Autumn is an awesome time to hit the road and see the lush greenness of fields and the vibrant colour in the leaves as they turn gold and auburn. Enjoy the roads before the snow comes as you explore the middle of the province and its rising ridges, scenic landscapes and gentle, rolling hills. The roads beckon so get out and explore!
For more ideas, see: 15 towns to visit in Central Ontario.
Have multiple days? Then, go on Road Trip along Trent Severn Waterway
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Muskoka Chair Tour
Get out of the car at nine different stops to sit in the famous Muskoka chair at the most stunning lake views in the region. In between, you’ll marvel at the landscape around you but continue on your quest! The photos will be worth it.
Park on the south shore of Hardy Lake Provincial Park at 2346 Highway 169 near Torrance. You can also take a short hike or drop your line in the water to see if you get a bite.
Stop at Cenotaph Park at 1012 Bala Falls Road in Bala to see the Moon River Lookout. You can also catch luck at a restaurant of the same name.
The Port Carling Wall on James Bartleman Way has a photo mosaic of more than 9,000 images that makes up 28 overall pictures of the RMS Sagamo at the nearby locks.
Get your heart pumping as you hike to the Walker’s Point Lookout at 1470 Walkers Point Rd, Torrance.
Route Map: Map & Guide.
This route takes almost two hours but book twice as much time to sip wine, view artwork, and see a stunning statue when you reach your destination. That’s just the human entertainment amid Mother Nature’s fine work.
Whetung Ojibwa Centre has some of the best artwork Ontario artists are creating, from painting to jewelry, sculpture, leather work, beading, dream catchers and more. Whetungs also operate a museum and have totem poles in their expansive building. Turn off the main road to find it at 875 Mississauga St, Curve Lake.
Seek out the Adam and Eve rocks near Buckhorn. Apparently, if a couple holds their hand and touches these large rocks, their lives will be eternally blessed. You’ll find them near 850 Adam and Eve Road.
Kawartha Country Wines creates an incredible range of fruit and dessert wines from its crops grown in the site, from rhubarb to blueberry. It also has a store with an array of local sweet and savory items to also add to your dinner.
Route Map: Map & Guide.
Take a Rural Ride Around Haliburton
Find out why this area is known as a “natural work of art” as you tour around the inspiring scenery that draws so many creative people to live, study, and work here. You’ll get panoramic views of both Haliburton and Minden while seeing the full range of beauty of the county in which they reside. You’ll cover 136 kilometres over two hours unless you stop along the way!
If you begin the loop in Haliburton, head south to Gooderham then stop at the ghost town of Furnace Falls on Hwy. 503. You can easily see the falls from the road as you cross the Irondale River or within the park.
In Minden, stop in at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre to explore the Agnes Jamieson gallery and heritage village then trod the boardwalk along the Gull River and the wonderful wetland at the end.
The Stanhope Museum has a heritage garden that pays homage to the settlers who learned what methods and crops to use to thrive in this Canadian climate. Make sure to snap a shot of yourself with the World’s Largest Lumberjack sculpture.
In Haliburton, you’ll find the perfect blend of this area’s outdoor and creative genius in the Sculpture Forest in Glebe Park. Watch out for 34 sculptures and six unique benches during your walk. Some are obvious while others peek at you from a rise as you travel the forest on foot.
Route Map: Map.
Lindsay, Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls
Take a day to see the delights of Lindsay, Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls with a 73-kilometre jaunt. All three sit on the shores of rivers and lakes whose waters reflect the fall colours.
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In Lindsay, get a gander at the Olde Gaol Museum in the former jailhouse, including its exhibit on local-boy-turned-celebrity Neil Young.
Enjoy some of the best hiking in the area at Ken Reid Conservation Area, where you can download an app so each tree ‘talks’ to you along the route.
Bright pink Lakeview Arts Barn is hard to miss and it’s also home to Globus Theatre, outside the village of Bobcaygeon. It offers memorable entertainment and experiences, plus a fabulous view. Once you get into the village, you’ll find fabulous shopping and legendary Kawartha Dairy ice cream.
In Fenelon The Horseless Carriage Museum takes you back to 1914 and earlier to showcase the mechanical wonders of the time. Stop into the Kawartha Store to find items that scream “I am Canadian” and that will prompt storytelling for years to come.
Route Map: Follow the red route on this map by starting at any town along the loop.
Circle Muskoka’s Heart
This heart-shaped route hits Huntsville, Gravenhurst, MacTier and Rosseau along its route. Set aside five hours as you see remarkable real estate and spectacular scenery. Buckle up to see where Santa works his magic and where cranberry wine begins.
In Bracebridge, you can see three sets of waterfalls that will leave you snapping photos galore.
The cranberry harvest begins in September in MacTier and Bala so come see what all the fuss is about. You can even take a bottle of wine home from previous harvests.
The Torrance Barrens and Dark Sky Preserve aim to keep the fragile ecosystem here healthy for many generations to come. Drop in to see what they are protecting and why.
Route Map: Map
Circle Stony Lake
In less than two hours, you can see a revered Indigenous historical site, set a sugar high from delectable pastries and pick up unique gift as a memento. All this flies by along the routes that several Canadian celebrities use to get to their cottages on this stunning, rugged lake’s roads. You can also take a break to spelunk!
Lockside Trading Company is a surprisingly unique gift shop with gifts, home décor and clothing that you won’t find anywhere else. Stop in at Young’s Point for your souvenirs from this sojourn.
At Petroglyphs Provincial Park, you’ll see the largest known concentration of Indigenous rock carvings in Canada: turtles, snakes and birds, as you learn about the traditions of the Ojibway (Nishnaabe) and their medicine wheel on 2249 Northeys Bay Rd, Woodview.
Drop in underground to see routes cut into the rocks more than 1,000 years ago at the Warsaw Caves. Even if you stay above ground, you can enjoy a nice forest hike in this park.
After the long drive, you deserve the sweet treats at the Kawartha Butter Tart Factory. On top of a wide range of tart flavours, it also offers savory soups, sausage rolls and other snacks.
Route Map: Map & Guide
Follow the Algonquin Loop Tour
For a longer drive around the Haliburton area, set aside more than three hours so you can stop to take photos of breathtaking scenery and take a break for a short hike. You’re likely to see wildlife along the rock cuts and waterfronts so keep your eyes peeled.
Wander your way to Wilberforce to find the Red Cross Outpost Museum. Nurses worked here from 1922 to 1963 and you can see their tools of the trade.
You’ll drive right through majestic Algonquin Park so you might as well stop to enjoy its many splendors.
Head south to drop into Dorset. Climb the scenic lookout tower (closed in 2021 due to COVID-19) then dig into its logging and pioneer history at the heritage museum.
Take a break at Halls Lake and admire the sluiceway of Buttermilk Falls from the bridge at the top or the trail along the side.
Route Map: Map & Guide
Rolling Hills of Kawartha Lakes
In the 60 kilometres between Lindsay, Omemee and Bethany, you see amazing sights from the heights of a trestle bridge, huge Buddhist statues and a secret garden. Watch for the heritage stone houses that stand the test of time.
The Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden Site (Cham Shan Temple) near Bethany is a stunning hilltop location for awe-inspiring statues and gardens. It is the largest Buddhist temple complex outside of China and is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
While in Bethany, drop into Williams Design Studio to see its secret garden, explore the studio and pick up a wall sculpture or a piece of weaving.
If you want another thrill, take the Kawartha TransCanada Trail from the village of Omemee to Doube’s trestle bridge. This 200-metre span takes you 29 astonishing metres above Buttermilk Valley for an unforgettable view of the area.
Pop into Emily Provincial Park to enjoy its Marsh Trail and waterfront views. It’s easily accessible by following the road that bears its name.
Route Map: Follow the green route along this map.
The Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery
A series of more than 90 murals celebrates the legacy of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, Canada’s most famous artists.
Start in Huntsville for the first 35 murals all within walking distance. The tour begins in front of the Algonquin Theatre with a number of murals in the sketch gallery, via a stroll south on Brunel Road.
Then head to Lake of Bays and Algonquin Park.
Deerhurst Resort operates a satellite gallery on this tour and also has its own Eclipse Gallery for you to enjoy other artists’ work.
Algonquin Park also hosts a satellite gallery, which is extremely fitting given how many of the group’s painting were inspired by its landscapes.
Route Map: Map & Details
Hunt down some Heritage Haunts
Spend a day along the many stops on this 44-kilometre route as you get out of the car to explore some spooky sites. This is a great Halloween-timed experience spent just within and east of Peterborough.
For a historic Halloween, make your way to Lang Pioneer Village near Keene. This collection of more than 25 heritage buildings bring history alive with its costumed interpreters and a chance to try activities from times gone by. It hosts a Halloween event, a corn roast and an autumn apple festival.
In Peterborough, Trent Valley Archives takes you take in time with tours of the ghosts that make East City eerie, introduce you to the characters buried in a lakeside cemetery and hitch up for haunted carriage rides. The menu changes each year.
See the legacy of the late Rogers Birdsall in the power of the Peterborough Lift Lock. This engineering marvel takes you almost 20 metres either up or down so you can continue to travel along the Trent Canal. Powered completely by hydraulics, it is the highest lift lock in the world.
Dr. John Hutchison built a home in 1837 and died there 10 years later, but his memory lives on in this old stone house-turned-museum. Hutchison House offers endless autumn activities, alongside its regular programming from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday.
Route Map: Map
Farm to the shield – Northern part of Kawartha Lakes
The northern part of Kawartha Lakes displays a range of landscapes and unforgettable towns. From the businesses of Bobcaygeon to the kismet of Kinmount, you’ll also see the colours of Coboconk and waterfront scenes of other villages.
In Bobcaygeon, shop for shoes and clothing at the upscale Bigley family of stores or the beach house then drop into Kawartha Settlers Village to see the general store, jail and homes set in pioneer times. Finish up with a cone from Kawartha Dairy and discover why the local plant makes the best ice cream ever.
The beautiful site of Austin Sawmill and Train Museum in Kinmount does more than resuscitate the history of this ground-breaking industrial site. The viewing platform gives you a sense of why this site was preserved as a park.
Coboconk has the bragging rights as the home of Canada’s highest body of fresh water from which one can circumnavigate the world. Getting there by car will open your eyes to stunning foliage and majestic rock formations and farmlands.
When you get to Norland, plan to take Hwy. 35 to Elliot Falls, the perfect site for a picnic along the Gull River. The water tumbles down more than two metres and offers a peaceful reprieve.
Route Map: Follow the orange route on this map.
The Irresistible Rail Tail Tour
For those who prefer to stick to pavement, you can stay in your comfort zone while still playing explorer. Over almost two hours, you’ll cover 120 kilometres of twisting roads in and around Haliburton that abut two former rail lines.
After exploring Irondale and Gooderham, tally ho to Tory Hill, then catch County Road 1 to get to the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association Fish Hatchery. Learn about aquaculture and hunting, then try out the trails and archery course.
Stop at Ritchie Falls, the most photographed site in the region.
For the true taste of wilderness, the Snowdon Park forest preserve allows you to guide yourself through woods and wetlands. Keep going until you find the lookout!
If you didn’t get enough, proceed to the Dahl Forest Nature Reserve to see 202 hectares along Burnt River near Gelert. You’ll find seven trails and widely diverse species of animals.
Route Map: Find it on the grey line on this map.
Ride the Barn Quilt Trail in the former Ryde Township
Track down all 24 landmarks tagged with quilt patterns as you drive around the roads east of Gravenhurst. The designs celebrate more than 140 years of life in the area and the settlers who broke ground here. Begin at the “Pinwheel Parade” and learn about the pioneer families here. You can easily find 1006 Taverner Road right off Hwy. 11.
The Saw Blade Block at 1758 Doe Lake Road denotes the discovery of a 32-inch blade that highlighted the unearthing of a forgotten sawmill near Fawn Lake. The site is a sawmill once again, this time producing furniture from pine, oak, hemlock, ash, maple and ironwood.
Holy Manger Church sits in the ghost town of Lewistown, bearing the “Day and Night Star” as its beacon for travelers. Originally a Methodist church built in 1890, it draws its unique name from the altar which is in the shape of a manger.
The Spider Legs carry you to Barkway United Church and its rich history that dates back to 1882. The parishioners are proud of their maintenance the architectural heritage of one of the oldest buildings in the community. Check out its foot-deep windowsills, vertical wainscoting and original oil lamps, Windsor back chairs, the organ and the stove.
The Bear’s Paw is a sign to come get a country breakfast or pizza at the Summerland Country Store. This site was once the Summerland Dance Hall and continues to be a community meeting place.
Route Map: Map
Keene & Rice Lake
You can take two hours for this 97-kilometre trip south of Peterborough or stretch it out to four for the full Kawartha experience. Take a detour to see original Zimbabwean stone sculptures, see a pioneer village and stock up on sweets and savory items at a winery, bakeries and a multi-service mercantile.
As listed in #10 in this list, stop by Lang Pioneer Village near Keene for a dose of history and hands-on activities.
The Rolling Grape Winery near Bailieboro has beverages and often hosts live music shows. It is perches on the crest of a hill that welcomes you to sit and sip a while.
The Millbrook Mercantile is tucked on King Street, which you may recognize from the number of movies shot here. Inside, you’ll find decadent cheeses, fresh meat, and endless choices for snacks and meals in an old-style store setting.
Route Map: Map
Historic Trip Through Kawarthas
And we don’t mean plain in the sense of being ordinary. The plains near Carden are like nowhere else in the world, although the other landmarks along the way north of Lindsay to Sebright and back are memorable as well. This 156-kilometre loop is peppered with farms, forests, artisans and bakeshops.
The Carden Plains Alvar is a vital birding area due to its unique habitat that welcomes rare species to nest, including the loggerhead shrike. Even if you’re not a birder, this is a fabulous place to hike in peace.
The Kirkfield Lift Lock makes a 15-metre rise or drop that is fun to watch even from land. Stop for lunch at the diner or the picnic area, then walk up to the top of the lock to watch the boats load and unload at the world’s second-highest lift lock in the world.
You probably don’t expect to find an unbelievable range of stuffed olives at a humble roadside stand, but don’t underestimate Quaker Oaks Farm. This hidden gem also has seasonal vegetables, curds, etc.
The Balsam Lake Stone Walls run for three kilometres and show the craftsmanship of George Laidlaw (1828 – 1889). This grain merchant created interlocked dry stone walls and his family has lovingly restored them for you to admire.
Route Map: Follow the purple route on this map.