An Apple A Day
Throw on a cozy sweater and pull up those wool socks because fall is officially here. With the cooler weather and changing leaves comes one of our favourite annual autumn traditions: apple picking!
Who doesn’t love a day out in an orchard brimming with ripe apples? Whether you are heading out on a first date or looking for a fun day out with your friends or family, a fall visit to an orchard fits the bill. Most places will let you wander the property to pick your own favourite varieties — always a fun treat — but if you’re in a hurry, all of them will have freshly picked apples ready to purchase in the farm store. And don’t forget to check out the apple products on the shelves. Canadian producers are turning apples into everything from jams and ciders to wines and crisps.
Ontario’s Apple Legacy
Do you swear by the sweetness of the Golden Delicious or do you like the more tart taste of an Ida Red? Or are you like my youngest child and love any and all apples, be they green or red, tart or sweet? The climate in Southern Ontario is a lovely place for apples to grow, especially in areas near Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Georgian Bay. Ontario farmers grow nearly 20 varieties of apples in orchards across this province but the five most popular (based on acreages planted) are: Gala, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Empire and, the most popular of them all, the mighty McIntosh. The McIntosh apple — the namesake of the world-famous computers (albeit spelled differently for trademark reasons) — originated right here in Ontario. John McIntosh discovered a tree growing on his property in Dundela, a small community in South Eastern Ontario not too far from Cornwall, in 1811. The family began to cultivate the fruit, grafting them onto more winter hardy trees, and eventually brought the variety to market in 1835. Today, it is the most popular apple in Canada and amongst the top ten apples sold in North America. And to think that every mac apple you eat, originated from that single tree in Dundela.
Even though some apple varieties start to ripen in late August and early September, apple picking for me is always associated with the start of fall and the Ontario harvest season. Corn mazes, hay bales, wagon rides and all the joy of seeing the bounty of farm produce sold in the roadside stands. Many apple growers have created a full-day experience on their farms during this busy season. There are many wonderful places to visit throughout Ontario (and of course, throughout Canada) for apples and you might very well have your own favourite that you visit each year. For anyone looking to start a new tradition, I’ve rounded up five orchards in beautiful South Eastern Ontario — home of the original macs!
Located near Kemptville in South Eastern Ontario, Mountain Orchards is the ultimate in family-friendly fun. When you arrive at Mountain Orchard, grab a bag (they come in 5lb or 10lb varieties) and head out into the fields to find your apples. Once you’ve filled your bag and taken your obligatory apple-picking pictures, head to the activities area to enjoy wagon rides, corn mazes and forest trails. Children will appreciate the playground and the straw jump. Weekend visitors can purchase a BBQ lunch to enjoy on the property. This truly is a full day outing.
Smyth’s Apple Orchard
If you love apples, you’ll love Smyth’s Apple Orchard. Generations of the Smyth family have farmed these fields, bringing to market a huge variety of apples year after year. Located in Iroquois, Ontario, this farm is as close as it gets to the original Dundela fields that brought us the McIntosh. And yes, this orchard does have pick-your-own macs available, as well as a huge variety of others such as Granny Smith, Royal Gala, Paula Red, Spartan and Russet. The farm store sells delicious baked goods, apple products and a host of interesting gift items. On weekends, candy apples are available as a special treat. Couples will love strolling the beautiful orchard rows and admiring the different apple varieties.
With eleven varieties of apples available, Wynn Farms in Greater Napanee is a sure bet for those looking to get their fill of their favourite Ontario apples from late August until the end of October. During the day, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the orchard, pick their own apples and visit the many family-friendly activities, such as the fun corn maze that has a new theme each year (safari themed in 2021). On weekend nights, the farm hosts Moonlit Maze nights, a perfect place for a fun night out with friends. In the dark, the maze takes on a whole new challenge and plenty of fun for older kids and adults alike. Don’t forget your flashlight! Warm apple cider and caramel apples sweeten the deal while a bonfire adds to the fun.
Located south-east of Ottawa in the town of Crysler, Cannamore Orchard is another place that changes from day to night. Come during the daylight hours to enjoy apple picking and family fun, with a kids activity area, rides in the covered wagon or aboard the “cow-train” and plenty of adventure in the giant hedge maze. Kids will love the roaming chickens and the available pedal cars. But as night falls, the family-friendly fun stops. Cannamore Orchard is transformed into “Acres of Terror”, a Halloween-themed attraction that is decidedly more terrifying. Actors create a uniquely creepy experience as they stay in character, whether that be witch of vampire. There’s a spooky wagon ride, a house of terror and several other adventures to get you into the Halloween spirit. Definitely a fun night out with friends.
Waddell Apples is a family-operated farm in the Kingston area that consists of a main orchard with 1,300 trees overlooking the scenic Rideau Canal and a newer orchard that has 900 trees. Instagrammers will love snapping pictures of the pretty landscape as much as the gorgeous apples, of which there is an astounding 20 different varieties. The family grows some heritage varieties that are hard to find in other orchards. Don’t forget to grab a snap next to one of the 75-year old McIntosh trees — amongst the oldest macs still being harvested in the area near where they originated. The farm store is located inside a salvaged 1830s cedar log house that the family brought in from East Gwillimbury — it too makes a lovely backdrop for pictures. Sit at one of the tables next to the shop to enjoy a fresh crisp apple or one of the delicious goods baked in-house.
Rack up those Instagram likes even more by turning your orchard visit into a full weekend of adventure with one of our incredible 1000 Islands packages: soar over the area in a helicopter, take a leisurely cruise or relax at a boutique wellness getaway.