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T.O. IN SUMMER: Islands of possibilities

By Joanne Richard, Special to Postmedia Network

Rafting on the Grand River is just one of the possibilities of fun things to do this summer. POSTMEDIA

Rafting on the Grand River is just one of the possibilities of fun things to do this summer. POSTMEDIA

Summer's here and the livin' ain't easy. Face it, we're all feeling a bit lost and a little depressed because the Toronto Islands are shut down but don't despair because there's some good news - Ontario Place Urban Park just opened.

The glorious 7.5-acre waterfront green space - with winding trails, boardwalks and lots of shade trees - beckons and surely promises to dull the heartache of no Island visits 'til the end of July. Heavy rains have not only damaged Toronto Islands but the Scarborough Bluffs are off limits too.

Mother Nature may have rained on your summer parade and plans but consider a detour. Our 10 amazing alternatives offer great day tripping - all affordable and the perfect prescription to the summertime blues:

Quarry Quest

Go jump in the lake - well, at least in an abandoned quarry! A mere hour from Toronto is Elora Quarry, an epic swimming hole encircled by 40-foot cliffs and stony outcrops. The water is clean and the two-acre swimming area is safe. The park - located between Fergus and Elora - is now open through to Labour Day from 10 a.m. -8 p.m. on weekends and 11 a.m. -8 p.m. on weekdays. A day-use pass costs $6.50; grandriver.ca.

River Rides

From the quarry, it'll take you barely six minutes to arrive at another spectacular spot - the Elora Gorge. Great for hiking with its scenic overlooks. Rent a tube and float down the river through the gorge. $30 for a complete package; plus a deposit and park admission, which is $6.50 for adults. You can also picnic, swim and camp. Call 519-846-9742 for info. The park is open through to October 15, 8 a.m. -9 p.m. daily; grand river.ca.

Fantastic Falls

Get rid of your stress but not your money at Hilton Falls in Milton. Hit the mountain biking trails or go for a tranquil 30-minute stroll to the stunning falls and rushing river. Bring hot dogs - and marshmallows and s'mores for dessert - to roast over an open campfire. If you bring along birdseed, you'll have chickadees eating out of your hand. Park admission $6.75; open every day 8:30 a.m. -9 p.m.; conservationhalton.ca.

The Bard in the Park

To be or not to be ... bummed-out this summer? Find your happy place with some untraditional Shakespeare under the stars. Shakespeare in High Park is a must-see summer attraction and it's celebrating its 35th year with presentations of Twelfth Night (or What You Will) and King Lear. Running June 29 to September 3, adult tickets are $25, kids under 14 are free. Check canadianstage.com for dates and times.

Ghost Town

Go back in time with a trip to a ghost town - the Barber Paper Mill ruins along the Credit River in Georgetown. It's hauntingly beautiful, a crumbling forgotten landmark that offers a perfect place to explore and enjoy the outdoors. The mill actually pioneered the use of hydroelectricity in North America. Read up on it at www.nationaltrustcanada.ca/issuescampaigns/top-ten-endangered/explore-past-listings/ontario/barber-paper-mill.

Just Add Water

Many of Toronto's 58 outdoor pools are open for business, including the pool that makes the biggest splash - Sunnyside Gus Ryder Outdoor Pool. All outdoor city pools will be operational by June 23 so grab your Speedo and jump in! Pools close September 3; for more info check www1.toronto.ca/parks/prd/facilities/outdoor-pools/

Urban Sanctuary

So close but you feel so far away! Rouge National Urban Park is just outside of Scarborough yet it's a wilderness sanctuary. Encompassing 80 km, it's one of the largest urban parks in the world and offers up hiking, camping, beaches and swimming. This amazing green space is also transit accessible. Open every day of the year and admission is free! Visiting the park after sunset is not recommended; pc.gc.ca.

Camping in Style

Go for something cheap and cheerful. Borrow a tent and sleeping bag, pack up a cooler with you know what, and head to a provincial park. Balsam Lake is the closest to Toronto and features a large sandy beach, great fishing, and kayak and canoe rentals. Go for the day or rent a premium camping spot - that means flush toilets and showers - $40 a night per site. Forgo flushing toilets with backcountry camping and save major. Open through to October 10. Go a little further, but worth the drive, and check set up camp at Algonquin, Sand Banks or Bon Echo; ontarioparks.com.

Wild Wheels

Let your inner kid loose in the heart of T.O. - whiz around on the Don Valley Mountain Bike Trails. Some say it's the best-kept secret in town. A network of 181 urban bike trails of intermediate to advanced single track (ridingfeelsgood.com). Go at your own speed but look out for the runners, hikers, dog walkers and naturalists. From mild to wild, check out other biking fun, like at Kelso (conservationhalton.ca) just outside of Milton and Sunnyside Mountain Bike Park, just alongside the Gardiner on Ellis Avenue.

Paddle Time

Take a paddle on the Humber River or along the waterways around the 13 Toronto Islands. You can rent a canoe, a kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) from Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre. A two-hour rental for a solo kayak or SUP is $40, and a canoe will run you $50. Rent them Monday to Friday from noon to sunset and weekends 10 a.m. -5:30 p.m.; paddletoronto.com.