Travelling between Toronto and Ottawa, and want to add a bit more excitement to your trip? Then, here are 25 adventures for your road trip between Toronto and Ottawa that is way better than pit stops at ONRoute.
1. Ganaraska Forest & Treetop Trekking
The 11,000 acre Ganaraska Forest is maintained by the Ganaraska Forest Centre – a multi-use facility that arranges all outdoor educational programs and overnight accommodations, as well as supports activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing. Details
If you are interested in a bit more adventure, then explore the forest from the top on ziplines and spectacular aerial courses in the trees at Treetop Trekking Ganaraska. Details
Travel time from 401: 30 minutes.
2. Port Hope
Laveanne Lavender Fields: Enjoy meditative walk in the nine circuit, modified Neo- Medieval lavender labyrinth, which measures over 30 meters in diameter. In addition to exploring the farm, yoga exercises are also available early in the morning in the lavender farms. A selection of gourmet lavender inspired foods ready to tempt your palate is also available in the gift shop. You can use their terrace for picnicking. Details
Travel time from 401: around 15 minutes
HAUTE GOAT: Rambling the Northumberland Hills, Haute Goat is a 200 acre farm stocked with Nigerian Dwarf goats, Icelandic horses, alpacas, chickens and more! With options for picnicking or farm bought lunch and a marvellous view of frolicking goats and the nice aroma from the huge flower gardens with Northumberland hills acting as backdrop, a visit to Haute Goat is delightful trip for animal lovers. Details
Travel time from 401: around 10 minutes.
For more adventures in the area, see: Outdoor Adventures in Northumberland County
3. Rice Lake
If you are looking to explore smaller communities and villages, take a detour to visit communities along Rice Lake. Located in both Peterborough and Northumberland Counties, Rice Lake is a shallow lake that gets its name from the wild rice that grows there. It is a beautiful lake, ideal for camping and boating and there are several small towns surrounding the lake that offer sightseeing, shops, restaurants and other amenities. Details
Travel time from 401: Varies with respect to the village you want to visit. If you just want a feel of the Lake, visit Rice Lake Conservation Area located east of Bewdley in Hamilton Township. You can stop for food at Rhino’s Roadhouse in Bewdley. Travel time to Bewdley about 15 minutes.
Explore this feel good town – rich in history, beautiful beaches, shopping and culinary tours! Depending on your interest you can join for culinary tours, enjoy bird watching and discovering native plants, flowers and bugs at Cobourg Ecology Garden, explore Victoria Hall, built in the 1850’s and opened by the Prince of Wales, that now houses the Art Gallery of Northumberland or spend time at the famous Victoria beach. Details
Travel time from 401: around 10 minutes
5. Peter’s Woods
Peter’s Woods is the only surviving old growth forest in Ontario. Although only a short 800-meter trail, this special reserve trail a must-see due to its encircling of the maple-beech forest and overall scenic appearance. Details
Travel time from 401: about 15 minutes
6. Presqu’ile Provincial Park
A birder’s paradise (if you visiting in spring), Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Explore the sandy ridges and the bio diverse Presqu’ile marsh and wetlands through the boardwalk. Do not miss the second oldest operating lighthouse in Ontario. Details
Travel time from 401: About 10 minutes
7. Prince Edward County Wineries
Visit one of Prince Edward County’s fantastic wineries. Enjoy a meal with Pinots or Chardonnays! (Make sure you have a non-drinking companion for the drive, or keep it within the legal limits).
Depending on the winery you visit, you can have a tasting experience or go for an interactive wine-making guided tour. For example, Sandbanks Winery offer complimentary vineyard tours daily at 10:30am, 12pm and 2pm, you can also checkout the art gallery, or have a complimentary wine tasting experience with the purchase of 2 or more bottles.
As Prince Edward County is famous for its food offerings, you can stop at one the restaurants in the area and have a gourmet meal.
Travel time from 401: Depends on the winery. 30 minutes to Sandbanks Winery
Sandbanks Provincial Park
View the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation at the Sandbanks Provincial Park. Located on the Sandbanks Dunes Trail, this fragile habitat is home to some interesting and rare flora, as well as some of the park’s wildlife.
This provincial park is a lovely visit and worth a stay at one of the camp sites, which you need to book months in advance (if you want a reasonably good location).
Travel time from 401: 50 minutes.
8. National Air Force Museum of Canada
There are also over thirty monuments in the Airpark and museum and many exhibits that tell Canada’s Air Force story like Burgess Dunne, Canada’s first military aircraft in this museum that boasts of over 75,000 square feet of display space attached to the massive 16-acre air park. Details
Travel time from 401: 10 minutes.
9. Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site
If you have children with you, or have never seen a lock operate, stop at the first lock station of Trent-Severn Waterway and appreciate this Canadian Engineering feat. Details
Travel time from 401: less than 5 minutes.
10. Hastings County Arts Route
Support Ontario art! Discover painters, potters, jewelry makers, art galleries, candlestick makers, sculpture gardens and other creative people of the county, as tour the scenic rural routes of Hastings County. Details
Travel time from 401: Depends on where you want to go. To Quinte Arts Council shop: ~10 minutes.
11. Tyendinaga Caves
The Tyendinaga Caves are Ontario’s oldest natural cavern. You can explore them yourself, or join a guided tour through this fascinating hidden gem. Although a famed tourist destination, the site has maintained its authenticity and is a must-see in the region. Details
Travel time from 401: 10 minutes
12. Miners’ Loop – Marmora Lake
The Miners’ Loop is a self-guided driving and walking tour that educates visitors about Upper Canada’s First Mining Town and takes you to sites like Marmoraton Mine Site that measures approximately 1700 feet by 1200 feet and reached 600 feet deep (now filled with water and is more like a Lake). Details
Travel time from 401: 5o minutes
This is a better visit if you are travelling Highway 7. From Marmora, you can continue to Ottawa on Highway 7 (another 2.5 hrs to Ottawa).
13. Dark Sky Viewing Area
If you are travelling at night and want to stop to enjoy the stars (or heard about a meteor shower that is about to occur), then this location in Erinsville – the most southerly designated Dark Sky Viewing Area in Ontario, is the place to go.
Witness the beauty of a true Ontario starry night sky, a meteor shower, a glimpse of the milky way, shooting stars, and even planet sightings depending on the day. Details
Travel Time from 401: 35 minutes
14. Hell Holes Nature Trails & Caves
This unique geological attraction in Lennox and Addington County (420 Barrett Road, Centreville) has been operated by the Storring family since the 1940s. Hosting international and local visitors over the past 25 years, this intriguing landscape of natural stone bridges, grottos, and sinkholes, set the scene for exploration of the caves. Details
Travel Time from 401: under 30 minutes
15. Lemoine Point Conservation Area
136 hectares of field, marsh, and forest border a fantastic waterfront for nature appreciation in all seasons. Cycling, picnicking, wildlife appreciation, hiking, and cross-country skiing are a few of the more popular activities in the area. Surrounded by Collins Bay and Lake Ontario, Lemoine Point’s striking natural landscape is heavily visited for outdoor recreation. Details
Travel Time from 401: under 30 minutes
16. Kingston Trolley Tour
Ideally, you should spend a day (an overnight trip) in Kingston, but if you can not and want to have an overview of the area, the next best thing is to do a Trolley Tour.
Kingston Trolley Tours takes you on an in-depth tour of Kingston’s historic downtown and waterfront, stopping at all of the city’s most well-known visitor destinations including Fort Henry, the Penitentiary Museum, and Queen’s University. Depending on your plans, you can either get down at some of the attractions like Fort Henry or remain on the bus to get an idea of the place. Details
Travel Time from 401: 10 minutes
You may like: 25 Outdoor Adventures in and around Kingston
17. Drive Howe Island
Enjoy a scenic drive around Howe Island, part of 1000 Islands.
You can start from Kingston (assuming you are travelling from Toronto), take County Road 2 from Kingston towards Howe Island Ferry Road.
If you want to skip driving through Kingston, take exit 632 from Highway 401.
Take Howe Island ferry across Bateau Channel. Exiting the ferry, drive along Howe Island Ferry Road and take another cable ferry to Gananoque. Stop for food and refreshment here and continue to 401.
Ferries are operated daily and runs on demand.
18. Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area
If you want to stop and stretch your legs or picnic amidst nature, then stop at Little Cataraqui Creek area. Located adjacent to 401, this is a great stop for picnicking and a short hike. You can also enjoy activities like fishing, cross-country skiing and join for a Maple tour ( every March/April). Details
Travel time from 401: 2 minutes
19. Rock Dunder
This wilderness area is famed for its forest and rock cliffs and its three hiking trails that allow visitors to take in the awe-inspiring views from new heights. Rock Dunder is definitely an underrated gem with a rugged quality, and its cliffs are precisely why many like to rock climb here to the summit. Details
Travel Time from 401: about 25 minutes
20. Jones Falls Lockstation/ Great Stone Arch Dam
Take a detour to Jones Falls Lockstation on the Rideau Canal and explore the area on this self guided walking tour. Do not miss the Great Stone Arch Dam. When the dam was completed in 1831, this was an engineering feat and highest dam in North America. You can also see the Jones Falls Defensible Lockmaster’s House, also known as Sweeney House which is one of the few defensible lockmasters’ houses retaining the original functional form. Details
Travel Time from 401: 30 minutes
21. Landon Bay Lookout Trail
Enjoy a panoramic view of Landon Bay, one of the largest bays in the Thousand Islands from Landon Bay Lookout Trail. An easy hike (half a kilometer) from Landon Bay Centre, Lookout Trail has long been recognized as the best natural view in the Thousand Islands area. Details
Travel Time from 401: 5 minutes.
22. Skydive Gan
Beginner or veteran, or simply a one-time thing for your bucket list, Skydive Gan is the place in Ontario to skydive. Free fall against the wonderful scenery of Gananoque with the oldest skydiving school in Canada.
You need plan well ahead, if you want to do this.
23. 1000 Islands Tower
Enjoy an exhilarating panoramic view of the 1000 Islands and St. Lawrence River on an elevator ride up the 1000 Islands Tower. A mere 40 seconds to reach the first of three observation decks, you won’t want to miss out on the photo-op here! Details
Travel time from 401: 10 minutes
23. Skywood Eco Adventure
Several courses provide people of all ages an opportunity to explore the forest canopy or nature from the ground. The most popular adventure is the 3-hour adventure course where adventurers cross bridges, ride zip lines, and climb nets, but there is also the 2-hour zip line tour, and the Treewalk Village for younger children to navigate 7 treehouses. Details
Distance from 401: 10 minutes
24. Brockville Railway Tunnel
Explore part of Canada’s First Railway Tunnel at this Brockville attraction. This tunnel is a great representation of the country’s pre-Confederation industrial heritage that has been repurposed to become the central hub of the Brock Trail recreational pathway. The tunnel features an LED light system and visitors can walk through while listening to music playing. Details
25. 1000 Islands Cruise
Enjoy a trip around 1000 Islands. Depending on the cruise you can see a variety of islands and features like Zavikon Island, Boldt Castle, Millionaire’s Row, Canadian Palisades, 1000 Islands International Bridge and Singer Castle.
You can choose to board the cruise from Brockville, Rockport or Kingston. Cruise duration varies from 1 hour to 3 hours. Details
26. Upper Canada Village & Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary
If you are travelling on 401 to Ottawa, you normally will take Highway 416 North after passing Prescott. To visit Upper Canada Village, continue on 401 to Morrisburg for another 30 minutes.
Visit this pioneer village that showcases rural English Canadian Ontario (upper Canada) of 1860s. You can tour historical buildings, and learn all about late 19th-century social life, music, religion and politics. It is great visit during evenings in Fall (Pumpkinferno) and Christmas season (All alight at Night). Details
Natural and untouched wildlife habitats at the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary are the home to up to 200 bird species. The site’s self-guided nature trails allow you to walk amongst the mature forest, fields, and wetlands at your own pace. There are also special events and cross-country skiing trails during the winter time. Details
Planning Your Trip:
You need to allocate around 1.5 to 3 hours for your detours. This includes travel time to destination from 401 and back + time for activities.
P.S: There have been times when the author has spend more than 90 minutes waiting for food at an ONRoute during summer season.