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Jun 20, 2023

Seven Amazing Day Trips from Toronto

Toronto is one of the world’s most multi-cultural cities, with entertainment, sports, nature, shopping, dining and everything else a visitor could want to plan a memorable trip. But for those who want to get out and explore more of what this part of Canada has to offer, there are many excellent day trips too.


Within a few hours drive of Toronto you can find yourself sunning on one of Canada’s best beaches, attending a world-class theatre festival, tasting famous local wines, or marvelling at a true natural wonder of the world.


Here are seven ideas for fantastic day trips from Toronto.

Niagara Falls

They are a wonder of the natural world. Their proper name is actually Horseshoe Falls. (On the Canadian side anyway, the Americans have Bridal Falls and, well, American Falls.) These three magnificent waterfalls which straddle the Canadian and American border and are collectively called Niagara Falls are for many travellers the number one reason to visit Canada. They are certainly the most memorable day trip you can take from Toronto. And if you’ve seen them before it’s still a good idea—their power and beauty is stunning over and over again.


Niagara FallsLink opens in a new tab is a free attraction, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can experience panoramic views all along the boardwalk. At night they light up in colour, and in summer there are nightly fireworks.


To get up close to the Falls you can take a boat tour on the Maid of the Mist, or “journey behind the falls” which brings you onto outdoor observation decks. You may even splurge on a helicopter ride to see it all from above. Whichever way you choose to view them, you will feel the force of 2,800 cubic meters of water rushing over the brink every second at up to 65 kilometres per hour.


The city of Niagara Falls itself is like a giant amusement park. Walking distance from the falls you’ll find Lundy Lane with its chaos of haunted houses, the Niagara Skywheel, glow-in-the-dark mini putt and midway games. You can watch fudge being made in a candy factory or hit up one of two casinos. If it’s made for fun, they have it in Niagara Falls.


Niagara Falls is approximately 125km from Toronto. Most guests go to Niagara Falls from Toronto on organized day tours. The Go Train to Niagara Falls is an affordable and easy public transport option to do-it-yourself. If driving, beware there are world-class-attraction-level parking prices near the Falls. You’ll find most major hotel chains here if you want to overnight. Great Wolf LodgeLink opens in a new tab is a favourite of families with young children for its massive indoor waterpark, themed suites with bunk beds, and other amenities.


Niagara-on-the-LakeLink opens in a new tab might sound like Niagara Falls, and the two popular tourist attractions are not far from each other, but they are very different. Niagara-on-the-Lake is like the sophisticated older sister to Niagara Falls’ wild teenager, a quaint town best known for historic military sites, live theatre, and wine.


In fact, Niagara is Canada’s largest wine-producing region and touring one (or more!) of the 40 local wineries is the top activity for many visitors. Local operators will organize and drive for you or renting a bicycle and using the scenic bike trails is an affordable way to create your own wine tasting tour in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Be sure to try Niagara’s famous ice wine—a sweet dessert wine produced from frozen grapes.


Other reasons to day trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake include the esteemed Shaw FestivalLink opens in a new tab, which presents new and classic plays from February to December. Military history buffs will want to explore Fort George National Historic SiteLink opens in a new tab for live musket demos, recreations, and music from the 41st Fife and Drum Corps.


Niagara-on-the-Lake is approximately 130km from downtown Toronto and the best way to visit is with your own car. Alternatively, many travel operators offer organized day trips from Toronto with wine tastings included, or for a budget option you can take the Go Train to Niagara Falls and then the local shuttle to Niagara-on-the-Lake (May to October only).


Overnight accommodations are limited to a few boutique hotels. For a romantic place to stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake The Pillar and Post InnLink opens in a new tab offers luxury and fine dining in a 19th century building with spa and outdoor pools perfect for an anniversary or other couple’s getaway.

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Sauble Beach

Is this Ontario’s most beautiful beach? The tens of thousands of visitors to this small community every summer weekend certainly think so.


Sauble Beach is 11km of white sand and warm shallow waters—the second longest freshwater beach in the world. And every inch of it gets filled up on hot days with people of all ages swimming, sunbathing or playing games like beach volleyball. You can pick up supplies like beach towels, sun shades and floatation devices at local businesses, and fast food favourites and ice cream are widely available within walking distance from shore.


You’ll need a car to visit from Toronto—it’s about 210km which should take approximately three hours although prepare for traffic delays on holidays and weekends in summer. But the reward for getting up early is scoring a prime beach spot to enjoy your day. You’ll want to stick around for the gorgeous sunset views too.


To stay overnight, there are many simple motels and cottages in the Sauble Beach area. Again, summers are busy so book in advance.

Hamilton Waterfalls

The city of Hamilton has two nicknames: “Steeltown” (for its main industry) and “City of Waterfalls,” because it boasts more than 100 natural waterfallsLink opens in a new tab and cascades in and around the city.


To be fair, Hamilton can’t compete with Niagara Falls or other world-famous falls. But they make up for it in quantity.  With so many to choose from you can easily create a day trip visiting several waterfalls in a few hours. Some are easily accessible with lookouts very close to a parking area, while others are reached by more rigorous hiking trails. Cycling is another great way to get around this area. Some of the most picturesque waterfalls in Hamilton are the cascading Albion Falls, the Devil’s Punchbowl gorge and Webster Falls, the largest in this region.


Hamilton is easily accessible from Toronto by Go Transit trains and buses, or a 1-hour drive. Most waterfalls are also within a 20-minute drive from John C. Munro International Airport, so an easy way to enjoy some Canadian nature before or after your flight.


Culture vultures will have no problem filling their time in Toronto, which boasts so many arts and entertainment options. Still, a trip to StratfordLink opens in a new tab is ritual for many theatre lovers.


One of the biggest arts festivals in Canada, the Stratford Festival has a long history of mounting Shakespeare plays, but now produces a diverse programme of dramas and musicals in four interior theatres around town, each with their own architectural charms. Stratford is a creative community and while in town you can visit many small art galleries and craft boutiques.


Pop music fans will also recognize Stratford as the birthplace of Justin Bieber. Yes, there is a map of Bieber sites to visitLink opens in a new tab.

The best way to visit Stratford Festival from Toronto is their direct shuttle bus serviceLink opens in a new tab. If you prefer to drive it takes about two hours.

Caledon Backroads

Autumn in Ontario is a kaleidoscope of colour as the tree leaves change from green to golden yellow, blazing orange and fiery red. So if you’re visiting in fall, taking a road trip through the countryside makes for a perfect day.

Caledon is one of the best places to see fall colours near Toronto. The region, approximately 60km from downtown Toronto, is made up of several rural townships connected by winding, undulating roads that show off the area’s natural beauty. One unique attraction is the Cheltenham BadlandsLink opens in a new tab, a Mars-like terrain that dates back 450 million years. Equestrian enthusiasts can catch free show jumping competitionsLink opens in a new tab on Saturdays featuring some of Canada’s top horse riders. And Forks of the Credit Provincial ParkLink opens in a new tab is the place for hiking part of the famous Bruce Trail. But a leisurely drive is also a great day trip from Toronto.

Elora Gorge

Does the idea of floating in an inner tube down river rapids surrounded by spectacular 22-metre high cliffs sound like a rush? Head to Elora Gorge, just 110km from Toronto. This part of the Grand River Valley conservation area offers a variety of outdoor experiences, including hiking, canoeing and kayaking, fishing and cycling.

For even more adventures, you can sign up with local tour companies offering zip-lining or mountain biking.


The village of Elora itself is a lovely place to wander, eat, and shop. On the walkable Main Street you’ll find artist studios, gourmet coffee, comforting pubs and ice cream. For fine dining with seasonal, local ingredients visit the restaurant at Elora Mill Hotel and SpaLink opens in a new tab, which also offers romantic overnight accommodations in a historic mill built in 1832. One of Ontario’s best small music festivals is Riverfest,Link opens in a new tab held in Elora in August.


Whatever activity you choose on your day trip to Elora, you can’t miss the river that runs through it, and be sure to stop for views of the beautiful waterfall.

If you don’t have a car, ParkbusLink opens in a new tab offers seasonal day trips to Elora Gorge, which is also a great way for solo travellers to meet like-minded adventurers.

Be sure to add some of these fun day trips in Southern Ontario to your to-do list for your next visit to Toronto.

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