By Jim Bamboulis
Another summer, another road trip season. Here’s a fresh batch of 10 Ontario weekend getaway experiences that will inspire you to pack up, hit the road and enjoy the season. Here we go!
Killarney Provincial Park
It might be a four-hour drive but it’s worth it. There are several activities you can do here – swimming, biking, canoeing and birding, to name a few. Hiking is also a big deal, with several trails to choose from. Easily one of the most popular is The Crack, an intense 6km, 4 hour trail that will seriously test your physical and mental limits, then reward you with views you didn’t think existed so close to Toronto.
The Killarney Ridge offers panoramic views of the La Cloche Mountains complete with incredible sapphire blue lakes and white cliffs. Considered to be one of, if not the most beautiful park in Ontario, it’s a must experience any time of year, especially during the summer! Bring your bug spray and stamina. For more info about the park, hit up this link.
French River Provincial Park
Further along the Georgian Bay coast, French River PP is both beautiful and historically significant. The first designated Canadian Heritage River, the 105 km canoe route has been paddled at some point by everyone including Indigenous people, French Explorers, fur traders and Voyageurs.
These days, you can fish, go birding, hike and even canoe. If you choose the latter, you’ll need a few days. Multiple routes along the French River from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay are available to you and are easier to navigate after flooding season (usually early spring). For more info, hit up this link.
Talk about Canadian community, perseverance and pride! Locals came together to rebuild Goderich, a lovely town on the shores of Lake Huron that was devastated tornado levelled it in August 2011. Visitors have returned to enjoy its charming, octagonal town square, incredible turquoise water beaches, mile-long boardwalk and of course, the gorgeous sunsets.
Why go to Goderich? Well, for one it’s far less crowded than other Huron coastal towns like Grand Bend and Sauble Beach. That said, with three beautiful beaches to choose from, there’s plenty of beach space for everyone to lay down a towel. On top of that, besides being named one of Ontario’s best small towns (in some circles, “the prettiest town in Canada”), Goderich is also very famous for its gorgeous sunsets. You be the judge!
Located about 2 1/2 hours NW of Toronto, near Wiarton, Bruce’s Caves Conservation Area is a gorgeous collection of caves that were formed 8,000 years ago. The trail to the caves is well-marked and is a short distance from the parking lot.
Formed by the wave action of post-glacial Lake Algonquin, the conservation area is made up of seven hectares of Niagara Escarpment with access to the infamous Bruce Trail. Wear some sturdy footwear, bring bug spray and consider bringing a flashlight to get a better look inside.
Boldt Castle Boat Cruise
Just east of Kingston, you find the small, charming town of Rockport. There, right in the middle of the Thousand Islands, you’ll find Rockport Cruises, a boat line that offers an Ontario Signature Experience. Their two-hour ‘Palaces & Palisades of the 1000 Islands Cruise’ is a member of the prestigious Ontario Signature Experiences Collection, which means it’s in a special group of best attractions that Canada has to offer.
Sail under the 1000 Islands International Bridge, through Millionaire’s Row, next to the smallest international bridge in the world, and around magnificent Boldt Castle in New York State. Passports aren’t needed as the cruise doesn’t stop on US soil.
Watch this 1-minute vlog to get the BEST idea of what to expect on this unbeatable experience!
Go deep underground and explore a world that’s as old as the earth itself. The Bonnechere Caves are located in Eganville, Ontario, about two hours west of Ottawa and feature some of the best preserved caves anywhere in Canada. But there’s so much more.
Not only can you venture deep into the caves but if you plan your visit in advance, you may also get the chance to dine and hear live music from inside the caves. So put on a pair of comfy shoes, bring a light jacket and a sense of adventure.
This experience is perfect for everyone and one you won’t forget! To get the BEST idea of what to expect at the Bonnechere Caves, watch the 52 second vlog below.
After you’ve gone underground, do yourself a favour and check into the Egan Inn about 10km from the caves. A totally refurbished and quaint four-bedroom hotel, the Egan sits on the banks of the Bonnechere River and has everything you need for a relaxing night of rest.
Long Sault Parkway
Located closer to Ottawa and Montreal than Toronto, the Long Sault Parkway is a gorgeous roadway that meanders through 11 islands that were created after the St. Lawrence River flooded during the construction of the Seaway in the 50’s. Driving through the islands takes only about 15 minutes but because you’ll be stopping along the way, it will take much longer. And believe me, you’ll be stopping.
Along with picnic areas and campgrounds, there are a couple of beaches to choose from too including Woodlands and Mille Roches, which is the largest sand beach on the St. Lawrence corridor. Water sport rentals are available here as is an island themed snack bar. Stick around for the sunset, they’re pretty epic in this part of the province.
The largest freshwater island on the planet, it has been suggested that Manitoulin Island was settled by cultures dating from 10,000 BC to 2000 BC. These days, the modern Odawa Indigenous group name for Manitoulin means “Spirit Island” and when you delve deeper and explore, it’s easy to see why. Tackling this place isn’t possible in a day but if you plan it right, you can see two pretty amazing sights on a summer weekend.
Cup and Saucer Trail
Located 18 km west of Little Current, The Cup and Saucer Trail is easily one of the most popular hiking trails in the province. The Manitoulin Extension of the Niagara Escarpment has 12 km of trails that range in difficulty to go along with 70 meter cliffs, over 2 km long.
Bridal Veil Falls
Located 20 km west of the Cup and Saucer, you’ll find a 35 foot gem of a waterfall in Kagawong. The Bridal Veil Falls is a graceful beauty that you can enjoy any time of year, from all angles including from behind the falls themselves. Some bring a picnic, others go swimming and depending on the time of year, you may also see the salmon run.
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Closer to Sault Ste. Marie than Toronto, this Ontario getaway may last more than just a weekend. The scenery is ridiculously awesome where pristine, calm waters gently grace the mountains. I was dumbfounded when I saw this! For a second, I thought I was somewhere in Northern California before re-realizing that I was in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Stop at Old Woman Bay, a stunning cove that features cliffs and a sandy beach. It’s more than a place to just stretch your legs. Lay down a towel, stay a while.
Katherine Cove + Bathtub Island
Located further south within the park, Katherine Cove features a gorgeous beach complete with sand dunes and crystal clear, turquoise water.
Meanwhile, steps away is Bathtub Island, a small, hidden gem that can only be found by a small trail opening in the forest along Highway 17, the main road through the park. You’ll figure out where it is as soon as you notice several parked cars along the side of the highway. If you decide to park, do it with care. After all, you’re parking a two-lane highway.
Pinguisibi Hiking Trail
Considered to be one of the more popular hikes in the park, the Pinguisibi or Sand River hiking trail runs for about six kilometres along a beautiful series of cascading waterfalls and river rapids that stretch as far as the eye can see. The Ojibwe, who have lived here for over 2000 years, call this river Pinguisibi for its fine white sand. The entire river is a designated canoe route.
Agawa Rock Pictographs
Climb down 100 feet, through rock chasms, sheer cliffs and giant boulders. Then walk along a narrow stretch of rock, inches from the crashing waves coming from Superior. Balance yourself and experience the past in a way you never imagined.
The Agawa Rock is a sacred site that features 35 ancient native red ochre images. The Ojibwe drew messages on the rock to record dreams, visions, animals and events. Images visible today include Misshepezhieu, the Great Lynx and spirit of the water. Only accessible when Lake Superior is calm (generally from May to September), you must always respect the site and be very cautious of the slippery rock ledge and unpredictability of the waves coming in. If you do decide to head out along the rock, here’s a tip – consider walking along the narrow passage barefoot for greater traction.
Agawa Canyon Tour Train
Easily one of the most beautiful sights in Ontario. The Agawa Canyon Tour Train sets off in Sault. Ste. Marie and heads north, inland to the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park (ACWP) about 180 kilometres away. Along the route, you’ll see lakes, cliffs, waterfalls, dense forest, all part of the rugged Canadian Shield. The highlight along the way is the curved Montreal River trestle – at 130 feet high and over 1,500 feet long, it’s an amazing sight!
At Mile 114, the train pulls into the station. At that point, you have 90 minutes to explore ACWP which features a 250 foot high lookout trail, Talus Trail which leads you to North and South Beaver Falls and a River Trail which leads you to the equally gorgeous Bridal Veil Falls. It’s a must experience and one that puts a perfect ending to an incredible road trip along a picturesque, adventure filled stretch of Canada!
Watch my 1-minute vlog to get the BEST idea of what to expect!
Here’s a map of every place mentioned in this article!
Hey y’all. I’m Jim. Cute pic, no? That kid went on to spend 16 years in the broadcast media world before starting up Travel Mammal, a site dedicated to working with brands to promote travel, food and cultural experiences.
Travel Mammal isn’t about the selfie or checking things off a list. It’s about experiencing both the journey and the destination. To breathe, learn and really absorb what’s around you, in the moment and experiencing in a way that is both memorable and meaningful.
Happy travels, y’all.