Oakville, Ont., might consistently rank as Canada’s best city for raising a family, but an afternoon visit reveals a town that caters to everyone. Boaters love its harbour, foodies flock to its top-rated restaurants, and shoppers adore its historic downtown stretch lined with luxury boutiques. But there’s a side of Oakville that most residents would like to remain a secret: between its historic cottages and stunning subdivisions are gorgeous green spaces where you can totally forget you’re in civilization. Below, you’ll find Oakville trails and gardens that are ideal escapes for anyone who wants to live nature-adjacent without going off-grid. And if that sounds like you, Minto Communities’ North Oak Condos, coming early 2021 to the award-winning builder’s master-planned Oakvillage community in north Oakville, is the perfect place to embrace Oakville’s natural beauty. With Blackfriar Trail, William Rose Park, and Buttonbush Trail right in your backyard, you’ll never have to leave town to spend a day in nature.
Sixteen Mile Creek
Hidden among the quiet neighbourhoods of north Oakville is one of the Greater Toronto Area’s most gorgeous natural spaces. Hike the sloping trail down to Sixteen Mile Creek, and you’ll find a river running through a forested valley full of winding trails and wooden bridges. Massive, flat stones at the water’s edge provide the perfect place for quiet reflection, and lookout points along the path provide spectacular views. It’s one of the best spots in southern Ontario to embrace the fall colours, and the best part is that it’s largely a secret. Whether you’re stopping by for a morning run or hiking with a loved one on the weekend, it’s rare that you’ll see more than one or two in-the-know nature lovers enjoying the silence.
Waterworks Park and Waterfront Trail
For decades, the base of Oakville’s Kerr St. narrowed into a humble pathway along an untouched stretch of Lake Ontario. And while it was a great place for moonlit strolls and early-morning runs, during the past year, the town transformed it into a world-class lakeshore trail, complete with butterfly gardens, sculptures, and lookout points over the lake. Show up at sunrise for outdoor yoga at the base of Tannery Hill Beacon, or devour a good book in one of the colourful Muskoka chairs that punctuate the path.
Glen Abbey Trail
A hidden gem of northern Oakville, the lengthy Glen Abbey Trail is a runner’s best friend, but it’s also perfect for bike rides and cross-country skiing. It connects four of Oakville’s pristine creeks (Taplow, Glen Oaks, McCraney, and Fourteen Mile), so there’s always a new path to explore.
Bronte Creek Provincial Park
How many cities in the GTA have a provincial park in their own backyard? Bronte Creek is brimming with activities, including campgrounds, a children’s farm, a 1.8-acre outdoor pool, and five pristine hiking trails that weave throughout the park’s 6.4 square kilometres. Bring your gravel bike for a day in the saddle, or wax up your cross country skis for the winter. The park also features a Maple Syrup Festival in early spring and Ghost Walks in late summer, so there’s something for everyone who enjoys the outdoors. Most importantly, there’s so much wild space that you’ll forget you’re still within the city limits.
Lion’s Valley Park
Despite being nestled beneath a major bridge on Dundas St., which runs along the northern edge of Oakville, Lion’s Valley Park is another natural gem with wide-open spaces. The park’s valley walls completely block out the din of traffic. And with its nature-inspired playgrounds, wooden bridges, and a series of trails that snake along the edges of Sixteen Mile Creek, it’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon lost in nature.
Bronte Heritage Waterfront Park
Residents of Oakville’s Bronte neighbourhood would prefer that we didn’t publicize this trail, but it’s too good not to share. Extending east along the Lake Ontario shoreline from Bronte Harbour is a picturesque trail that’s ideal for a meditative hike. Loop back to the park at the harbour when you’re done, and you can enjoy free live music from the Oakville Symphony Orchestra in the Butterfly Gazebo before a sunset stroll along the pier.
Petro Canada Park
Another of Oakville’s best-kept nature secrets is a favourite of anglers, artists, and intrepid canoeists. And don’t let the name fool you: Petro Canada Park is a pristine natural space tucked into a valley at the western edge of Bronte Road. Casual hikers can take the manicured path south along Bronte Creek, where you’ll spot shimmers of lazy salmon during fishing season. And for the more adventurous, heading north provides a wilder hike beside the babbling water.
Everyone who’s strolled among the fragrant rose bushes, lily-dappled ponds, and manicured hedges of Gairloch Gardens has asked the same question: Did I accidentally sneak in? Should I have paid to enter? Yet somehow, these famous gardens on the shore of Lake Ontario are free for everyone in Oakville to enjoy. Founded in 1957 by James Gardiner, who left his estate to the City of Oakville as a public park, this 11.4-acre natural wonder also boasts a gallery for contemporary artists.
Want to embrace the green spaces and amenities that Oakville has to offer? Learn more about North Oak Condos, coming in early 2021 to Oakvillage, a master-planned community by award-winning builder Minto Communities.