Where to Find Ontario’s Best Apple Pies
Nothing quite evokes fall like a warm-from-the-oven slice of apple pie. Here's how to follow Ontario's Apple Pie Trail for the best of the best.
The Great Apple Pie Trail Road Trip
Autumn in Ontario is a time to check off a hefty seasonal to-do list: admire the fall colours in a scenic country atmosphere, drink cider, visit an apple orchard and eat all the apple-centred desserts possible. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a one-stop-shop to enjoy all your favourite fall activities? Well, the Apple Pie Trail proposes a set path where you can achieve all your autumnal activity goals.
The Apple Pie Trail is located in Ontario’s Southern Georgian Bay, which is the highest point of the Niagara Escarpment. The large bodies of water surrounding the region regulate temperatures and create the ideal microclimate for growing apples. Don’t let the name deceive you, though; the Apple Pie Trail is not only home to fruitful orchards, but bakeries, restaurants, wineries and cideries, hiking and biking paths, and art galleries.
This fall, I headed two hours north of Toronto towards the Blue Mountains, where the promise of fall fun awaited via baked goods, adorable farm animals and cider tastings—and it sure didn’t disappoint. Although I only hit a few of the Apple Pie Trail’s 26 stops, I experienced a wide range of stunning sights and delightful tastes available along the way. A vehicle is a must when exploring the 40-kilometre trail, as stops are spread out on the country roads and it can take approximately 10-15 minutes to get from one place to another. I would recommend planning out your itinerary based on your main interests and time constraint. I only had a day, so I wanted a general overview of what the trail has to offer—and the tourism office delivered on the request, providing an assortment of the trail’s most popular stops. Next time, I would love to focus on one particular region or even try one of the curated experiences, like the waterfall and wine tour. With autumn officially here, perhaps you can choose your own adventure (and there’s even an app to help you plan it out).
Photo: Hannah Ziegler
Good Family Farms
My day on the Apple Pie Trail began on a sprawling, beautiful farm in Meaford, Ont. Good Family Farms is over 400 acres and filled with cattle, pigs, and chickens, who are all raised with the utmost attention and care. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but luckily my tour guide showed me some of the key spots of the farm on an educational tour, in which I was shown around via tractor (a feature of the paid, bookable tour). In under 90 minutes, I learned about the inner workings of the farm, from how the animals are raised, bred and fed to how the land is maintained. It was lovely to see how the workers, animals and land work in conjunction to create and sustain natural resources. Of course, there was also plenty of time to admire the adorable piglets and calves, and even pet some donkeys. On the way out, visitors can purchase organic meats and farm fresh eggs. Alternatively, keep up the support for local farmers and order products online.
Blackbird Pie Company
The Apple Pie Trail’s namesake can be found at a few different points along the way, but Heathcote, Ont.’s Blackbird Pie Company is perhaps the most well-known outpost for this fall dessert staple. Upon arrival, the smell of baked apples and butter tarts wafted out of the family-owned bakery’s doors before I even entered, and I knew I was in for a treat. They sell both fresh and frozen sweet and savoury pies, along with freshly baked tarts and pastries. I was told that, unsurprisingly, the classic apple pie and apple crumble muffins are some of their bestsellers, and after tasting a slice of the former, I understood why. The pastry crust is light and flaky, while the Northern Spy (known for its versatility in baking) apple filling is gooey and just the right amount of sweet. Warm it up and pair it with some vanilla ice cream for optimal apple pie heaven ascension. If you want to stray away from tradition, try one of their other fruit pies (wild blueberry, peach, and raspberry are all on the menu) or even a sandwich for lunch on their small but charming patio.
Georgian Hills Vineyards
Nestled in Clarksburg, Ont., a peaceful and pretty vineyard proposes so much more than just wine. Georgian Hills Vineyards marries offerings from their local grapes and apples to provide delightful wines and ciders (and literally marries couples, as a wedding and event venue). I was able to try five different wines from their substantial but manageable list, ranging from cider and sparkling wines to white, red, rose and dessert wines. As someone who prefers light and/or dry wines, I was extremely impressed by their Notty Bay line, which blends local, cold temperature grapes from Nottawasaga Bay/Georgian Bay into lovely easy drinkers. Post-tasting, I tried out a delicious vegetable and ricotta flatbread from their evolving patio lunch menu—they of course have wines and ciders listed on the menu, along with dessert options including a cheesecake trio and mousse. Personally, the flatbread sustained me but the temptation was there. Tastings and restaurant seatings can only be booked by reservation, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Photo: Jessica Kasiama
T&K Ferri Orchards
The next stop on the trail was just an apple’s throw away from Georgian Hills Winery. T&K Ferri Orchards is part of a legacy of apple growers spanning three generations and a few different locations, originating in Huttonville, Ont. Karen Ferri, the co-owner of the orchard with husband Tom, tells me that the orchard, formerly in Brampton, Ont. withstood a tornado and development pressures several years ago, before moving to Clarksburg. Ever the resilient growers, the Ferri grandchildren now grow an assortment of hand-picked apples in their vast—we’re talking nearly 58,000 trees and 22 acres—orchard, ranging from Honey Crisps (their most popular) and Galas to Macs and Mutsus. Pick-your-own is not available at T&K, but visitors are able to purchase their apples of choice (along with non-alcoholic cider and cereal) and admire the carefully maintained orchard from afar.
Grey & Gold Cider
Grey & Gold Cider might be a relative newcomer on the Ontario cider scene, having established themselves in Clarksburg, Ont. five years ago, but they are no rookies when it comes to crafting boozy goodness using local apples. Owner David Baker is a Toronto expat with a passion for creating unique ciders and a warm, inviting atmosphere. Grey and Gold’s cidery and bottle shop boasts a tasting menu of nine eclectic ciders, including medal winners Heritage Dry (gold) and Modern Girl (silver). My personal favourite? Probably a tie between the Wildflower, a chamomile-infused dry cider, and Spruce of the Bruce, a pine-forward dry cider that is surely a Christmas crowd pleaser. The surprises only continued after the cider tasting when I noticed a sign for “Goat Yoga.” Naturally, I had to meet the adorable baby goats kept on the premises. No downward dogs this time, but I may just have to make a trip out to greet the animals and have another glass of tasty cider.
Next, check out this guide to Ontario’s butter tart trail.