By: Jim Bamboulis
After a very long and cold winter (in Toronto, anyway), warmer weather is finally here to stay. And although many people love to travel anywhere, no matter the weather, for many, summer is the season to take a trip or two. That includes road-tripping.
And who doesn’t love a good road trip? Unless you’re crossing international borders, there are no security delays or hassles, no extra fees (other than gas) and no need to worry about whether your carry-on baggage meets weight and size requirements either. Solo or with some friends, road tripping is liberating. All you really need is some food, music (including that Milli Vanilli CD from ’91 you have buried somewhere), an adventurous spirit to meet new and interesting people, eat in some cool diners along the way and maybe even re-discover the country that you call home.
In Southern Ontario, there’s no shortage of great road trips. There’s so much to see and do, the list is endless. If you’re visiting Toronto and surrounding area for the first time, then doing a day trip to Niagara Falls and the wineries along the way is must do. But if you’ve been there, done that and want to experience something new, then these 5 ideas below will inspire you to get out there and discover parts of Canada you may not have known existed. Here we go!
5. Hamilton – The City of Waterfalls
Ah yes, Steel-town. Located about 1 hour southwest of Toronto, Hamilton doesn’t look pretty from the highway. All you really see is a rough-looking town with factories and smoke stacks. But if you judge Hamilton based on what you see from the highway then you’re not looking deep enough. Go beyond, be amazed.
Of course, locals know it all too well but if you didn’t know that Hamilton is The City of Waterfalls, well now you do. Hamilton is proudly home to over 100 waterfalls identified by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, found along the Bruce Trail and the incredible natural wonder that is the Niagara Escarpment. If you can or don’t mind getting your heart pumping while taking in the sights, then you’ll love the fact that there are several hiking trails in Hamilton and surrounding area that lead you to some of the most beautiful waterfalls outside of Niagara. Take a look for yourself.
For more information about how to experience more of these waterfalls in Hamilton, refer to Hamilton Waterfalls and get informed.
4. Point Pelee National Park
This is a place that must be visited. Located about 4 hours southwest of Toronto, Point Pelee’s big draw is the fact that it’s the southernmost tip of mainland Canada (map). A compact little park full that gives you the chance to canoe, hike the easy trails or lay down a towel and soak in the sun on the beach. If you’re a bird lover, Point Pelee is one of the main go-to places anywhere in North America for bird watching. There’s even an annual bird festival that takes place here.
If you like wine, you can hop on a ferry to Pelee Island and visit the winery located there. But if you prefer to stay on the mainland, you should also visit Leamington, the cute little town that surrounds Pelee. Not only is it the Tomato Capital of Canada (Heinz has a plant here for over 100 years), it’s also known as the “Sun Parlour” for its warmer than typical Canadian temps. In fact, Leamington lies on the 42nd Parallel, the same latitude as Chicago, Rome and Northern California. Here are some sights from this beautiful oasis.
For more information about Point Pelee National Park, including fees and schedule of events, please visit the Parks Canada website.
3. Flowerpot Island and Bruce Peninsula National Park
Flowerpot Island is one of those places that when you see pictures of it, you kinda don’t believe that it exists, especially so close to Toronto. Granted, it’s still a 4 hour drive northwest of the city (map) but the drive is well worth it. In fact, this part of Ontario is quickly becoming one of the most popular summer weekend getaways for city people. For the past few summers, tour buses (and loads of money for the local economy) have been pouring in as word has gotten out about the beauty of this part of Ontario.
Flowerpot Island is part of Fathom Five National Marine Park, the first national marine park in Canada. This park has 45 square miles of clear water and an archipelago of 19 islands. Cliffs, caves, shipwrecks and lighthouses are found here. Board a glass bottomed boat and see the wrecks for yourself or strap on scuba gear and have an even closer look. This is the Shipwreck Diving Capital of Canada after all. Here’s a gallery of the shipwrecks and Flowerpot Island.
Meanwhile, Bruce Peninsula National Park (map) is just south of the Marine Park. A sprawling park, it’s loaded with hiking trails and offers an incredible terrain, beautiful landscapes and crystal clear turquoise water. There are many highlights and activities that you can do while here, but if you have a limited amount of time, I suggest you hit the Cyprus Lake Grotto. It’s a comfortable 15-25 minute hike to one of the most breathtaking scenes I’ve seen in Ontario. If you’re brave enough to handle the cold water or adventurous enough to scope out the caves, do it. Otherwise, bring a camera and some sunscreen and enjoy the blue.
Fore more information about Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five and the Bruce Peninsula, this website will tell you everything you need to know about what else to see, where to eat and where to stay.
2. The Scenic Caves in Collingwood
Sure, in the winter, you drive the 2 hours north of the city (map), hit up the ski resorts in the Collingwood area to ski, snowboard and even snowshoe. But there are plenty of activities to enjoy when the weather is warmer, including zip lining, hiking and walking across the longest suspension bridge in Southern Ontario.
From the heights of the bridge to the depths of the earth, the Scenic Caves take you down. Deep down. There are a bunch of caves to explore that take you down as much much 70 feet. There’s an ice cave here that’s so deep that snow and ice stick around through early summer.
Bring a good pair of running or hiking shoes, maybe a light sweater and some will power. Some of these caves are dark and tight. Otherwise, you’ll have a good time. For more information about the Scenic Caves and a full list of activities, caves to explore and natural significance, visit the Scenic Caves website.
1. Sandbanks Provincial Park
The first time I went to Sandbanks, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Located about 3 hours east of Toronto (map), Sandbanks Provincial Park is home to hiking and canoeing but the big draw is swimming in one 3 sandy beaches, including Dunes Beach. These pictures give you a perfect idea of what to expect at Sandbanks.
Sandbanks is located in Prince Edward County. PEC has become pretty famous for its wineries. Although Niagara still seems to be the main wine region in Ontario, Prince Edward County wine makers are making a name for themselves with many wines to sample. If you love a glass of wine before, during or after a day at the beach, check out the list of wineries available in this part of Ontario.
There you have it. 5 incredible road trips to choose from this summer. No excuses. If you want to get away and don’t want to spend an intense amount of money, hit the road and enjoy the sights and sounds in your own backyard.
Happy travels everyone!
96 thoughts on “5 road trips from Toronto you should do this summer!”
Great post! Thanks… I’d personally like to add Elora Gorge and Cheltenham Badlands 🙂
Badlands is now closed. Getting ruined from tourists. Only the trail is open
It’s not closed yet, I saw the article too but I saw some pictures on IG the other day and went up there. There was more people on the hills than I’d ever seen before.
because every picture on the internet / IG speaks the truth.
Its closed temporarily
I live up the street. its open, wont be closing.
Hey there! Yes totally love Elora. Too many great places, tough to narrow it down. Thx for the suggestion!!
Excellent addition. I am a photographer and this is one of my go-to spots in Southern Ontario.
cheltenham badlands is now closed to the public. its sad they closed it but it will save it for mane more years to come
The Badlands is just one spot in the beautiful Headwaters Region and soooooo central – just outsideToronto’s back door!
Good choices…Elora is my backyard, just beautiful !!
Cheltenham Badlands are now fenced off and entrance prohibited. You can drive by them but you will never experience them again. Sad.
Lake Superior provincial park Pictographs a must see!
Thx for the suggestion Brian. 🙂
Totally 100% agree, as well as Chippewa Falls (which is on the way) and Old Woman’s Bay (futher along 17, just South of Wawa). Unfortunately it’s a bit of a drive from Toronto.
My family has a camp near Chippewa Falls, my go to place every summer!
Never could have known about Hamilton in so short time ! nice one.
Glad that you read the article and that you enjoyed the info Harsh. Appreciate it. 🙂
please stay in Toronto
Too much construction and traffic there!!
Why stay in Toronto when there is so much to see elsewhere? This seems to be such a narrow minded suggestion. Getting out of the city and experiencing the open countryside is really good for your mental and physical health.
Thanks for your comment Michael. There’s plenty to enjoy in the big city. But yes, getting out of it is also liberating!
Hamilton waterfall s were beautiful. We went in July. s an most of them were totally dry. I think early spring would be the best. We only saw 2 with water. To bad about Badlands. That was amazing.
I lived in Hamilton and was at the Devil’s Punch Bowl a few times. I never saw a waterfall. The picture was interesting – especially the mattress that someone dumped at the top of the waterfall!
not a mattress its a graffiti painted on the concrete wall
NIAGARA ON THE LAKE
Beautiful in the summer with all the flowers on the main street. Great day trip. Choices of places to eat and shop.
Hamilton. Where you see the air and breate it too…
Try to stay current dano, it hasn’t been that was in many, many years.
ya it still is Dano my kid lives in hamilton an i go reg so ya yu can see it an breathe it both lol
I am looking at it… 😛
How about Bayfield, Port Colborne, Georgian Bay?
love Port Colborne
Port Colborne is lovely!
Hi JIm! It’ Lynne – just noticed this article posted on one of my friends facebook pages. Great article and a good reminder of things to do that are close by.
Suggestion: Mazinaw Rock on Upper Mazinaw Lake, Bon Echo Provincial Park, on Highway #41, between Kaladar and Eganville, in eastern Ontario.
Thanks for reminder–forgot about this beautiful spot.
How about Honsberger Estate Winery in Jordan Ontario ” over 200 years and still growing” great wood fire Pizza. Love love love.
Georgian Bay is represented. Bruce Peninsula National Park! Cyprus lake etc.
bon echo provincial park
falls offer a must see Angelo Rossi Galleria and Studio the high light of a lot of people passing to the falls he is located at the skylon tower exceptionel master glassblower like you never see before the show is better then venice Italy
I really enjoyed Goderich, along Lake Huron. The drive from Burlington takes you through Stratford, another great road trip destination.
Goderich was hit by a tornado 4 years ago, how does it look today?b
I was there for the outdoor market not too long ago, Its back on its feet and looking pretty great.
Killbear park is spectacular!
Hi Nancy, thanks for the suggestion. The article about Killbear is now live on the main page. Check it out! 🙂
Sadly Heinz is not longer located in Leamington. They closed their plant last year after 100+ years.
great info – we took our kids camping during their younger years throughout Ontario – great way to see it and less expensive but they know their Province. Been to every Province and now working on our beautiful Territories
Reblogged this on eworgo and commented:
I’m so glad you included Sandbanks! We have a cottage nearby and we love it there. Our kids love rolling down the dunes right into the water.
I had no idea about the waterfalls in Hamilton – gorgeous!
Tobermory is on the list essentially (Flowerpot Island/ Bruce Penninsula Nat’l Park) why you would ever want to spend your time in Tobermory while in the Bruce is beyond me,
I agree while it has been a while since I have been to the Bruce…I always found Cyprus Lake and Lion’s Head to be much more interesting…
Dont bother with the scenic caves. Rammed on weekends and school holidays. Some of the caves are small and people cram in and don’t wait for those comiong out. Bad experience!
we went to scenic caves in the fall – much less crowded and some beautiful fall colours
Reblogged this on My LIT Student Experience and commented:
I love that we have such amazing things to see so close to home!
Thank you so very much for this incredible article. You have reminded me of how beautiful Ontario is. So proud to be Canadian. Had no idea of these beautiful gems right in my backyard. A road trip is being planned thanks to you. Keep up the great work. 🙂
Must include Lake on the Mountain, Picton Ontario. Very picturesque and a great scenic drive.
And don’t forget Birdhouse City while you’re out there as well!
These look amazing! The only ones I’ve visited are Flowerpot Island and Collingwood, though the sand dunes look absolutely perfect for summer.
are going to the sand dunes in august
If you have never been – – – You will love The County
There are a lot of wineries surrounding Leamington if you don’t want to get on a ferry! Look up EPIC wines.
It doesn’t really matter where you go in Ontario, Its the most beautiful place on earth. My partner and I road trip all the time and never see the same thing twice
Manitoulin Island too
Sadly the scenic “caves” are merely cracks in the escarpment, take a sweater and plenty of mosquito repellant. If you want real caves, you need to travel a lot further.
Bonnechere Caves in Eganville, Ontario are spectacular.
I write a blog for Canadian buddhists and last year for the first time I enjoyed Toronto. Was incredible seeing that city coming from the Prairies! If anyone is ever looking to really have a great adventure and be around cool people I would recommend Tisarana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Ontario. It’s a wonderful place to recharge and or just to meet lovely people and monks!
Anyway just wanted to share that gem from my experiences in that part of the country. Great idea for a blog!
Reblogged this on Mind Traveler.
Wasaga beach is the best beach in Canada, bar none!
Rattle snake point is amazing for hiking. It has awesome paths that take you through the woods and it also has a lot of points that are perfect for photographing. I know they offer rock climbing up the side of the cliff. It’s located on appleby line in Milton. There is a small fee to pay on entry but it’s a day full of adventure and fun
Awesome list! I’m a photographer and have taken images of some of the places mentioned above. What a beautiful province we live in! Check here for images…stefanmarchofer.wix.com/stefanhofer
An area not mentioned that is close to Toronto is Rockwood Conservation Area. I love this park and its so close!
Farther away, Killarney Prov Park is amazing, probably tops in my opinion. You guys already mentioned Bruce Peninsula National Park, obviously Algonquin is great too. So much beauty in this province…we are all so lucky!
Go to Manitoulin absolutely beautiful, visit small Indian villages and Bridle Vail Falls. You can swim at the base of the falls, then take a walk on the trails.
YES! Do come and visit Hamilton. If it is the waterfalls and cascades you want to see, I’ll even meet up and accompany you if you like. I’ve hiked and photographed a few of them. I’ll do them again or explore any that I haven’t seen before.
You might be amazed at how much natural beauty exists in and around the tenth largest city in Canada.
Point Clark lighthouse is open now after being restored. You can go up the tower 100+ steps – http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/on/clark/index.aspx
Great article, can’t wait to take some of these trips soon!
What about Manitoulin Island….Hidden Gem and trumps all those and you can take the ferry from Tobermory when you go see the grotto.
Thanks for your suggestion Larry!
A personal favourite of mine is Bala (Cranberry capital) and the Marine Railway at the locks at Big Chute (near Port Severn, part of Trent Severn waterway)
Great info, Alot of beautiful places, I would love to see them all but have only seen a handful so far, !! It always baffles me that no matter what a post is about there are always negative people ! Yes if you are in the factory area of Hamilton, it does get pretty bad, but if you venture out where the waterfalls etc are it is beautiful with clean air, but no matter where you go,whether you are a local or visitor if you don’t take your trash etc out with you when you leave, it isn’t going to stay that way for long
Thanks for stopping by Ginny. And thank you for your comments. Hopefully you can get the chance to see them all and share your favourites as well. Keep checking back for updates on our site and on our other social platforms.
If you’re going to Tobermory stop in Owen Sound. It’s a small town on the way with waterfalls near by and a great music festival that happens in August. Check out http://www.summerfolk.org
Hi Jon, thanks so much for your suggestion! Yes, I agree Owen Sound is a great place to visit en route to Tobermory and even Sauble. I especially love Inglis Falls. Really a hidden gem in central Ontario!
Sauble Beach is the most beautiful beach in Ontario …fine sand as far as you can see ….tall grasses whispering in the breeze ……Lake Huron blue and deep …as forever …try it ! You’d think you are in the Carrabean!
I’m living in Europe, but I’m originally from Toronto. I’ll be home for 3.5 weeks this summer and I was debating what I would do. Thank you for these awesome suggestions! I will definitely visit as many of these places as I can (Tobermory has been calling my name again for the last few years).
Wow! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Tobermory has been calling my name since last summer. I’ll be going back for sure. I’m glad I could help with your plans in the Toronto area. Please let me know how you enjoyed your experiences. 🙂
I would like to add “Singing Sands” beach and Sauble beach. Singing Sands is very close to Tobermory. You can walk a mile into the beach and still have the water only at sea-level. I thought it was very cool. By the way, Badlands is NOT closed – its only fenced and you can’t park right next to it. You can park about a couple of blocks further and walk to the badlands. If you park too close, a cop will roll-by and ask you to move.
Perfect list, would love to follow every inch of it. I´m a wanderer myself and I could put quite a few check marks to some from these list and still willing t see more and more. So happy travelling to all of us!
Thanks so much Traveoport. Enjoy!