Roadtripping: The Elora Quarry

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

After last year's cold, thunderstorm-y and small baby-filled summer, I've decided to stuff two summer's worth of fun into one. I don't think I've slept since mid-June, but I kind of don't care. It's all fun all the time full steam ahead until the pools close, (and even then, I'm not sure it'll stop!)

And so, in the spirit of ALL SUMMER ALL THE TIME, on Friday we packed a picnic, and a pile of towels and drove up through Guelph to the Elora Quarry. (I realized on the drive up that the last quarry I swam at was 8 (!) years ago in Nebraska!)

The 1.5h drive is so southern Ontario – the sprawling lanes of the 401, then moving on to small highways and fields of what might be wheat, and small towns and smaller towns, and roadside signs for eggs and strawberries. You have to drive through the adorable little town of Elora, but we didn't stop – there was a quarry to get to!

We pulled in with a screaming baby (not ideal), but I got to nurse her in the parking lot with a view of the quarry (totally ideal!). The lot is perched at the top of the quarry, with 40 foot rock faces plunging down to the almost-Lake Louise green water below.

The walk down to the water is beautiful – all trees and more trees, shading the walk (Apparently there is a hiking loop around the water).

And then just like that, the trees end and give way to a beach. It's not a huge beach, and there is very little shade, but it's a beach! And there is water! And we met up with our pal and her kiddos and it was so perfectly summer, I still have to pinch myself.

We got there at 11:30am and the beach was already starting to fill up. We spread out our towels and picnic blankets, and changed right there (though there are changerooms, bathrooms, too, but I was too lazy to walk back, and put my patented went-to-dance-school-quick-change skills to work).

There's a little roped off shallow end off the beach that is perfect for little kiddos. It's pretty rocky though (it is a quarry after all!) and I know my 3.5-year-old would've wanted water shoes if he had been with us.

On the far side of the rope, it's still pretty shallow for a few more feet and then it just drops off.

We played with the kids in the shallows for a while (marvelling at our baby's deep insatiable love of water!), and then I took off for a swim around the quarry, dodging a flotilla of blow-up unicorns and swans and hippos and flamingos. It's not big – it maaaaaybe took 10 minutes to swim the circumference, but it's so lovely. The water is thick and green in the sun, and there are weeds along the very edges, but not in the middle. Doing a back float right in the centre, with the rock faces towering above is magical.

I could've floated in the centre of that quarry all day.

After we swam and splashed and splashed and floated, we picnicked, (because OF COURSE WE DID!) and I'm not sure there's anything more delicious than post-swim farmer's market cherries and handfuls on handfuls of popcorn, even with handfuls of sand mixed in!

I didn't ever want to leave, but baby naps and daycare pickups, etc etc, and so we hit the road...

Stops we couldn't make because the overtired baby was finally asleep, but I wish we had:
- there's a side of the road flower stand on the 86 near Ariss – bring change/small bills!
- there's a chip truck right across from the parking lot at the Quarry. I will dream of those too salty chips until I can actually try them
- ice cream in Elora. Dang sleeping baby...

Practical details:

*The maximum capacity is 1,300 which seems IMPOSSIBLE, but there you have it. It sounds from the website like that happens sometimes, so go early if you can. It's open from M-F from 11am-8pm and on the weekends from 10am-8pm.

*It's open till Labour Day (though I've been warned it gets a little funky come mid-August).

*The park fees are here.

*We took our own PFDs, but apparently they have a lifeguard loaner program with a "small refundable deposit" - ask at the gatehouse when you park!

*No booze or dogs!

*Here's the official site

*Also, there's tubing down the Elora Gorge which everyone raves about, so if that's your jam, here's how to get there!

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