Sip Moonshine on a ‘Temperance and Temptation’ Getaway in York

This new themed journey back in time to Ontario’s Prohibition era makes a fun food and drink weekend getaway for couples 

by Heather & Arnie

Ontario’s Prohibition Era

temperance and temptation tour York

Learn about the temperance movement on this VIP tour

Earlier this week, as part of our ongoing quest for the best weekend getaways for couples in Ontario, we had the opportunity to step  back in time to the province’s prohibition era, the period between the mid-1800’s to the early 1900s when many of Ontario’s towns and counties decided to go “dry” and outlaw the production, importation, transportation, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Temperance societies quickly joined the campaign against the ills of “Devil’s water” and aggressively began preaching against the sinfulness of drinking. Of course, this period of Prohibition also prompted the rise of bootlegging and secret distilleries.

The Rise of Bootlegging and Secret Distilleries in Ontario

Sipping moonshine on Temperance and Temptation

Sipping moonshine at secret distilleries Credit Barry Best Photography

Our themed weekend was part of the launch of three new Experience Tours in the York, Durham and Headwaters regions of Ontario focused on exploring this fascinating era of prohibition, temperance and the rise of bootlegging.

While we participated in the all-inclusive option, participants can also  create their own themed road trip  by following the self guided tours of the locations using the maps and audio files available on the Temperance and Temptation website. All of the experiences are located within a few hours drive, so they make an easy road trip from Toronto.

What is the Temperance and Temptation Weekend Getaway?

For the ultimate no-stress couples getaway, the all-inclusive VIP Experience Tours are the best option. They each feature different stops with immersive experiences such as enjoying live music by the Bootlegger band, listening to stories from the past reenacted by actors such as Mag Ruffman (who starred in Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea and TV series Road to Avonlea) playing the part of Temperance teetotaler Eleanor Crumpacker, and Michael Miranda (seen on Murdoch Mysteries) playing the moonshine swilling bootlegger Mickey Byrnes.

Heather and Arnie Credit Barry Best Photography

We explore York Region’s Prohibition Past Credit Barry Best Photography

The Temperance and Temptation Weekend also features unique culinary experiences including lunch, dinner, overnight accommodations and breakfast the next morning.  It’s a full weekend of foodie fun for couples, adult singles or groups that’s also an education on a piece of Ontario’s past many people aren’t even aware of.

For our couples weekend getaway, we decided on the York Story Tour running from September 22-23, 2018 and October 13-14, 2018 and set out on our adventure into the past.

Highlights of the Temperance and Temptation York Story Experience:

1. Last Straw Distillery in Vaughn

Last Straw Distillery makes a great stop for a couples weekend getaway in Ontario

Sample handcrafted spirits at Last Straw Distillery

Although currently an industrial business area, we discovered that this part of Newmarket was originally known as the Hamlet of Edgeley. The first inhabitants came from Pennsylvania in the 1800s drawn to the area by the fertile land found here. The pastoral area became well known for fruit trees and many street names still hint at this heritage, such as Apple Mill Rd – it was also a hotbed for secret stills, often hidden in the stumps of trees.

Instead of the typical espresso shot, here we started off our morning with a shot of moonshine brewed up by owner Don DiMonte followed by a tasting of vodka, whiskey, gin and rum — all before noon!

Last Straw Distillery is the smallest footprint distillery in Ontario, but is making big waves in the industry winning Gold at the 2018 Canadian Artisan Spirits Competition for their Gin Twenty-One.

2. Ground Burger Bar – Newmarket

Ground Burger Bar

They even have hand-crafted veggie burgers at the Ground Burger Bar

After our morning libations, and history lesson, we had worked up an appetite for lunch. Next up was a filling meal of burgers with locally sourced beef from Paradise Farms in Caledon Ontario. Tasty vegetarian options such as Portobello burgers were a welcome addition. The rousing sounds of the Bootlegger band kept our toes tapping throughout the meal.

3. York Durham Heritage Railway – Uxbridge

The York-Durham Heritage Railway is a heritage excursion train operating along a 20-kilometre route between the quaint towns of Stouffville and Uxbridge

The York-Durham Heritage Railway is a heritage excursion train operating along a 20-kilometre route between the quaint towns of Stouffville and Uxbridge

Next, was a visit to the York Durham Heritage Railway built in the 1860’s by William Gooderham, a well-known distiller from Toronto (The Distillery District is one of our top picks of things to do in Toronto), to carry grain to his distillery and lumber for exporting.

There is also a small museum inside the restored 1904 station that houses unique railway artifacts from bygone eras. We then enjoyed a beer from Second Wedge Brewing Co. onboard the train while Eleanor Crumpacker led us in a rousing temperance song.

4. Second Wedge Brewery – Uxbridge

Second Wedge Brewing Co. Uxbridge

Lots of craft beer to sample at Second Wedge Brewing Co. Uxbridge

A short jaunt from the railway, we strolled into this bustling and art covered brewery founded by Joanne Richter and Rob Garrard. Joanne led the way as we sipped on a flight of beer and received a tour of what was transformed from an illegal marijuana grow operation into a thriving brewery and local live music destination.

The beautifully-designed terrace makes an ideal place to spend a few hours sampling craft beer and enjoying live music.

5. Jacksons Point Accommodations

Couples weekend getaway Lake Simcoe Ontario

Soak up some sunshine on Lake Simcoe

Every great couples weekend getaway from Toronto should include an opportunity to soak up some beautiful Ontario scenery. We arrived at our accommodations with a postcard-perfect view of Lake Simcoe from two comfy Muskoka chairs, ideal for enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning while listening to the sound of lapping waves.

6. Holland Marsh Winery – Newmarket

Holland Marsh Wineries Newmarket

Holland Marsh Wineries is a family-owned winery in Newmarket with three generations of wine making traditions

 After breakfast, we headed out for a tour of the vineyards of the Holland Marsh Wineries  with owner Narek Nersisyan who shared his family’s philosophy of winemaking with European craftsmanship. Third generation winemakers, Narek’s Father Roland Nersisyan founded the winery in the 1990s after immigrating from Armenia.

After a stroll through the ripe grapes on display in the family owned vineyards of the winery, our  informative tour was capped off by a tutoured tasting of white, red and ice wines with a delicious cheese pairing. They offer tours and tastings to the public from Wednesday to Sunday, so be sure to check their website for details.

7. Market Brewing Co. – Newmarket

Market Brewing Co

Market Brewing Co makes a great afternoon getaway from Toronto

Another surprising stop in Newmarket (who knew so much was going on in Newmarket??), the final stop on the Temperance and Temptation Experience was at the Market Brewing Co to enjoy a flight of beers.

Started by Shane McCarthy, Josh Domingues, and Ethan Allured who were high school friends, they definitely have scored a hat trick with this establishment as it’s very popular with locals enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and windows open to the summer breeze.

Guide to Planning Your Temperance and Temptation Tour: Dates, Details

York Story Tour: September 22-23 and October 13-14, 2018

The ​Durham Story:Oct 20-21 and Oct 27-28, 2018.

The ​​Headwaters Story: ​September 8-9 and September 29-30,2018

Official Tour Website: Temperance and Temptation 

Official Discover Ontario Tourism: Discover Ontario  

Learn More: Get maps, itineraries and more on the York Durham Headwaters Official Website  


Looking for More Weekend Getaways for Couples in Ontario?

Why Hockley Valley Resort Should be Your Next Weekend Escape 

Food Lovers Guide to the Top Luxury Resorts in  Muskoka 

21 Amazing Things to Do in The Kawarthas 

Beer and Brie Pizza: A Recipe from Uxbridge 

Escape Downtown Toronto on a Mariposa Brunch Cruise 

Heather and Arnie
Heather and Arnie
Heather and Arnie are a Toronto-based writer and photographer team who enjoy exploring and showcasing the world of luxury travel, gastronomy, outdoor adventure, wellness and high-end fashion.
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Showing 15 comments
  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Definitely looks like an experience I would enjoy! I love exploring the different communities in Ontario, and the T&T Getaway options give me a whole new reason to do so.

    • Heather Koroluk

      Yes, its so fun exploring all the unique communities in Ontario. Each one seems to have something special to explore, such a nice break from the pace of Toronto!

  • Esperanza and Tomas

    What a great way to get a glimpse of some Ontario history and have fun at the same time. Who knew there had been such goings-on in the peaceful countryside? Now it’s all legal and lots of fun. Will definitely try the T&T tour!

  • Marilyn Jones

    Even though I don’t drink, I have visited a good many distilleries, wineries and breweries. I enjoy the history and , often, the family unit producing their drinks. Very interesting…looks like you had a great time!!

    • Heather Koroluk

      Yes I agree Marilyn , getting to know the families behind the establishments is one of the best parts!

      We did have a non drinker in the tour with us and the establishments were very accommodating to her.

  • Sunrise Taj Mahal Tour From Delhi

    Ontario is the place where I was always longing to go. So this blog is very important to me. Looking forward to see all the amazing things. stunning your all pictures and great article. Thank you!
    Sunrise Taj Mahal Tour From Delhi

  • Brett

    Heather has always been THE trend setter, she knows what is hot before it is hot/mainstream. I have always valued her advice, opinion and wisdom. I will once again follow her lead and check this out!
    Great work Heather and Arnie

  • Culturetripper

    You guys always find the best things to do! I didn’t know about Ontario’s Prohibition era and would love to seek out a secret distillery or one of the not so secret ones listed here. And ride the railway, and be entertained by Mag Ruffman. I had no idea there was so much to do in York Region. Temperance and Temptation weekend sounds like the perfect fall getaway from Toronto. Thumbs up to lakeside accommodation, too!

  • Mario C.

    I’d be up for planning my own themed Ontario road trip–straight to the Ground Burger bar and the Second Wedge Brewery;) Tasty stuff.

  • Culturetripper

    You guys always find the best things to do! I didn’t know about Ontario’s Prohibition era and would love to seek out a secret distillery or one of the not so secret ones listed here. And ride the railway, and be entertained by Mag Ruffman. Temperance and Temptation weekend sounds like the perfect fall getaway from Toronto. Thumbs up to lakeside accommodation, too!

  • Tiffany Pence

    This looks like so much fun! What a unique experience reliving a part of history.

  • Tami

    I don’t drink but I would have really enjoyed the Portobello burgers at the Ground Burger Bar, as well as the live band. As history is my thing, I’d also enjoy the heritage railway and museum!

  • Erin

    I briefly visited the Headwaters region on a day trip from Toronto, so I can see the appeal for couples looking to get away from the city. Plus, you get to experience delicious food and beverages while learning about a pretty fascinating period in Canadian history. I think I like this idea of a themed weekend getaway, and this isn’t too far from my home base of Michigan. 😉

  • Natasha Stoppel

    Some great spots here, that view at the lake really does look like a heavenly place to have a morning coffee. Was that an airbnb? Or cottage rental?

  • Carrie R

    Now this is my kind of tour! And I am loving all the history behind it. 🙂

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