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Road trip around Port Hope to discover its river!

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? A chance to admire Ontario's best preserved Main Street (in Port Hope) + a wonderful nature hike along the Ganaraska River, connected to the downtown core.

I had the great opportunity to explore Port Hope at the end of July, a 1h15 drive from Toronto, and was completely charmed. I must say that I discovered two excellent nature walks, the first of which is on the banks of the Ganarasca River. In my next column, I will tell you about the beaches of Port Hope.

Ganaraska River

As we look west from the Walton Bridge, the beautiful Victorian street slopes gently up in front of us and the Ganaraska River is at our feet.

I've twice had the opportunity to visit the area to attend the joyous Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny event, held annually in April to commemorate the great flood of March 1980. Cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, this popular attraction will surely return. Imagine makeshift rafts built and decorated by hilarious amateurs that float down the river to the cheers of the crowd who hope to see a few of them fall over (which is guaranteed to happen). Amazing!

The large slabs of rock lining the west side of the river can be accessed through the alley next to Queenies Bake Shop (16 Walton St., open 9am to 4pm, closed Sundays). This bakery serves, among other things, decadent Nanaimo bars and good coffee. It has a few outdoor tables on the river side.

South of Walton Street, a paved path runs along the west side of the Ganaraska to Robertson Street. At the northeast corner of Walton and Mill Streets, a paved pathway leads up the east side of the river to Ontario Street. A corridor behind the Pharmasave then leads to Barrett Street, where the Ganaraska Trail begins.

Ganaraska Trail

This trail is definitely one of my favorites in Port Hope. It is accessed through the small park just north of the Barrett Street pedestrian bridge, where you will notice a large bear sculpture. The first 1.5 km section to Molson Street is named the Patricia Lawson/Jack Goering Section, after the co-founders of the Ganaraska Trail.

The entire trail extends 500 km to the Bruce Trail near Collingwood. It uses the same marker system as the Bruce Trail with white stripes painted on the trees, marking the main trail (blue markers indicate a secondary trail). Note that when the highest rectangle is drawn, it indicates the direction of the turn (if the right rectangle is higher, you turn right).

We loved this trail for the variety of views! In many places, mature trees stand next to bushes of beautiful, light plants, providing a very different vegetation than that found on the more bare trails of Toronto's ravines. One encounters cattail marshes, tall pines, field flowers, and tall grasses.

The whole offers a series of chiaroscuro that is a pleasure to look at. Here and there, cheekbones and bugs on the path indicated the presence of fruit trees. Openings often brought us closer to the rocky plateaus of the river. We can walk up to Molson Street, and pick up the paved trail on the west side to return to the small downtown area.

Our only regret... not to have sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent! The mosquitoes were greedy in the forest but left us alone at the water's edge.

While you are there

To continue to enjoy the river, we ate very well on the large terrace of the Waddel Hotel, overlooking the Ganaraska.

To satisfy sweet-toothed kitsch lovers, you have to sit inside Dreamer's Cafe (2 Queen St., corner of Walton St., open 7am-6pm, closed on Wednesdays and open at 8am on Sundays) to try their "Crazy Cookie" in a Parisian street wallpaper setting, complete with bistro chairs, with French music playing in the background. The restaurant, which is also a boutique, serves light meals and several varieties of ice cream.

The next time I visit Port Hope, I promise myself to try the gourmet cuisine at the beautiful Carlyle Hotel (86 John Street). This elegant building dates back to 1857.

I was amazed at the profusion of home decorating stores in Port Hope. There was everything from chic new to beautiful antiques to interesting flea markets. Our favorite was definitely the Consignment Corner Shoppe (2 Bloomsgrove Avenue, open Friday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm), with its barn-like feel and three floors of finds.

By the way, be sure to drive around the streets to check out the many dream properties, especially on the west side of the river.

Don't have time for a road trip? Nathalie Prézeau is the author of the walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls, which you can get on

or by contacting the author directly: You can pick up the book at 299 Booth Avenue, the author delivers in Toronto and Canada Post takes care of the other destinations.


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