For first-time visitors to Toronto, the city may look oddly familiar. This might be because it often plays body double for New York and other big cities in Hollywood movies. Mean Girls, Good Will Hunting, The Incredible Hulk and even American Psycho all feature Toronto masquerading as somewhere else, thanks to its chameleon qualities. Of course, there’s no mistaking the impressive CN Tower, the 356m-high landmark that watches over the city and provides a 360-degree view. From the ground you may not think the tower seems that high, but I challenge you to walk across the glass floor at the top.
On a clear day, lucky visitors can see all the way to Niagara Falls – 80 miles away. And this happened to be my next stop. From Toronto, I took a day trip. The huge, cascading Horseshoe Falls has a 55m drop, creating a wild mist above and the perfect backdrop for a memory card full of photos to show everyone at home.
After ticking off these must-see sights, I set off on a nine-day adventure through Ontario, Canada‘s second-largest province. I was quickly realising that this was a place of thick forests, twinkling lakes and open-fire log cabins, ideal for getting up close and personal to the wild outdoors that Canada is famous for. Leaving civilisation behind, we arrived at Algonquin Provincial Park, the oldest and largest of its kind in Ontario.
This quintessentially Canadian landscape is made up of a mix of maple, beech and pine trees, interspersed with more than 1,500 lakes and connected via a network of serene canals. Wildlife is in abundance, with beavers, bears and deer all roaming wild in the forest. But if there was one Canadian icon that I was desperate to catch a glimpse of, it was the moose. The largest member of the deer family, this shy beast is often bigger than a horse and decorated with giant antlers. We checked in to the delightful Arowhon Pines, a collection of cosy cabins deep in the heart of Algonquin’s forest. The plan was to head along the river by canoe in the hope of spotting some of Canada’s wildlife. ‘Mission: Moose’ had begun.
As we glided steadily across the lake, we scanned the water’s edge, looking for tell-tale movements or sounds. We passed a number of loons, a couple of beavers, an otter, a deer, and a hummingbird; but alas, so far no moose. It was almost time to head back when we were startled by a commotion in the trees. One of our fellow canoeists pointed towards a small clearing, exclaiming ‘Moose!’ in a muffled half-shout, half-whisper.
We turned towards the shoreline, our paddles bumping roughly as we shuffled for a better view. Sure enough, hidden in the darkness of the forest’s edge walked a mother moose with her calf, the baby’s soft brown coat glinting in the dim light.
The female paused for a couple of seconds, turned her head and looked quizzically at us. And then, less than a minute later, they were both gone.
At the end of the trip we sat around a roaring fire enjoying a generous glass of Frisky Beaver wine – the local tipple. Nine days is a taster of what Canada has to offer, but I was thrilled to have seen three such different sides of the country. I’m already planning my next trip and this time my aim is to spot another Canadian native in the flesh… Ryan Gosling.