The city can get pretty hectic. If you live in the GTA, you probably get a taste of this on the regular. If you don’t live in the GTA, we encourage you to drive into Toronto on a hot and humid summer afternoon when the Blue Jays are playing and the construction is in full swing and experience it for yourself. It is…something.
Luckily for us city folk, however, there are plenty of places within driving distance of The 6ix, where we can kick back, relax and get that nature and/or small-town fix we need.
Far from a staycation, these getaways are like totally different worlds compared the hustle and bustle of Toronto, and all you need to do to get there is gas up and put the CN Tower in your rear-view mirror. Here are 7 great family-friendly weekend getaway spots near Toronto.
1) 1000 Islands/Gananoque
Just under three hours from the city, this town on the St. Lawrence River is a summer paradise. Spend some time kicking back on the river’s beach, or play around on the water. The 1,000 islands that give the region its name are a beautiful sight to behold, especially the picturesque Boldt Castle, which you can actually visit. Just don’t forget your passport as it is in the US.
Activity wise, you can go scuba diving around old shipwrecks, rent a kayak, go on a day cruise; there are plenty of ways to enjoy the scenery out there. Consider staying on the river banks near the bridge to the US, at Ivy Lea Campground.
2) Elora Gorge
What might be the prettiest part of Grand River runs right through Elora, and the gorge boasts some amazing swimming, gnarly old trees, serene waterfalls and some faster shallower parts of the river perfect for tubing. Another great way to enjoy the nature is to take a hike up the limestone cliffs and take in the view of the gorge from above. If you want to get out away from the campsite for an afternoon, the town also has an interesting history, so be sure to check out the Wellington County Museum and Archives.
Ah, Lake Muskoka. Southern Ontario’s cherished cottage country. The reason Torontonian’s exist in the summer months. If you don’t have a place there yourself (or have a generous friend), there are resorts, lodges, camp sites, BnBs, cottage rentals, you name it. Muskoka can make for a fun family outing or a relaxing romantic getaway. We recommend getting into a canoe at Algonquin Trails Camping Resort.
4. Niagara on the Lake
Niagara on the Lake is a great town to spend a weekend in, and not just because of its proximity to Niagara Falls or Toronto. Spend an afternoon touring one or some of the 27 wineries in the area, and sampling some of the delicious food. Then explore the Niagara Escarpment on horseback, and spend some time wandering around the quaint town, learning about its history. Fort George, for example, served as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army in the War of 1812. And Justin Trudeau went kayaking here for World Environment Day, so it’s got prime ministerial approval too.
Cobourg is 95 km east of Toronto, and has an incredible, massive beach. Seriously! In prime summer vacation months, the beach can get pretty busy but it’s still worth it. And Cobourg is super-family friendly, so much so that they’ve installed a mat leading from a gazebo, down into the water, making it accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. In town, they’ve got a concert hall, theatre and art gallery for some evening entertainment. If you want your weekend away to feel like a mini summer vacation, Cobourg’s the spot.
Tobermory sits on the tippy top of the Bruce Peninsula, around four hours from the city, and is a magical place to marvel at the amazing things that happen where water meets earth. It’s the scuba diving capital of Canada, with 25 shipwrecks to be explored, and home to Flowerpot Island (so named for the rock formations worn down by the water and topped with plant life). In Bruce Peninsula National Park, be sure to take to peek at the grotto caves, which look like something you’d see on a postcard when the light shines through the water just right.
This sleepy little summertime gem is nestled in the rich forestland on the shores of Head Lake in the Haliburton Highlands. Haliburton is a very artistic place. It’s got an arts school, Opera studio, museums, galleries and the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, a beautiful sculpture-lined trail to walk or bike. It’s the perfect place to get some R&R and soak up a little inspiration for that big project you’ve been working on.