Day trips from Toronto are all about packing in as much fun as possible without spending too much time in the car. The best one-day sojourns require less than two hours driving time each way, which still leaves an astounding number of options for those looking to escape the city.
Here are my picks for the top day trips from Toronto.
Pamper yourself at a Scandinavian-stye spa
Toronto has some pretty fine spa options, but if you want to get away from the city and relax, Scandinave Spa is the ultimate day trip. With new COVID-19 rules and a registration system for the baths, it never gets completely overcrowded.
The saunas and steam rooms will not be available for use at this time due to COVID-19 and new massage protocols include a reduced schedule and no duo massages. The spa is also operating at reduced capacity so there will be a maximum of two people allowed per group when visiting.
Explore the largest farmers’ market around
Just over an hour from Toronto, St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market is the largest of its kind in Canada. From local produce to farm-raised meat to antiques and hand-made treasures, the market makes for a great destination if you’re looking for a different shopping experience.
The market is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday but make sure to take note of all their COVID-19 guidelines before you go.
Do Niagara Falls a bit differently
It’s the ultimate day trip from Toronto, so much so that Niagara Falls has become completely predictable. Shake it up next time you go by really soaking up the kitsch on the new patio at the Flying Saucer restaurant before braving the zipline. You can also take the GO Train to get there.
Stroll across an epic suspension bridge
You can walk across a 420-foot suspension bridge at Scenic Caves Adventures near Collingwood. The bridge, which is actually the longest in Southern Ontario, offers up incredible views of Georgian Bay and the surrounding Blue Mountain area.
Keep in mind that there will be a few new COVID-19 guidelines in place when visiting this year.
Go for a hike at Niagara Glen Nature Reserve
There are so many places to hike around Toronto, but one that is definitely worth a visit is Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. The protected land, located only an hour from Toronto, boasts a waterfall, river rapids and breathtaking rock formations to explore.
Try out rock climbing at Rattlesnake Point
Rattlesnake Point is a great place to try out rock climbing for the first time, particularly if you don’t mind crowds. It can get rather busy here due to its proximity to Toronto, but there are plenty of instructional groups that operate on this cliff. It’s also great for hiking.
Visitors are now required to make a reservation, either online or over the phone, before visiting Rattlesnake Point. The Nassagaweya Canyon Trail between Crawford Lake and Rattlesnake Point is also closed until further notice.
Explore the caves of Eramosa
One of the closest cave systems to Toronto, it’ll take around an hour to get to Eramosa Karst. There aren’t really the deep caverns that you’ll find elsewhere in the province here, but there are so many nooks and crannies that it’s a great way to spend a day exploring the time-worn terrain that also features streams and waterfalls.
Get a dose of culture in Alton Mills
Located in the small rural town of Alton, the Alton Mill Arts Centre is a hub of culture in an old stone mill. The space has a gallery, shop, cafe and museum, making it the perfect spot for art enthusiasts to spend an afternoon.
Visit a tropical greenhouse
There’s a lots to eat and see in Hamilton but while you’re there, make sure to stop by the Gage Park Greenhouse for your dose of tropical plants. It’s 14,000 square feet of unique subtropical flora, waterfalls and fish ponds.
Spend a day at the beach in Port Stanley
Port Stanley is home to a long beach with one of the finest stretches of sandy beach on Lake Erie’s north shore and a picturesque beach town. It’s also one of only 27 in Canada to have earned official Blue Flag status for its sublime water quality.
The beach fills up fast on weekends so be sure to get there early and stay informed on potential overcrowding.
Learn about Ontario’s craft cider scene
Ontario’s craft cider scene is blowing up, and a perfect little day trip is a visit to Spirit Tree Cidery in the picturesque community of Caledon. There’s a bakery and bistro on site, so you can do a tasting and stay for a meal. The Ciderhouse Bistro at Spirit Tree Cidery remains closed due to COVID-19 but the outdoor patio is now open.
Take a lazy cruise down a river
There are lots of options for tubing near Toronto, but perhaps the best is along the Grand River. You can float down the water in the Elora Gorge or use access points in Paris and Waterloo for a more laid back experience with less rocks and mini-rapids to navigate.
Go mountain biking at Kelso
While there might not be a ton of technical trails or obstacles, Kelso is a great place to spend a day mountain biking thanks to the serious climbs up the Niagara Escarpment and gorgeous single track. when you’re done riding, hit up the beach for a cooling swim.
Get a buzz in wine country
Toronto’s close proximity to Niagara wine country is pure fodder for day trips. Not only is the landscape beautiful from spring through fall, but the tasting experience at most wineries is both educational and fun. Beamsville is a popular destination, but Niagara-on-the-Lake is great as well.
Get lost in Glen Major Forest
Glen Major has long been on the radar of mountain bikers and hikers. This 1,548 hectare woodland just northeast of Toronto is dotted with challenging trails and feels completely separated from the bustle of this city, despite the fact that it’s less than an hour’s drive away in low traffic.
Check out ancient rock carvings
If a mix of nature and history is your thing, you’ll love Petroglyphs Provincial Park. Home to over 900 symbolic First Nation carvings, it has the largest and oldest petroglyph collection in the country. There’s also a super rare lake in the park that is a greenish-blue colour due to the layers of the water never mixing with one another.
Walk across a marsh boardwalk
Located just 30 minutes from the city, Rattray Marsh Conservation Area is the last remaining lakefront marsh between Toronto and Burlington. It’s best known for its picturesque raised boardwalk that takes you through the protected wetlands.
Test your legs by cycling in Grey County
There’s plenty of great places to ride a road bike in and around Toronto, but if you want to spend a day really testing your mettle, head to the Grey County area around Blue Mountain, where you can sweat it out on climbs like Scenic Caves Drive (be careful of traffic here) and Grey Road 19.
Take in the quaint delights of Port Perry
We tend to think of cottage country as being more than two hours of driving from Toronto, but a trip to Lake Scugog won’t take that long. Kinsmen Beach is a lovely spot to spend an afternoon, and you can also check out Old Flame Brewing Co. for a tasting and tour.
Avoid the party at Wasaga Beach
Is there a beach that’s more fun in Ontario? With apologies to Grand Bend, Wasaga is the ultimate beach day trip from Toronto but this year it’s more about fun with a few friends than with a larger group. Now there are pods with limited capacity in order to limit the number of people on the beach due to COVID-19.
Go waterfall hunting in Milton
While Hamilton might be famous for its waterfalls, Milton has a hidden gem you can find during your hike at the Hilton Falls conservation area. It’s just a 45-minute drive away and comes with lakeside trails and Old Mill ruins. Just make sure to make a reservation in advance.
Go for a swim in an old quarry
The St. Mary’s Quarry is considered Canada’s largest freshwater swimming pool and it’s less than two hours from Toronto. There’s a large grassy area for sitting and soaking in the sun and a floating dock with a waterslide attached.
Your visit may be a little different due to COVID-19. You must register and pay for your swim online before you come to the quarry. You’ll also be required to wear a mask when entering and using the washrooms.
Walk in a lavender field
The numerous lavender fields a short drive from Toronto have become popular spots to get that Instagram moment, eat some lavender-infused ice cream and take in all those lovely floral scents. Make sure to book in advance as entrance policies have changed.
Explore the Kawarthas in a canoe
Kawartha Highlands provides all the beauty of Algonquin Park without the crowds. The 250 lakes and rivers in the area make it the perfect spot for a canoe trip, with endless opportunities for exploration. There are six recommended canoe routes through the park, ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty.
Soak in some small-town charm in Paris
Voted the Prettiest Little Town in Canada, Paris is definitely worth a visit. Stop by Penman’s Dam for a picnic with a view, paddle the Grand River or explore the shops in its historic downtown, an afternoon here won’t be boring. There’s also the Paris Wincey Mills, a fun ultra-hip market, open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.