Top 5 Road Trips Every Newcomer In Toronto Must Take

By Lisa EvansFor recent immigrants, a good old-fashioned road trip is the perfect way to really discover Canada. Here are 5 trips to get you Torontonians started!

1. The “Fall in love with Canada” trip — Toronto to Niagara Falls

Distance: 130 kilometresOne of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions, Niagara Falls is a must-see destination for newcomers. While the natural wonder itself is spectacular, there’s plenty to see and do beyond the Falls.
niagara falls road trip
Starting point: From Toronto, take the 427 South to the QEW West. To get to the Falls, exit the QEW at McLeod Road. Turn east and follow the road to the entrance to Marineland. Turn left onto Upper Rapids Boulevard then turn left onto the Niagara Parkway.Stops along the way: Once past Hamilton, you have the option to take a more scenic route by getting off the QEW at Fifty Road or Casablanca Boulevard and take Highway 81 through the towns of Beamsville and Jordan, home to many of the region’s greatest wineries. Angels Gate and Thirty Bench in Beamsville and Cave Springs in Jordan Stop are some tourist favourites.

At your destination: There are plenty of ways to see the Falls after you arrive. Take the classic Maid of the Mist boat ride to admire them from below. Adrenaline junkies will want to board the Whirlpool Jet Boat. Go behind the falls where you’ll walk through tunnels and emerge from observation decks located at the foot of the falls for a view from below or head up to the top of the Skylon Tower for an overhead perspective.

You can also stop in at the Niagara Botanical Gardens. Located along the scenic Niagara Parkway, a 10-minute drive from the Falls, the botanical gardens are home to 40 hectares of beautifully maintained gardens as well as the butterfly conservatory featuring more than over 2,000 colourful tropical butterflies.

Also visit Niagara-on-the-Lake. Cross the Rainbow Bridge then follow the signs on the Niagara Parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Take a horse and carriage ride around the old town, see a play at the historic Shaw Theatre or shop in the historic district. Don’t forget to visit Maple Leaf Fudge. This classic treat is made fresh daily using the old-fashioned method in copper kettles and creamed on marble slabs right in front of you.

2. “A capital journey”— Toronto to Ottawa

Distance: 450 kilometresCanada’s capital city, Ottawa, is a family-friendly destination offering everything from museums to nature.
Rideau-Canal-ottawaStarting point: Get onto the Don Valley Parkway North. Take the 401 East Exit. Take Exit 721 A to merge onto ON-416N then take Exit 75B to merge onto ON-417 Trans-Canada Highway to Ottawa.Stops along the way: If it’s a warm day, stop in Belleville just off the 401 for an ice cream at Reid’s Dairy, located behind the Quinte Mall.

From the 401, you can see a giant apple on route to Colborne. The Big Apple restaurant is a great place to stop for lunch. Climb 25 feet to the Big Apple’s observation deck for a 360-degree view of the village of Colborne and Lake Ontario. Don’t forget to try their famous apple pie.

At your destination: Parliament Hill, the site of Canada’s federal government, is Ottawa’s most visited attraction. Take a free guided tour or walk around the scenic grounds overlooking the Ottawa River. During the summer, the front lawn of Parliament Hill is the setting for the changing of the guard ceremony.

Just east of Parliament Hill is Byward Market, a historic farmers’ market and shopping district by day. Don’t miss out on trying Ottawa’s most famous pastry, BeaverTails, at the entrance to the market.

If you’re visiting Ottawa in the winter, skate the Rideau Canal — lace up your skates (or rent some) and visit the world’s largest ice rink. Take a break at the rest stops stationed along the 7.8 kilometre canal for hot drinks and tasty snacks.

3. “You don’t need to own a cottage to Visit Cottage Country” — Toronto to Muskoka

Distance: 200 kilometresWhen Canadians say “Cottage Country,” they’re referring to a region called Muskoka. Whether renting a cottage, staying in the luxurious JW Marriott on the shore of Lake Rousseau or camping, Muskoka is a relaxation haven full of quirky shops, interesting museums and great restaurants.
muskoka- road-tripStarting point: Take the 400 North to Gravenhurst. Exit and follow the signs to Highway 169. Once you see the world’s largest Muskoka chair, you’ll know you’ve arrived.Stops along the way: Experience true Canadiana in Bala, located off Highway 169, where Anne of Green Gables fans will want to visit the Bala Museum, which commemorates the summer of 1922 when author Lucy Maude Montgomery came to town. Montgomery’s time here led to her book The Blue Castle, the only one of her novels set outside Prince Edward Island.

At your destination: After snapping a photo of the giant Muskoka chair, turn toward the wharf and Gravenhurst. A former shipyard, this area was the arrival point for rail passengers who transferred to steamships that carried them to their lakeside resorts. Steamships still depart from here and host cruises for lunch or dinner.

You can also visit Port Carling, called “the Hub of the Lakes,” where Lake Rousseau and Lake Muskoka meet. Browse downtown boutiques and art studios and stop in the Muskoka Lake Museum where you’ll see a pioneer cabin, traditional canoes and learn about the history of the region.

Or feeling up for some nature worshipping? Pack your hiking boots and hit one of Muskoka’s many scenic hiking trails.

4. “A Shakespearean adventure” — Toronto to Stratford

Distance: 151 kilometresCanada’s premier arts town, Stratford is home to the Stratford Festival and is well known for its garden city landscape and well-conserved Victorian architecture.
stratfordStarting point: Take Highway 401 West, take Exit 278 to Highway 8 Kitchener. Follow Highway 8 West to join Highway 7 to Stratford.Stops along the way: Pick up all the fixings for a perfect picnic lunch at St. Jacob’s, Canada’s largest farmer’s market located in the middle of Mennonite country.

Still hungry? Stop at the Best Little Pork Shop — you’ll want to carry a cooler in your car for this pit stop. The sign of the giant pig is the ultimate destination for those seeking high-quality port chops, ribs and bacon.

At your destination: One of the most prominent theatre festivals in Canada, the Stratford Festival runs from April to November and is best known for its Shakespeare productions.

Stratford is home to many prize-winning gardens as well, including the Shakespearean Gardens, which contain 60 varieties of herbs, flowers and shrubs that Shakespeare mentions in his plays.

Watching the swans swim along the Avon River is a favourite pastime of Stratford residents and guests. These regal creatures have been raised in Stratford since 1918. Since the swans can’t survive on the water all year round, they’re taken to their indoor pens in the winter and are released back into the water in early April to the pomp and circumstance of the Stratford Police Services Band in what the town calls the Annual Parade of the Swans.

5. “A taste of Quebec history” — Toronto to Montreal to Quebec City

Distance: 766 kilometresCross over the Ontario border into Quebec for a visit to Montreal. The city boasts 50 national historic sites, more than any other city in Canada. Then keep going to Quebec City, located on the cliffs overlooking the St. Laurence Seaway. The old town is a UNESCO heritage site and the only fortified city in North America with its original city walls still intact.
Quebec-road-tripStarting point: Take Highway 401 East to Highway 20.Stops along the way: Take Exit 522 on Highway 401 to Woolner Road South and immerse yourself in the culinary delight of Prince Edward County. This area produces award-winning wine and grows prize-winning produce; all the makings for a perfect picnic lunch.

Next, take Exit 623 (Country Road 15) off Highway 401 and turn right on County Road 2 to learn about Canada’s military history at Fort Henry. This British fort protected the entrance of the Rideau Canal and the town of Kingston. Peek into 19th-century military life and view military demonstrations performed by university students acting as Fort Henry guardsmen.

At your first destination: Take a glimpse of French-Canadian history — stroll the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal by foot or by horse-drawn carriage and marvel at the still-preserved 19th-century architecture.

Basilique Notre-Dame is probably the most significant landmark and architectural gem of Old Montreal. This Catholic Church has a stunning medieval-style interior, stained-glass windows and one of the largest organs in North America.

For something sweet, visit Canadian Maple Delights. The shop offers a free maple museum tour in the basement where you’ll learn about the history of maple syrup and how it’s made.

At your second destination: After departing Montreal, stop at Drummondville along Highway 20 for a visit to Fromagerie Lemaire. This cheese-making boutique sells cheese curds and serves up a great plate of authentic poutine.

While eating your first poutine might seem like a spiritual experience, you can also stop at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre shrine. This neo-Roman style basilica has been a site of miracles for the past 350 years. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it’s worth a visit for its stunning architecture.

If visiting in the winter, you won’t want to miss North America’s only ice hotel. Made of blocks of ice, the hotel melts in the spring and is rebuilt each year.

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