In the thick of Toronto, wishing upon a star isn’t often a reality – simply because it's rare to ever spot one.
At a time when reconnecting to nature has more appeal than ever, you may want to add stargazing at Torrance Barrens conservation area and dark-sky preserve to your list of Muskoka to-dos this summer.
Just a two-hour drive north of the city, the reserve consists of Crown Lands in the municipalities of Gravenhurst and Muskoka Lakes and offers some of the most magical stargazing in Ontario.
Thanks to urban night lighting and city pollution, it’s become an inevitable reality that the only time Toronto-dwellers really see the stars in all of their majestic glory is when they’re, well, not in the city. Though, with Muskoka’s rampant development in recent decades, even there, lights can interfere with stargazing in some areas.
But not at Torrence Barrens.
Surrounded by protected or undeveloped land and removed from any urban light source, the site's natural beauty allows the stars to shine through like diamonds in the sky. The dark-sky area often captivates awestruck visitors with breathtaking views of constellations, galaxies, and planets – sometimes even the northern lights.
The experience at the starry spot is enhanced with the use of binoculars, which will reveal an abundance of stars invisible to the naked eye. According to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a beginner’s telescope will even offer views of the cloud banks of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn.
In addition to its out-of-this-world offerings, the fully preserved oasis provides a photo-worthy spot during the day, with rocky barrens, rare plants, and wildlife to enjoy from several trails. All of this and a pristine lake makes it a popular spot for a view-filled camping experience.
After a grassroots community initiative to have it legally protected, Torrance Barrens was designated a Conservation Reserve in 1997. Once it was established, its star-filled offerings in the absence of light pollution were quickly realized. With its rare beauty, the dark-sky preserve is one of just six in all of Ontario.