It’s easy to get caught up in all the things there are to do in Toronto in summer — between exploring all the neighbourhoods, eating all the food, and avoiding all the tourist traps, you could easily fill a week-long itinerary. But why not get out of the city and take a couple day trips from Toronto?
When I was in Montreal (AKA one of my favourite cities), Tom and I rented a car so we could explore Mont Tremblant National Park. While eating vegan brunches and hanging out at hip clubs was fun, it was also nice to breathe fresh mountain air!
So, whether you’re ziplining over forests or sipping Canadian icewine, these day trips from Toronto will allow you to see some of the diverse #views beyond the city.
6 Fun Day Trips from Toronto, in no particular order:
Thanks to recent infrastructure upgrades, Barrie has grown from the sleepy suburb I moved to 15 years ago to a supercute city with a vibrant waterfront and hip restaurants.
Start off with lunch at Rabbit Food Bakery where they serve jackfruit tacos, complete with vegan cheese. They’re spicy, filling, and worth the detour!
Make your way down to the MacLaren Art Centre to see some of Canada’s most important art, housed in this light, modern building. I love that the gallery always features works by Indigenous artists.
After checking out the confusing Five Points intersection (one of a few remaining in the country), enjoying the cool waters of Kempenfelt Bay, and getting photos with the city’s iconic Spiritcatcher sculpture, it’s time for a bit of waterfront dining. Try Il Buco, for a fantastic patio by the water, or The Farmhouse, with great outdoor seating and a wrap-around deck that offers views of the Barrie’s downtown.
The best part is you don’t even need to rent a car to get here — GO Transit now operates on weekends and holidays, taking you right from Union Station to Barrie’s Waterfront.
Interesting Fact: Barrie was one of the final destinations on a branch of the Underground Railroad, a system that helped many American slaves escape to freedom.
2. Beausoleil Island
Just an hour-and-a-half north of Barrie is Beausoleil Island, the largest of the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. I took Tom here back in 2012, and I loved the panels that help you navigate the walking trails and the history of the region.
You’ll start off with a short ferry ride from Honey Harbour, about 10 minutes on the DayTripper.
Parks Canada also supplies mountain bikes so you can explore more of the island. Tom and I took a couple bikes and made out way to Chimney Bay at the north end of the island to see the granite rocks, characteristic wetlands, and windswept pine trees that inspired Canada’s Group of Seven artists.
Bring a bathing suit and picnic and enjoy a break with a dip in the bay before heading back to the mainland. This is one of the best day trips from Toronto I’ve done — I’ve written before that it’s a place worth visiting.
Interesting fact: Artifacts dating back 7,000 years have been found on Beausoleil Island.
3. Blue Mountain
The cool thing about a day trip to Blue Mountain is the variety on offer. In the winter, it’s one of the popular north-of-Toronto ski resort towns; in the summer, it can be anything you want it to be!
Ready for some adventure? Head to the Scenic Caves (read my experience here) for ziplining, treetop walking, and exploring the natural caves and crevices of the Niagara Escarpment.
If you’re more in the mood for relaxation, you’ll want to take a trip to the Scandinave Spa. Whereas the spa Tom and I visited in Montreal created serenity through silence, it’s the location of the Scandinave in Blue Mountain that gives it the tranquility you need to relax. Get a massage and then enjoy being surrounded by nature.
Finally, Niagara-on-the-Lake (more on that below!) isn’t Ontario’s only wine-growing region. At the Blue Mountain Vineyard, you can enjoy gorgeous whites and reds from the South Okanagan Valley.
Interesting Fact: The Scenic Caves has a “natural refrigerator” — even on the hottest day in summer, this tiny cavern is only 4°C.
4. Manitoulin Island
This one is a mission and it is not for the faint of heart: to get here as part of a day trip from Toronto, my aunt and I had to leave before dawn!
It’s worth it though — Manitoulin is the largest freshwater lake in the world. After you drive over the Little Current Swing Bridge (not as scary as it sounds), drive over to Bridal Veil Falls. It’s a short hike to part of Lake Huron, and you can take a dip on the way back.
Go for lunch and an ice cream on the boardwalk, and explore some of the artisanal shops that sell local honey and other Manitoulin treats.
End the day with a sunset stroll around Ten Mile Point Lookout — you can see (and Instagram!) more than a thousand square-miles of forest, wildlife, and Lake Huron.
Interesting Fact: Manitoulin Island is home to one of Canada’s sub-sub-islands — an island-in-a-lake-on-an-island-in-a-lake!
I’ve just written lake so much I’m not even sure it’s a word anymore. This day trip, however, is another one of my favourites!
Tom and I rented bikes (we’re big on cycling?) from Zoom Leisure and did a self-guided tour of NOTL’s vineyards and wineries. We sampled lovely wines — from bold reds to the sweet icewines Canada is famous for.
But NOTL is more than just wine! We stopped at Fort George, the historic military structure that defended Canada from our then-not-so-neighbourly neighbours to the south.
It was also quite the treat walking around the preserved 19th-century village. The (touristy) horse-drawn carriages and brick facades made me feel like I had travel back in time!
Interesting Fact: Niagara was the first capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario); it was during the War of 1812 that it was moved to York (now called Toronto).
London, Paris, Hamburg… You can visit them all the next time you’re in Canada!
Paris, Ontario is about an hour’s drive west of Toronto and it’s an incredible place to go river tubing or to learn more about Canada’s First Nations peoples. The river offers a laid-back experience — not too many rocks and only a few mini-rapids to get through.
Back in 2011, I went canoeing on the Grand River with my huge family. It was a disaster. Half my family can’t swim (because, Jamaica) and they kept falling out of the canoe. Luckily it was shallow — so they were fine — but my brother and I were stuck turning canoes over that had filled with water! Nevertheless, it was quite the bonding experience and I was very ready when eating time came around!
Moral of the story is: If you must canoe with people who can’t swim, make sure the water is shallow.
Interesting Fact: There’s a hike that will teach you to identify edible plants and trees, for all you survivalists out there!
There are some great day trips from Toronto to take, and with Canada celebrating its 150 year-anniversary, now’s the time to see more of the province. On a final note, I would like all travellers to Canada to be mindful that Canada is a settler government, located on the unceded territory of many Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations groups.