Growing up in Durham Region, I have to admit that I didn’t necessarily associate the area with more upscale travel. But I figured I had to be missing something. So I sat down with Kerri King, Manager of Tourism for Durham Region to find out what.
First, a little geography. Durham Region is an area in the eastern GTA that extends from Pickering in the west to Newcastle in the east, from Lake Ontario on the south to Lake Simcoe on the north. The area contains larger cities, such as Oshawa and small hamlets like Nestleton and Uxbridge.
I opened the interview with Miss King by asking her to tell me how I was wrong about my impression of the area. And did she!
According to Miss King, the area is beginning it be found by the more upscale, well off traveller. There are a few pockets of the region that are developing as destination spots for the cultured traveller. Port Perry and Uxbridge are vibrant arts communities that are attracting large numbers of travellers who are looking for galleries and to find newer, lesser known artists who produce outstanding work. In addition to Port Perry and Uxbridge, the Silverstone Gallery in Pickering and A Gift of Art gallery in Newcastle represent a number of artists in a variety of genres. Several of the communities have spring/summer or fall studio tours which allow visitors to see a large selection of art in different settings over the course of a weekend. The Oshawa Art Association and Durham West Arts Council both offer extensive studio tour routes. The Uxbridge Arts Association and the artists around the Lake Scugog area also offer studio tours.
Throughout the region, there is a network of high quality restaurants developing serving terrific food in a variety of styles. According to Miss King, culinary tourism is on the rise in the region as well. One of the big events in the culinary arena is the Savour the Season festival. Savour the Season is an annual event, 12 days for 2012, that celebrates the harvest with local restaurants creating dishes specifically for the festival. Visitors have the opportunity to visit the farms in the area as well as a part of this farm to table celebration.
The last aspect of the region that should be touched on is the region’s horticultural experience. Oshawa has, for many years, been held in international renown for its Communities in Bloom program and has won international awards for its public gardens and community involvement in gardening and horticulture. In addition to the public gardens dotted throughout the city, the gardens at Parkwood Estates; the estate of the late founder of General Motors of Canada, Col. R. S. McLaughlin, have terrific gardens and grounds. The Oshawa Valley Botanical Garden boasts one of the largest peony collections in the world and shows it off each June with a two day festival.
The region doesn’t have, at this point, any real boutique hotels but what it does have are some excellent bed & breakfast accommodations. The Durham Tourism site has an extensive list of the B&Bs in the region. One that is not on the Durham Tourism site is the Nestleton Waters Inn and I had a chance to visit and sit down with the owner Deborah Kiezebrink.
Nestleton Waters Inn
The Nestleton Waters Inn has been in operation since 2008 and is a luxury B&B located about an hour east of Toronto and 15 minutes away from the town of Port Perry. The Inn offers ten suites all decorated differently. Each suite has a theme that evokes a different culture from a different part of the world from Africa through Europe. The inn sits on a large parcel of property with a pond and grounds that guests are able to make use of.
The public areas and the grounds are equally as stylish and well cared for as the suites.
In closing my talk with Mrs. Kiezebrink, I asked her what message she would like to leave with prospective guests that was not on the inn's website. She told me, "I hope that our guests will come and find the tranquil relaxation and rejuvenation that some time away provides and an opportunity to have an encounter with nature. I'd like our guests' encounter with our family be just obtrusive enough that they have the high level of service they expect but unobtrusive enough that they can enjoy the setting and the invigoration that comes from spending time alone and the special serenity that offers."
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