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Best Long Drives from Toronto in Summer: Ontario Road Trip Guide

Summer in Ontario is the perfect time for road trips, with its warm weather, extended daylight, and lush landscapes. If you're based in Toronto and looking to explore beyond the city's boundaries, there are numerous scenic routes and destinations waiting for you. Here’s a curated list of the best long drives from Toronto to embark on this summer, each offering unique attractions and breathtaking natural beauty.


Best Long Drives from Toronto in Summer


Muskoka, Ontario
Muskoka, Ontario

1. The Trip to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake


Majestic Niagara Falls
Majestic Niagara Falls

Distance: About 130 km one-way


Driving Time: Approximately 1.5 hours


Highlights:


  • Niagara Falls: One of the world’s most stunning natural wonders, Niagara Falls is a must-visit. Enjoy the spectacular views, take a boat tour on the Maid of the Mist, or explore behind the falls.

  • Niagara-on-the-Lake: Known for its wineries and the Shaw Festival, this charming town offers beautiful architecture, boutique shopping, and gourmet dining.


Route: Take the QEW directly from Toronto to Niagara. The drive is straightforward and offers views of Lake Ontario.



Additional Activities:


  • Journey Behind the Falls: Experience the thundering roar of Niagara Falls up close from the observation decks and tunnels that lie behind the falls.

  • Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory: Located on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, this is a delightful escape into a tropical paradise filled with thousands of butterflies.

  • Wine Tours: Niagara-on-the-Lake is renowned for its wineries. Consider booking a guided wine tour, which often includes transportation and tastings at multiple vineyards.


Travel Tips:


  • Avoiding Crowds: Niagara Falls can be very crowded, especially on weekends. Try visiting early in the morning or later in the evening for a more peaceful experience.

  • Border Crossing: If you plan to cross into the United States, ensure you have the necessary documentation and check border wait times in advance.


2. Muskoka Region - Ontario’s Cottage Country


Muskoka, a Paradise
Muskoka, a Paradise

Distance: About 200 km one-way


Driving Time: Approximately 2.5 hours


Highlights:


  • Lake Muskoka: Enjoy boating, fishing, or just relaxing by the lake. Muskoka is dotted with picturesque cottages and offers several resorts for a luxurious stay.

  • Bracebridge: Visit the quaint town of Bracebridge for its waterfalls and scenic parks. Don’t miss the Bracebridge Falls.


Route: Take Highway 400 north from Toronto; it turns into Highway 11 as you approach Muskoka. This route is lined with verdant forests and lakes.


 

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Additional Activities:


  • Algonquin Provincial Park: A bit farther north, this iconic park offers outstanding hiking, wildlife viewing, and canoeing opportunities.

  • Gravenhurst: Known as the Gateway to Muskoka, Gravenhurst features attractions like the Muskoka Steamships and the Muskoka Wharf.


Travel Tips:


  • Book Accommodations Early: Muskoka is a popular summer destination, so it’s wise to book your accommodations well in advance.

  • Respect Nature: When enjoying outdoor activities, remember to follow Leave No Trace principles to protect the natural environment.


3. Prince Edward County


Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks Provincial Park

Distance: About 220 km one-way


Driving Time: Approximately 2.5-3 hours


Highlights:


  • Sandbanks Provincial Park: Famous for its dunes and golden beaches, it’s a great spot for swimming and picnics.

  • Wineries and Breweries: Tour the local vineyards and craft breweries. Prince Edward County is known for its farm-to-table dining experiences.


Route: Head east on Highway 401, then south on Highway 49 to reach this idyllic county.



Additional Activities:


  • Taste Trail: Explore the Taste Trail for a culinary adventure through some of the best restaurants, wineries, and artisanal food producers in the area.

  • Arts Trail: Follow the Arts Trail to discover galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists.


Travel Tips:


  • Beach Visit: Plan to visit Sandbanks early in the day as parking spaces can fill up quickly during peak summer months.

  • Accommodation Variety: From cozy bed and breakfasts to luxury inns, there’s a wide range of accommodations available; book ahead during summer.


4. The Thousand Islands


The Thousand Islands
The Thousand Islands

Distance: About 300 km one-way


Driving Time: Approximately 3 hours


Highlights:


  • Boat Tours: Explore the beautiful Thousand Islands with a guided boat tour. Discover hidden treasures and the historic Boldt Castle on Heart Island.

  • Brockville: Visit the Brockville Tunnel, Canada’s first railway tunnel, for a cool escape from the summer heat.


Route: Take the 401 east from Toronto to Brockville or Gananoque, from where you can explore the islands.


 

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Additional Activities:


  • Fort Henry: Located in nearby Kingston, this historic fort offers military reenactments and stunning views over Lake Ontario.

  • Skywood Eco Adventure: Engage in an aerial adventure through zip lines and canopy tours in the heart of the Thousand Islands.


Travel Tips:


  • Explore Small Towns: The region is dotted with charming small towns like Gananoque and Rockport, each offering unique local shops and eateries.

  • Water Activities: Consider renting a kayak or joining a guided paddling tour to explore more intimately.


5. Blue Mountain and Collingwood


Blue Mountain Resort
Blue Mountain Resort

Distance: About 160 km one-way


Driving Time: Approximately 2 hours


Highlights:


  • Scenic Caves Nature Adventures: Explore caves and crevices, and don’t miss Ontario’s longest Suspension Footbridge.

  • Blue Mountain Resort: Enjoy outdoor activities like mountain biking, zip-lining, or just relax at the Scandinave Spa.


Route: Head north on Highway 400, then west on Highway 26 to reach Collingwood. The drive is scenic, especially as you approach the Niagara Escarpment.



Additional Activities:


  • Wasaga Beach: Just a short drive away, visit one of the longest freshwater beaches in the world, famous for its shallow waters and sandy beach.

  • Village at Blue: Explore the Blue Mountain Village for shopping, dining, and evening entertainment.


Travel Tips:


  • Adventure Pass: Consider purchasing an Adventure Pass which offers access to various attractions and activities at a discounted rate.

  • Stay Duration: With so much to do, consider extending your stay to fully enjoy the range of activities available.


Each of these road trips from Toronto offers a unique way to experience Ontario's beauty and diversity. Whether you're looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, these destinations provide the perfect escape from the city. Pack your bags, tune up your car, and hit the road for unforgettable summer adventures! Remember to check local travel advisories and ensure that attractions are open for visitors. Enjoy your journey and the myriad experiences that Ontario has to offer!


 

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