In the middle of Ontario, you’ll find some of the most fascinating places to stop in for a day trip or a weekend getaway, either by some of the well-kept highways or the lake and rivers that run between them. They offer glimpses into the history of the area, the natural beauty, and the human ingenuity that keeps visitors coming back year after year.
**Kindly do not travel during Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions. Plan your trip now, travel later.**
The Tragically Hip were inspired to write about this town’s clear skies for a reason. Situated right on the Trent-Severn Waterway, it welcomes visitors by boat or car. Along with its clean air, it offers great shopping and lots of ways to while away a day. Details
- Have lunch by the water. The town sits between Pigeon and Sturgeon lakes, so it’s easier to find a spot on a patio or via a picnic where you can enjoy the view or a visit to the beach.
- Drop into Kawartha Settlers Village to see the general store, jail and homes set in pioneer times, with volunteers in period costume.
- Shop for shoes and clothing at the upscale Bigley family of stores or the beach house, with incredible customer service.
- Stop by Kawartha Dairy to discover why the local plant makes the best ice cream you’ll ever taste.
This town is known as the Gateway to the Muskoka as anyone travelling north to the legendary cottage area goes right through it. It is nestled between Muskoka Bay and Gull Lake with lots of charms to draw you in on the way to the water. Details
- Jump aboard North America’s oldest steamship to see the area from the water then tour its discovery centre.
- Tour the home of Dr. Norman Bethune, the medical pioneer who created life-saving tools and developed the first mobile blood bank during the First World War.
- Visit the Muskoka Wharf, an 89-acre tribute to the stunning waterfront, with various historical landmarks, shops and dining.
- Take the 26-point walking tour to see the full range of heritage sites, including Music on the Barge.
For a mix of a picturesque small town and a modern community with all the stores and restaurants you recognize, just drive from one end of Kent Street to the other. You’ll start in the historic downtown at the Trent-Severn Waterway locks and see how the town has evolved as you drive west. Details
- The Academy Theatre anchors the main street with its historic façade and incredible history of acts who have played, and still play, there.
- Shop among the brick and stone stores that have stand gracefully along the downtown core, with great dining and bakeries to discover.
- Some of the best hiking in the area is available at Ken Reid Conservation Area, where you can download an app so each tree ‘talks’ to you along the route.
- For a taste of history, see the Olde Gaol Museum in the former jailhouse, including its exhibit on local-boy-turned-celebrity Neil Young.
The gem of Hastings County is set apart from other towns but is well worth the drive. Placed at the base of a cliff and nestled along the York River, it has a rugged charm and an artist’s heart that will draw you back again and again. Details
- Discover a row of gem shops as you drive into the town from the south, where vendors share some of the 100-plus type of rocks and precious stones found in the ground nearby.
- Get a view of the entire region via Eagle’s Nest, far up the hill that sits across from the Tim Hortons.
- Drop into the Bancroft Brewery for High Falls Lager, Blonde Lady, or cans of V Rock.
- Check out the inspiring artwork at the Bancroft Art Gallery, featuring creations by local folks.
- The Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club’s museum offers a local history of mining and a wide range of rocks and gems inside the former railway station.
- Explore picturesque waterfalls at Egan Chutes Provincial Park.
This town on the Trent River stays vibrant thanks to a great mix of outlet stores, great retail and outdoor wonders. Plan to spend a day so you can see it all then plan to return. Details
- Dooher’s Bakery has been named the Sweetest Bakery in Canada – twice – and you need to visit it to find out why.
- Empire Cheese and World’s Finest Chocolate both have outlet stores where you can buy obscene amounts of treats at cut-rate prices.
- If you like the look of Canada’s two-dollar coin, you can see it larger than life in the monument here to the artist who created it.
- Take the Ranney Gorge Swing Bridge into Ferris Provincial Park for a hike over and alongside the water.
- Visit the Military Memorial Museum to see some of the planes than Canada used to fight in the Second World War.
Right on the shore of Lake Ontario, this town feels like a smaller version of Kingston with its stone buildings and historic landmarks. A trek along King Street will give you a sense of history, great shopping and snacking, then the town’s greatest gift of all.
- You have to see the incredible beach to believe it. The sandy expanse is a great spot to spend time with the family and to dip your toes into the chilly lake.
- Victoria Hall is the town’s government and meeting space that looms over the downtown and impresses with its carved detail
- Follow the Waterfront Trail to James Cockburn Park, 30 acres of forest, trails and recreational facilities to help you wear off the goodies you ate while downtown.
Just west of Cobourg, you’ll find one of the prettiest downtowns you’ll ever see. Its main street curve up a hill that is lined with unique shops and great places to dine in or out. Details
- Drop into the Northumberland Rock and Roll Experience to see the museum’s collection of musical memorabilia.
- Dorothy’s House Museum is just slightly north of town and shows you what daily life was like in the 1860s.
- Antiques on Queen has the most impressive array of antique jewelry, including pieces made from various metals and human hair.
- Check out the Haute Goat farm to pat, learn about, and possibly adopt your own goat as the owners engage their visitors in this type of farming.
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- Stroll along the boardwalk along the marsh to see birds and other wildlife, then jump in yourself by going across the bridge to the Lakefield Beach
- Lakefield College School has fabulous grounds that once welcomed a student named Prince Andrew.
- See the home where Canadian iconic author Margaret Laurence wrote her final works and did her advocacy work.
- Stop by the Tragically Hipp Clothing Gallery and other stores along Queen Street to discover original treasures. Even the IDA pharmacy has items that will pleasantly surprise you.
This Jewel of the Kawarthas is such a pretty place to just walk around and admire the incredible setting along the Kawartha Lakes. Details
- Take Hydro Dam Trail to see the falls that are partly obscured from above by a bridge, so you can enjoy the sight and sound of the water.
- The Horseless Carriage Museum takes you back to 1914 and earlier to showcase the mechanical wonders of the time.
- The Kawartha Store has items that scream “I am Canadian” and that will prompt storytelling for years to come.
- Garnet Graham Park is an oasis within an oasis for you to stop and eat a takeout lunch or just enjoy the grounds and the beach.
- Start out by exploring the former mine just east of town, hiking in to see what treasures of garnet or pyrite remain.
- Visit the grounds of Saint Matilda Church and its limestone ruins alongside the scenic spring-fed falls of Crowe Lake.
- Check out the playground behind the visitors’ centre then wander along the trail by the river, cutting back through the downtown.
Cut off the highway for the change of pace and scenery, to treat yourself to this small spot on the shores of Stoco Lake. It has some great boutique shopping and great lunch spots that will keep you lingering longer than you planned. Details
- Try to find all 36 uniquely painted fire hydrants in the town on a little scavenger hunt.
- Quinn’s of Tweed Fine Art Gallery will inspire your senses with breathtaking artwork.
- See North America’s Smallest Jailhouse.
- Tweed Memorial Park is a wonderful place to stop and relax on the lakeshore and treat yourself to some fries and ice cream from nearby vendors.
- Go on wine tastings at Potter Settlement Winery.
Don’t be quick to just drive through this place on Hwy. 7 since it has so many delights that are not evident when you just see the Tim Hortons and McDonalds on the outskirts. Turn into the town to discover its delights in and around the town. Details
- O’Hara Mill Homestead on Mill Street has five geocache sites on its 85 acres, blending the history of this heritage property with the high-tech hobby of finding hidden treasures.
- Stretch your legs along the Central Hastings Heritage loop, which covers 156 kilometres for hikers to explore.
- Spin your wheels at the skate park that has great ramps for showing your skills.
Surrounded by seven hills, this town in Northumberland is rich in artisans and its celebration of the arts. From its many shops to its Town Hall Centre for the Arts, it supports the creative people in its circle. Known as a designated arts community since 2004, it is blessed with numerous galleries, featuring local and Canadian artists. Details
- The Ah! Arts and Heritage Centre features exhibitions, workshops and performances for dance, costumes, puppetry, masks and much more out of the Trent Hills Municipal Heritage Building.
- Follow the walking tour to see the stunning brickwork and other architectural details of 24 homes along Main, Centre and Church streets and nearby roads.
- Refresh yourself at the Villa Conti Oak Heights Winery with a glass or bottle of fine wine. Nearby you’ll find goodies from the chocolate shop, the village pantry and five restaurants.
- Trek along the Warkworth Conservation Area’s three acres of parkland, including Mill Creek. Celebrate the sights and tastes of spring with a Lilac road trip.
Picturesque Picton is set in the midst of wine country as the new hot spot for viniculture in Ontario. As a result, other tourism-related businesses have flourished, making the area even more attractive to visitors. Details
- Popping into every winery in this area would take you days, so plan to visit a few at a time and come back for more.
- Treat yourself to some new fashions or homewares from some of the unique retailers along Main Street.
- The town’s business community hosts an evening Art Crawl the fourth Thursday of every month during the summer to explore all its galleries at once.
Located on the southeastern shore of Georgian Bay, this town has everything you are looking for a weekend getaway to Ontario’s cottage country. Details
- See the magnificent replica ships H.M.S. Tecumseth and H.M.S. Bee at the historic site of Discovery Harbour.
- Walk the waterfront via the historic port of Penetanguishene to Discovery Harbour.
- Take-in a live theatre show at Kings Wharf Theatre.
- Get to know the history of the town via a narrated tour on Serendipity Princess.