Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Why not take a fun, quick road trip to the best attractions around southern Ontario. Here are some easy road trips from Toronto for the eager explorers out there.
While we are all eager to escape and start exploring again, we are still in a global health crisis. Before heading out on your road trip, please check the local guidelines and follow the health and safety measures in place. Continue to wear your mask and wash your hands frequently wherever you are.
Going on a long weekend road trip might just be the perfect getaway this summer if you’re looking to stay close to home. While Niagara Falls may be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to a quick vacation from Toronto, there are plenty of other places worth exploring in the region. In fact, if you live in southern Ontario, there may be more to see in the area than you even realized! These are just some of the best road trips from Toronto to consider for a nice weekend escape.
Road trip 1: Toronto to Hamilton
Located on the western tip of Lake Ontario and about an hour’s drive from Toronto is the city of Hamilton. What was once a steel and smokehouse town in the past, has turned into a trendy port city that mixes classic architecture with cultural establishments and natural beauty. Given all of this, Hamilton is one of those fun and short road trips from Toronto to add to your Canadian travel bucket list.
To drive to Hamilton from Toronto is pretty simple. Just take the ON-403 W.
Get there in style with these recommended stops on the way:
Did you know that Hamilton is home to more than 100 waterfalls? Of course, this is too many to make the most out of a weekend or day trip – but you can definitely make a stop to Albion Falls, a 19m waterfall that gradually falls in stages over natural steps. There are also some nice trails nearby for a hike if you’re feeling up to it. Albion is one of the most picturesque falls in the area, so it is a must on your road trip to Hamilton.
This grand, historical and architecturally fascinating castle will make you feel as though you’ve landed in Europe. Originally built in 1830, if you are interested, you can take a guided tour of what was once a fortified military encampment founded by the British in 1813. Check the website for the latest info, and you can even take a virtual tour!
The largest botanical garden in Canada is located right in Hamilton’s backyard. With 27 km of nature trails and five well-tended to gardens – you’ll quickly be in awe of whatever flowers are in season at the time of your visit.
Where to eat in Hamilton
You’re definitely going to grow an appetite during your Hamilton road trip and lucky for you, there are some amazing culinary options. For amazing artisan pizza, go to Born & Raised, which is owned by a Top Chef Canada alumni. For vegan fare and gluten-free options, Planted in Hamilton is a solid choice. If you want a cozy coffee shop for your caffeine fix before the drive back, head to Durand Coffee.
Road trip 2: Toronto to the Bruce Peninsula
The Bruce Peninsula National Park is about a 3-hour drive away from Toronto, and the trip is completely worth it. Right between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, lies this stunning natural reserve that will make you think you’re not in Ontario anymore. Fresh air, gorgeous water vistas, and unique rock formations all make this a heaven for nature lovers.
To get to the Bruce Peninsula National Park from Toronto, you can take the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) to 427 N to 401 E to 410 N to Highway 10, then finally Highway 6.
Make the most of the Bruce Peninsula National Park with these must-sees:
Tobermory, Ontario, is home to extensive land that encompasses forests and the impressive cliffs that make up the Niagara Escarpment, where you will witness jaw-dropping views of turquoise-coloured waters that will transport you to the Caribbean Sea in an instant. The highlight here is Flowerpot Island, one of Canada’s underrated natural wonders. Add some more adventure time in your trip planner and take a leisurely hike along the trails to find native orchards; Tobermory is known to have the highest concentration of this flower in North America!
Lion’s Head is a quaint port village located on the shores of Isthmus Bay. This area gets its namesake from the stunning limestone cliffs that resemble a lion’s head if looked at from Georgian Bay. The best time to come here is for either sunrise or sunset, when the sky turns into a myriad of colours that reflect off the water to create a scene so beautiful that no camera could capture it.
Located about 20 minutes away from Sauble Beach, Wiarton sits at the head of Colpoys Bay, an ideal place for sailing, kayaking, or canoeing if you’re interested in doing more water sports. The nearby BlueWater Park often hosts a number of events, including Farmer’s Markets and the Santa Claus Parade. On top of this, Wiarton also makes the great lift-off point for a boat ride or hikes in the neighbouring parks and conservation areas.
If you are looking for a place to stay overnight, look no further than Sauble Beach where you can find cottages, hotels, motels, B&Bs, and even campgrounds for the more adventurous. Wake up to 11 km of white sandy beaches and glorious waters. What sounds more enticing than that?
Where to eat in Bruce Peninsula
Want to know the best places to eat in the Bruce Peninsula? Marydales Family Restaurant serves up classic dishes and desserts. Then open late and located right next to the harbour in Tobermory is Crowsnest Pub & Restaurant. Lastly, a road trip to the Bruce Peninsula would not be complete without grabbing the tasty and classic Canadian pastry: a beavertail! Top off your day or weekend road-trip with one of these treats at the BeaverTails booth in Tobermory.
While the Bruce Peninsula is one of the great summer road trips from Toronto, it can also be visited during the winter months when there is plenty of winter activities to participate in, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. As such, this is a road trip from Toronto you can definitely make more than once a year!
Road trip 3: Toronto to Stratford
About an hour and a half drive from Toronto lies the wholesome town of Stratford. Known for being an epicentre for live music and theatre, especially Shakespeare, Stratford is a great road trip idea if you are craving more culture and art.
Please note: The Stratford Festival season for 2020 is currently on hold due to COVID-19. The websites mentioned below will keep you updated on what’s happening for the 2021 season.
To drive to Stratford from Toronto, start on the Gardiner Expy, then take ON-401 W to ON-7/ON-8 in Kitchener. Take the ON-8W/ON-7W exit to arrive at your destination.
On your way to Stratford, make a pit stop at St. Jacob’s Market in Waterloo, open year-round on Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Here you can stroll through the vendors and surely get something that catches your eye, whether it be antiques, trinkets, fresh vegetables, or baked goods.
Here is how you can make the most of your time in Stratford:
With something for everyone’s taste, a trip to Stratford would not be complete without seeing some good live theatre. The Stratford Festival typically takes place from mid-April until the end of December, so there is plenty of time to catch one of the musicals or Shakespeare plays that they are running.
As far as music goes, Stratford is the birthplace of several talents, including Justin Bieber and John Till (a member of Janis Joplin’s band). Then several new, up and coming artists have also emerged from Stratford’s scene, including Dayna Manning and Peter Oldridge. The Stratford Concert Band and Stratford Symphony Orchestra host quality concerts throughout the festival season, and you can currently check the Stratford Symphony Orchestra’s page for virtual concerts.
Once you’ve had your fix of live entertainment, wind down with a visit to one of Stratford’s wonderful museums. Stratford’s visual art scene is vigorous and dynamic. Some of the galleries worth a visit include the Agora Gallery for contemporary fine art, Mountain Galleries East for Canadian art, and the Stratford Perth Museum which includes exhibits of cultural and historical relevance.
Where to eat in Stratford
As far as fine dining goes, The Prune Restaurant is a well-loved local place that serves sophisticated, seasonal dishes. The Mill Stone Restaurant & Bar which has an eclectic menu of items made with locally-sourced ingredients. You can sample some of their delicious tacos with a beer from Stratford’s own brewery, Black Swan Brewing Co. Finally for a classic cup of coffee, head to Balzac’s Coffee Roasters; this is the original location of the popular Canadian coffee shop.
Some of the best parts of road trips are the little stops in between the major cities, so don’t hesitate to get out of the car to explore! Canada has such a wide variety of beauty, these three road trips are definitely just the beginning.
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