Darlington Provincial Park in the Winter

Length of stay1 day
January 2021

Located along the sandy shores of Lake Ontario, Darlington Provincial Park is considered an important area for many birds. The northern shores provide nesting grounds for nearly 100 species of birds and feeding and resting areas for between 100 to 200 more species during spring and fall migration. Darlington also provides a variety of recreational activities, such as swimming, hiking, birdwatching, fishing and boating. It is conveniently located right off Highway 401 and it is open all year-round.

It’s been a drab and dreary start of the year, so when the forecast was calling for sun on Sunday (funday), we decided to head outdoors and go for a hike. We drove to Darlington, which is only a hop, skip and 40 minute car ride from Toronto. Darlington is open all year-round and the parking lots at both the Registration Office and Main Park Office are plowed in the winter. There is a self-serve machine to pay for a park permit near the main gate and Registration Office.

Darlington is a small provincial park and there are a handful of short trails that wind through the different habitats in the park. We first hiked along part of the Burk Trail, which loops through the forest and to a scenic lookout. There is a wooden platform at the lookout that provides a nice glimpse of Lake Ontario through the trees.

The path crosses the road and overlaps briefly with the McLaughlin Bay Trail (1.5km, rated easy). The path is relatively flat and weaves through tall grass near a wetland and leads to the shore of Lake Ontario.

We walked along the beach. There are a few signs here which included more information on how the northern shore of Darlington is considered an important area for many birds, including the Piping Plover, which is an endangered species both federally and provincially. The Piping Plover typically arrive in mid-May and make their nests on the western end of the beach. Park staff along with volunteers have fenced off areas of the beach to minimize human disturbance to the nests and even will place small caves over the nests for protection from predators.

The trail then leads to the Darlington Pioneer Home, which now serves as the park’s Visitor and Information Centre. The original cabin was built in 1832 north of Whitby for a family of twelve. In 1967, the home was moved and rebuilt as a centennial project to commemorate the early settlers.

In 1959, Darlington Provincial Park was created due to increased demand for recreational opportunities for nearby communities. The area was initially open farmland and in the 1960s, Boy Scouts and the then Department of Lands and Forests brought shovels and seedlings and planted trees.

The path ends at a junction for the Campground Trail. We followed this north for a short stretch and crossed the road to get to the trailhead for the Robinson Creek Trail (1km, rated easy). The trail is relatively flat and loops through the forest along Robinson Creek.

Once we looped back to the trailhead, we continued along the Campground Trail, which leads to the Park Store and back to the Burk Trail. We followed along the remaining portion of the Burk Trail that passes the Pioneer Cemetery.

There is a sign here that explains the significance of the cemetery and early settlers. On October 2, 1794, three families: the Conants, Trulls and Burks, landed on the shores of Lake Ontario and were considered the first settlers to arrive in the Darlington area. They came from New York State in response to Governor Simcoe’s offer of free land to any man over 18 years of age. The cemetery contains a single gravestone and it is here where some of the members of the Burk family were buried.

We followed the trail back to the scenic lookout for one last glimpse of Lake Ontario. Someone had recently stopped by and left some bird seed along the railing of the wooden platform. I used this as an opportunity to try to convince a chickadee to land in my hand. It was a great way to wrap up our time at Darlington.

From the scenic lookout it’s a short walk back to the parking lot. We wrapped up just before 12p.m and headed back to Toronto for some lunch.


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

38 thoughts on “Darlington Provincial Park in the Winter

  1. Ab says:

    Looks like a nice outing! This is a close drive to our home that we may just check it out this weekend as we’re going a little stir crazy. Very interesting to learn about its importance as a nesting ground. That little bird at the end of your post is cute!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s nice how close Darlington is to Toronto. It’s a relatively small park, but there are a few short and simple hiking trails. I know what you mean about going a little (more like a lot) stir crazy these days. I’ve really been feeling the pandemic fatigue. Thank goodness Toronto is finally moving into the grey zone, which is still lockdown, but at least it’s progress? The weather is supposed to be decent this weekend, so hopefully you’re able to get some fresh air.

      • Ab says:

        Did you hear there was a big fire in Darlington provincial last night? Saw it on social media. Hope everyone’s ok! I guess we’re not gonna be going there this weekend!

        And hooray for going into grey zone.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        No, I haven’t heard. That’s terrible. Who would have thought there would be a fire in a park during the middle of winter!? If you’re looking for another option for a park to visit, I would recommend checking out Bronte Creek Provincial Park. It’s about a 30 minute drive from Toronto.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        No problem, I have no shortage of recommendations when it comes to Ontario’s parks! I feel like I’m becoming an unofficial spokesperson for them. Most of the t-shirts I wear these days are from Ontario parks too.

  2. kagould17 says:

    I love the Funday concept. Especially important when you live in or near a major urban area. Glad you got some sunshine. The lake shot certainly shows a moody winter day. I was surprised at the age that some of the early settlers of the are lived to. How many others take advantage of these parks during this time. Our trails are very busy on weekends, to the point that we tend to go on Wednesday. Stay well and thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’re finding that the parks are becoming more crowded these days, even in the winter. A couple weekends ago we were turned away from a park as the parking lot was completely full. I can’t even begin to imagine what the parks are going to be like in the summer. Good call on going out on a Wednesday instead of the weekend. That’s a good way to avoid the crowds.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Chickadees are so friendly and they are clearly not afraid of humans. There’s always something so peaceful about going for a walk near the water. I like visiting the beach in the winter as the water is usually more wavy and sometimes you’ll see neat ice formations by the shore.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, I love how curious and friendly chickadees are. I keep meaning to bring bird seed with me more often when going for a walk, so I was glad someone had left some behind. This was such a lovely area to go for a walk, especially in the winter when the forest and shoreline are covered in snow.

  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Beautiful photos. The Ontario parks have a very rich history – thanks for sharing that with us. I really enjoy learning of the background. The little chickadees are so pretty; those sunflower seeds look too big for their small beaks!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Why thank you. I had no idea how much history some of Ontario’s provincial parks have either. It’s been neat learning more about how certain parks are created and named. We initially started visiting these parks for the scenery and hiking trails, but now I pay more attention to all the various storyboards and signs, which provide more background information of the area. And yes, those chickadees sure know how to work for their food!

  4. Island Traveler says:

    I haven’t experience walking by the beach with the sand covered in snow and the picture made me wish I get to do so one day. Beautiful beach adventure. Seeing the ocean is like seeing hope. Thanks. Stay safe.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There’s always something so comforting and soothing about being near the water. It’s neat visiting the beach in the winter and sometimes when it’s really cold, the waves can create interesting ice formations along the shore. Take care.

  5. Lookoom says:

    Congratulations on your progress with the birds! I love this log cabin, but with twelve in it, I’m glad I don’t live at that time.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. It was a real treat to feed the chickadees. It’s amazing how friendly and curious they are. And agreed, I imagine it was real cozy (more like crowded) with twelve people sleeping in that cabin. It’s funny to think how we’ve come such a long way when it comes to housing.

  6. ourcrossings says:

    What a lovely place to have close to home. Trails take longer to complete in the winter, and you will exert more energy., but a walk through a forest in crunchy snow can be dreamy. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, it’s always great to have some green space close to home. And agreed, hiking through the snow is definitely more challenging. It’s good to get that extra workout though since we don’t leave our apartment much these days during the winter. It turned out to be a really nice day to go for a walk. Thanks for reading. Take care.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Good call, we might do the same. And yes, it was great timing being able to capture a shot of when the chickadee landed in my hand. A good reminder to carry some bird seed while hiking!

  7. winteroseca says:

    That was so cool you got a chickadee to eat from your hand! I have yet to try that with the birds in my yard 😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That was easily the highlight of our visit to Darlington. It’s always so much fun to watch the chickadees. I can’t get over how friendly they are. Best of luck making friends with the birds in your yard.

      • winteroseca says:

        Oh yeah. In England, it’s definitely ingrained in the culture to feed the birds thanks to people like David Attenborough and other nature presenters encouraging people to do so. The World Economic Forum has a video on how bird evolution has changed because of it. And thanks! I certainly love the birds being endless entertainment

  8. Meg says:

    The lake looks so cold but beautiful at the same time. That is wonderful to have a birdie on you hand too!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s nice visiting the beach in the winter. The shores are usually empty and the water is more wavy. It’s all very peaceful. And yes, it was a real treat to feed the chickadee straight from my hand. Their little feet are surprisingly pretty gentle.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. Given its close proximity to Toronto, we’re no strangers to this park. I don’t think I’d ever camp here, but it’s a nice area to spend half the day exploring. Plus it’s open year-round.

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