Travel stories, tips and suggestions for travel in North America

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

One of the best ways to experience travel is by indulging in the local cuisine.

In Portland, Maine, there are many dishes crafted with fresh, local food that every visitor must try. Here are the top 10 dishes that Portlanders love — and visitors will, too:

1. Pancakes With Maple Syrup

The most important meal of the day needs to be delicious and satisfy hearty appetites. Pairing buttery pancakes with fresh fruit and local syrup to make breakfast is classic. For Portlanders, the pancakes are great, but they aren’t necessarily the highlight. It’s the maple syrup — which is produced all over Maine — that makes the meal.

People from Maine love their maple syrup so much, they have a day called Maine Maple Sunday each year in March to celebrate the official state sweetener.

2. Potato Donuts

Typical donuts are made with yeast, salt, butter, sugar, buttermilk and flour — but then there are potato donuts. This Portland staple has those same ingredients as well, but there are also mashed potatoes thrown in, making them heartier than your typical glazed or iced breakfast treat.

People in Portland love that they can eat their savory spuds in a sweet way. The Holy Donut, made potato donuts a staple when they opened in 2011 and started cranking out 40 dozen a week — all made from scratch — before growing to 100 dozen and more. Now, they make over two million donuts a year.

3. Poutine Fries

Poutine is also popular among Portland potato enthusiasts, especially when it originated just next door. Originally from Canada, poutine is made with thick-cut french fries, locally sourced cheese curds and homemade gravy. The dish is typically offered as an appetizer or side and is gone within minutes.

4. Hot Dogs

Carnival and fair food have a place on the Portlander’s plate as well.

Jazzing up a hot dog is something Portland takes pride in, especially when creative renditions become popular. Made with local beef, restaurants like Blue Rooster Co. and El Corazon are crafting franks featuring flavors like kimchi, peanuts, beans and guacamole. Adding a bit more to the hot dog seems to give it a better spot on the menu.

5. Crab Salad

Crab salad is a customizable dish, which can be offered as an appetizer or main meal. Crabbers catch and harvest their crabs off Portland’s own shores, so the crab is always fresh. Top a bed of fresh greens with it or use it to dress up your pasta salad for some northern Atlantic flair.

6. Clambake

A traditional clambake you might find in New England is done over a fire-pit in the sand — but it can also be done without. It’s made of mussels, clams, lobster and any other kind of seafood you like, along with corn, potatoes, onions and other veggies. It’s completely customizable, so it’ll likely vary a bit depending on where it’s being served, but it’s perfect for those who want to indulge in a variety of seafood. Plus, it feeds multiple people at one time, so it’s ideal for sharing at parties and special occasions.

7. Haddock Chowder

Haddock and fish chowder is another delicacy Portlanders love. The dish was created by Helen and Larry Mugnai when they opened Helen’s Restaurant in 1950, and it’s been called a New England classic ever since.

8. Lobster Grilled Cheese

It wouldn’t be the best bites of Portland, Maine without mentioning lobster.

Lobster finds itself in many seafood dishes, but none are like the lobster grilled cheese. Seared between two thick slices of bread with melted butter and cheese, lobster grilled cheese is a classic made for Portlanders of all ages.

9. Lobster Pie

Besides adding lobster to their grilled cheese, Portlanders have found ways to incorporate lobster into other dishes, too.

Combining all the warm, comforting aspects of pot pie with Portland lobster, lobster pot pies are popping up on the food scene and delighting taste buds. It’s like chicken pot pie, but it uses lobster tails and crab combined with the chicken broth and fresh vegetables instead.

10. Lobster Rolls

Offered at many restaurants and food stands, lobster rolls are one of the best dishes when it comes to traditional Portland fare. Blanketed with butter that highlights the fresh catch and seeps into the soft bun, a lobster roll is something every Portland visitor should experience. It’s one of the must-eat items when you visit Maine.

The Way to Portland’s Heart

Any of the dishes above are bound to turn visitors into happy travelers. When stomachs are satisfied, so are hearts — and they’ll want to come back.


Kacey Mya Profile Picture

                                            ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. You can find her on Twitter & Pinterest.


Whether you live around Toronto or are just visiting, you know there is so much to do and see right in the city, but sometimes it’s nice to take a bit of a detour and explore outside the main core, especially when you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a couple’s staycation.

Ontario has so much to offer for couple’s looking for an escape together with many places that provide an intimate and relaxing atmosphere. We sometimes like to feel like we’ve travelled somewhere far away to have some time together without actually having to do so and so and we absolutely love to find hotels and other styles of accommodation that offer that experience whether we find it contained within the property or by exploring destination surrounding it. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite of those romantic places you can find within driving distance of Toronto.

5 Romantic Getaways Within Driving Distance From Toronto

Here are 5 of the best romantic hotel destinations that we believe heave some amazing things to offer for couples looking for a getaway close to Toronto. Whether it’s a hotel or a resort, an outdoor adventure experience or a bed and breakfast, these 5 destinations offer something different for every type of couple!

romantic getaway at riverbend inn Niagara-on-the-lake
View over Riverbend Inn Vineyard

Riverbend Inn, Niagara-on-the-Lake

We’ve already written a full review of Riverbend Inn, the room and property, and liked it so much we just had to include it on this list. About an hour and a half drive from the downtown core of Toronto, Riverbend Inn is located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a picturesque area full of wineries, small town charm and gorgeous landscapes.

The Inn itself is situated on a vineyard which lends itself to some pretty romantic views no matter the season. We absolutely loved the historic inn and the beautiful decor of our room with a cozy fireplace for the winter, creating an even more romantic atmosphere.

Though you wouldn’t need to leave very often, as they have a restaurant and just walking around the grounds is a pleasant activity, the area boasts tons of activities year-round including wine festivals and local markets. It’s also close in proximity to Niagara Falls if you’re planning a longer stay and want to see one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world.

No matter how long you stay or what you choose to do while there, Riverbend Inn is one of our top romantic getaway choices for couple’s looking to get some time together away from crowds and spend some time focused on each other.

Romantic Getaway at Long Point Eco Adventure
Glamping Cabins at Long Point Eco Adventure

Long Point Eco Adventure, Norfolk County

Though it’ll take you almost 2 hours to get to Long Point Eco Adventure from downtown Toronto, it is well worth the drive if you’re looking for a unique couple’s getaway that offers both romance and outdoor activity.

Their accommodations range from more rustic cabins to total glamping and no matter which one you choose, the intimate nature of the cabins and suites, as well as the quiet, peaceful surroundings of the area, make it a romantic escape.

We loved that there were lots of things to do as well and found ourselves having tons of fun axe-throwing and even challenging ourselves with their zip-lining course. They’ve also got a cool nighttime zip-lining experience (though we did ours during the day) and offer boat tours, mountain biking, kayaking, apiary and fishing tours and so much more straight through the main reception building.

Whether you want to get out and meet a few people as you go on the tours and participate in the activities, walk the property and sit by the nighttime campfire or stick to spending time with just each other, you’ll find you’ll be able to spend your time together however you please – especially with a vineyard and restaurant right across the street. The Burning Kiln has winery tours and some great wines, as well as one phenomenal restaurant where you can switch your food options up and go for a romantic meal.

It’s a pretty great place overall to spend time with the one you love and have some fun while you’re at it!

Burlington Ontario Waterfront Hotel Burlington
View From Waterfront Hotel Burlington

Waterfront Hotel Burlington, Burlington

Less than an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto, you’ll find Burlington, a suburb that has boomed with it’s own activity and city life. We’ve lived near Burlington for so long but it was only recently that we actually managed to take a weekend to stay there and explore. When we did, we stayed at the Waterfront Hotel Burlington and we found that the hotel, and the surrounding area, has much to offer any type of traveller but it is also a fantastic destination for a romantic getaway.

The Waterfront Hotel Burlington is located exactly as its name suggests: along the waterfront in downtown Burlington. The Waterfront Trail is perfect for a romantic stroll and there is usually a lot of activity downtown any time of the year, but especially in the summertime.

The rooms are spacious, clean and stylish and the hotel also has a pool, hot tub, fitness centre and restaurant so your time within the hotel is comfortable and amenity-full. We loved that complimentary breakfast is included and it is a short walk from amazing restaurants if you do decide to venture out for a meal. If you do choose to find an alternate breakfast spot or an after-breakfast coffee and doughnut, we’d highly recommend The Sunshine Doughnut Co. within walking distance.

Nearby, you’ll find the Art Gallery of Burlington, various festivals, a food tour with Burlington Food Tours and various bars, restaurants and cafes. If you’re making it a weekend getaway and want to venture outside the downtown area, you’ll find the Royal Botanical Gardens and Nickel Brook Brewing Co. are great additions to your itinerary.

While we spent a weekend in Burlington exploring, we only scratched the surface as this is one place you could spend a lot of time exploring together, especially the culinary scene!

Casino Rama Hotel Room
Casino Rama Resort Deluxe Suite

Casino Rama Resort, Orillia

An hour and a half north of the city you’ll find a resort that promises a complete escape from the city. The hotel itself offers only luxury suites which means you’ll have a little home-away-from-home and since there is delicious food, a wonderful spa and great entertainment right within the resort itself (you don’t need to step outside) you can hibernate inside and immerse yourself in each other and still wander away from the hotel room to find fun things to do together. While it is known for its casino, there’s a lot more to the resort than just gambling and we’ve actually already written about some of the things to do at Casino Rama beyond gambling!

Another great thing about Casino Rama Resort is that it is located in a beautiful area with a lot of outdoor activities as well as museums and a really wonderful food scene. If you do decide to step outside the resort property, you’ll find amazing places to eat in Orillia and lots to do too! Wintertime is especially romantic with the fireplace in your suite and still offers a ton of things to do in Orillia.

Downtown Toronto

Hotel X, Toronto

While all the other romantic getaway destinations are outside of Toronto, there is one place located downtown that allows you to feel like you’ve escaped the city even while sticking to the heart of it.

Hotel X is one of Toronto’s newest hotels right on the waterfront and offers its guests a complete escape from the bustling city around it. It’s the ultimate staycation if you’re from around the city and one fantastic romantic weekend getaway destination if you’re travelling into Toronto, with its many restaurant and cafe options, athletic facility, rooftop pool, cinema, gallery and archaeological exhibit along with tons of complimentary amenities.

If you’re looking for a way to spend some time exclusively focused on each other and avoid the distractions of the outside world, Hotel X is where you’ll want to go.

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Romantic Getaways near Toronto

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

From the bustling boardwalk to the smiling faces, there are plenty of things I enjoy about Ocean City, though I must admit my favorite part of visiting this pleasant beach town is the food. Ocean City has a broad range of fresh, unique savory options that make my mouth water just remembering them. I’m excited to share some of my favorites with you.

7 of the Top Places To Eat in Ocean City

Best in Brunch – OC Surf Café

This little café might be known for their beachy décor, but I know them for their sweet potato burrito. Each burrito comes with the perfect combination of black beans, guacamole, grilled sweet potatoes and cheese all wrapped together in a whole wheat tortilla for less than ten dollars. Make sure to roll out of bed before two in the afternoon, or you’ll miss the deliciousness. The café is open Thursday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 
 
 
 
 
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Sweet Treats –Hobby Horse Ice Cream Parlor

I never make a trip to the beach without stopping by the local ice cream parlor for a sweet treat. Located on Ocean Ave, this family owned shop is hard to miss with the carousel horse out front. I have a tough time deciding between the 47 different flavor offerings, which range from maple walnut to rum raisin to traditional vanilla bean. The owners use real ingredients for all of their ice cream – it’s easy to taste the difference. The parlor is open seasonally from May to October.

Peaceful Surfing – 4th Street Café

Going wrong with art, coffee and free Wi-Fi is hard. I like to stop in 4th Street Café before heading down to the beach to soak up some sun. The cafe offers free Wi-Fi for guests and a frequently changing assortment of food and artwork available at affordable prices. I find it impossible to get bored with the selections here. Though hours vary in the winter and summer, the café is open year-round.

Fresh Seafood – Spadafora’s Restaurant and Clam Bar

When dining alone, I prefer to head to casual, low-key restaurants with the best food I can find. Spadafora’s Restaurant and Clam Bar doesn’t disappoint. My favorite selections here are the Cape May Sea Scallops and the Blackened Tuna Taco. It’s no surprise Spadafora’s is known as one of the best restaurants on the Jersey Shore. Make sure to stop by during the summer months as they are only open seasonally.

Guilty Pleasure – Cathy’s 14th Street Bakery

After a morning workout, I savor nothing more than biting into one of Cathy’s 14th Street Bakery’s famous white cream donuts sans guilt. Located on the corner of Asbury Avenue and 14th Street close to downtown, Cathy’s is easily accessible. While it’s hard to pick a favorite bakery in Ocean City – there are at least three others throughout town – the fresh ingredients and warm service are, to me, what set Cathy’s apart. Before visiting, call ahead or check their Facebook page, hours can vary.

Traditional Fare – Manco & Manco

More times than I like to admit, I don’t have a chance to sit down for a meal. Other times I prefer to grab a quick bite on the go rather than take a break from what I’m doing. Regardless, Manco & Manco offers the perfect solution with their single slice pizza options. The price tag is a bit higher compared to some of the other local fare, but it is well worth it for the quality. My personal favorites are the spinach or the plain. Manco & Manco is open year-round from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

 
 
 
 
 
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Change of Pace – Yianni’s Cafe

Yes, it is possible to continue eating healthily while visiting the Jersey Shore even though I don’t always like to. Yianni’s Café makes it easy to stick to any diet. Stop in and try the Greek Island Ahi Tuna with lentils and grilled zucchini, it’s divine. Not a fan of fish or seafood? The portabella mushroom sandwich, topped with sautéed spinach and red peppers is packed with flavor. Yianni’s is open year-round.

Ocean City, New Jersey has many eating options which will please the palates of even the pickiest eaters. Excuse me while I order a pizza, I worked up an appetite recalling all those mouth-watering choices.


 Kacey Mya Profile Picture                                           ABOUT THE AUTHOR                                                           

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. You can find her on Twitter & Pinterest.


 

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Where to Eat in Ocean City New Jersey

For many, winter means travelling to warmer destinations and escaping the cold, but what if we told you there was a place you could go that would make you fall in love with the season, snow and all? That may be hard to believe for some but it’s exactly what happened to us when we visited Quebec City in the winter. We fell in love with pretty much everything about it and it has become one of our favourite destinations, no matter the season. It’s a place that has something to do throughout the year and with so much to offer when the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall, Quebec City in the winter is an experience you’ll definitely want to have.

Top Things To Do When You Visit Quebec City In The Winter

If you do get a chance to explore Quebec City in the winter months, we’ve put together a list of some of the best things to do while there that will have you experiencing the city indoors and out!

Spend The Night In An Ice Hotel

Perhaps one of the most unique things to do in Quebec City involves ice… and a lot of it. The Ice Hotel, or Hotel de Glace, is the only ice hotel in North America and one of the most unique experiences we’ve ever had.  The hotel is located on the property of the Village Vacances Valcartier and is made of solid ice, sculpted each year to fit a different theme with multiple rooms and suites, a bar area and an ice slide. Guests can choose to stay in a regular room, a themed suite or one of the fireplace suites as well. They’ll provide everything you need, and walk you through the process, to stay warm and comfortable through the night. You’ll also get a room at the Hotel Valcartier on the grounds to keep your luggage, charge your phones, shower or use after you wake up in the ice hotel or if you should choose to leave your ice room earlier in the morning. 

It really is a once in a lifetime experience and we were surprised at how warm we were the whole evening! We also loved that the ice hotel is located on the same property as one great resort and winter playground, which is a whole other experience to have while in Quebec City in the winter!

Embrace The Season At Village Vacances Valcartier

Village Vacances Valcartier

As we had mentioned, the Ice Hotel is located at the Village Vacances Valcartier, a resort that includes the Hotel Valcartier, restaurants and an indoor waterpark. Whether you spend the night at the Ice Hotel or not, this is definitely a place to check out as you can enjoy the entire property AND visit the Ice Hotel for a tour to see the amazing sculptures and works of art throughout.

Since the outdoor waterpark is obviously not functional in the winter time, the grounds become a winter playground which is, according to them, the largest winter playground in North America. Here you’ll find 35 snow slides, a skateway that is illuminated in the evening, a snow fort and mini-slides for younger kids.

Tip: Village Vacances Valcartier is located a bit outside old Quebec. If you’re not planning on spending the evening at either the Ice Hotel or the Hotel Valcartier, we would recommend you get there earlier in the day in order to experience as much of the grounds, including touring the Ice Hotel, as you can.

Enjoy The Festivities At Winter Carnival/Carnaval de Quebec

Carnaval in Quebec City Winter Carnival

The first major winter carnival took place in 1894 and though it was interrupted for a period of time, it was brought back and has evolved into the huge winter celebration it has become today. If you are able to travel to Quebec City during Carnaval de Quebec (typically the end of January into the beginning of February) we would highly recommend taking time to explore the various activities throughout the city. From a parade, to an ice castle, outdoor games, drinks and food and even an ice canoe race, the Winter Carnival in the city highlights the camaraderie of the people, the fun of the culture and the joy that can be found even in the dead of winter. They’ll have a full schedule of events online and be sure to see if you can track down Bonhomme! He’s a national celebrity! 

Tip: Though it is cold out during this time, there are many ways to keep warm that will allow you to stay out for longer periods of time. Layers of breathable material, winter jacket, hat, globes scarf, snow pants and warm boots. Our MUST HAVE for winter excursions are the warm packs (like HotHands) for feet and hands. Just bring a bunch with you, take them out of the package when you are ready to head out and slip one in each of your boots and gloves (bring extra just in case). They’ll keep warm for hours and really make a difference.

Warm Up While Enjoying Amazing Cuisine

La Buche Quebec City

There is no shortage of good food to be found in Quebec City and stepping indoors to grab a tasty meal makes for the perfect excuse for escaping the cold. 

One of our favourite sit-down restaurants, offering traditional Quebecois cuisine is La Buche in Old Quebec. It is in a perfect location if you’re exploring the city and we always make a point of visiting when we can. Their food is ridiculously good and offers locally inspired dishes like foie gras, poutine, rabbit wings, meat pies and smoked salmon. We haven’t been disappointed with any dish we’ve tried and we are always impressed with the overall experience.

Tip: Check out their bathroom. It’s pretty much an art installation.

If you’re not looking to stop for long because, and trust us, the streets of Quebec even in the winter will have you enthralled, we’d recommend making a quick stop at one of the locations of the chain restaurant Chez AshTon. We hear it’s a late-night stop for many locals but we found it enjoyable no matter the time of day. Though their poutine is the main attraction, their burgers, hotdogs and sandwiches are quite good as well.

Tip: We loved La Galvaude poutine – with fries, chicken, green peas and gravy – though if you want to make it a real poutine, you’ll need to ask them to add cheese curds to your order!

Take Part in Unique Experiences on The River

Ice Fishing in Quebec City

One of the coolest (excuse the pun) areas of Quebec City for winter fun is the St. Lawrence River.  In fact, there are some incredibly unique activities that happen pretty much ON the river. At the Village Nordik du port de Quebec you’ll find another kind of winter playground. Here you can participate in ice fishing, whether in an igloo or open air, and even purchase a package which includes a chef preparing food for you after your ice fishing experience OR preparing your catch as a meal if you do end up catching something. They also have an outdoor skating area if you’re looking to spend more active time on the river and because the Village Nordik is located at the Market Old Port of Quebec (or the Marche du Vieux-Port de Quebec, you’ll also be able to head inside to warm up with some shopping, food and hot beverages. 

Another neat winter activity in Quebec City that happens on the river is the Quebec City-Levis Ferry. The ferry operates year round and offers stunning views of Quebec City from the water and from the Levis side of the river. You’ll also get the opportunity to see the ice breaking as the ferry moves through the water which is a unique experience in itself.

Tip: While on the Levis side, you should take the opportunity to explore a bit and grab a bite to eat or a hot beverage before heading back across. 

Participate in Incredible Winter Outdoor Activities With A View

Just taking a walk around the city will have you running into some stunning views and cool city sights no matter what time of the year you visit Quebec City but there are a few outdoor activities you can participate in, that we haven’t already mentioned, that will offer a special view in the winter.

One of our favourite streets to walk is Rue Saint-Jean and in the winter time, Place D’Youville located on it, has an outdoor skating rink (with skate rentals) open both in the day and night that will have you gliding in the midst of a winter wonderland. It’s a beautiful location to be outdoors and skating around and we particularly enjoy it at night when the street is lit up.

If you visit Quebec City you’ll definitely be seeing the iconic Chateau Frontenac and the Plains of Abraham and in the winter these two areas become host to gorgeous views. The plains of Abraham are a perfect spot for snowshoeing (we often see rentals in the area but it would be a good idea to plan ahead) and the views are amazing especially if you can make your way to Terrasse Pierre-Dugua-de Mons and look out over the St. Lawrence river and the Chateau Frontenac. At the Dufferin Terrace by the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, you’ll find a toboggan slide that was built in 1884. Of course there’s no better time to toboggan then in the winter and the views going down are great, that is if you can keep your eyes open while reaching speeds of up to 70km/hr!

You’ll also find you’ll run into some unique treasures in the winter by just taking a walk outdoors around Quebec City. Throughout Carnaval, ice sculptures are placed across the city and statues of Bonhomme are scattered around. 

While not technically outdoors, we absolutely love going to the Observatoire de la Capitale, an observatory that allows you near panoramic views of the city. In the winter, when the white snow coats the city and the winter weather makes it seem almost still and silent, it’s an extra beautiful view. 

Tip: The last time we went to the observatory we got there before sunset and before it closed and were able to catch the city in the daylight and watch as night fell and the lights of the city turned on.

 

There’s this lake in Canada. It sits in a gorgeous, lush area where the air is so fresh you can’t help but breathe deeply, where the people are so friendly you can’t help but keep a smile on your face and the views are so stunning, you’ll want to keep coming back for more. It’s a lake that divides two provinces but manages to bring them both together in a completely unique and fascinating way.

Three cultures, two provinces, one lake. It’s called Lake Temiskaming but to us, it is one of the most fascinating destinations and experiences we’ve had during our travels.

Where Still Waters Run Deep

Lake Temiskaming, Ontario

Lake Temiskaming is aptly named after the Algonquin word Temikami, or Temiskaming, meaning deep waters as the lake can reach depths of 709 ft. But it’s not just the water that runs deep, the communities living on the lake have untold depths we only scratched the surface of while we were there.

It seems as though no matter where you are on the lake, you’ll find the influence of all of the surrounding communities – you’ll encounter a mix of French and English in language and heritage and a growing integration and influence of native culture around the lake. It’s fascinating to visit from town to town and see that each has its own vibe yet are also all intrinsically connected. Whether you spell it Temiskaming (a decades-old error), Timiskaming, or Temiscamingue depends on where you are around the lake and which language you are speaking but to us, they all refer to an area that is as peaceful and beautiful as it is complex and rich in character.

We were extra fortunate to be able to explore the lake with locals, especially a couple (Vivianne & Roger) who are pillars of the community and who have incredible knowledge about the lake, both past and present. They were our keystone from which we were able to connect to the whole and through them we saw how interconnected everyone was and what a beautiful place it was to be – thanks to the people, the cultures and the landscape.

boating on lake temiskaming, ontario and quebec

It was with them that we were able to delve deeper into life on Lake Temiskaming and experience so much of what the area has to offer for both residents and tourists alike. It was also with them that we got to witness first-hand the connectedness of the communities through Vivianne and Roger, and all of those we met along the way.

It truly is a phenomenal place to visit and if you get a chance, here are some things to do whether you’re on the Ontario side, Quebec side or plan to make your way to both:

Ontario Side of Lake Temiskaming – Temiskaming Shores

Temiskaming Shores makes up a large portion of the Ontario coast of Lake Temiskaming and is where we spent our time while on that side of the provincial border. It’s here that we found an interesting bilingualism of French and English in a way we’ve not seen anywhere else, spoken in soft accents, at times not noticeable no matter the language used. We also found a lively atmosphere, full of friendly people who all seemed to know one another… or at least have very few degrees of separation.

What To Do

There’s so much to do in the area but here are some of the highlights of our time there!

Vivianne and Roger were instrumental in getting us out onto the lake and in showing us some of the best spots to enjoy. If you’re able to venture to the lake with a motorboat there are some interesting sights to see, like the ancient cliff called Devil’s Rock, and many islands to observe, like Farr Island. It’s truly a pleasure to spend some time on the water and with marinas located in various towns in both provinces, you’ll even be able to dock and explore (i.e. Haileybury on the Ontario side and Ville-Marie on the Quebec side).

Tip: For now, if you’re looking to rent a boat or boating equipment, like kayaks or canoes, you’ll have to plan on your way into the area by stopping at one of the larger cities or rental places along the way and bringing it with you the rest of the way. For those travelling north into Temiskaming Shores, a stop in North Bay would be perfect.

Devil's Rock Lake Temiskaming

One of our most memorable outings was our hike and picnic at Devil’s Rock. We had seen this giant cliff from the water below while boating but it wasn’t until we hiked to it and got to see the view from the top that we truly appreciated it. It’s easy to pick out Devil’s Rock from below – rising 300 ft from the lake, one of the top peaks of the escarpment looks very much like a face. We took a hiking trail that led straight to the cliff and enjoyed a picnic with one of the most stunning views in the province.

If you plan your time in the area right, the craft beer festival – North on Tap – is a great local event to attend. Featuring Ontario craft brewers, as well as some local fare and music, the festival is a ton of fun and a great way to get a taste of the community, both literally and figuratively.

Where To Stay

Some of the accommodations in the area also offer boating experiences. Presidents’ Suites is a collection of historic homes that have been restored and reopened as B&Bs. They will also take you over to Farr island where you’ll find some of the many activities they offer. While there is treehouse glamping available for those that want to stay on the island, they are looking to build and open several glamping cabins in the near future.

Waterfront Inn New Liskeard Ontario

We had the pleasure of staying at the Waterfront Inn which, as its name suggests, sits right on the lake and offers a spectacular view. It was such a great room with a perfect location and we were thrilled to be able to open our patio doors and literally step out to the lake whenever we wanted. They were also closeby to a lot of the areas we wanted to see, as well as the marina.

Where To Eat

Not only did we enjoy our accommodations at the Waterfront Inn, we also loved their restaurant: Rooster’s Bar and Grill. Casual dining with a patio overlooking the lake and some really great tasting food made it a go-to spot whenever we were in the hotel around meal-time.

Cafe Meteor Bistro was another favourite of ours. Located in Haileybury, this cafe-at-day/bistro-at-night was brilliantly put together by the same owners of Presidents’ Suites which meant it was not only serving some amazing food but also jam-packed with history. Their food is made from fresh, locally sourced products when possible and offers an insight into the uniquely grown and raised culinary ingredients of the region as well as the cultural influences in the cuisine. The decor revolves around, and is based on, the famous S.S. Meteor passenger steamboat which was an integral part of lake life in the late 1800s until 1926 when it caught fire.

cafe meteor haileybury ontario breakfast

One of the local recommendations for the New Liskeard area was Ali’s Bar and Grill and it did not disappoint with it’s diverse menu large portions and delicious food. Though we enjoyed everything we tried, we really liked the firecracker shrimp and

Finally, if you’re looking to taste more of the local cuisine and see exactly what this area produces, you’ll want to check out the Riverside Farmer’s Market during the warmer months. It’s here you’ll see all the different kinds of food and produce grown and created around Temiskaming Shores.

Quebec Side of Lake Temiskaming – Temiscamingue

While native culture permeates Temiskaming Shores and all three cultures coalesce along the lake’s coast, it’s in Quebec where you’ll find the core of Timiskaming First Nations and the Timiskaming First Nations reserve. We were so fortunate to be able to speak with an incredibly talented artist on the reserve, Karl Chevrier who not only creates stunning works of art in all different kinds of mediums and materials but also teaches art forms to local students. His words were moving, his artwork enthralling and we learned so much from him about the history of his people and his community.

Karl Chevrier Lake Temiskaming Quebec

After Ontario, we got to explore First Nations culture and then head further along the Quebec side of Lake Temiskaming. Exploring this area – Temiscaminque – meant we only added to the list of things to do and see while on the lake.

What To Do

One of the best things to do on the Ontario side, is also one of the best things to do on the Quebec side – get out and enjoy the outdoors. Boating on the lake can take you to waterfalls and islands or you can kayak and take your time to enjoy the nature surrounding you. There are also recreational trails for hiking or biking in the summer and snowmobiling and winter activities in the colder months.

While it was an unplanned stop, we were so happy that we took the time to visit Fort Temiscamingue National Historic Site. It was this trading post that played an important role in the history of the area and of the country and its fur-trade. There’s also a significant number of displays and exhibits focusing on the thousand-year presence of aboriginal peoples.

lake temiskaming muskoka chair

One of the coolest things we did was visit the Fossilarium and got hunting for fossils of our own. The area is rife with fossils of living organisms that were previously living underwater but, over centuries, are now fossilized and exposed throughout the area. After learning about what used to inhabit the area and seeing examples of their fossils, we got to go on an excursion ourselves and find our own fossils. Not only did we find some, we were able to keep and preserve them before they became crushed or eroded by human activity.

Every year people from across the lake and all over come to attend one large food festival – Foire Gourmande – and if you’re able to go we highly recommend you do. Food from all over the region and northeastern ontario, craft beer and art by local artists are all available at this weekend-long festival. We had a chance to taste so much of the local food and produce and enjoy some truly fantastic music as the live bands played late into the night each day. This is something that unites the entire lake together while at the same time reaching to other areas of both provinces and beyond.

Where To Stay

We were able to stay in several different accommodations on the Quebec side of Lake Temiskaming and while we were impressed by all of them, two stood out to us. Miwapanee Lodge in Kipawa was a perfect B&B for a getaway. Beautifully appointed rooms, absolutely amazing food (Ask for the pancakes for breakfast. You won’t be disappointed!) and a beautiful setting on the lake. It was both private and romantic and we have already talked about going back.

Domaine TemiKami had us in another piece of wilderness paradise as we stayed in a cabin by the water. Here we had a fully equipped kitchen, an outdoor hot tub and a peaceful view. We loved that it was located close enough to Ville Marie to get to the town, restaurants and the Foire Gourmande Festival but was secluded enough so that we could truly enjoy nature and the beauty that is Temiscamingue.

Where To Eat

If you’re visiting during Foire Gourmande, you’ll have a bunch of food to taste and try but if you’re not, there are a few places that we tried and highly recommend.

fresh produce at farmers market ville marie quebec

If you look up or go to Station Centre-Ville, you’ll probably be a bit confused as to why we would suggest it. Yes, it’s a gas station but it’s not just a gas station. It was the vision of the owners to create something more and be something more in the community. Here you’ll not only find the best (and cheapest) selection of craft beers from both sides of the provincial border, but you’ll also find some gourmet, ready-to-eat meals like sandwiches and pizzas.

At Le Bistro Elle et Louis Bistro, you’ll find two menus playing off the name of the restaurant: one directed to men (Louis) and one directed to women (Elle). While you’re not limited to whatever menu you get, it’s fun to see who orders what in a larger group of both men and women. Both menus are packed with dishes that offer a fusion of flavours of the area and we especially loved their gourmet burgers and poutine.

L’Eden Rouge is a truly interesting restaurant on the site of a vegetable farm meaning the produce makes it to the table extremely fresh. Though they change their menus frequently, they are truly inspired and we ate every bite of each dish we were served.

We kept hearing about the restaurant La Bannick no matter where we were on the lake – Ontario or Quebec – so we knew we had to make it there for at least one meal. While we heard a lot about how good dinner is, we only managed to sneak in a Sunday brunch buffet but if that was anything to go by, it’s definitely a great place to eat! La Bannick also offers campgrounds and cottages, a spa and other outdoor activities if you’re looking for more than just a good meal.

If you’re looking to explore the area, you can always check out their Lake Tour Passport. While the contest is over, the passport map is a great guide for hitting up some of the great stops all around the lake! 

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We absolutely love Japanese cuisine and when we say that, we literally mean all things Japanese cuisine. There hasn’t been a thing we’ve tried that we don’t enjoy. Okay, you caught us. There was a brief period of time where we avoided natto but we’re over that now. So you can imagine our excitement when we heard there was a new restaurant opening nearby – Supermoon Japanese Style Cheesecakes – that specializes in Japanese cheesecake. That excitement only increased when we were invited to their soft launch to try out what they would be serving up… and what it is, is a whole bunch of delicious.

What is Japanese Cheesecake?

Japanese style cheesecake is much different than the western kind in that it is lighter, fluffier and doesn’t come with a base (like graham crumbs) that other cheesecakes typically have. It’s also a little less sweet and a little more melt-in-your-mouth (cue the drool now).

best japanese cheesecake in toronto

Japanese cheesecake is often described as a combination of the flavour of a light, creamy cheesecake and the texture of a fluffy souffle. For us, it is more like an airy angel food cake meets flavourful cheesecake but regardless of how you choose to describe it, what really matters is that it is absolutely delicious.

It’s something you’ll find easily if you travel to Japan but has begun to gain popularity elsewhere as Japanese chains and independent restaurants are opening around the world and as it’s a lighter dessert option, its desirability is guaranteed to continue to grow.

Where You’ll Find The Best Japanese Cheesecake in the GTA

You can find Supermoon Japanese Style Cheesecakes baking up delectable treats in unit 19 at 128 Queen St. South, Mississauga, Ontario.

When searching for a great Japanese cheesecake restaurant, we’re basically looking at several important things: first and foremost, the taste, texture and overall cheesecake experience. After that we look at the atmosphere of the restaurant, other menu options and any extras. We found that Supermoon Japanese Style Cheesecakes checked all the boxes for us and easily slid to the top of our Japanese Cheesecake list. (Phew, how many more times do you think we’ll be saying ‘cheesecake’ before this is done?)

Supermoon Japanese Style Cheesecakes Mississauga

Their cheesecakes have an ultra light and fluffy texture, with a brilliant flavour profile and perfect browning on the top. What makes this place so special is not only the amazing composition and culinary skill in creating these cakes, but also the unique flavour options like their chocolate or red velvet cheesecakes (with seasonal flavours to be added, well, seasonally). The recipe for these cheesecakes was meticulously developed for fluffy perfection and involves 3 different cheeses, but don’t expect the executive chef (and part owner), Mona Kustantini, to tell you all of the components. It’s those secret ingredients that give these cakes a mouthwatering edge.

Their bubble tea also impressed us as we rarely find bubble-tea-shop quality anywhere that isn’t, first and foremost, a bubble tea shop. Though we love our regular milk tea, we also tried and enjoyed their taro and matcha flavours and intend on going back to try more.

Supermoon legend mississauga ontario

With a unique story (check out the wall in their shop for the ‘Legend of Supermoon’), regular size cakes, cheese tarts, bubble tea and some amazing deals (buy 3 bubble teas, get one free; buy 10 cheesecakes, get one free; or buy any combination of tart, cake and bubble tea and get 10% off) it’s a place we’ll be returning to time and again.

 

Supermoon Japanese Style Cheesecakes is located in Streetsville, Mississauga and is a perfect place to get your fix of both Japanese cheesecake and bubble tea. Sure, you can head downtown Toronto and find yourself amid the big city Japanese cheesecake craze but you’ll find some of the tastiest Japanese cheesecakes, with a great story and some amazing menu options, after a calmer drive to this Mississauga take-out restaurant.

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

City living is wonderful, but the cost of living in some of the big U.S. cities—looking at you New York and Los Angeles—is a big deterrent for living there. Luckily this country has multiple wonderful cities throughout it where the cost of living is more affordable. Here are 10 of the most affordable cities you’ll find in the U.S.

1. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh is a great place to get the hustle and bustle of the city without feeling overwhelmed. It’s also cheap, especially when compared to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s other main city. One of the best benefits here is the low cost of housing and utilities.

Built around where three rivers meet, it’s also in a unique and gorgeous location. Even when you live there, the view of the city from Mount Washington doesn’t get old. Three major sports teams have stadiums there, and the energy in Pittsburgh on game day is something that’s hard to find anywhere else.

2. Fayetteville, AR

Another city with a very low cost of housing, Fayetteville comes in under the national average in every major expense. If that doesn’t sell you, the city has also been in the top five in the best places to live ranking two years running now. Factoring into that ranking was the low commute times, low unemployment rate and a lower crime rate compared to cities similar in size.

There are multiple parks in the city, as well as Lake Fayetteville, a sizeable lake great for fishing and kayaking. If you’re into history, the Clinton House Museum is here, as well as one of the most intact Civil War battlegrounds in the country, Prairie Grove.

3. Omaha, NE

omaha nebraska

Image via Flickr by vwCampin 

Omaha is also under the national average in all the major expenses, with housing and utilities being the farthest under. The city is located right in the heart of the country, giving you equal distance to all sorts of destinations.

Omaha itself offers a strong arts and culture scene with many museums and cultural events. The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is outstanding and takes at least a full day for you to see it all. Sports fans looking for something out of the box can enjoy the AKSARBEN Stock Show & Rodeo.

4. Des Moines, IA

Des Moines has a solid 10% lower cost of living than the rest of the country—housing and groceries being the lowest amenities. It tops the list as the most affordable city in the country due to less than 25% of income being spent on living expenses. It’s the only city that’s under 25% in that category.

If you’re a political junkie, the Iowa caucus is one of the biggest factors in a presidential election, meaning campaigns are sure to stop here. Downtown has been revitalized recently and is home to festivals, restaurants and other hot spots.

5. Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis is becoming more affordable, with its housing prices going down a bit this past year. Indy boasts both the Indy 500 and the Indianapolis Colts, so it’s another city that’s heaven for sports fans. It has a great arts and antiques scene, as well as live music. And if you need a break from the city, it’s surrounded by state parks.

6. Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids MichiganImage via Flickr by amtrack_russ 

While the transportation costs are a bit above average, Grand Rapids makes up for that with low housing and health care costs. If you love public art and craft beer, Grand Rapids is a great choice. The city gives off a small-town feeling, with people always waving hello as you walk by. There are 1200 acres of parks within the city, and if you’re looking for more water than the river offers, Lake Michigan is less than an hour away.

7. Knoxville, TN

Knoxville’s housing costs come in at a whopping 23% below the national average. Knoxville is known as the most dog friendly city, which is probably the best selling point a city could have. The Knoxville Museum of Art has fun classes so you can continue to learn and hone skills throughout your lifetime. Turkey Creek offers 300 acres of shopping if you’re craving some retail therapy.

8. Buffalo, NY

New York City may not be affordable, but Buffalo definitely is. It’s also one of the most beautiful cities to live in with all the waterfront views—it’s right on Lake Erie and the Niagara River. You’ll also have one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders, Niagara Falls, a short drive away. Winter is king here, with great skiing and ice-skating areas.

Whether you are looking to move, or just visit, check out this guide to Buffalo for where to stay, where to eat, what to do & what to see!

9 + 10 Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN

They don’t call them the twin cities for nothing. Both of these have a low cost of living and residents only pay a little under 26% of their income towards housing and utilities. The cities offer a high quality of life and the job market there is in its prime. You can be right in the thick of two cities and reap the benefits from both. It means more things to do and explore, and more job opportunities that are close to you.

Living in an amazing city doesn’t have to break the bank. While they might not be the biggest cities the country must offer, they still have that city feel and their own unique charms—not to mention being affordable.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts.

Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!


Cuba has long been a popular destination for vacations, especially for people looking for all-inclusive vacations and resorts that offer beautiful beaches and all the mojitos you want. Unlike many other destinations however, Cuba has been nested in a socio-political atmosphere unlike any other destination of its kind. It’s because of this that travellers often want to know more about the ins and outs of travel to the country and what to expect, and do, even when staying at all-inclusive resorts on the island.

We’ve been to Cuba several times and have visited quite a few resorts and with each experience we took home a tip or two about staying at one of their resorts. It seems like each time we learn something new and our last trip to Cayo Santa Maria, thanks to tripcentral.ca, was a wonderful experience that gave us even more insight.

No matter where you book your resort, what star it is or how long you plan to stay, we’ve put together 5 of our top travel tips for resorts in Cuba that you’ll want to consider before you go!

Bring Things To Give Away

This was a controversial subject on our last visit to the Cuba. For years, it was a given. When you travel to Cuba, you bring a bunch of things to give away to those working at the resort. This time, we found thread after thread online discussing why bringing things is not welcomed by the people of Cuba and is no longer a good idea. People repeatedly said it was an insult to the Cubans to receive goods in lieu of cash tips, that handing them toiletries, clothes or toys at any time was suggesting they It seems that ss the country’s political climate has been changing, so has the country’s entire socio-economic structure and that has given to changes in the way others around the world view the country and their behaviour towards it.

We decided to do a little research of our own while we were there and talk to those working on the resorts we were visiting. What we found was that there

Book Your A La Carte Right Away & Think of Sunsets

Something we try and do right away when we get to an all-inclusive resort is get our a la carte restaurant reservations booked. Though what restaurants and how many a la carte dinners are included with your stay differs depending on what resort you go to, the one thing that stays consistent is the demand for them.

Especially in high-season, reservations can book up fast, so it’s good practice to get yours booked as soon as possible. This guarantees you get the restaurant(s) you want as well as the day and time that suits you best. One huge factor that always plays into the timing of our reservations is sunsets. Depending on where you are staying in Cuba, you may have the opportunity to witness some beautiful sunsets and if you’re hoping to catch as many as you can, you’ll want to make sure you’ve booked your a la cartes around sunset hours.

Of course, since we can never predict what the skies have in store, we like to keep sunset hours free on all the days to make sure we’ll catch at least one or two beautiful sunsets!

 cayo santa maria cuba resorts

Know Your Drinks

Whether you drink alcoholic beverages or not, your all-inclusive package is going to include unlimited drinks of any variety. Between a limited availability of products (though these limitations seem to be less and less with each passing year), translations and the like, you may be surprised to find your favourite beverage doesn’t taste exactly as you expected… but that doesn’t mean it can’t.

We’ve had so many people mention the taste of their drinks to us while at resorts. The coffee was an espresso rather than a regular coffee, the rye and ginger didn’t taste right, the list goes on. The problem may lay more at your feet than at the bartenders’ or resorts’.

Instead of just asking for your cocktail or mixed beverage, ask for them to be made with specific liquors (that you may already know you like) when you order. While it’s true that not all resorts will include all the alcohol options (some may charge more for top-shelf liquors), you’ll still be better off finding the best ones for the drinks you like.

A tip for rum drinkers? If you can, Havana Club 7 year is found at most resorts and will up the quality of any of your rum beverages from the basic bottled rums they may use. For non-drinkers, ask if there’s a special virgin cocktail that the bartender makes (you’ll be surprised at the tasty concoctions you can find at resorts that come without booze) and be specific when ordering your coffee beverages – some of the names may be the same but the composition of your brew may not!

Bring What Cash You Need

This is something we get reminded of time and time again, AFTER we’re already in Cuba. We always think we’ve brought enough cash with us and figure we’ll be fine. We always wind up down to our last dollar (or should we say peso) and have some minor stresses about what will happen if we need some cash at customs or at the airport.

As of this article, Cuba still does not accept American credit cards or any credit card affiliated with American companies (which is a vast majority of them around the world). Since ATMs aren’t widespread, you’ll need to bring the cash you need so you can convert it once you are in Cuba.

It’s hard to know exactly how much you’ll need especially since, if you’re at an all-inclusive, you’ve already pre-paid for everything. What you’ll need to think of is souvenirs, excursions, any transportation for sightseeing, wifi cards, emergency money (e.g. medicine at the resort) and tips. You don’t have to convert all of it unless you need it but it helps to have extra on hand. If there’s a safe at your resort it also won’t make it a hardship to have as you can lock it up and forget it unless you need it.

A tip about tips? Leave them! It is greatly appreciated and a few dollars here and there for those who do a great job does make a difference.

Prep Your Apps and Downloads Before You Go

This is another lesson learned too late: make sure you have any apps and downloads completed before you leave for your trip. While you can get wifi (there are 1.50 CUC per hour cards that can be purchased at resorts) it is unpredictable and you probably won’t be able to get through larger downloads.

If you’ve prepped ahead you’ll be able to upload photos to social media, send emails and even Skype/Facetime. You’ll also want to make sure your audio library is stocked and any e-books are ready to go as well!

 

 

The first thing you’ll notice about Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is that it is actually located on Cayo las Brujas, an island close to Cayo Santa Maria. While it is a different island it still has the same stunning coastline for which Cayo Santa Maria is best known and the Dhawa is located on an interesting part of that coast – managing to be at times both rugged and sandy – with blue water and long stretches of beach.

We recently stayed at this all-inclusive resort for a week thanks to tripcentral.ca and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. If you’re looking to go yourself, we’ve put together an overview of the resort along with some highlights and suggestions of things you won’t want to miss while you’re there!

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Resort Overview

As one of the newer resorts in the area (as of June 2017) it offers a more modern atmosphere for those travelling to Cuba and a more intimate all-inclusive experience. We found the resort to be incredibly well-maintained with fantastic service and friendly staff.

dhawa cayo santa maria lobby

Though the property is smaller in size than some of the resorts that we’ve seen, you’ve got some options for spending your day in the resort including 2 large connected pools and one smaller, wading pool, tennis courts, a fitness centre, a spa and, of course, the beach.

At night, you can find your way to one of three a la carte restaurants, enjoy the nightly entertainment, head to the disco, listen to live music by the lobby bar or grab a snack at the 24-hour snack bar overlooking the pool.

The Standard Room at Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria

The standard room comes with either one king bed or two queen beds in a bright, island-vibe space that has either a garden, pool or ocean view. We found the necessary amenities like a safe, mini-fridge, iron and ironing board, hairdryer and toiletries and appreciated that the water and beverages were replaced daily in the fridge.

Since we’re not ones to stay in our room and are always out and about, a room with a view is nice but not always a priority for us. If it is for you, we’d recommend getting a premium package that includes a oceanview or request pool view as garden view will probably not be what you’re looking for.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Deluxe Room

Other than that, the room is clean and spacious, welcoming and comfortable and we didn’t find any of the accommodation buildings to be too far out of the way from the major features of the resort.

If you did want to upgrade further, you can always choose a junior or one-bedroom suite which will upgrade you to VIP status and offers a whole array of additional amenities and resort extras.

The Beach

We had mentioned that the beach manages to be both sandy and rugged and this is something we loved about the area of the shore that the Dhawa is located. When first walking onto the beach, a rocky outcrop greets you from the end of the resort’s beach, it’s natural and pretty and a great contrast to the white sand, blue skies and water. It really is only a small section off to the side as the beach extends from it and is a long stretch of soft sand with lots of beach loungers and shaded cabanas to use.

dhawa cayo santa maria resort beach

On the beach is also a bar and restaurant which means you really don’t have to leave until they close! We found that it was a great spot to watch the sunrise, soak in some rays on a lounger, cool down and relax in the water and just enjoy the fact that you’re on a beautiful island. They also have non-motorized sports available for free to resort guests such as catamaran rides which makes for new experiences each day.

The Food & Service

Cuban resorts have long been criticized for their food but we’ve been fortunate to have stayed at resorts in Cuba that have pretty decent food and we’ve yet to have any complaints. The Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is no exception. Their breakfast buffet was our absolute favourite. While it had a decent variety in general, it was their crepe station (pancake station) that had us up in time each day to make sure we didn’t miss out. Freshly made to order, with a variety of fruit toppings and sauces, they were an incredibly delicious and sumptuous way to spend each morning while on vacation.

The lunch and dinner buffet was also good with changing items daily but we found some favourites and tended to gravitate to them. One of those was the fresh fish section for dinner where the cooked prawns sauteed with garlic were spectacular.

dhawa french restaurant

The a la carte restaurants were also a pretty good change from the regular and offered us a bit of a romantic setting. We tried both the French restaurant (Maison Gourmet) and the seafood restaurant (Fuego del Mar) and though we liked them both, our favourite was the French restaurant. Each guest is able to book each of the 3 a la carte restaurants for one evening.

There was one place in particular that we could often be found: The 24 hour snack bar. Since it was open all the time, we found ourselves there for lunch, for snacks, for late-night second dinners and everything in between. It was definitely a great place to go if you’re hungry no matter what time of day.

Overall, the service was great. The staff was incredibly friendly and attentive and we found ourselves becoming regulars at a particular bar, section of the buffet and the snack bar. The staff at each one made a point to know what we liked and to make us feel welcome at all times.

The Entertainment & Other Amenities

We had fun on the resort and some of that had to do with the entertainment team. Always around during the day starting activities by the pool or beach and performing every night, they were fun and engaging.

The nightly entertainment was performed on stage in the resort theatre (with the exception of one night) and was different each night of the week. The performances varied from musical performances to dancing to shows involving audience participation and were lively ways to spend some time in the evening.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Entertainment

After the shows, the disco started offering a club/lounge-like atmosphere that continued into the late hours of the evening.

If you’re not relaxed after watching a show or participating in one of the games or activities, there’s always the spa area where you can get a massage under a cabana overlooking the water. Though you may want to save that massage until after you give it a go on their tennis courts or burn off some energy in their fitness centre – both areas are great if you’re looking to add a bit of fitness to your vacation.

Our Tips For The Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria:

There are a few things we think you should know if you are planning a trip to Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria resort. For starters, you are not going to want to miss checking out the catamaran rides as they are a complimentary service of the resort and is a great experience  (do remember that tips are very much appreciated by those that will be taking you out on the water). If you enjoy the entertainment portion of all-inclusive resorts, the evening with the entertainment by the pool was by far one of our favourites and truly impressive and may just be something you’ll want to be sure to see.

We said that we were often at the snack bar and that means that we tried the entire menu. What we kept coming back for though were the chicken fingers. They were so good and the interesting mixture of bbq sauce, mustard and ketchup (we’re actually not sure what the sauce that comes with them is made of) was surprisingly delicious on them though you can ask for them without sauce if you’d prefer. If you’re not sure what to eat, or you’re hungry late, we’d definitely recommend heading over to the 24-hour snack bar by the pool for some!

 

We’re always looking for great new places to visit in Ontario, especially ones that promise unique experiences, opportunities to challenge ourselves, and pretty much anything to do with good food. So, we were especially excited when Attractions Ontario told us  about Long Point Eco Adventures, a place that offers all three of these in one destination and that makes for a fantastic getaway in Ontario.

Long Point Eco Adventures is located in Norfolk County, an easy 2 hour drive from Toronto and is a destination all in itself, even though the surrounding area is also quite a beautiful and interesting place to discover with Turkey Point Provincial Park, Long Point National Wildlife Area, a whole bunch of waterfront activities and small town charm along Lake Erie.

Whether you choose to spend some time sightseeing or not, you’ll find that pretty much everything you need, from accommodation to recreation, can be found at Long Point Eco Adventure. Our time there was spent enjoying nature while camping in style, overcoming fears while participating in exhilarating activities and dining on some delicious food after sipping on great wine from the vineyard right across the street.

Here’s a little look at what there is to do at, and why we love, Long Point Eco Adventures:

Luxury Glamping

You’ll find three types of accommodation at Long Point Eco Adventures and while one is rustic, the other two take camping from roughing it to living in luxury.

Long Point Eco Adventures Cabins

For those who prefer a more comfortable camping experience, the wilderness pods are a great alternative that will have you feeling like you’re still camping in the wilderness but without any hint of ‘roughing it’. These pods have a comfortable queen bed, a mini-fridge, couch and table with chairs. It also has a deck with chairs, a washroom with a flush toilet and running hot and cold water, though you will be using shared shower facilities. Since there are electrical outlets and wifi as well, you’ll have everything you need to disconnect and relax or connect if needed. You’ll also find a hot complimentary buffet breakfast in the morning.

long point eco adventure wilderness pod

If you want to step up the luxury factor even more, there are wilderness suites that will help you do just that. Spacious long tented structures, queen or king-size beds, all the amenities of the wilderness pods with the addition of a ceilingless shower allowing you the incredible experience of showering under the stars. It’s an incredible glamping experience and perfect for a weekend getaway or longer.

Of course, if you’re more into an authentic wilderness vibe, you can try one of their camping pods which are cabins with twin or queen beds, none of the interior amenities of the other options and shared outhouses and showers.

Eco Adventures & Outdoor Recreation

From the ground to the sky, it’s an incredibly fascinating destination that offers so much to do. You can tailor your visit to whatever you enjoy doing as much, or as little as you want, tapping into their eco adventures and outdoor recreational activities.

long point eco adventure ziplining ontario

For us, the huge draw was the ziplining and canopy tour which had us zipping through tree tops, catching great views of Long Point Bay and Turkey Point and completing a 40 ft rappel. It’s an exciting experience that can be done during the day or at night with 8 ziplines and 2 suspension bridges. We found it an amazing first ziplining experience and those on the tour with us said it was a great ziplining course even for experienced zipliners.

It was also an opportunity to challenge ourselves as Carolann managed to face her fears and push her boundaries. She fell in love after the first zipline and had a smile on her face until the very end.

We also got a chance to join in on axe throwing in the evening which had us learning some new axe throwing techniques by an expert and teaming up to compete in one epic axe throwing competition (we can’t help but brag, et, mention that our team won both games). It really offered the best axe throwing instruction we’ve had and was a ton of fun.

long point eco adventure axe throwing ontario

For those spending more than one evening at Long Point Eco Adventure, you’ll probably want to get involved in some more of the activities they offer. Between their zodiac boat tours, kayaking, fishing tours and mountain biking, you’ll be hard pressed to find a dull moment during the day. Later at night you can take a peek at the sky in the observatory where you’ll get a full astronomy experience and then sit by the campfire, with the bright stars above, before heading to bed.

Culinary Exploration & Excellence

If you like the idea of glamping and want to pair it with more laidback and low-key activities, or add some culinary pursuits to your already adventurous itinerary, Long Point Eco Adventure has got you covered. In fact, there’s a lot to do outside of the high-energy recreational activities they provide.

After our thrilling canopy tour and ziplining, we wound down by heading across the street to Burning Kiln Winery for a tour and tasting. Staying true to the area’s history in the tobacco industry, the Burning Kiln has incorporated architectural elements like the tobacco barn and even uses tobacco kilns as part of an innovative winemaking process.

We found it an incredibly interesting tour with some truly unique elements and discovered some great Ontario wines in the process.

The Burning Kiln Winery Norfolk County

For dinner, we headed to the restaurant on site. The Burning Kiln Restaurant welcomes David’s Restaurant on Tour for lunch and dinner from May to September and has some spectacular dishes to choose from. We had cauliflower bites to start and chose the beef tenderloin and the burger of the week as our mains and thoroughly enjoyed each one. It was a great way to end the tour of the winery and a fantastic meal to remember

The Burning Kiln Winery Restaurant

If you’re looking for more culinary adventures, Long Point Eco Adventures offers an apiary tour where you can don a beekeeping suit and learn all about the hives, honey bees and beekeeping. You’ll also get a chance to taste what the bees are all fussing over – the honey!

Taking a day to explore the forest and learn how to find and pick wild, edible mushrooms is another option. The guided tour will have you collecting mushrooms along the way which will later be used to prepare a meal for you and paired with wines from the Burning Kiln Winery.

 

Whether you’re looking to relax in style in your accommodation the whole time and venture only for food and wine or are interested in a full-adventure experience, Long Point Eco Adventure has something for everyone and makes it one of the best destinations in Ontario for a getaway.

 

A huge thanks to Attractions Ontario for making our stay at the Long Point Eco Adventure possible. If you’re looking for other amazing things to do in Ontario, head over to the Attractions Ontario website!