You made it through Manitoba in one piece! We knew you would. Now you’re ready to conquer the vastness of Ontario, a province that boasts 1/5 of the world’s fresh water and the nation’s capital to boot. Oh, and it has done something else worth mentioning. It produced one sparkly-eyed, wavy-haired, dreamy cartoon prince come-to-life. You know him as your prime minister (and possibly the protagonist of your day dreams), Justin Trudeau, and he was born in Ottawa.
Now, on to the important stuff: Where will you stop as you traverse on your road trip in Ontario? Coming up with Ontario road trip ideas is one of our favourite things to do, so we took the liberty of assembling a kick-butt itinerary!
Here are nine Ontario destinations to visit on your quintessentially Canadian road trip:
You’ve got a lot of ground to cover between your last pit stop in Whiteshell, MB and the next one in Thunder Bay. Break up the journey in Kenora, a premiere boating destination and home to unfettered lake terrain. Be sure to stretch your legs at Tug Boat McLeod Park, where you can spot one of the most unique landmarks in Northwest Ontario across the street. Husky the Muskie is his name, and telling you to avoid water pollution is his game. He is also a 12-meter tall muskellunge and kitschy photo op. If you have a few hours to relax, grab lunch and a beer at Lake of the Woods Brewing Company.
Next Leg: 560 km (6 hours)
After a day of driving, check into a Thunder Bay hotel and get some rest. But not before you see what local entertainment has to offer. This may be Thunder Bay and not Thunder Down Under, but there are still some things shaking. See a show at the Magnus Theatre and grab a drink at the Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. Speaking of huge slumbering beings, wake up in the morning and go straight for Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Stellar views of Lake Superior and 80 km of hiking trails are a pretty fantastic way to kick off your day. Other things to do before you hit the road again include collecting your own amethyst at the Amethyst Mine Panorama, snapping pictures of the greenery at the Thunder Bay Conservatory, and restocking your snack cooler with sustainable food from Belluz Farms. One final stop before you head out of town: Kakabeka Falls, where the viewing decks provide close-up views of the rushing water.
Next Leg: 705 km (7 h 35 min)
Sault Ste. Marie
With a long leg under your belt (fist bump for that) you’re ready for another reprieve! And a city on the St. Marys River is a good place to call it a night. Stay at a Sault Ste. Marie hotel and mosey over to the Northern Superior Brewing Company—yes, they use Superior water to brew their beer (in every sense of the word). Let your imagination take flight at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, where more than 20 aircraft are on display and a 3-D firefighting presentation awaits. Before you hit the open road once more, stop by the Chippewa Trading Post and Frontier Village to pick up some supplies (one can never have too much fudge or caramel popcorn in the car).
Next Leg: 315km (3 h 30 m)
With a name like Sudbury, you know you’ve made it to southern Ontario (your knowledge of French never fails you). Why is this such a good place for a pit stop? The views at the A.Y. Jackson Lookout, for one. Watch the High Falls barrel 55 metres toward the Sudbury Basin and follow the scenic trail through local landscape. Refuel at the local co-op, Eat Local Sudbury, where you can pick up loads of locally sourced goodies. Snacks, candles, and even natural sweeteners are all up for sale. Spend a few hours at Science North and see the Famous Big Nickel before you get back on the highway. ‘Cause why not?
Next Leg: 414 km (4 h)
You made it to T-Dot! Time to book a room at one of the fanciest hotels in Toronto and settle in for a few days. If you stay at the Chelsea Hotel or Le Germain Hotel Maple Leaf Square, being pampered is the first thing on the agenda. After all, you’ve been hiking and stuff—you deserve a hot bath or professional massage. From there, you’re off to the CN Tower, the tallest free-standing tower in the Western Hemisphere. From the top, you can drop water balloons…erm, just kidding, but you can scout out all the places you want to visit. The first stop when you’re back on solid ground? The Hockey Hall of Fame, of course. Afterward, go shoot the breeze with fellow hockey fans in the Distillery District. After sleeping in the next morning, wake up with a cup of coffee and stroll through the iconic St. Lawrence Market or beloved Kensington Market. After lunch in Chinatown or Queen West and a stop at the Art Gallery of Ontario, it’s time to slide back into your ride and continue your epic road trip.
Next Leg: 69 km (1h 20 min)
Sorry, theatre lovers, your next stop isn’t the latest Broadway sensation. But don’t worry, this Hamilton is chock-full of history, too. Once you pull up in front of the Original Tim Hortons, your Canada-loving heart will sing so loud it deserves a Tony award. Grab a cup of piping hot coffee and a doughy confection at the site where it all began, then stop by the Dundurn National Historic Site for another dash of history. Continue on to the Battlefield House Museum & Park, where weekend re-enactments put you near some thrilling action.
Next Leg: 210 km (2 h 30 m)
Next stop, Kawartha Lakes! Where the livin’ is easy, even when it’s not summertime. Relax on your very own houseboat rental, and then soak up the tranquility at Bobcaygeon Beach Park. If you keep getting pinged on work emails even though you told your manager you were unavailable (come on, Greg), try a bit of time travel. That’s a good excuse for not responding, if we ever heard one. First stop on your trip to another era: the Horseless Carriage Museum, where you can see the first automobiles up close along with a phonograph and other mechanical antiquities. Fast forward a few decades and visit the Lindsay Drive-In, just 30 km away. While you’re in Lindsay, you may as well explore the entertainment and dining downtown. Dig into a plate of baked moussaka or falafel pita at Olympia Restaurant Café and Bar, and you’re ready for the next leg of your journey! Pro tip: If you have an extra day on your hands, head 3 hours south to the world-famous falls. Hotels in Niagara Falls right on the water offer views to take your breath away.
Next Leg: 280 km (3h 30 m)
Take a break in Merrickville, which bills itself as the “Jewel of the Rideau.” Not only can you check out the Rideau Canal, which is a UNSESCO World Heritage Site, but you can support local artists. And there are a lot of them. Glass blowers, painters, potters, and other creative spirits give you plenty of reasons to reignite your own creative flame. If you like your artisan crafts to be edible, stock up on some award-winning mustard from Mrs. McGarrigle’s or some perfectly cut taters from Bob’s Fresh Cut Fries. Grab a new bag from Rowland Leather to store your new goodies, and you’re off toward your last Ontario pit stop.
Next Leg: 78 km (55min)
All the best road trips in Ontario include a stop in Ottawa. You’ll find a flowing river instead of liquid dreams in this O-Town, but no one is stopping you from breaking out in your favourite boy band song. You’ll want to spend a few days here, so go ahead and unpack your bag at Arc the Hotel or the Hilton Garden Inn. Once you’re settled in, it’s off to explore the ByWard Market and grab a bite at Zak’s Diner. While you’re in Ottawa, a stop at Parliament Hill is a must, and the Notre Dame Basilica and National Gallery of Canada will give you a healthy dose of culture. Down by the river, Ottawa Rock Art combines nature and creativity, so bring your camera and get ready to make some plans for your rock garden back home. On the more daring side of attractions, Little Rays Reptile Zoo lets you see toothy reptiles up close.
You just made it 2,631 km and had one of the most activity-filled road trips in Ontario! Take a load off and savour some gelato from the Stella Luna Gelato Café. Tomorrow, you’ll embark on the Quebec leg of your trip, where we’ll meet you in our next post.