The Elora-Fergus area is about an hour away from Toronto, but it feels like you traveled much further in both: distance and time, when visiting.
First, we wanted to quickly check out the Elora Quarry Area. Without spending too much time to get in, we dropped off our car near a public school and walked towards the spot. We had our doubts about setting there for a picnic, and rightly so, - conservation area was beautiful, but too crowded. There is a bit of swimming to do and some additional activities, like diving off the rock into somewhat muddy waters. After all, we decided that there was not enough to spend a day there. On top of that, the park staff stopped letting in cars and visitors close to the lunch hour due to capacity limitations. There was a large and disappointed crowd forming right outside the gate as we were walking out to our next adventure.
THE CELLAR PUB AND GRILL
Our slow-paced lunch had a river view from the patio of Cellar Pub and Grill. We were lucky to get a spot right before it got full for lunch. The split-level patio with umbrellas and trees was just what we were looking for to marvel at a stretch of slow-paced Grand River. Although the water looked a bit green and swampy, it did not smell foul, and large pebbles in the middle added visual appeal to the landscape view. Our patio had an old stone wall to one side, some high tables on barrels, and many other black metal elements, forming a light, old-time theme.
We enjoyed an 8oz House Made Sirloin Burger - topped with melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles. Good patty, just lean enough to stay flavourful. A bit pricey for what you get, but fair, considering the destination. Our second meal was Chicken and Tomato Flatbread Pizza - roasted red pepper sauce, marinated chicken breast, tomatoes, sautée spinach, red onions, and feta cheese. There was more value here, and this flatbread turned out to be an excellent meal to share. Overall, Cellar Pub and Grill is not a tourist grab, but rather a decent traditional restaurant with a peaceful view from the patio.
GRAND RIVER TUBING
Our main activity for the day was tubing down the Grand River. Instead of waiting in the Elora Conservation Area to get a tube, we got our stuff at a very friendly, family-run elorarapids.com. It was comparable in price, plus the equipment was new. Overall, the tubing experience is something not to be missed in the area. After paying a small fee to enter the river valley area, we’d parked, bought our bracelets, and endured a 20-minute walk up the stream carrying our tubes to where the drop zone was. There was also a free-shuttle bus option, but we were in the mood to stretch our feet a bit. Everything was decidedly low-key with an attendant to greet us and suggest where to kick our experience from. We were surprised there was no help at the launch area, though.
Grand River carved its way through the ancient rocks in the area, and we got to enjoy the prime view from the water on our 30-minute drift downstream. Watch for protruding stones in places, but other than that, enjoy the leisurely float down with an occasional thrill of a small rapid. In addition, having other adventurers together with us on the journey added an extra layer of entertainment - from fascinated kids and parents controlling them, to couples on the verge of breaking up, and swimmers in search of their tubes. There will be fun times along the way for everyone in this shared experience.
DOWNTOWN MILL STREET
Note that downtown Elora has plenty of cafes, shops, restaurants, and mews to stroll through as well. Furthermore, watch out for the renovated Elora Mill Inn - a promising hotel-resort at the bank of Grand River, spectacularly integrated into the gorge.
We had an eventful day and headed back to Toronto in 401 traffic, resembling the tubing experience: fast stretch, slow run…, luckily, there were no head-spinning twists.
This day was a surprise for Ma Cherie, fully planned without her knowledge as a part of a birthday week experience. It was an ideal way to get a flavour of the area, without getting delayed and frustrated in the tourist traps. We would definitely be back and, perhaps, enjoy overnight camping with friends at the Conservation Area - it could be one of the best ways to get a headstart on the summer.