15 Best Road Trips From Toronto
Located in the heart of the Great Lakes, Toronto is a perfect for road trips exploring the nature and scenic drives.
There are endless parks and sights to visit in Ontario and Quebec as well as scenic drives across the border into the United States.
If you're hiring a car and you're thinking of going on one of the trips that includes crossing into the United States, check with the car rental company that you're allowed to do that and for any additional paperwork they might need to provide to you.
All the distances and timings are given for one-way trips including all the suggested stops except the long round trips so keep the return journey in mind when making your plans.
Now let's get to it - here are the 15 best road trips from Toronto starting from short road trips near the city and going up to long journeys for the more adventurous!
Short road trips from Toronto
1. Niagara Falls and Niagara-On-The-Lake
The Niagara Falls are by far the most popular road trip destination from Toronto at just under 2 hours with spectacular scenery and a truly unique experience.
Set on the border between the United States and Canada, the Niagara Falls are probably the most famous waterfall in the world.
There are actually three separate waterfalls that form the Niagara Falls - the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls sits right on the border between the two countries with the other two being on the US side.
As the water flows from Lake Eerie into Lake Ontario, over 6 million cubic feet of water drops 50m every minute creating a truly amazing sight and a lot of noise.
Despite the cold winters of Ontario, the Niagara Falls never fully freeze. Some years they can get surface ice forming with the waterfall continuing to function underneath.
The two countries separated by the falls have made use of the volume of water that comes through the waterfall with 50% of all water during the day and 75% at night (when there are no visitors) diverted through huge tunnels to hydroelectric power plants. These generate over a quarter of all electricity used in New York State and Ontario.
You can visit Niagara Falls from both, the Canadian and the US side with good viewing opportunities in both locations.
Make sure you go through the town Niagara-On-The-Lake sitting downstream on Lake Ontario - the Heritage District is quaint and is great for a walk and the drive to and from will take you past beautiful wineries making for a great detour.
For those who like a little hike, stop off at Dundas peak which is directly en route - this amazing lookout offers stunning views from the top of a sheer cliff as well as visiting a couple of much smaller waterfalls - Tews Falls and Webster Falls.
Distance from Toronto: 120 miles (193 km)
Driving time: 2 hours 40 minutes
2. Road trip from Toronto to Muskoka
You will notice that lakes form a big part of this list of road trips from Toronto - aside from the Great Lakes surrounding Ontario, a large part of the province is covered by a network of small lakes, rivers, streams and islands and Muskoka is the closest of these to Toronto.
The villages and towns of Muskoka are known for a relaxed atmosphere and large cottages which are very popular with Toronto residents in the summer months - making for perfect weekend getaways.
The serenity of the area means the population of the District of Muskoka almost triples in the summer with hideaways along lakes Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph in demand.
Some of Hollywood's biggest stars have summer homes here including Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Kurt Russell.
Much what there is to do in Muskoka focuses on nature - there are hiking trails and national parks that offer activities like mountain biking, cycling and horseback riding.
The lakes also offer every watersport activity you might be interested in. Alternatively, you can rent a boat and explore the many coves, islands and waterways at your leisure.
Distance from Toronto: 129 miles (208 km)
Driving time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Weekend road trips from Toronto
3. Algonquin Provincial Park
If Muskoka is not quite remote enough or you want to see more nature and less development, the Algonquin Provincial Park is where you need to head from Toronto.
This large park sits to the north-east of Muskoka and is a large nature reserve with thousands of lakes (yes - there are over 2,400 of them here), islands, mountains and dense forests.
Route 60 is the easiest way into the park from Toronto although roads leading further into the park come from the Trans-Canada Highway running to the north or the south-east corner closer to Ottawa.
There are a few hiking trails to explore that are closer to Toronto ranging from 4 to over 50 miles long (6 to 90 km). These go along rivers, lakes and through forests and you can see a lot of waterfalls and nature along the way.
Take care - the wildlife here includes moose and bears as well as various species of birds.
The most popular way to explore the park is by canoe - this way you can get to a lot of sights simply not accessible by road so you can park up at Canoe Lake or Lake Opeongo and spend the weekend in one of the campsites located throughout the river and lake network. Remember to book your spot on the park's website!
Distance from Toronto: 190 miles (306 km)
Driving time: 3 hours 20 minutes
4. Prince Edward County, Kingston and Gananoque
Heading east along Lake Ontario's north shore will take you towards Prince Edward County, Kingston and Gananoque as you reach St Lawrence River.
This is a road trip for those who like the finer things in life and it starts off on the right note as the route takes you through vineyards, picturesque towns and then more vineyards.
Prince Edward County is on an island with 4 bridges and one small ferry providing access. There are a lot of fine restaurants and opportunities to sample local wines, so make it a long weekend or even longer if you have the time!
The ferry can be a decent option as you continue and make your way to Kingston although it only holds 21 cars so if you want to avoid a wait, head north and cross over the Quinte Skyway.
Both Kingston and Gananoque are set along the river and have a certain charm with a strong European influence on the architecture and a beautiful setting. Don't miss Fort Henry in Kingston - a remarkable sight that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Gananoque has a number of activities relating to the Thousand Islands which deserves a road trip of its own - see below (unless you want to make it into a week to remember!)
If you like wine, plan out a few stops at wineries along the way - you can taste the wines and take home a case of your favourite to make your road trip that much more memorable!
Distance from Toronto: 193 miles (311 km)
Driving time: 4 hours 30 minutes
5. Road trip to the Thousand Islands
You can choose to go a little further along the St Lawrence River and spend time exploring the Thousand Islands - a large group of islands along the river sitting on the border between Canada and the United States.
Beautiful scenery, quirky museums, relaxing fishing and some fantastic restaurants are some of the reasons to visit the area. There are also a few really picturesque towns and castles to visit.
The best way to explore the area is to visit both the Canadian and the US side of the border - the Thousand Islands crossing runs between two of the biggest islands - Hill Island on the Canadian side and Wellesley Island on the US side.
The largest of the islands, Wolfe Island is entirely in Ontario and some of the smaller islands cannot be visited and are privately owned including Deer Island which is owned by the Skull and Bones secret society.
Boldt Castle is a must see if you are in the area. Originally commissioned by the millionaire George Boldt, the castle was never finished with construction abandoned in 1904 when Boldt's wife died. Since the 70s, the castle is managed by the Thousand Island Bridge Authority and work is ongoing to complete the castle from visitors' ticket revenues. Take note that Boldt Castle is only open from mid-May to mid-October.
The less known Singer Castle on Dark Island is also worth visiting - this is a privately owned castle located downstream towards the end of the island group. There are hidden wine cellars and a lot of other quirks to explore.
A few of the islands have beautiful shallow sand beaches which can be perfect for spending a day relaxing and swimming in the summer and others are popular with fishermen with pike the most sought after fish in the local waters.
Distance from Toronto: 220 miles (354 km)
Driving time: 4 hours 30 minutes
6. Bruce Peninsula National Park
The Bruce Peninsula National Park is a perfect place to explore nature on a rocky outcrop separating Lake Huron from the Georgian Bay.
The large park is home to a lot of wildlife ranging from black bears, coyotes and chipmunks to porcupines, deer, hares and turtles. You may come across some of these on the various hiking trails that run through the park that range from short strolls to extensive expert-level hikes.
The most famous trail is the Bruce Trail which runs all the way from the Niagara river to Tobermory at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula. You can reach the Overhanging Point via the Bruce Trail by crossing Boulder Beach - it is a rock that sticks out from a cliff offering stunning views and jaw dropping photo opportunities. Take great care as there is no safety net and it is a long way down.
A key sight is the Grotto formation along the peninsula's coast. Popular as a social media backdrop, it is a large archway leading to a cave.
Take note that parking can be difficult during peak season, especially at weekends. Booking online is strongly advised as you will be turned away from the Grotto if you do not have a reservation. A daily parking booking in the summer costs $17.70 for the Grotto if you book online.
If you're camping, you can book your campsite location in advance as well to make sure you have a spot. If you want to spend a night in the wild, get a permit from the Cyprus Lake Office and you can pitch up in some parts of the park along the trails.
Park entrance fees: Family or Group - $19.60, Adults - $7.80, Seniors - $6.80, youth go free, winter visits receive a 25% discount
Distance from Toronto: 185 miles (298 km)
Driving time: 3 hours 40 minutes
7. Drive to Manitoulin Island and Greater Sudbury
Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world at over 1,000 square miles and sits between Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay to the north of the Bruce Peninsula.
The island is so big that it has 4 rivers and over 100 lakes within it with some of those lakes having islands of their own!
You can get to the island via a ferry from Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula, but despite the longer route, it will take about as long to drive around the lake via Sudbury so it could be a good idea to take different routes on the way to and from Manitoulin to see more places on your road trip.
Route 6 from the north passes through the Little Current Swing Bridge - a unique bridge that can turn sideways to let boats pass through the Little Current waterway.
The island has a large Anishinaabe population with dedicated reserves as well as a few towns and villages dotted around.
Greater Sudbury is the largest town in Northern Ontario although it still has a small town feel. There are a couple of museums including one about the history of nickel mining and two art galleries. As you're driving past, it's worth a visit and is good for breaking up the long drive.
Distance from Toronto: 370 miles (596 km)
Driving time: 6 hours 30 minutes
8. Cross the border into Detroit, Heidelberg project and Ann Arbor
With Toronto being so close to the United States in almost every direction, this is another road trip where you'll need to bring your passport with you.
Detroit is only a few hours away and is a fascinating place to visit with a rich, vibrant and very poignant history.
Motor City, as it is known, became an industrial powerhouse and the second largest city in the Midwest after Chicago on the back of a fast growing car manufacturing industry.
Companies such as Ford, Dodge, Chrysler and General Motors with brands like Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac called Detroit their home with the majority of their production happening in the city's factories.
Following a steep decline in the 70s, the city hit upon much harder times and you can witness these as you drive through empty neighborhoods and crumbling old factory buildings.
While a major improvement programme is underway and the city is working on reinventing itself, tourism is growing and we would highly recommend visiting for a rich cultural experience.
Part of the regeneration effort is the Heidelberg project - it is an outdoor art installation in east Detroit that depicts protest and brings attention to the demise of the city and the decades of neglect. The different pieces are made using brightly colored salvage materials highlighting the level of poverty.
Ann Arbor is close to Detroit and is a stark contrast to its larger neighbor. The town is full of charm with classic buildings, some of which comprise the Michigan University, various art galleries, small shops and cafes and other interesting places to explore.
If you're visiting Detroit, it is definitely worth making the extra trip.
Distance from Toronto: 279 miles (447 km)
Driving time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Week long and longer road trips from Toronto
9. Full circle of Lake Ontario
Maybe one of the best ways to spend a week doing a road trip from Toronto is a drive around the Lake of Ontario coming full circle back to Toronto.
This drive will include a lot of the trips we recommend for shorter journeys - you can call in at Prince Edwart County, Kingston, Gananogue and visit the Niagara Falls on your back into Canada.
The U.S. side has more things to see in upstate New York. You can take a detour to the Ausable Chasm - a river with rapids flowing through a stunning gorge near Lake Placid or Ithaca Falls.
Staying close to the lake is also great though - the towns of Sackets Harbor (right on the lake) and Skaneateles further south are pretty and relaxed. Oswego is another town worth visiting - it's definitely a good idea to stick to Route 104 rather than the faster roads further from the lake for the trip.
You will need to cross the border into the United States at the Thousand Islands crossing and back at Lewiston-Queenston Bridge near the Niagara Falls.
Distance from Toronto: 570 miles (917 km)
Driving time: 10 hours 30 minutes
10. Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and beyond
This is an amazing road trip that takes you from Toronto to the Gulf of St Lawrence on the Atlantic Ocean driving the length of the St Lawrence river from Lake Ontario.
The landscapes along the route change from wineries and lakeside villages to long roads through mixed forests and eventually the harsh eastern coastline.
The main cities of eastern Canada are all en route. Starting from Toronto, the route takes you to Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec city before ending in Tadoussac.
Ottawa is Canada's capital and has a rich history making for an interesting stay. Visit the Rideau Canal, Parliament Buildings on Parliament Hill or one of a number of great museums around the city.
Montreal is the second largest french-speaking city in the world after Paris and two thirds of the population are fully bilingual which creates a unique cultural mix.
Quebec City is famous for its Old World charm with the Old Quebec town, the Château Frontenac above it and the Citadel all adding to a very European vibe.
Tadoussac is a popular destination for tourists - it was the first French colony in North America founded in 1600 and you can see history throughout the town that served as a trading and fishing hub for centuries. The surrounding coves and fjords are stunning and this is one of the best locations in the world for whale watching so make sure you go on an excursion to get up close and personal.
If you want to find out more, read the full details of our longer Quebec road trip.
Distance from Toronto: 703 miles (1,131 km)
Driving time: 12 hours 30 minutes
11. Road trip around Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is the second largest of the Great Lakes and the only one located entirely within the United States of America.
You can start your trip by driving towards Detroit and crossing Michigan or taking the scenic route along Georgian Bay and crossing into the U.S. along the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge.
Driving through Michigan is much more direct so if you're heading that way, you can meet Lake Michigan at St Joseph before heading around the southern tip and into Chicago.
Chicago is the third most populated city in the United States and has a lot to see and experience. Tall observation decks might not be quite so impressive given Toronto's CN Tower has the highest one in North America but the music scene, theatres and fantastic restaurants are all great reasons to spend at least a couple of days.
For the foodies, other than the obvious deep dish pizza, try the dipped Italian beef sandwich - thank us later!
From Chicago, the route goes north stopping in Milwaukee and Green Bay before crossing back from Wisconsin into Michigan and going through the less populated areas on the northern side of the lake and the Hiawatha National Forest.
After you pass through the Sault Ste. Marie State Forest Area and over the Mackinac Bridge, the route down the Michigan coast goes through a number of quaint pretty towns including Traverse City.
Distance from Toronto: 1,650 miles (2,650 km)
Driving time: 26 hours
12. Driving from Toronto to Upstate New York
Ok - the nearest parts of upstate New York may only be a couple of hours away, but we're talking about a much deeper exploration of the Empire State.
Once you've crossed over the border and past Niagara Falls, the route heads towards the Finger Lakes - you can explore some great wine country at the Cayuga Wine Trail and explore the beautiful towns of Skaneateles and Ithaca.
After heading south towards the border with Pennsylvania the Delaware River valley offers one stunning driving road - in Route 97 that passes through Callicoon.
After snaking along the river driving the road of choice for too many cheesy adverts, you can divert into the Catskills and explore the trails and nature of New Yorkers' favourite getaway location.
After crossing over to the Hudson, you can follow the river north back towards Canada and visit the capital of New York State - Albany and stop at the State Capitol building there.
Further stops at The Sagamore (stunning lakeside village) and Lake Placid before you get to the river valley at Ausable Chasm on Lake Champlain that forms the border with Vermont.
Best way to return is to follow the U.S. - Canada border back towards the Thousand Islands and then drive along the north shore of Lake Ontario to arrive back in Toronto.
Distance from Toronto: 1,050 miles (1,690 km)
Driving time: 19 hours
13. Head west to Thunder Bay and Quetico Provincial Park
This is a mammoth trip, although most definitely worth it for the sights when you eventually get there!
There are two options for getting to Thunder Bay - the slightly quicker one takes you along the north shores of Georgian Bay and Lake Superior with the journey being approximately 900 miles one way.
If you don't fancy coming back the exact same route, then crossing down into the United States along the International Bridge at Fort Frances means you can along the south of Lake Superior and Lake Huron at the cost of 3 hours.
You'll want to add plenty of stops along the way - the route will take 2 days of solid driving on its own!
The truth is - this is one of those road trips where the process of getting there is better than the actual destination. The routes around the two Great Lakes pass through amazing parks and offer options to divert into places like the French River Provincial Park or check out the beaches of Pukaskwa National Park.
On the way back, there are a number of large national forests in the U.S. as well as the picture-perfect towns in northern Michigan making for a really outstanding drive.
Some of the other trips above and below cover parts of this mega route so if you're short on time and don't want to spend 2 days in a car, there are other options. If you do, though, you'll be rewarded with a complete experience of the rivers, waterfalls, forests and views of the Great Lakes.
Distance from Toronto: 2,140 miles (3,450 km)
Driving time: 36 hours
14. A road trip tour of Quebec
If the drive from Toronto up to Tadoussac didn't quite feel like you'd see enough of Quebec and light on miles, this is the road trip that should get you excited.
Not for the faint-hearted, the mammoth tour of Quebec goes a little off the beaten track to explore the amazing nature and towns further north.
First stop is to head to Ottawa and crossing the Ottawa River into Gatineau to start your Quebec adventure.
You will drive past thousands of lakes (we're not exaggerating) and through stunning national parks along the route. First off, the trip goes towards Aiguebelle Park in Abitibi. To break up the driving, you can stop off at La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve.
If that doesn't seem wild enough, the journey then continues along Routes 113 and 167 through conifer forests on the way to Oujé-Bougoumou for some fishing and relaxing away from civilization.
Next stop is Lac St Jean and the Saguenay Fjord. Stunning views are guaranteed and you will progressively feel like you are getting back towards actual towns.
After a stop off at Tadoussac for a spot of whale watching, you're then just making your way back to Toronto through Quebec City, Montreal and back along the north shore of Lake Ontario.
Distance from Toronto: 1,770 miles (2,850 km)
Driving time: 32 hours
15. Drive the Michigan coastline
A curve ball of a road trip option for those who like to mix culture with a bit of lakeside driving.
The idea is to head down to Michigan and drive the length of its coastline along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Michigan has some amazingly good looking towns and villages all along the coastline - if you make your way to the southern park of Lake Michigan, and drive north, you will pass places like South Haven, Grand Haven, Traverse City and Charlevoix on your way up.
There are other sights as well - the Silver Lakes Sand Dunes is a giant desert-like sand dune that has all the appearance of being on Mars. The Sleeping Bear Dunes further north are long white sand beaches which are perfect for a day of relaxation and a picnic.
As you continue onto Lake Huron, there is a long stretch of the coast that forms part of the Cheboygan State Park and great fish restaurants in tow.
The east side of Michigan is generally less touristy and as a result cheaper and less fancy which is an interesting contrast given almost equally great views and natural landscapes.
As you move further south, the town of Frankenmuth, a little inland from the lake, is a must stop on your itinerary.
You could be forgiven for thinking you have been transported to the Bavarian Alps with the scenery and architecture having a strong central European vibe. Have a (very good) chicken dinner that the town is famous for and take a ride on a riverboat along the Cass River before crossing back into Canada and driving back to Toronto.
Distance from Toronto: 1,460 miles (2,350 km)
Driving time: 25 hours