Chances are, if you are a tourist, you’ve found this blog post by Googling “day trips from Toronto.” While exploring the city is exciting for a day or two, inevitably, you want to get a taste of what the province has to offer.
Ontario Tourism’s slogan for many years has been “Yours to Discover”. The idea behind it is still relevant today as native residents and tourists alike have so many places to visit and experience in this province. Day trips from Toronto that take you further north, west and east are doable.
Having explored numerous spots in the past few years with my husband Frank via day trips, and subsequently blogging about them, we’ve become unofficial ambassadors for tourism in Ontario.
I’m sharing with you our list of top day trips from Toronto. How long it takes to get there is based on an early morning start time using primarily country and side roads. So set the alarm for 5 a.m. and get on the road!
Hamilton – The City of Waterfalls
1 hour drive west of Toronto, QEW/403
Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Waterdown, Hamilton – exploring here you will find over 130 waterfalls, big and small. Some of the key waterfalls are Albion Falls, Tews Falls, Webster’s Falls and Tiffany Falls. Grab a backpack with a lunch, water bottles and comfortable hiking shoes/boots to explore the many trails that are part of the Bruce Trail. The Niagara Escarpment runs through this area with shale limestone and rocky trails.
The city of Hamilton has done a wonderful job revitalizing the natural landscape and watershed in and around the city.
Links to check out:
Beaver Valley, Meaford, Owen Sound and Wiarton
2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours drive along side-routes
My recommendation for a day trip here is to skip Highway 400 and take side routes. As long as you know where northwest of Toronto is, you will find yourself heading towards the areas of Beaver Valley, Owen Sound and Meaford. If you head northwest from Toronto, you pass through Orangeville, Shelbourne and Markdale. Turning east from Markdale you will find yourself in the Beaver Valley, passing through the small village of Kimberley. Stop here to stretch your legs at Old Baldy Conservation Area atop of the escarpment overlooking the valley. If you keep going east you will head into Collingwood and the Blue Mountains.
If you veer northeast, you will find yourself in Meaford, a small town on the shores of Lake Huron. You can stop here to explore, have lunch and check out the thriving art community, history and town. In the fall period there’s the apple pie trail to whet your appetite and fill your belly.
West of Meaford is Owen Sound. In the winter time this city and the surrounding area get much snow. Skating, cross-country skiing, tobogganing and snowshoeing can all be done here. In the summer-time, check out the nearby Inglis Falls and Indian Falls. Hike along the Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail in this area.
Head north west from Owen Sound to the area just east of Wiarton. There you will find Bruce’s Caves Conservation Area where you can hike into areas with natural caves that are part of the Niagara Escarpment.
Check out my post about day tripping through the area near Owen Sound.
Links to check out:
3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours from Toronto
Yes, you can do a day trip from Toronto to Tobermory. We’ve done it. You just need to have your must-have snacks, beverages and other travel items ready the night before and your alarm set to 5 a.m. Getting on the road before 6 a.m. you will have a pretty clear drive up. The trip can take anywhere between 3-1/2 to about 4 hours depending on the route you take – either side roads or whether you take Highway 400 quickly up to Highway 89 that then lets you zig-zag on country roads up to Owen Sound and beyond.
Tobermory is a small place to visit but a few key places you must stop in on are the Sweet Shop in town; the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Centre with its observation tower and nearby trail that leads you to Dunk’s Bay, and of course the Cyprus Lake trail that leads to you the famous Grotto.
If you get into Tobermory at the right time during the summer months you will see the Chi-Chi-Maun ferry docked and loading for the trip over to Manitoulin Island.
Links to check out:
Explore the Bruce (Bruce County Tourism)
Pinery Provincial Park, Grand Bend and Goderich
3 hours to 4 hours from downtown Toronto (Via Highway 401 Westbound and county roads)
There are sand dunes in Ontario – Pinery Provincial Park is full of them. During the summer, this provincial park is full of campers and people using the day-use areas to access the beach along Lake Huron. If you get there before 10 a.m. you are bound to get a decent spot to set up your beach umbrella and get some sunshine.
Getting to the Pinery Provincial Park takes you through some of Ontario’s farmland that looks quite different from areas closer to Toronto. Wind turbines dot the landscape, capturing the winds coming off of Lake Huron, while large solar energy panels capture the sunlight and turn it into energy for local use.
Once you get there, you get to see differences in plant life, with sandy soil and unique species of trees, bushes and flowers native to the area. After a brief visit at the Pinery, you can head up along the shoreline through Grand Bend where you can see how the sand consumes the shoreline.
Just a bit north is the pretty town of Goderich, with its strong community that dealt with a very damaging tornado that ripped through its “downtown” in 2011. In the past few years it has been rebuilding sites and re-planting trees to once again offer a beautiful stop on your day tour of this part of Ontario.
If you don’t want to enjoy the beach, head to the Menesetung Bridge which was once a rail bridge. It now links up to the Tiger Dunlop Heritage Trail, giving you a good stretch to your legs and a chance to take in the type of plants that can be found in this part of the province.
Links to check out:
Bancroft, Barry’s Bay, Algonquin Park and Huntsville
3 to 4 hours from Toronto depending on traffic (and how early you start)
Why so many spots to hit on this day trip? This is a driver’s dream drive, through some of the most beautiful, hilly landscapes in Ontario.
Heading to Bancroft, you drive into the heart of rockhounder’s heaven – it’s called the Mineral Capital of Canada. A stop at the Bancroft Tourism office means you can get a day permit and maps to accessible rockhounding sites where you can dig for rocks and minerals such as mica, apatite, quartz, iron, lead, beryl and sodalite among others. There are approximately 1600 different types of rocks and minerals to be found in this area. The Rockhound Jamboree takes place annually at the end of July and beginning of early August bringing in thousands of people.
NOTE: If you are planning to do some rockhounding, come prepared. Read my previous post about our experience which includes some of the things you need to bring with you into the woods.
Heading north to Barry’s Bay, you find yourself driving through Madawaska Valley with hills and curving roads. There are also glimpses of the Polish heritage of early settlers in this area, who settled in Wilno, just east of Barry’s Bay. This area is known as the “Ontario Highlands” – driving through here will make you feel a bit like travelling through parts of Scotland.
Heading west on Highway 60, you are on route to Algonquin Park. This highway will take you through the southern part of the Park, giving you a taste of the wilderness and natural Canadian Shield landscape you can find here. Although this section is the most developed, it’s the most accessible to many who just want to do a quick pass through the area. It’s here that you find the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre which has an amazing lookout over a river and plateau. In the distance you can spot moose feeding and walking through the area. This is also a great spot to spot for a bite to eat at the Visitor’s Centre’s Sunday Creek Cafe.
On your way out of Algonquin Park, pass through Huntsville – one of the prettiest towns in this part of Ontario. This is an alternative place to stop for food and to stretch your legs before heading back to Toronto.
Links to check out:
What are your favourite or recommended day trips from Toronto?