Escape the city life for a scenic slice of Ontario’s shores. While Toronto is a destination in its own right, a road trip between Canada’s largest city and the waterfront town of Tobermory offers up some of the province’s most splendid scenery.
Plan a few days to explore all that Toronto’s cityscape has to offer before setting out to Tobermory, leaving plenty of time for beautiful stops along the way. Located on the sterling waters of Lake Huron, this small town is known as the “Caribbean of Ontario.” The massive cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment make for a memorable landscape in this small seaside region. Outdoor adventures abound and quaint shops and restaurants welcome travelers after a busy day on the trails, beaches, and waterways.
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There is literally no end to the sights and activities you can experience in the grand city of Toronto. Take in the dizzying views from atop the 1,815-foot tall CN Tower—you may see 100 miles into the distance on a clear day. Similar to a Smithsonian Institute, the Royal Ontario Museum is a fascinating stop, packed with art, history, and science to explore—the quirky exterior alone makes it worth a visit. When it’s time to eat, visit local vendors at the St. Lawrence or Kensington markets, or take your pick from Koreatown, Little Italy, Chinatown, or Greek Town for authentic global fares. You could easily spend weeks exploring Toronto’s parks, museums, and attractions—and all of the unique vibes each neighborhood in this diverse city offers.
As you drive north, Highway 10 will meet up with the Niagara Escarpment, and the flat farmlands will give way to more dramatic scenery. The town of Owen Sound is known for its waterfalls—three to be exact. At Inglis Falls, the Sydenham River makes an 18-meter plunge, creating a dramatic sight where water and canyons meet. Stop at the viewing platform for a quick visit, or venture to the Bruce Trail if you have more time (however, you won’t be able to do the whole thing at once, as this 890-kilometer trail stretches all the way from Niagara to Tobermory).
The crumbling remains of a once-stately manor house found at Split Rock Conservation Area will remind you of Daphne Du Maurier’s Manderley estate. Built on a hilltop overlooking Colpoy’s Bay, the 17-room manor was named Corran, meaning “point of land running into the sea.” Unfortunately, the opulent architecture is gone, destroyed in a fire (just like Manderley). However, the outer walls are still standing offering echoes of the past. Tour the grounds to find 87 hectares of gardens and pathways, and take the spiral staircase down the Niagara Escarpment to the waterfront for a unique journey.
If you have hiking shoes, a flashlight, and a sense of adventure, plan a stop at Grieg’s Caves. This privately-owned land offers access to 10 limestone caves, formed by the waves of Lake Algonquin more than 7,000 years ago. Whether you’re into light spelunking, picnicking, climbing, or hiking, the caves are a great place to breathe in the aromas of Georgian Bay while exploring this rugged and beautiful landscape.
Rachel’s is a blast from the past, from the checkered floors to the aquamarine vinyl seat covers. Located in the center of Lion’s Head, Rachel’s offers home-cooked goodness in the form of breakfast platters, pizzas, and more. Though the entrees are delicious, save room for a dessert. The ever-changing array of baked goods is the true star of the show. You never know what you will find, but your sweet tooth will be satisfied.
As you continue north on Bruce Peninsula, you’ll find one of the region’s most divine locations, Bruce Peninsula National Park. Explore a range of landscapes, from lush forests and fields to towering escarpments, cliffs, and caves. Because of the proximity to the air currents of the Great Lakes, the climate is balmy most of the year with famously mild winters, so visiting Bruce at any time is a treat. Whether you are a novice at hiking or an expert, the enormous 156-square-kilometer park has a trail for you. Kayaking, kite surfing, swimming, and biking are just a few of the things you can do at this incredible park.
Some national park attractions are so special they deserve their own call out. The Grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park features a startling blue natural pool inside a cave. The water is frigid, but that adds more luster to the experience of diving in—and it may be a welcoming chill after a hot hike (prepare to walk 45 minutes to reach this secluded site). The grotto opens right onto the picturesque Georgian Bay, making the views worthwhile both in and out of the cave. As you can imagine, this is a popular experience, so visit in fall or spring to avoid the crowds.
The small community of Tobermory provides a welcoming basecamp for further adventures in the Bruce Peninsula region. Venture out to find lighthouses, harbors, art galleries, museums, and more. A ride on the grand MS Chi-Cheemaun passenger and vehicle ferry takes you to Manitoulin Island and offers picturesque views of the Niagara Escarpment from the waters.
Fathom Five National Marine Park on Lake Huron has everything from picturesque picnic areas to glass bottom boat tours of shipwrecks. Venture underwater to explore the skeletons of more than 20 sunken Great Lake freighters. Towering dolomite columns jut out from the waters, and dozens of islands dot the area, making it the perfect place to paddle. Be sure to visit Flowerpot Island for the best hiking and camping in the park.
In just under 4 hours of driving, this road trip can take you from city lights to rocky shores. The region between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron is a land of contrasts. Venture north to continue your provincial adventures in Ontario, head west to visit the U.S. state of Michigan, or retrace your route to the south to return to the grand city of Toronto. There are always more great wonders to uncover in the Great Lakes Province.
When you're in Toronto, your opportunities are endless. It's the biggest city in all of Canada and it shows! (In a really, really good way). From Toronto, you can road trip to some of the most beautiful places in the country, prime example: Bruce Peninsula National Park. You'll also get the chance to go snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, dig into history, explore caves, eat really good food... Like we said, the opportunities are endless. Experience some of the best places Canada has to offer, right in the heart of Toronto.
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