There are days where you want to get into a car and explore… yet, you only want to do a bit of exploring, just for one day. Here are five places to visit within one hour from Toronto (presuming you are driving, using the highways, early in the morning on a weekend when few people are on the roads) that might inspire you for a day trip:
1) Explore Hendrie Valley – Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), Hamilton
Grab your comfortable walking shoes, binoculars or telephoto lenses for the DSLR camera and check out the many birds, small animals, amphibians and insects that call this sheltered valley home. With a boardwalk around the marshy areas, and a trail that runs around the slopes with old growth trees. This is a spot where you can pause and wait silently for the wildlife to present itself.
Trails here are fairly easy and you may want to head over to Cootes Paradise close by for more exploration.
Cost: Free to enter; paid parking lot.
Directions: Major access points are along Plains Rd, Hamilton and include RBG Centre and Cherry Hill Gate. For more information check out www.rbg.ca
2) Learn about Canadian art at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Situated just about an hour’s drive north of Toronto in Kleinburg, the McMichael gallery is the best place to see any of the Group of Seven’s paintings, and the works of my favourite painter, Emily Carr. Other art on exhibit is First Nations and Inuit art, and modern, contemporary Canadian works.
The gallery is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year, with special programming.
If inspired by the paintings to get closer to nature, check out the many trails on the conservation lands (about 100 acres) by the East Humber Valley right next to the gallery. The Kortright Conservation Centre is right next to it, if you are desiring a longer walk.
Open Monday through Sunday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. See the website for additional details on tours.
Costs: Adults $18; students $15; seniors $15; children five and under, free. Check the website for group and family rates.
Directions: Take Hwy. 400 north to Major Mackenzie Drive. Turn left (west) on Major Mackenzie Drive to Islington Avenue. Turn right (north) on Islington Avenue into the village of Kleinburg.
3) Spend an afternoon or evening in Port Credit, MississaugaIf you haven’t visited Port Credit recently, you may be surprised by the revitalization the area is undergoing as of recent years. This area, and particularly the waterfront, will make you wish downtown Toronto had the same look and feel along the lake’s shore.
About an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto, take the QEW to Cawthra Rd or Hurontario Rd and head south and you will find yourself in the heart of a vibrant community.
A few things to do in Port Credit:
- Dine at one of the many restaurants, bars and lounges that have opened up in recent years
- Take a walk in the marina area by the lighthouse and check out the action as the boats come in.
- Grab an ice cream cone at Scoops and head to Memorial Park by the library to sit in the shade and relax. Alternately grab a burrito from Burrito Boyz and have a “picnic” lunch al fresco.
- Walk along the waterfront – if you head east of the Port Credit Harbour Marina you’ll reach Adamson Estate, one of the historic buildings in Mississauga. If you go west, you will pass through J C Saddington Park to walk along the lake and into lovely residential areas. If you really feel like walking, keep going and you’ll reach Rhododendron Gardens.
- If visiting in the evening, bring your camera and tripod to get beautiful sunset photos of the area by the lighthouse – the views are very pretty, and romantic.
- Check out the nightlife at one of the many bars and lounges. Ten Restaurant is a hot spot during weekend evenings.
If you feel like you’ve explored Port Credit enough, you may want to check out Oakville’s waterfront area by Lakeshore and Trafalgar as it’s just as pretty and more of a shopper’s dream.
Port Credit parking: paid parking along Hurontario and some side streets. Your best bet for free parking is the parking lot behind Snug Harbour Restaurant (Stavebank Road, south of Lakeshore Road), and the huge lot by the Port Credit library (entrance to the parking lot is via Stavebank Road, north of Lakeshore, first street on the left at High Street).
4) Hike at Mono Cliffs Provincial ParkBring good hiking shoes with treads, insect repellent and lots of water with you as the trails at the 750-hectare Mono Cliffs Provincial Park take you into woods, swampy areas and up steep hills that I like to call “Heartbreak Ridges”. This park is part of the Niagara Escarpment, and features a limestone plain, rock crevices and a meadow full of wild plants and flowers.
There are many trails at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park offering several hours worth of wandering. Views from the top of the cliff lookouts are pretty on a clear day.
Directions from Toronto: take Airport Road to Mono Centre Road (Dufferin County Road 8), and then go west to 3rd Line E.H.S., and then north one km on 3rd Line E.H.S.
Cost: parking – for one hour $3.00; 2 hours $5.00; full day $11.00.
For more information about Mono Hills, check out the Outdoor Adventurers blog post.
5) Antiquing in Flamborough, Ancaster, Dundas and Hamilton
This idea comes from Mary Luz Mejia who recommends checking out Clappison Corners Antiques in Flamborough. For anybody who loves old furniture and things, or is an avid collector of vintage memorabilia, Clappison Corners is one of the places to visit in this area west of Toronto.
Directions: Head on the QEW/403 and take the Highway 6 exit north to Dundas (Highway 5). Turn west (left) and head down to 71 Highway 5.
There are numerous of antique shops in the region, offering hours of perusing and shopping. Check out this list for more locations.
Longer Day Trips Are Doable
For those with an adventurous spirit, there are many more destinations in Southern Ontario that are a short day trip away from the GTA. You can even successfully do a day trip to Tobermory!
Have any other great places to visit close to Toronto? If you have any other recommendations for places to visit or things to do, we look forward to your comments!