19 guidelines. Some attractions and businesses may be closed or operating at a reduced capacity. Consult the provincial website (ontario.ca) for the most up-to-date information and contact individual businesses ahead of your trip to confirm how they’re currently operating.