One of my major loves of the USA is the National Parks system. As a nature lover, and with a background in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, I am in awe of all of the National Parks that I have had the chance to visit, and the system that protects them. On our drive to the south, I had to make sure that we did not miss the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited US National Park. I do hold the National Parks pass, however the Smoky Mountains don’t require an entrance fee, one of the few parks that don’t! The Smoky Mountains is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a division of the larger Appalachian chain. These Mountains border between North Carolina and Tennessee and is one of the largest protected areas in eastern US. They are also acknowledged as an UNESCO world heritage site, very impressive. With its beauty and diverse range of plant and animal life, it is no wonder that the Great Smoky Mountains is a popular place to visit and explore.
As we visited during winter, parts of the park was closed, I would love to go back during the spring and/or summer to explore more of this gorgeous place.
Niagara falls is as magical as expected. Whilst I was staying in Toronto for 10 days, I took the opportunity to visit Niagara falls for a day trip. A highlight of my visit to Canada. The views are breathtaking. Niagara falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that serve as the international border between Canada and the United States of America. These three water falls are named Horseshoe falls (The largest), American falls and Bridal viel falls (the smallest of the three). These waterfalls are located on the Niagara river. Niagara falls formed, when the glaciers receded at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation about 10,000 years ago (the last ice age). It is well worth the trip to visit this magnificent place.
Highlights and must sees
- Maid of mist: Breathtaking, close up views of the falls. This 20 minute tour departs every 15 minutes.
- Niagara falls history museum.
- Skylon tower: Provides indoor and outdoor observation of the falls.
- Niagara IMAX theatre: Showcasing true stories about Niagara.
- Bird kingdom: The worlds largest free-flying indoor aviary.
- Niagara parks butterfly conservatory.
- Niagara skywheel.
- Niagara parks botanical gardens.
- Rainbow bridge: Stunning views of Niagara falls.
- Floral clock.
- Journey behind the falls. Close up view behind the horseshoe falls.
- Maid of mist tour.
- Cave of the winds. Takes you close to the falls via the hurricane deck.
- Niagara falls state park. Visit the discovery center. Take a hike along the trails through the Niagara gorge.
- Old fort Niagara.
- Aquarium of Niagara.
As I was based in Toronto, I took a day trip tour from the city to Niagara falls. The bus ride is about one and half hours. The first stop is Niagara falls. Here we where given a few hours to explore the falls and town. From the Canadian side, you can see panoramic views of the three falls, which are amazingly beautiful. I was also able to get close to the horseshoe falls. After visiting Niagara falls, we traveled to the historic town of Niagara on the lake. A very pretty town to walk through, with its boutique shops, historic streets and victorian era charm. The final stop on the tour was visiting a vineyard with free wine samples. We had a tour walking through the beautiful vineyard. Here was my first time tasting ‘ice wine’ which was delicious! Ice wine is a dessert wine that is produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the wine. I Would recommend a day trip (or longer) to Niagara falls!
Escape the city for a relaxing and care free experience at the Toronto Islands. Only a 15 minute ferry ride, the gem of the Islands is must do. The Toronto Islands consists of a small chain of small islands located on the stunning Lake Ontario, south of mainland Toronto. The largest Island is Centre Island. Algonquin (Sunfish Island) and Olympic Island are the other major Islands. The Islands attractions are open from May to October, with the summer months being the most popular. The ferry leaves approximately every 15 minutes during the summer months and less frequently during winter. A round trip (for adults) costs $7 and is a perfect day trip from mainland Toronto.
Where to stay:
Looking for somewhere to stay in Toronto? All The Rooms have various accommodation for all budgets and traveling parties from families to solo travelers! Visit this link to view the range of accommodation options: Toronto accommodation
Highlights and must sees
- I would recommend biking around the Islands to get the most out of the day. You can either bring your own bike on the ferry, or rent a bike once you arrive on the Islands. You can go from each Island by bike (or by walking).
- A visit to the 200 year old lighthouse is a must see! Gibraltar point lighthouse is the oldest landmark in Toronto!
- The centerville amusement park.
- Far enough farm. A petting zoo on Centre Island.
- Franklins children’s garden. This park is inspired by the popular children’s book.
- Have fun on the water, with opportunities to canoe, kayak and paddle board on the lake!
- BBQ or picnic either on one of the beaches or the lawns.
- Explore the beaches across the Islands. Hanlan’s point beach. Ward’s Island beach and the Centre Island beach.
- Photograph the Toronto skyline from the ferry.
I spent one summers day exploring the Toronto Islands. It was a cloudy day with periods of light rain. I left mainland Toronto around 9am to make the most of my time on the Islands. I took the ferry to the Centre Island ferry dock and walked the Islands, departing from the Hanlan’s point ferry dock around 6pm. Centre Island is the most crowded and buzzing of the Islands. After exploring Centre Island I started my journey towards Ward’s Island. I made my way back through Center Island towards Hanlan’s point beach, spending the afternoon here. Stopping to see the Gibraltar point lighthouse. The atmosphere of the Islands is very calm and relaxing, a must see if you are in Toronto for a few days. A highlight for me was the views of mainland Toronto from the ferry. Also, a fun fact; the Islands are car free making the Islands very pedestrian, cyclist and eco friendly!!