Spring is in the air. Lakes and rivers have surrendered their icy blankets to the warming sun, and birds are singing while they prepare their nests. With a long winter behind us it’s time to plan your next getaway! The classic day trip is a seasonal rite of passage. There’s nothing better than great weather, the open road, and discovering those secret gems along the way. This spring and summer, visit the beautiful and adventure-filled Village of South River on your next road trip.
An easy 2 ½ hours north of Toronto, South River sits nestled along the historic waterway that gives the Village its name. Beginning in the late 1800s the river was used for logging, with the region becoming known for its proud industrial heritage. In the early 1900s famous Canadian painter Tom Thomson paddled the South River to gain access to the newly created Algonquin Provincial Park and made frequent supply trips to the growing village. In the 1940s a railway was built from the town to the outskirts of Algonquin Park. With the tracks now removed, visitors can follow the original route to the Park. The original rail station still stands downtown, where you can practically hear the steam and feel the locomotives as they lumber past.
The Village of South River has embraced its historic past to become an amazing homebase for outdoor adventure. Follow Ottawa Street, cross the ‘Causeway’ over the river and in 20 minutes you will arrive at Kawawaymog Lake, which is Access Point #1 for Algonquin Provincial Park. Here you will find Voyageur Quest Outfitting and Algonquin Wilderness Centre, where you can rent a canoe or kayak, find overnight lakeside accommodation or book a guided canoe trip. Northern Edge Algonquin is also located on the lake and offers transformational yoga and wellness retreats. Along the way you will find some of the region’s best hiking trails. Travel past lakes and wetlands perfect for spotting wildlife on the Loxton Beaver Trail or climb through majestic, towering trees to multiple lookout points on the Moose Mountain Trail. Test your mettle as you climb upwards to one of the highest points in the region to see the site of the original fire tower on the Laurier Tower Trail.
South River also makes the perfect hub for your next cycling trip. There are multiple loops for both paved and gravel cycling. Wind your way through green forests, exposed granite and past sparkling lakes and rivers. Keep an eye out for wildlife! With far fewer cars on the roads than similar destinations to the south you can surprise (or be surprised!) by deer, moose and more. Do you enjoy a little friendly competition and cycling with a group of peers? Then the Ghost Gravel Almaguin ride might be just what you are looking for. Taking place Saturday August 20th, the event offers fully supported loops of either 100km or 150km of the best gravel riding in the region. Looking for more adventure? Mikisew Provincial Park is just 15 minutes west of South River and has hiking, paddling and camping options.
Need a break from the road? You don’t have to travel outside the Village to find fun and excitement. Tom Thomson Park has a gentle walking path that follows the South River shoreline, as well as a boat launch and space for picnics. The park also boasts a disc golf course and hosts the annual Black Fly Disc Golf tournament each year, which includes a stage for live music and vendors located within the park. Do you have young legs you need to tire out? The village has a new skateboard park and playground for kids of all ages to enjoy. Or make the short trip to see the South River Cascade waterfalls. The Mill Road Trail will also take you past the local hydroelectric dam where the village has been creating green electricity since 1909! Steeped in history, there are many interpretive panels to discover which tell the rich history of this mighty settlement.
Ready for food and beverages? We’ve got you covered! South River Brewing Co. has been brewing award-winning small batch craft beer downtown since 2009. Their state-of-the-art facility has a retail store where you can purchase beer and merchandise as well as locally produced artisanal foods and products. They also have an event space where they host live music during the summer. Visit Wong’s Delight Restaurant for Chinese Asian delicacies or head to Antonio’s Grill for pizza, wings, burgers and more.
Downtown South River is home to the kind of unique destinations that make great road trip (and Instagram!) stories. New Adventures in Sound Art, or NAISA, is a non-profit organization that presents performances and installations of sound art, as well as operating a café and space for art exhibitions at their exciting new location next to the brewery. Corner Wines is a quaint little shop where you can have wine brewed, pick up fermenting supplies or have all your wine questions answered. You can also try locally roasted and brewed Algonquin Coffee at the same location. The spirit of industry is still thriving in South River. Both the world-famous Bear Chair Co. and Almaguin Forest Products proudly continue the community’s forestry tradition. Off the beaten path, but super connected. You can keep up to speed because the Village has fibre-optic Internet!
With so many options, could you use a little help planning your trip? The Explore South River website and app is your ticket to road-trip fun! Head to the website to find out more about the history, trails, dining, accommodation and more throughout the region, with links to websites and Google Maps. Download the app to your smartphone and you have a mobile trip planner complete with trail maps and GPS coordinates to plan your adventure.
This spring and summer, experience the small-town atmosphere in the family friendly Village of South River. Whether you are looking for outstanding hiking, cycling and paddling, a place to reconnect with nature or the opportunity to immerse yourself in some regional history, this big little village has it all. Use the Explore South River app to help plan your perfect day-trip itinerary and head north from Toronto to experience the scenery and culture for yourself.
Written by Bill Farnsworth
Content created in partnership with Explorers Edge