A Social Saunter Through Sunderland

Alison Bennie

"If the ground is soft, you can see different animal tracks (deer, coyote, raccoons, rabbits, other people’s dogs etc.), serving as a reminder that you aren’t the only one using this trail."

My very first venture into Sunderland was on my way to our cottage during the Fall, probably 20 years ago. While driving north on Lakeridge Road, I noticed the rolling farmland and how picturesque the countryside was. Forests in this area made for a colourful autumn drive, with vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows filling my vista. Personally, this is one of my favourite drives in the area, and even though I’ve been living in Brock Township for the last 16 years, I tend to revisit this route when I think the colours will be at their peak. And, let’s face it, it’s another excuse to visit Sunderland and grab a bite at the café. An alternate route is via Hwy 12, north out of Whitby and left at River St. in Sunderland, but I must warn you, the drive is not as beautiful. Park your car and take a stroll around. I like to walk the side streets and look at the lovely Victorian homes and beautiful gardens.

The main street is comprised of a variety of small businesses. I’m going to mention a few for now. It’s a good idea to check out their hours before visiting due to Covid-19 restrictions. Most restaurants are open and offering takeout, but hours may differ.

Country Loonies, a local dollar store on the main street, currently offers delivery of your favourite merchandise to the front steps of your home if you live in Sunderland! They carry fair trade clothing & accessories from Nepal as well. And that’s not all – the charming owner Carolina also operates the Doggity Do dog grooming salon, so if Scruffy is looking a little scruffy, book an appointment. 

Head across the street, and you’ll find Pilgrim’s Home Hardware and Home Furniture. No need to leave town for a big box store when you can find so much here. Friendly service and lots of choice. Browse through when they open again to the public. To order now, you can call 705-357-3456.

If you’re strolling around and building an appetite, well, there’s lots to choose from. The River Street Café is one of the friendliest coffee shops around. I often stop in for coffee and/or lunch, and their baked goods are delicious.  Across the road is Two Brothers Pizza.  While their focus is on making incredible stone-baked pizza, kids love their signature maple bacon poutine. On the south side of the street is Crusty Pizza serving up hand made pizza pies, wings, and offering home delivery.  It appears that Sunderland loves their pizza! 

Continuing what has turned into our own little tour de pizza, around the corner on Albert Street you’ll find Bon Select Bistro, a slightly more upscale restaurant, and home of my favourite vegetarian pizza, the Funghi. It consists of a mushroom mix (because I am crazy for mushrooms), fontina, crème, and white truffle oil. I am drooling on my keyboard as I write this. They also have a kids menu (double bonus), and it’s a great place to meet friends for dinner and drinks. Their menu is eclectic (French, Italian, and a little Asian) and includes specials of the day. For those of you that have become homeschool teachers during this crisis, they are also offering alcohol takeout along with the food . . . just sayin’!

For a small town, Sunderland has some exciting and well-attended festivals. Again, with the COVID-19 restrictions, these may have been cancelled this year, but keep them in mind for next year when current restrictions have lifted.

The Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival held at the beginning of April is one sweet event attracting visitors from all over. The town joins in to celebrate the Canadian tradition of making maple syrup. Hop on a bus that takes you to Harlaine Maple Products sugar shack, where you will see a native and pioneer display, as well as the current production methods they use. Great family outing with many events held in town! After enjoying a pancake breakfast there, I’ll usually buy a few bottles of maple syrup to take home. My father practically drinks the stuff.

One event that I attended for many years while my daughter was in school was the Sunderland Lions Music Festival. It runs for 2 weeks during which participants are judged in all levels of piano, voice, strings, instrumental, and choral, including specialized band clinician and choral workshops for elementary and secondary level students. The winner of each class is then invited back to perform during the “Stars of the Festival” concerts. It’s wonderful to see and listen to all the talent in this area and makes a great night out. 

At the beginning of September is the Sunderland Agricultural Fair. I like to have a look at the largest pumpkin grown (still haven’t figured how they do that?) and attend the horse show at the rear of the fairgrounds. There’s a Demolition Derby to close it out – a little too noisy and too much gas smell for me, but there seem to be many that enjoy it.

If you feel like communing with nature, then hike or bike or take your dog for a walk along the Beaver Wetlands Trail. Access the trail from Sunderland to Hwy 7 either from Conc. 6 (from behind the Sunderland Co-op) or take advantage of the roadside parking on Conc. 7, then take the trail South to Sunderland, or North to Hwy 7. These two stretches are nice, but there are only a few spots where you can see the river. If the ground is soft, you can see different animal tracks (deer, coyote, raccoons, rabbits, other people’s dogs etc.), serving as a reminder that you aren’t the only one using this trail.