Toronto is located in the heart of the Great Lakes and is ideal for road trips to explore the natural and scenic sights.
There are numerous parks and attractions in Ontario and Quebec, as well as cross-border landscapes to the United States.
If you are renting a car and you want to make one of the trips to the United States where you travel through the United States, please contact your car rental company to see if you are authorized to do so and ask for any additional documents you need.
For one-way journeys, all distances and dates are indicated, including all proposed stops, with the exception of long outward and return journeys, so that the return journey can be included in the planning.
Let’s get to work: here are the 15 most important car trips from Toronto, from short trips in the city to long trips for the more adventurous!
Short trips from Toronto
1. Niagara Falls and Lake Niagara
Niagara Falls is without doubt the most popular destination within a two hour drive of Toronto and offers breathtaking scenery and a truly unique experience.
Niagara Falls is located on the border between the United States and Canada and is perhaps the most famous waterfall in the world.
In fact, there are three separate waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Wedding Valley Waterfall. The horseshoe-shaped waterfall lies directly on the border between the two countries, while the other two lie on the American side.
When the water flows from Lake Iri to Lake Ontario, more than 6 million cubic meters of water drips at 50 meters per minute, creating a truly amazing spectacle and a lot of noise.
Despite Ontario’s cold winters, Niagara Falls never really freezes. After a few years they can turn into surface ice and continue to function as a waterfall underneath.
The two countries, separated by a waterfall, used the volume of water flowing through the waterfall, with 50% of the water flowing during the day and 75% at night (when there are no visitors) through huge tunnels to the hydropower plants. They are responsible for more than a quarter of the total electricity consumption in New York and Ontario.
You can visit Niagara Falls on both the Canadian and American side, and you will have a good view of both places.
Don’t forget strolling through Niagara On-The Lake, downstream on Lake Ontario – the heritage area is picturesque and ideal for walking, and a tour will take you past beautiful vineyards, making your trip a great detour.
If you like short walks, you can stop at Dundas Peak, which is just off the road. From the top of a steep cliff and some much smaller waterfalls – Tews Falls and Webster Falls – there is a breathtaking view.
Distance from Toronto: 120 miles (193 km)
Travel time: 2 hours 40 minutes
2. Road trip from Toronto to Muskoka
You will notice that the lakes make up the majority of this list of car trips from Toronto. In addition to the Great Lakes that surround Ontario, most of the province is covered by a network of small lakes, rivers, streams and islands, and Muskoka is closest to Toronto.
The cities of Muskoka are known for their quiet atmosphere and large cottages, popular with the people of Toronto during the summer months, which make a weekend stay ideal.
The tranquillity of the area has led to the population of the Muskoka area almost tripling during the summer and there is a great demand for housing along Lake Muskoka, near Rosso and Joseph.
Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars have their summer homes here, including Tom Hanks, Stephen Spielberg and Kurt Russell.
Much of Muskoka is focused on nature – there are hiking trails and national parks where activities such as mountain biking, cycling and horseback riding can be enjoyed.
The lakes also offer all kinds of water sports that might interest you. You can also rent a boat during your free time and explore the many bays, islands and waterways.
Distance from Toronto: 129 miles (208 km)
Travel time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Weekend trips from Toronto
3. Algonquin Provincial Park
If Muskoka is not far enough away or if you want to see more nature and less development, you should go from Toronto to Algonquin Provincial Park.
This large park is located northeast of Muskoka and is a large nature reserve with thousands of lakes (yes – there are more than 2400), islands, mountains and dense forests.
Highway 60 is the easiest route to the park from Toronto, although the roads leading further into the park come from the Trans-Canada Highway, which runs to the north or southeast, closer to Ottawa.
There are several hiking trails to discover that are closer to Toronto and vary in length from 6 to 90 km. They run along rivers, lakes and through forests. Along the way you can see many waterfalls and nature.
Beware, the animal world here includes not only moose and bears, but also different species of birds.
The most popular way to explore the park is by canoe. So you can park on the canoe or on Lake Opeongo and spend the weekend at one of the campsites located along the entire river and lake system. Don’t forget to book a pitch on the park grounds!
Distance from Toronto: 190 miles (306 km)
Travel time: 3 hours 20 minutes
4. Prince Edward, Kingston and Hananak County
Travel east along the north coast of Lake Ontario and head to Prince Edward County, Kingston and Hananoka on St. Petersburg.
This is a road trip for those who love the best things in life, and it starts out the right way, as the road runs through vineyards, picturesque towns and then more vineyards.
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Prince Edward County is located on an island with four bridges and a small ferry. There are many good restaurants and opportunities to taste local wines, so make it a long weekend or even longer if you have the time!
The ferry can be quite an option if you continue to Kingston, although it can only accommodate 21 cars. So if you don’t want to wait, go north and cross the Quinta Skyway.
Kingston and Hananak are both situated by the river and have a certain charm with a strong European influence on the architecture and the beautiful surroundings. Don’t miss Fort Henry in Kingston, a remarkable UNESCO world heritage site.
There are a number of activities related to the Thousand Islands in Gananak that are worth doing alone – see below (unless you want to do it in a week to remember!).
If you like wine, make a few stops at the cellars along the way – you can taste the wines and bring home a suitcase to make your trip even more memorable!
Distance from Toronto: 193 miles (311 km)
Travel time: 4 hours 30 minutes
5. Travelling by car to the thousand islands
You can walk a little further along the St. Lawrence River and spend time exploring the Thousand Islands, a large group of islands along the river at the Canadian U.S. border.
Beautiful landscapes, original museums, relaxing fishing and fantastic restaurants are just some of the reasons why this area is worth a visit. There are also a number of really picturesque towns and castles that are worth a visit.
The best way to explore the region is to travel to both the Canadian and American sides of the border. Between the two largest islands, Hill Island on the Canadian side and Wellesley Island on the American side, the Thousand Islands cross.
The largest of the islands, Wolfe Island, is entirely in Ontario, and some of the smaller islands are uninhabited and privately owned, including Deer Island, which belongs to the secret society of Skull and Bones.
Boldt Castle should see if you’re around. The castle was originally built for millionaire George Boldt, but in 1904, after the death of his wife, the castle was never completed. Since the 1970s the castle has been managed by the Millennium Island Bridge and work is currently underway to complete the construction of the castle with the proceeds from ticket sales to visitors. Please note: the Boldtschloss is only open from mid-May to mid-October.
The least known of the Black Island singers’ castles, a private castle located downstream at the end of the archipelago, is also worth a visit. There are hidden wine cellars and many other curiosities.
Several islands have beautiful shallow sandy beaches, which can be a great place to relax and swim in the summer, while others are popular with anglers catching pike, the most sought after fish in the local waters.
Distance from Toronto: 220 miles (354 km)
Travel time: 4 hours 30 minutes
6. Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park is an ideal place to explore nature in the rocky spur that separates Lake Khuron from the Gulf of Georgia.
Many wild animals live in the large park, from black bears, coyotes and ceps to porcupines, deer, hares and turtles. Some of these can be found on the various paths that run through the park, ranging from short walks to long expert walks.
The best known route is the Bruce Trail, which runs from Niagara to Tobermory at the northern end of the Bruce Peninsula. You can drive to the overhang of the Bruce Trail, crossing Boulder Beach, a rock that rises from the cliff and offers breathtaking views and photo opportunities that will rock your jaws. Be careful because there is no safety net and the descent is long.
The main attraction is the formation of the cave along the coast of the peninsula. Popular as a backdrop for social networks, it is a large arch leading to the cave.
Please note that parking can be difficult in high season, especially at weekends. Booking online is highly recommended, as access to the cave is denied if you do not have a reservation. A daily summer parking reservation costs $17.70 for the cave when you book online.
If you are on a campsite, you can book a pitch in advance and make sure you have a place to camp. If you want to stay in the wilderness, you can get a permit from the office of the Lake District of Cyprus and you can stay in certain parts of the park along the footpaths.
Park entrance fee: Family or group – $19.60, adults – $7.80, seniors – $6.80, youth – free, winter visits – 25% discount.
Distance from Toronto: 185 miles (298 km)
Travel time: 3 hours 40 minutes
7. Manitulin Island and Greater Sudbury Road
Manitulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world. It covers more than 1,000 square miles and lies between Lake Huron and the Bay of Georgia to the north of the Bruce Peninsula.
The island is so big that it has 4 rivers and over 100 lakes, and some of them have their own island!
The island can be reached by ferry from Tobermory on the Bruce peninsula, but despite the longer trip the trip over Lake Sudbury will take about the same amount of time. It would be a good idea to follow the different routes to and from Manitulin to see more places on your drive.
Route 6 from the north goes over the Small Oscillating Current – a unique bridge that can be turned sideways to allow boats to pass through the Small Oscillating Current waterway.
The island is home to many Anishinaabe with designated reserves and several surrounding towns and villages.
Greater Sudbury is the largest city in Northern Ontario, although it still feels like a small town. There are several museums, including one on the history of nickel mining and two art galleries. It’s worth visiting on the way and it’s good to interrupt a long journey.
Distance from Toronto: 370 miles (596 km)
Travel time: 6 hours 30 minutes
8. Detroit Border Crossing, Heidelberg and Ann Arbor Project
Since Toronto is so close to the United States in almost every direction, this is another car ride that requires you to take your passport with you.
Detroit is just a few hours away and is a fascinating place with a rich, lively and very spooky history.
Motor City, as it is called, has become an industrial powerhouse against the backdrop of a rapidly growing automotive industry and has become the second largest city in the Midwest after Chicago.
Companies like Ford, Dodge, Chrysler and General Motors with brands like Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac are based in Detroit and most of their products are produced in city factories.
After a strong decline in the seventies, the city has known much tougher times, as can be seen by the walking of empty city blocks and the collapse of old factory buildings.
While the city has an important beautification program and is reinventing itself, tourism is growing and we strongly recommend a visit to the city for a rich cultural experience.
Part of the revival is the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art installation in East Detroit that stands for protest and draws attention to the death and decades of neglect of the city. Several items are made of colorful life-saving materials that emphasize the degree of poverty.
Ann Arbor is located near Detroit and forms a stark contrast to his big neighbour. The city is full of charm with its classic buildings, including the University of Michigan, several art galleries, small shops and cafes and other interesting places to explore.
If you are visiting Detroit, it is definitely worth making an extra trip.
Distance from Toronto: 279 miles (447 km)
Travel time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Week long drive from Toronto
9. Ontario lake full circle
Perhaps one of the best ways to drive a week from Toronto is to drive around Lake Ontario and return to Toronto in a full circle.
This trip will include many excursions that we recommend for shorter stays – you can call Prince Edward County, Kingston, Hananog and visit Niagara Falls on your back in Canada.
The American side has a lot to consider in the state of New York. You can make a detour to the Abyss of the Walk, a river with rapids that flows through a breathtaking gorge at Lake Placid or Ithaca Falls.
The proximity of the lake is also very popular – the towns of Saket Harbor (directly on the lake) and Scanateles, located in the south, are beautiful and quiet. Oswego, another city worth visiting, certainly deserves to follow Route 104 and not the faster roads further away from the lake.
You must cross the American border at the Thousand Islands Crossing and return to the Lewiston Quinston Bridge at Niagara Falls.
Distance from Toronto: 570 miles (917 km)
Travel time: 10 hours 30 minutes
10. Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec and elsewhere
This is a great road trip that will take you from Toronto to the Bay of St. Lawrence on the Atlantic Ocean, along the St. Lawrence.
The landscape along the road changes from wine villages and lakes to long roads through mixed forests and finally to the rugged eastern shore.
Major cities in eastern Canada are on their way. The route starts in Toronto, leads to Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City and ends in Tadoussac.
Ottawa is the capital of Canada and has a rich history that makes a stay in Ottawa interesting. Visit the Rideau Canal, the parliament building on Parliament Hill or one of the many beautiful museums in the city.
Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris and two-thirds of its population is bilingual, creating a unique cultural mix.
Quebec City is famous for its old-fashioned charm. The old town of Quebec, the Château Frontenac at the top and the citadel give the city a very European feel.
Tadusac is a popular tourist destination – it was the first French colony in North America, founded in 1600. Throughout the town you can see the history that has served as a trading and fishing centre for centuries. The surrounding bays and fjords are breathtaking, and it’s one of the best places in the world to spot whales, so don’t forget to take a walk to get close to them.
If you want to know more, read all the details of our long trip to Quebec.
Distance from Toronto: 703 miles (1,131 km)
Driving time: 12 hours 30 minutes
11. Route to Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is the second largest of the Great Lakes and the only one entirely within the United States of America.
You can start your journey by driving to Detroit and over Michigan, or you can take the scenic drive along the Bay of Georgia and drive to the United States via the Sault Stephan Marie International Bridge.
The route through Michigan is much more direct, so if you drive in that direction, you can reach Lake Michigan at St. John’s, Newfoundland. Joseph before you go to South Point and Chicago.
Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States and offers many attractions and experiences. The elevated viewing platforms may not be as impressive as Toronto’s CN Tower, the tallest in North America, but the music scene, fantastic theatres and restaurants are all good reasons to spend at least a few days.
For the gourmets, besides the obviously deep pizza, there’s the Italian beef rolls, which will thank you later!
From Chicago, the route heads north with stops at Milwaukee and Green Bay, then returns to Michigan from Wisconsin and passes through less populated areas on the north shore of the lake and the Hiawatha National Forest.
After passing the Sault Ste Marie State Forest Area and over the Makinak Bridge, the route follows the Michigan coast through a number of picturesque and adorable towns, including Traverse City.
Distance from Toronto: 1650 miles (2650 km)
Travel time: 26 hours
12. Travel from Toronto to Upstate New York
Okay – the immediate vicinity of Upper New York State may only be a few hours away, but we’re talking about a much more thorough investigation of the Empire State.
Once across the border and past Niagara Falls, the route takes you to the Paltz Lakes – you can explore the great wine region on the Cayuzh Wine Route and discover the beautiful cities of Scaneateles and Ithaca.
The Delaware Valley, which stretches south to the border with Pennsylvania, offers a breathtaking route – the 97 through Calliquin.
If you’ve been down the river on the road you’ve chosen for too many cheese commercials, you can have fun in the Catskills and explore the trails and nature of New York’s most popular holiday destination.
After crossing the Hudson, you can follow the river north to Canada and visit Albany, the capital of the state of New York, and spend the night in the State Capitol Building.
Then stop at Sagamore (a beautiful lakeside village) and Lake Placid before reaching the river valley at Lake Champlain Ausable Chasm, which forms the border with Vermont.
The best way to get back is to follow the U.S.-Canada border to the Thousand Islands and then follow the northern shore of Lake Ontario back to Toronto.
Distance from Toronto: 1050 miles (1690 km)
Travel time: 19 hours
13. Drive west to Thunder Bay and Ketico Provincial Park.
It’s a huge journey, even if it’s worth seeing the scenery when you finally get there!
There are two ways to get to Thunder Bay – a little faster on the north coast of the Gulf of Georgia and Lake Superior, which is about 900 miles in one direction.
If you don’t want to go back the same way, you can take the Fort Francis International Bridge to the United States and walk along the south shore of Lake Superior and Lake Huron in 3 hours.
You want to add many stops along the way – the route requires 2 days of independent, confident driving!
The truth is that this is one of those journeys where the path is better than the path to the actual destination. The roads around the two Great Lakes run through a number of fantastic parks and offer the opportunity to deviate from them to visit places such as the French River Provincial Park or to explore the beaches of the Pukaskwa National Park.
On the way back there are a number of large national forests in the United States and picturesque towns in northern Michigan that make this trip an exceptional experience.
Some of the other rides above and below decks are parts of this mega route. If you don’t have much time and don’t want to spend two days in the car, there are other possibilities. But if you do, you will be rewarded with a perfect knowledge of rivers, waterfalls, forests and views of the Great Lakes.
Distance from Toronto: 3,450 km (2,140 miles)
Driving time: 36 hours
14. Travel to Quebec
If you don’t like a trip from Toronto to Tadusac, if you see Quebec and the light from miles away, a road trip should inspire you.
No kidding, a giant tour of Quebec takes place a bit off the beaten track to explore nature and the amazing cities further north.
The first stop is the road to Ottawa and the crossing of the Ottawa River to Gatineau to start your adventure in Quebec.
You’ll pass thousands of lakes (we’re not exaggerating) and breathtaking national parks along the way. First a visit to the Abitibi Park in Aiguebelle. To interrupt the trip you can stop at the nature reserve La Verendri.
If this doesn’t seem wild enough, continue on routes 113 and 167 through coniferous forests towards Uje Bugumu, where you can fish and relax away from civilization.
Next stop is Lac Saint-Jean and Sagenet Fjord. Breathtaking views are guaranteed and you will gradually get the feeling that you are returning to real cities.
After stopping in Tadoussac to observe the whales, all you have to do is return to Toronto via Quebec City, Montreal and along the northern shore of Lake Ontario.
Distance from Toronto: 1770 miles (2850 km)
Driving time: 32 hours
15. Cruise along the coast of Michigan
The tour de balle is an option for those who want to combine culture with a bit of horse riding on the lake.
The idea is to go down to Michigan and along the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Michigan has towns and villages of stunning beauty along the coast. If you head north to South Park on Lake Michigan, you’ll pass places like South Haven, Grand Haven, Travers City and Charlevoix.
There are other attractions – the Silver Lake sand dunes – huge desert sand dunes that offer a complete view of Mars. Further north are the Sleeping Bear Dunes, long white sandy beaches, ideal for a day of rest and picnics.
If you continue to Lake Khuron, you will see a long coastal strip that is part of Cheboygan National Park, and beautiful hunting fish restaurants.
The eastern part of Michigan is generally less touristy and therefore less expensive and less fantastic, which is an interesting contrast given the views and natural landscapes that are almost as beautiful.
If you go further south, the town of Frankenmouth, a bit away from the lake, is a must on your itinerary.
You will be forgiven for thinking that you were transported to the Bavarian Alps with their Central European landscapes and architecture with a strong Central European atmosphere. Try the (very tasty) chicken dinner for which the city is famous and take a boat trip on the Cass River before going to Canada and back to Toronto.
Distance from Toronto: 1460 miles (2350 km)
Travel time: 25 hours
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