A suburban town that sits on the north shore of Lake Ontario, Oakville is a lovely place with a small town feel to it. It has been rated as one of the top five places to live in Canada, though also makes for a great holiday destination.
Oakville is just 30 kilometres outside of Toronto, so it is often overlooked. But it has much to offer; from a vibrant arts scene to natural scenery waiting to be explored.
If you are ever visited Toronto it is worthwhile to also spend a night or two in Oakville. Or, just visit the town on its own for a few days.
Here are the best things to do in Oakville:
1. Spend the day in a park
Right at the western edge of the town is the 6.4 square-kilometre Bronte Creek Provincial Park. Spend a day in the massive park any day of the year.
The Bronte Creek Provincial Park features trails that are great for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. It is also possible to go swimming in the park’s outdoor swimming pool.
If you want to spend a night in the park, there are campsites with electrical hook-ups. There is also a historic farmhouse, a nature centre and a children’s farm, complete with chickens, rabbits, pigs, sheep and goat.
2. Learn about the history of Golf
Well in Canada at least, which can be done at the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Here, you can learn about the history of golf in Canada.
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame has inductees that have been players, coaches and golf course architects, or have in some other way contributed to the game. There is also a museum onsite that displays historic materials and records.
Some of the inductees in the hall of fame include Stephen Michael Ames, Michael Richard Weir, Sandra Post, Stanley Thompson and Jack William Nicklaus.
3. Play a round
Speaking of golf, you can also play a round at the Glen Abbey Golf Club. The Jack Nicklaus golf course is one of the most famous in the entire country!
Glen Abbey Golf Club has hosted a total of 25 Canadian Open Championships to date. In fact, in 2000 Tiger Woods famously defeated Grant Waite on this course.
If you don’t want to play a round you can still go to the famous club to enjoy a lovely Sunday Brunch. There is also a golf academy for those wanting to learn the art of playing golf.
4. Watch a canoe regatta
Head to the Burloak Canoe Club and watch a canoe regatta. The canoe club sits on Navy Flats on the banks of Sixteen Mile Creek.
The Burloak Canoe Club has trained top paddlers like Larry Cain, Adam van Koeverden and Mark Oldershaw, all of which have won Olympic medals. Notable female paddlers Sheila Kuyper and Mallorie Nicholson also trained here.
When there is not a race going on, you can still visit the club and go canoeing or kayaking yourself. They also offer Dragon Boat rentals.
5. Explore Old Oakville
Also known as Downtown Oakville, Old Oakville sits along Lake Ontario in South-Central Oakville. It is a lively neighbourhood that is well worth exploring.
Old Oakville has a quant village feel to it, complete with trendy restaurants, great bars and specialty shops. There are also a few high-end boutiques, most of which are located along Lakeshore Boulevard.
The area also boasts art galleries housed in historic buildings. Oakville Harbour is also here, which houses the Oakville Yacht Club.
6. Visit a museum
Erchless Estate is the former home of the Chisholm family; the founders of the town. The estate is now a historic site and a museum.
Don’t forget to bring a camera when you visit the museum, as the buildings, grounds and gardens are magnificent. Step inside the museum to see a collection of costumes, textiles, ethnological artefacts and decorative arts that belonged to the family.
In addition to the permanent collections, there are also special exhibitions at the Erchless Estate. Guided tours are available, but you can also wander around the museum on your own.
7. Enjoy a festival
For such a small town Oakville is quite lively and hosts a number of fantastic annual events. Of these, the Waterfront Festival was the largest, although it stopped running in 2013.
Nowadays, the Downtown Oakville Jazz Festival is the most popular festival in the city. All concerts on its 9 stages are completely free.
If you are a lover of art, don’t miss the For the Love of the Arts Festival in the spring or Midnight Madness in July. Foodies should go to the annual Oakville Family Ribfest.
8. Go on a hike
Part of the famous Trans Canada Trail runs along the lake of the entire length of Oakville. This is the ideal trail for hiking or cycling.
This section of the trail actually extends all the way from Toronto to Burlington. So if you are really an avid hiker or cyclists you can attempt the entire 87 kilometres pathway.
There are a few car parks along the trail that are within Oakville itself, though this section of it has no rest areas or toilets. So be sure to come prepared.
9. Shop, dine and relax
All of this can be done at Bronte Harbour, which sits at the very west end of Oakville. Bronte Harbour is a village on the lake that has everything from gourmet treats to yoga classes.
Walk along the streets in the village and window shop – or shop – at any of the local boutiques. There are fine arts shops, antique shops, jewellery stores, home décor shops and fashion boutiques, and much more.
Delight your taste buds at one of Bronte Harbour’s award-winning restaurants, or grab a snack at a local café or pub. Don’t forget to also relax by getting a massage at one of the spas or by chartering a yacht and sailing off into the sunset.
10. Immerse yourself in the arts
Oakville has a pretty good arts scene, with performing arts performances going on quite regularly. If you enjoy the symphony, the ballet or the theatre, you will be pleased with what Oakville has to offer.
The Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts is where this is all happening, hosting a wide selection of performing arts. It is home to the Oakville Ballet Company and the Oakville Symphony Orchestra, and has also hosted special performances.
There is also the Oakville Children’s Choir, which is an award-winning choir. In fact, they are internationally recognised and have sung with the likes of opera star Mary Lou Fallis.
11. Defy the law of gravity
Go skydiving indoors and defy the law of gravity. iFLY Toronto is home to one of only two indoor recirculating skydiving simulators in the entire country!
Enter a four metre cylindrical diameter vertical tube and wait for the airstream to pass under you at 175 km per hour. This will then literally lift you off of your feet.
iFLY Toronto is a great way to experience skydiving without even having to jump from a plane. You will get the same feeling you would get of you were free falling at a speed of 200 km per hour.
12. Go to the mall
Like any suburban town, Oakville is home to a couple of indoor shopping malls. If you want to head indoors to go shopping or just escape the outdoors, than head to the mall.
Oakville Place is the larger of the two malls in the town, with over 100 shops. There are known brands like H&M, Sephora, The Body Shop and Swarovski as well as a couple of department stores.
South Oakville Centre is much smaller and features predominately Canadian labels. There are not a lot of fashion shops here, but it is a good place to get your hair and or nails done.
13. Wander around a garden
The Royal Botanical Gardens is not like any other garden you will have ever visited in your lifetime. This garden is home to the world’s largest collection of lilacs.
There is over 11 square kilometres of gardens in the Royal Botanical Gardens, making it a fantastic place to wander around. The garden is separated into five distinct areas that are open for visitors to enjoy.
There are both indoor and outdoor displays, with pathways that lead you along the way. Wander around and admire the endangered trees, and beautiful plants and flowers.
14. Enjoy the beach
There are a couple of beaches in Oakville itself. However the beach at the Kelso Conservation Area is worth making the drive to nearby Milton.
The Kelso Conservation Area is a 3.97 square kilometre park that houses Lake Kelso. In the summer, the lake has a lovely beach, complete with a boardwalk, boat rentals and food concessions.
Rent a canoe, kayak or paddle boat to tour around the lake, or relax on the beach and work on your tan. It is also possible to stay overnight at one of the park’s 20 campsites.
15. Head to the races
Although not in Oakville itself, the Mohawk Racetrack is not far away in Campbellville. This is a harness racing track with a ⅞ mile circumference track.
Mohawk Racetrack has hosted a number of events over the years, including the North America Cup, the Canadian Trotting Classic and the Breeders Crown. It also hosts a plethora of other events.
Also at the racetrack is a slot machine area with 750 machines. When you are tired of betting on horse races, head to the slot room and try your luck there.