5 Ways to Enjoy Stratford Outdoors
Wandering along a tree-lined path, winding its way along the Avon River. I can’t help but pause to watch a pair of mute swans gracefully float by. I have to keep reminding myself I’m in Stratford, Ontario – not rural England. And just a couple of streets over is Stratford’s downtown. But I can’t help but feel like I’m further away from the hustle of city life.
Beyond the theatre and the delicious Savour Stratford foodie trails, Stratford is full of fabulous outdoor opportunities. The truth is, Stratford is an incredibly green city, with over 100 acres of formal parkland and almost 60 acres of natural area. Here are the top 5 ways to enjoy Stratford outdoors.
Stay at Forest Motel
Not only is the Forest Motel a great place to stay while you’re in Stratford, but it offers a variety of outdoor activities. Only a five-minute drive from downtown Stratford, the Forest Motel is a retreat from the city. Surrounded by over 30 acres of woodland, on tranquil Lake McCarthy, a stay at the Forest Motel will make you fill like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
The Forest Motel offers so many outdoor activities you can easily keep busy for your entire stay. Hike one of their forested trails. Jump on a bike, solo or tandem. Grab a canoe and enjoy a ride around the lake, with wildlife and birdlife all around. In the summer go for a swim to refresh from the heat. Or, in the winter don a pair of skates for a twirl on the ice-covered lake. And, if you need to stop, relax, and reflect, then sit lakeside under the gazebo to enjoy peace and serenity.
The Forest Motel is a great way to enjoy Stratford outdoors all year long.
Get Out on the Avon River
Located in downtown Stratford, on the shores of the Avon River, Avon Boat Rentals is full of options to delight in Stratford outdoors and from a different perspective – the water. Boat tours on the Avon River date back to the mid-1800’s. Its wide stretches offer beautiful scenery and a range of habitats. Enjoy birdlife, from cormorants diving for fish to swans casually grazing. And take in the weeping willows as they hang over the deep blue waters.
Avon Boat Rentals caters to everyone’s interests. You can rent paddle boats, kayaks, canoes, and even bicycles to ride around the riverside trails. Or if you like guided tours hop on board the Juliet and cruise up and down the beautiful Avon River. Your guide will introduce you to Stratford and it’s infamous swans, point out some incredible homes that line the river, but will also just let you quietly soak in the peace that being on the water brings.
Related Post: Savour Stratford – An Adventure for the Palate
Hike the T.J. Dolan Trail
For most hikers, we usually find ourselves on trails that are miles away from the city. But running right through Stratford is the T.J. Dolan Trail. The T.J. Dolan Trail stretches from the T.J. Dolan Natural Area through downtown Stratford and around the Avon River. With several side trails, all that are well marked, this beautiful trail is a great way to enjoy Stratford outdoors. Take a couple of hours to do the loop, spot a wealth of birdlife, wander along pine and maple tree-lined paths and enjoy the tranquil river at your side.
Visit Art in the Park
Another fun way to appreciate Stratford outdoors is a visit to their Art in the Park. Stratford’s Art in the Park is a juried show, showcasing a variety of art, from sculptures to oil paintings, and everything in between. Art in the Park is held from the end of May through to October. And because it’s held outdoors, it only runs weather permitting. You can visit Wednesday, Saturday, and Sundays from 10am to 5pm on Lakeside Drive, along the banks of the Avon River. Browse brilliant art, watch talented artists in action, and purchase what grabs your eye.
There were a few notable artists who I found really remarkable. Sandy, a charming older gentleman, literally worked his magic with soapstone before my eyes. He creates original soapstone sculptures, with the stone sourced from Quebec. You can find him and his awesome pieces on Facebook at Sandy Cline Sculptures. Another amazing artist was Denise who creates spectacular fine art pastel paintings. You can also find her on Facebook at Denise Nonomura – Artist. Another lovely lady, whose work really spoke to me, was Tiffany. Her acrylic impasto paintings are just stunning. You can find her on Facebook at Tiffany Horrocks – Artist.
Enjoy Stratford’s Gardens
Created in 1936, Stratford’s Shakespearean Garden is a must visit. Also located along the Avon River, its entrance is where York Street meets Huron Street. Home to 60 varieties of herbs, flowers, and shrubs, it’s moulded after a classic English garden. With paths leading you by beautiful roses, sculpted hedges, a picturesque gazebo, and a wooden bridge leading you over to a wee shaded island, you’ll feel like you’re transported to England.
One of the dominant pieces in the Garden is a 65 foot, towering, chimney. It’s the only remnant of an old mill that dates back to 1874 which sadly burnt down. And of course, Stratford’s Shakespearean Garden pays homage to its namesake with a bronze bust of Mr. Shakespeare himself. Surrounded by red roses, you’ll surely be quoting Romeo and Juliet. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Don’t let Stratford fool you. It has so much more to offer beyond the theatre and food scene. Be sure to explore Stratford outdoors with these five fun things to do.
I was a guest of Visit Stratford, and as always all opinions are my own.
Have you explored Stratford outdoors?
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