Yours to discover: Ontario’s boomer-oriented communities capitalize on regional attractions
When Harry and Judy Smith moved to Park Place in Wasaga Beach 10 years ago, they were looking for a community geared to the retirement lifestyle, with like-minded neighbours and organized activities. There was little of that available in the Wellington County town of Erin, where they’d spent much of their lives.
They found what they were looking for in Park Place.
“We liked the people, we liked the houses, the size and style of them. And there was all kinds of activities,” Harry says.
While Park Place itself drew them in, he says they’ve come to appreciate the advantages in the wider Wasaga Beach community.
“All the amenities are here. There’s shopping and restaurants galore. You don’t have to leave for any of that. Everything is close at hand.”
And the Georgian Bay beach has been great for visiting grandkids.
Similarly, it was the character of the community that drew Gary and Barb Baskerville to Port 32 in the Eastern Ontario town of Bobcaygeon.
“It was this little town and this community that grabbed us,” Gary says.
They liked the brick homes, spacious lots, front porches and rear screened-in verandahs. Being boaters, they also appreciated the on-site marina on Pigeon Lake.
But they discovered the charms of small-town living, the relaxed pace of life and the friendly residents, he says.
From the Quebec border to the Sarnia/Windsor corridor, Ontario’s distinct regions boast individual attractions, offering the burgeoning boomer population abundant lifestyle choices.
Waterfront districts, bordering Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Rideau River and Canal in the National Capital Region, define the region stretching from the Toronto region’s eastern boundary to the Ottawa Valley.
Prince Edward County boasts 822 kilometres of shoreline, plus more than 30 wineries, three provincial parks, notes Brenda Stanley, sales and marketing manager with Sandbank Homes, developer of Wellington On The Lake, one of the province’s earliest lifestyle communities.
Other options include Loyalist Estates, a golf community on Lake Ontario at Bath; St. James By The Bay, on the Bay of Quinte; Brighton By The Bay, on Presqu’ile Bay; and Wilmot Creek, overlooking Lake Ontario at Bowmanville with an executive nine-hole golf course.
The Kawarthas and Haliburton Highlands to the north encompass a region of charming towns and quaint villages, with vast stretches of forest and bucolic countryside, boasting more than 300 lakes intersected by the 386-kilometre Trent-Severn Waterway.
At its heart, the city of Peterborough, on the Otonobee River, part of the Trent-Severn, offers a host of urban amenities.
The region is a largely undiscovered alternative to Muskoka cottage country, says Gerry Kowalski, developer of Silver Beach, the region’s first luxury adult lifestyle community, on Kashagawigamog Lake outside the village of Haliburton.
Other lifestyle communities here include the 550-acre Village of Golden Beach Estates, on Rice Lake, established more than six decades ago as a cottage resort and now including a gated community of custom homes; Bobcaygeon’s Port 32; and Oak Orchard Estates, an enclave of luxury estate homes, each with a private boat slip on Buckhorn Lake.
This region, 2,500 square miles between Georgian Bay and the western border of Algonquin Park, peppered with more than 1,500 lakes, has long been a haven for lifestyle communities.
It boasts more than 20 such neighbourhoods, including the granddaddy of them all. Sandycove Acres, in the Lake Simcoe town of Innisfil, was Ontario’s first and is still its largest, encompassing some 1,200 homes.
Vacation towns, like Wasaga Beach where Parkbridge has three communities including Park Place, are magnets for lifestyle accommodations, with beaches, boating and nearby natural areas for hiking and wildlife-watching.
Established developments like the Muskoka Bay Club, golf-course community at Gravenhurst, or Oak Bay on Georgian Bay at Port Severn, are being joined by a growing number of new offerings. Among those are Georgian Village, a continuum-of-care campus just opened in Penetanguishene, and Harmony Village, a mixed-use condo development soon to take shape on Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie.
This predominately rural region, extending from Hamilton to Lake Huron, hugging the Georgian Bay coastline south of cottage country, offers a variety of retirement retreats.
There’s something for every taste here. Golf communities include Lora Bay at Thornbury; Cobble Beach, outside Owen Sound, with its panoramic course views of Georgian Bay; or the more southerly Bridges of Seaforth. There are also resort town neighbourhoods like Grand Cove in Grand Bend or Inverlyn Lake Estates in Kincardine.
In addition to golf and waterfront, this region is replete with theatre, historical sites, antique shops and artisan studios.
For boomers who want to combine the retirement lifestyle with easy access to the big-city amenities, there are several options in the Toronto region.
Both Rosedale Village, at Brampton, and Legacy Pines, near Bolton, are built around private, nine-hole golf courses.
Briar Hill, attached to the Nottawasaga Inn Resort at Alliston, offers a variety of amenities including 45 holes of golf, a Sports and Leisure Dome, health and fitness centre, indoor tennis, squash and racquetball courts, and spa services.
One of the province’s premiere wine regions, boasting some 50 wineries, this area is also one of the most historic. Plus, it has the natural allure of the Niagara Escarpment, miles of sandy Lake Erie beaches, cultural attractions including the Shaw Festival, upscale eateries, casinos and, of course, the Falls themselves.
It all combines to make the region “the most popular retirement destination in Canada,” maintains Rob Mills, developer at Ridgeway By The Lake, in the historic village of Ridgeway.
Golf enthusiasts have choices here, too. The Residences at Hunters Pointe in Welland has an 18-hole championship course, in addition to its access to the Welland Canal with water activities and extensive trail system. As well, Heritage Point in St. Catharines has two 18-hole courses at the doorstep.
Ontario’s south coast, stretching along the north shore of Lake Erie, is often colloquially referred to as Ontario’s Riviera or banana belt, with its moderate climate, created by the lake effect.
And, it has plenty to offer retirees – history and culture, as the heartland of early Upper Canada; beaches galore; and, of course, the requisite golf.
Neighbourhoods on the fairways include Woodstock’s Villages of Sally Creek bordering the Thames River, RiverBend in London, and Sawmill Creek, at Bright’s Grove near Sarnia, which also includes a spa and resort amenities.
Dover Coast, at Port Dover, is building an 18-hole course and also offers private lakefront access as well as its own fine dining restaurant and day spa.
Beach and waterfront amenities are also on the menu at Northville Estates, next door to Pinery Provincial Park at Port Franks, and Boblo Island, a marina-resort community in the Detroit River between Amherstburg and Grosse Ile, Mich.