Nauti AND Nice – Spend a Perfect Day at Pickering Nautical Village

Linda Cook

The Nautical Village began as a dream of Pickering's City Council to create a go-to destination for residents and tourists to break from the rush of daily urban living and discover "the jewel of Pickering."

A hidden gem on the shores of Lake Ontario lies the Pickering Nautical Village. Bounded by Lake Ontario and Frenchman’s Bay, this growing tourist destination is home to a diverse population of waterfowl and an equally diverse collection of shops and services. It’s an area of incredible natural beauty and growing in notoriety for its picturesque nautically-themed curb appeal and array of shops.

As I write this, I’m basking in a sunbeam on an unusually bright, warm November day.  This kind of weather puts me in a cheerful mood to grab my face mask and plan the perfect afternoon in the Nautical Village; it gets me every time.

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The Nautical Village began as a dream of Pickering’s City Council to create a go-to destination for residents and tourists to break from the rush of daily urban living and discover this beautiful neighbourhood, commonly referred to as “the jewel of Pickering.”

Carefully planned, the area begins at the crossroads of Liverpool Road and Krosno Boulevard. A welcoming sign, whimsically shaped as a giant boat anchor, marks the beginning of a pathway edged by cheery blue bollards that lead to a row of quaint shops and cafes.   Hungry folks are lured in by delicious aromas of fresh baking and the promise of a gastronomical delight in one of the Village’s many restaurants, all culminating with spectacular bay and beach views at Millennium Square.

My perfect afternoon begins with a hand-made margarita at Chúuk. Inspired by Mexico’s vibrancy and traditions, Chúuk invokes the vibe of warm beaches and a sunny getaway. And let’s face it: couldn’t we all do with a little beach vacation right now?

The sleek, inviting interior of Chúuk makes me wish I had hired their designer to renovate my house. Before I start ripping out my cupboards, let’s begin this day with that margarita. For the margarita purist, there is, naturally, the traditional margarita. My personal favourite is the “Pink Jaguar,” an otherworldly concoction of Tequila, Cointreau, prickly pear, and lime juice, all rimmed to perfection with hibiscus salt. I could while away several hours here, nibbling on an array of antojitos (starters) such as poblano rice or street Corn.

If Mexican is not your flavour, perhaps the decadent savoury delight of butter chicken and vindaloo is more to your palette. Zeera By the Bay features an inviting and delicious mix of traditional Indian dishes, seafood, and tandoori specialties.

Venturing further down the road, you may be greeted by the sound of guitars at the Open Studio Art Cafe.  Open year-round, Open Studio has become a meeting place for local artists and musicians alike, offering live art classes and open mic performances for musicians to share their original works. It’s not an uncommon sight to see a collection of bicycles lining the street as bike enthusiasts take an espresso break on the Café’s outdoor patio.

The next destination in my “all about me” afternoon is definitely MySpa. With their motto, “once you walk through our teal doors, you will never want to leave,” MySpa is an oasis of Zen. With up-to-date safety protocols in place, you can enjoy a professional mani-pedi or indulge in a relaxing hot stone massage.

To really work out the kinks, it’s time for a Pilates class at Pilates by Bernadette. Described as a good vibes studio, Bernadette offers a dynamic range of timeless and cutting-edge group and private sessions.

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After all this pampering and self-care, I’m feeling peckish again and in need of something delicious. Mr. Delicious, to be precise. One of the newest establishments to the Nautical Village, Mr. Delicious has been serving up mouth-watering plates of jerk chicken and saltfish since 2019. Always friendly and filled with a funky reggae beat Mr. Delicious is a great experience.

If a lazy day is not your scene, the Pickering Nautical Village has still got you covered. Pick up a paddle and launch your canoe or kayak and enjoy the breezes on Frenchman’s Bay, or hike a path through the Waterfront Trail to watch the swans go by. Be sure to keep an eye out for the local “mascot,” Tulip, the wild turkey, and her sidekick Tom. Tulip and Tom have become beachfront regulars, often visiting neighbouring backyards and wandering the walking trails. Tulip even has her own legion of followers on Facebook.

As my day winds down, I can think of no better place to watch a glorious sunset unfold on Frenchman’s Bay than at Port. With its heated and covered patio, you can sip an Aperol by the fireplace while waiting for your wood-fired pizza to arrive.

Just as easily, one could plan a shopping trip down by the bay, spending an afternoon visiting the boutiques nestled in amongst the eateries. Shop for something sparkly at the Diamond Ring Studio, acquire some fresh ink at Next of Skin, or treat yourself to a professional bra fitting (worth it!) at Comfort Bras by Pauline. There is a little something for everyone. You can even schedule that eye exam you probably missed at Pickering Eye Care or get your teeth cleaned all in one trip! Debra at Community Dental Hygiene has been a vital part of the community for a decade.

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Wrapping my day of adventure, I fancy a milkshake nightcap. An institution in Pickering for more than 50 years, The Big M has built its reputation as the destination for hand-cut fries and homemade burgers. (That’s over five decades of milkshakes that bring literally everyone to the yard!)  Not only are they generous with their portions, but they are also generous with their community. Owner Chris has sponsored too many community teams to count and entertained the neighbourhood with classic cars and live music nights. Though the parking lot may not be filled with shiny cars now, The Big M remains open and ready to serve up all the classics.

It’s advisable to check each venue’s opening hours before you begin your own nautical crawl to avoid disappointment. As the Region shifts through the various stages of Covid-19 restrictions, hours could be impacted.