There are a wealth of activities to see and do in Toronto, but if you’re looking at expanding your horizons and seeing what else is within driving distance of the big city. We’ve got you covered.
All activities in this article are located within a 3-hour drive of downtown Toronto, so whether you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city or just want to explore Ontario we’ve got you covered.
1. Be at one with Nature at Algonquin Provincial Park
Located 3 hours from the downtown core, Algonquin Provincial Park is of Ontario’s best provincial parks. There are loads of activities to do once you arrive. Whether you’re camping or just visiting for the day there’s plenty of trails to facilitate any type of hike. The lookout trail is the most popular option and like all good trails/hike, the icing on the cake is always a great view at the end.
This trail does not disappoint with a spectacular view of Algonquins’ greenery at the summit. We highly recommend taking this trail in the fall where the autumnal colors are something to be seen. The trail is considered an easy to medium difficulty and is relatively short at 2.1km with an elevation of 252 feet. It does get pretty busy in the fall and summer months, so make sure to start early to get an unobstructed view.
Algonquin also offers a number of lakes that are the perfect spot for canoeing. Canoe lake is probably your best bet for a lazy paddle taking in the picturesque views of the park. The portage store is the place to rent all the equipment you would need for a day on the lake.
2. Niagara on the Lake
The town located a 20-minute drive from Niagara falls and set on the edge of Lake Ontario is a picture-perfect little town that looks like it was lifted off a Disney set. It’s the perfect town to have a stroll around and to grab a bite to eat.
The town dates back to the 19th century and is considered one of the best-preserved towns in North America.
With Niagara being a strong agricultural region, it grows some of the best fruit, vegetables, and produce around. Whether you just pick up some fresh fruit in the local market or chow down in one of the many beautiful eateries in Niagara on the lake, you’re sure to get some top-quality eats.
The Shaw Festival is a theatre festival that takes place in Niagara on the lake each year. Running from April to October the festivals showcases some of Canada’s best arts.
Initially founded in 1962 the Shaw festival celebrates the life and works of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.
3. Cycling Wine Tours
From $21 per person 2 hours 4.9 (10)
Niagara is one of the top wine-producing regions in Canada and because of that, there are some great wineries in very close proximity to Niagara on the lake.
The best way to visit some wineries is by bike and there are a number of companies that offer bike tours. There are self-guided and guided tours offered.
For the two trips, I’ve personally taken we’ve used Zoom Leisure bike rentals. We went for the Parkway self-guided tour which meant we could decide our own pace and grab a bite to eat wherever we wanted.
For the price of the rental, you get a bike, lock, and helmet rental. Snack and water for the ride. A tour map with suggested stops. Wine tastings in 6 different wineries as well as a beer tasting in 1 brewery. The icing on the cake is ice cream at the Walkers fruit market.
4. A Trip to Paris…..Ontario
Paris, Ontario is located about 1 and 10 minutes from Toronto and was voted “the Prettiest Little Town in Canada” by Harrowsmith Magazine. It’s a picturesque town and perfect for taking a Sunday stroll around.
The Wincey Mills is located in a disused woolen mill and was converted into a year-round market where you find locally grown fruit and veg, sweet delights and some of the finest cheese Canada has to offer. It’s a great place to go for lunch and is a must-visit on any trip to Paris.
There are also a number of walking and biking trails with the Barkers Bush network of trails. It’s also located next to the Grand River where you can rent a Kayak and take in the beautiful nature that this part of Ontario offers. Grand River Rafting was the company we used for our Kayak rentals and they offer a range of boats, from rafts to paddleboards to turbo tubes they have it all.
They offer three different route options depending on the level of exertion and how scenic you want your route to be. The experience and helpfulness of Grand River Rafting were fantastic so we definitely suggest going with them.
5. Take in Natures beautiful Bloom at the Royal Botanical Gardens
Located just a 40-minute drive from the city. The Royal Botanical Gardens area great day trip. It’s the largest botanical garden in Canada and offers a great educational day for Kids and adults alike.
There are always events going on from Jazz in the Gardens to art and horticultural speakers there is something for both young and old. The summer is the best time to visit it as you will get most of the plants in bloom. Admission is $18 for both adults and kids.
6. Go for a hike
Ontario has multiple hiking locations throughout the region. Although they are not the same as the types of hikes you’ll get on the West coast of Canada, there are still some stunning locations worth visiting. The hamilton waterfalls are located around a 50-minute drive from Toronto.
The area is home to over 100 hundred waterfalls so there’s no shortage of instagramable sights in this area. The devil’s punch-hole falls is my favorite. This unique looking waterfall sits at 121 feet high and the cliff face the water flows over is a sight to be seen. If you’re there in the wintertime the waterfall freezes over so if you’re willing to bear the cold weather it’s worth a visit.
Also located about in Hamilton is the Dundas peak. It’s best to visit this peak in the fall when you can take in the beautiful Autumn colors Ontario has to offer, but really any time of year, it’s worth a trip.
7. Treat yourself to a Scandanavian Spa
What better way to rejuvenate yourself than taking in a Spa day at one of the multiples of Scandanavian spas that are in the Ontario region. They offer hydrotherapies that have been popular in Scandinavia for years that take your body through hot and cold water therapies. These therapies are said to improve your immune system, replenish your skin, and help elevate muscle pains and aches. Most importantly it’s just a really relaxing day where you can leave your worries and stresses at the door and just check out.
The Ste Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario is one of the top-ranked Spas in the country and offers the full range of meditative and therapeutic hydrotherapy pools. They also have a lazy river, so what more do you need? It’s definitely one of the pricier options, but heck you deserve it.
8. Take in the Scarborough Bluffs
Located just a 30-minute drive from the city. Scarborough bluffs are considered one of the best natural areas within a short drive of Toronto. There is a lovely beach were cooling off in the lake is a must and some nice walking trails that lead to a beautiful view of the lake and surrounding cliffs.
A word of warning if you don’t have access to a car. Getting public transport here can be quite difficult. If you’re coming from downtown Toronto you will most likely need to take a streetcar, subway, and bus. So, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
10. Fruit Picking in the Summer Months and Pumpkins Patches in the Fall
There are a number of farms that offer both activities depending on the season. Our recommendation is Downey’s farm located in Caledon. Located about 40 mins from the city is the perfect place to visit in both Summer and Fall.
In the summer month (depending on the time of your visit) they offer strawberry, raspberry, and apple picking. This is a really cool experience where the saying farm to plate really hits home.
Not only can you pick some really fresh fruit but there are always activities going on the farm. From the strawberry festival in early July to the pumpkin fest from September to October.
There is also a lovely farm shop where they sell delicious baked goods and the fresh produce they grow on the farm. It’s well worth a visit.
11. Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
Located around an hour from Toronto this museum is for all your history and war buffs out there. There are over 50 aircraft and displays that take you through Canada’s military aviation history.
From world war II aircraft to modern-day fighter jets, the museum is a great day out. The most impressive sight is the Lockheed CF-104D Starfighter, which is vertically mounted outside of the museum.
The most unique thing about this museum is that you can actually book flights on some of the planes that they have in their collection. The prices for this experience range from $100 to $3600 a flight depending on the type of plan you want to ride in.
12. Brockville Railway Tunnel
This is probably the most unique attraction on the list. As it’s a tunnel, but as you can see from the picture above it’s a very special tunnel. Firstly the tunnel has a fantastic history it being the oldest tunnel in Canada.
The experience also adds a twist with a really special light and audio experience that earns this tunnel a spot on our list.
Brockville is located around 3 hours and 15 minutes outside of Toronto, so is definitely on the upper limits of what can be considered a day trip.
Considering the uniqueness of the activity and because it’s somewhat of a hidden gem. It deserved a spot on the list.
13. Blue Mountain Offers year round activities
With Skiing in the Winter and with a multitude of summer activities such as ziplining, hiking, caving, and even a mountain coaster to name a few. Blue Mountain has an experience for everyone. The village in Blue mountain makes you feel like you’re in the French alps with European architecture. A word of warning, in the winter mountains the area can get extremely busy, so we advise you to start early and beat the late morning rush.
For Skiing in the Winter, Blue mountain is one of the best options near Toronto. Although it definitely suited a beginner or intermediate skier. It’s a fantastic place to hit the slopes and is only a two-hour drive from the city, so perfect for day trips and weekends away. With over 43 trails. The slope difficulty is fairly modest and they are connected through a network of trails so it’s pretty easy to switch up the difficulty if you’re unsure of what you want.
During the Summer months, Blue mountain transforms into an outdoor and nature haven where there are endless opportunities for adventure. The area includes some beautiful golf courses in the vicinity as well as great hiking opportunities.
14. Visit Bruce Peninsula
This is definitely the most scenic area of Ontario. It has a very rugged landscape with beautifully clear water, grottos, and some interesting shipwrecks.
Located around a 3 hour and 15-minute drive from the city, this is another excursion that probably warrants more than a day.
Once you arrive and see the beautiful clear water though it will be worth the few hours in the car.
We highly recommend doing some scuba diving or snorkeling. There are around 150 different shipwrecks in this area ranging from 10 to 150 feet. With the clearness of the water, this is a really cool way to explore the underwater. There are a number of companies that offer tours, equipment, and lessons such as Divers Den and Little Cove Adventures.
There are a number of lighthouses around this area due to the large stretches of shoreline.
These gems provide the perfect picture opportunity as well as a great educational lesson for the men and women that devoted their lives to maintaining these vital pieces of nautical equipment.
Probably the most famous of these lighthouses is the lighthouse on Flowerpot island where the views out to the lake are stunning and the lighthouse itself is packed with history.
15. Take a visit to Discovery Harbour
Located a 2-hour drive from Toronto, Discovery Harbour was originally a British naval and military base that oozes history. Built to protect the Northern areas of Canada the base was built after the war of 1812.
There are two replica ships stationed at Discovery Harbour. The H.M.S Tecumseth and the ‘Bee’ supply ship where you can step back in time and experience a nautical experience from yesteryear. During the summer months, there are regular battle reenactments as well as ghost and pirate tours.
There is also a replica village that represents the way of life in the 19 century. You’ll be surprised at the details and size of the replica village. It’s a great educational day out and is well worth a visit.
16. Explore Prince Edward County
Located a 2 hour and 15-minute drive from Downtown Toronto. This lakeside haven is one of the most instagramable locations in Ontario and it’s packed full of adventures and activities.
Similar to Niagara on the Lake, this region is wine country, so what better thing to do on a sunny day than to explore the top-class wineries. We’d suggest doing a bike tour and there are a number of companies offering bike rentals in the area.
Also known for having a very strong food scene, you’ll be spoiled for choice for restaurant options. The Marans on Picton Main St is a great lunch spot and we’d recommend trying the Buffalo Cauliflower Po Boy which was simply delicious.
If you’re enjoying yourself so much that you decide to stay the night. The drake Devonshire is a quirky boutique hotel that offers a stunning few of the lake, but be aware this hotel is not cheap, be prepared to pay in the range of $500 a night.
17. See the spectacular Niagara Falls
At just an hour and a half drive from Toronto’s downtown core. Niagara Falls is a spectacular sight. As one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Yes, the area surrounding the falls is tacky and the typical type of tourist trap you would come to associated with such a popular sight, but don’t let that dissuade you from visiting.
I’d highly recommend a boat trip on Hornblower if you’re on the Canadian side or the Maid of the mist if you’re on the American side (for the office fans out there you can re-enact Pam and Jim’s famous nuptials).
For me, this is what a trip to Niagara falls is all about. Getting up close and personal with a waterfall that pumps around 6 million cubic feet of water over the horseshoes falls every minute. It’s a spectacular experience and definitely one of those life bucket list activities.
A word of warning, if you plan on being on the outside decks of the boat tours, we’d recommend you bring a spare pair of clothes or at least wear sandals. As you will definitely get wet. Feeling the power of the waterfall is well worth it though.
If you’re not a fan of boats we also recommend the journey behind the falls tour. With two viewing decks, you can get a great look at the sheer power of the falls.