Horseshoe Falls with water droplets rising in the sky, boat in the water

Road trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls

Updated by Pat Dorri on November 27 2023

Get ready for a beautiful road trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls, where you can choose which side of beautiful Lake Ontario to follow. On this scenic drive, you'll get to experience some of the most gorgeous landscapes, towns, cities, and historical places in the Great Lakes.

The 170 km road trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls will take 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete. Highlights en route are Burlington, Hamilton, St Catharines, Niagara-on-the-Lake, or Syracuse, Seneca Falls, Rochester, Buffalo and Finger Lakes in the USA.

This thrilling adventure around Lake Ontario will captivate you and give you plenty of lifelong memories. Read on below to learn more about our recommended routes, top highlights, best places to stay, and the best seasons to travel.

How far is Niagara Falls from Toronto, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between Toronto and Niagara Falls
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Hamilton Route170 kilometres2 hours and 50 minutes
Finger Lakes Route780 kilometres8 hours and 30 minutes

The Hamilton Route to Niagara Falls from Toronto is a shorter journey, spanning 170 kilometres and taking approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes to drive.

On the other hand, the Finger Lakes Route is a more extensive journey, covering 780 miles, with an estimated drive time of 8 hours and 30 minutes.

Whether looking for a quick getaway or an extended road trip around Lake Ontario, these routes provide opportunities to discover the diverse landscapes and attractions along the way to Niagara Falls, so we recommend spending 2-3 days to enjoy them.

Niagara Falls from the Canada side on an autumn day, clear skies
Seeing Niagara Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime experience both from the Canadian and the American sides of the stunning waterfalls.
Anna Brzozowska/

Best road trip route from Toronto to Niagara Falls

While both the Hamilton and Finger Lakes routes from Toronto to Niagara Falls showcase natural beauty, they offer distinctly different experiences. Your choice will depend on what you want to see and experience the most.

The Hamilton Route, though shorter, can be significantly extended during peak traffic hours, particularly when driving into the Greater Toronto Area. We recommend driving outside of peak rush-hour times.

This route will give you a picturesque journey with well-maintained roads and expansive views of Lake Ontario, perfect for capturing stunning city skyline photos.

Although it's a short drive, you'll get to see plenty of amazing Canadian communities and stop at several historic destinations. This route will take you to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

In contrast, the Finger Lakes Route is a longer scenic drive that encompasses nearly the entirety of Lake Ontario. It has plenty of opportunities for breathtaking views from both Canadian and American perspectives.

This route requires crossing into New York State, so ensure all necessary documentation for border crossing is prepared. While this route is spectacular during summer and fall, it also requires careful planning in winter.

However, you'll get to see amazing small towns by the beautiful Finger Lakes and picturesque vineyards on the way. You'll also drive through upstate New York's iconic mountain scenery. Note that this route ends in the USA side of Niagara Falls.

If you're seeking a quick, scenic drive with urban views, the Hamilton Route is ideal. But if you prefer a longer journey featuring diverse landscapes and a cross-border experience, the Finger Lakes Route is an excellent choice.

How to drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls

The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Toronto and Niagara Falls. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.

Hamilton Route

Starting in the big city of Toronto, head southwest on the Queen Elizabeth Highway. You'll soon make it out of the city and into Toronto. From here, drive to the historic city of Burlington. After enjoying the downtown area, make sure to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens.

From Burlington, make a stop at nearby Hamilton. From here, head east along the coast of Lake Ontario. You'll drive along beautiful stretches of coastline. Soon, you'll arrive in the stunning coastal community of St. Catharines.

From here, make your way to Niagara-on-the-Lake. This beautiful town is famous for the historic Fort George National Historic Site. After enjoying this iconic landmark, drive south to your destination of Niagara Falls.

Vineyard at Niagara-on-the-Lake with Lake Ontario in the background and a blue sky above
Try some icewine during your visit to the beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake if you are following.

Finger Lakes Route

Starting in Toronto, head east along the coastline of Lake Ontario. Continue driving to Oshawa. Here, make sure to stop by the Canadian Automotive Museum. After Oshawa, make your way east to Kingston.

In Kingston, you can visit the historical Fort Henry National Historic Site. From here, make your way into New York by crossing the famous St Lawrence River.

Drive along Interstate 81 (I-81) through rural upstate New York to Syracuse. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful museums and university campuses the city is famous for.

After Syracuse, make your way to Skaneateles and Seneca Falls to sample some of the best wines in the USA. These towns are gateways to the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York.

From here, take I-90 west to Rochester. After visiting this city's amazing museums and downtown, get back on route to Buffalo.

Buffalo is one of New York State's most famous cities. After enjoying this wonderful community, get on I-90 and drive to the world-famous destination of Niagara Falls.

A misty day on the river at Seneca Falls, New York, with old buildings to one side
You can visit the beautiful Seneca Falls on the Finger Lakes Route.
Roland Shainidze/

Best places to stop between Toronto and Niagara Falls

Even though this is a relatively short road trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls, you'll want to stop at one of the amazing destinations below. This way, you'll be able to rest up and enjoy this breathtaking region of Canada and the USA.

A peaceful break in St Catharines

St Catharines, located about 1 hour and 30 minutes into the Hamilton Route, makes an ideal stopover. Known as "The Garden City," it's the most populous city in the Niagara region, offering a perfect blend of rest and exploration.

This city is celebrated for its hiking trails, abundant greenery, and public parks, providing a refreshing break in any season. Among its many attractions, Short Hills Provincial Park will give you a tranquil natural retreat, while 13th Street Winery is perfect for wine enthusiasts.

Lighthouse in Canada's St Catharines during sunset.
The beautiful lighthouse on the Port Dalhouse Harbour is one of the highlights in St Catharines.
Tommy Jaksic/

For your stay, consider the highly rated Juniper Inn, a stylish boutique hotel conveniently located a short drive from Niagara and Rainbow Bridge. Some rooms have picturesque Lake Ontario views, enhancing your stay with natural scenery.

At the Juniper Inn, you will be located in the heart of Port Dalhousie neighbourhood. Nearby, Lakeside Park and Beach are just a 3-minute walk away, offering a serene spot for relaxation by the water.

The Port Dalhousie East Pier and Lighthouse, a 25-minute walk or a 5-minute drive from the hotel, are perfect places for an evening stroll or a scenic daytime excursion.

Beautiful lakeside views in Skaneateles

Skaneateles, a picturesque town located nearly 6 hours into the Finger Lakes Route, serves as an excellent halfway point. The town is celebrated for Lake Skaneateles, known for its crystal-clear waters and scenic beauty, and its vineyards, where you can savour the local wine culture.

Did you know that the city's name is derived from an Iroquois word meaning “long lake”? Even today, its indigenous heritage is proudly celebrated through traditions and the local culture.

A charming street view with colorful shops
Skaneateles combines small town charm with beautiful views of the Finger Lakes nearby.

For your stay, the Skaneateles Suites Boutique Hotel offers a comfortable experience in the heart of the village. The hotel is just steps away from the village's shops and restaurants, and only a half-block from Clift Park and Skaneateles Lake.

Some rooms also have jetted spa tubs for an added touch of luxury. Additionally, guests benefit from free off-street parking, adding to the convenience.

Near the hotel, Skaneateles Lake is a mere 5-minute walk away, offering a peaceful setting for relaxation and water activities. Also within walking distance, just 4 minutes away, is Gallery 54, where art enthusiasts can explore a collection of local art and crafts.

Where to stay when you reach Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, a city famous for its awe-inspiring waterfalls and the iconic US Rainbow Bridge is a bustling tourist hub offering plenty of attractions for all types of travellers.

The city's most iconic sight, Niagara Falls, is the world's fastest-moving waterfall, with nearly 700,000 gallons of water flowing at an astonishing speed of 100 miles per hour every minute.

Niagara Falls, Niagara State Park view from the American side in spring with the waterfall creating spray against the rocks below on a sunny day.
One of the most visited natural landmarks in both America and Canada, Niagara Falls will leave you in awe.
Roman Babakin/

For an incredible experience, visit the Rainbow International Bridge, which gives you a unique perspective of both the falls and the gorge. This landmark offers stunning views of the natural wonder.

When it comes to accommodation, the Niagara Grandview Boutique Hotel stands out as one of the city's premier boutique properties. Recently renovated, this hotel offers stylish and uniquely decorated rooms, featuring views of the Niagara River and Gorge.

The hotel also has a wide array of amenities, including complimentary parking and breakfast, an outdoor play structure for kids, bicycles for exploring the city, and a selection of books and board games suitable for all ages. There's also a cosy coffee shop on-site for a leisurely start to your day.

Located just a 12-minute walk from the bustling Clifton Hill tourist area, guests are in close proximity to Niagara's famous falls, the Skywheel, Niagara Casino, and much more.

Things to see on a road trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls

The road trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls is full of amazing highlights on both routes. To help you plan your wonderful road trip easier, we've included our favourite highlights below.

Hamilton Route

  1. Etobicoke, Ontario - A suburban district in Toronto, Etobicoke offers a blend of urban living and green spaces, with many parks and the picturesque waterfront of Lake Ontario. It's known for its diverse communities and family-friendly neighbourhoods.
  2. Oakville, Ontario - This charming town features a beautiful harbour, historic downtown, and a range of cultural activities, making it a perfect blend of urban and small-town life. Oakville's parks and gardens are also perfect places to relax.
  3. Bronte Creek Provincial Park - Located near Oakville, this expansive park offers a variety of outdoor activities including hiking trails, a large outdoor pool, and a children's farm, nestled in a serene natural setting.
  4. Burlington, Ontario - Burlington is known for its beautiful waterfront, vibrant downtown, and as the home of the Royal Botanical Gardens. It's a city that combines outdoor beauty with urban conveniences.
  5. Royal Botanical Gardens - Located in Burlington, these are Canada's largest botanical gardens, featuring over 27 km of nature trails and a diverse array of plant life, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts.
  6. Hamilton, Ontario - This port city is known for its rich industrial heritage and vibrant arts scene, offering a mix of urban and natural attractions, including waterfalls and conservation areas.
  7. Dundurn Castle - A historic neoclassical mansion in Hamilton, Dundurn Castle offers a glimpse into 19th-century life with beautifully restored rooms and an expansive garden.
  8. Hamilton Waterfront Trail - This scenic trail along Hamilton's waterfront offers picturesque views of Lake Ontario and is a popular spot for walking, cycling, and enjoying the city's natural beauty.
  9. Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum - Located in Hamilton, this museum showcases Canada's military aviation history with an impressive collection of over 40 aircraft, including a flying Lancaster bomber.
  10. Beamer Memorial Conservation Area - Known for its stunning views of the Niagara Escarpment and as a prime spot for birdwatching, especially during hawk migrations.
  11. St Catharines, Ontario - Often called "The Garden City," St. Catharines is renowned for its lush parks, gardens, and trails, as well as a lively downtown area with shops and restaurants.
  12. Niagara-on-the-Lake - A picturesque town known for its well-preserved 19th-century village, renowned wineries, and the annual Shaw Festival, celebrating theatre and the arts.
  13. Fort George National Historic Site - A historic military structure in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Fort George played a significant role in the War of 1812 and offers living history demonstrations and tours.
  14. Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown - Located across the border in New York, this historic fort offers a rich history, dating back over 300 years, with well-preserved buildings and reenactments.
A fighter jet, arranged as if it going vertically up at the entrance of the museum
You can visit the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum to learn more about Canada's aviation history if you are traveling on the Hamilton Route.
Brett Zimmerman/

Finger Lakes Route

  1. Oshawa, Ontario - A dynamic city with a rich automotive history, Oshawa offers cultural attractions like the Canadian Automotive Museum and a vibrant arts community.
  2. Canadian Automotive Museum - Located in Oshawa, this museum showcases Canada's automotive history with a vast collection of vehicles, from vintage models to modern cars.
  3. Lake Ontario - One of the five Great Lakes of North America, Lake Ontario is known for its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities, including boating, fishing, and waterfront parks.
  4. National Air Force Museum of Canada - Situated in Trenton, this museum celebrates Canada's air force heritage with an extensive collection of aircraft and memorabilia.
  5. Kingston, Ontario - A historic city where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario, known for its vibrant downtown, historic architecture, and the nearby Fort Henry.
  6. Fort Henry National Historic Site - A 19th-century military fortification in Kingston, offering historical reenactments, tours, and stunning views of the surrounding area.
  7. 1000 Islands Tower - Offering panoramic views of the Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence River, this observation tower is a must-visit for breathtaking scenery.
  8. Syracuse, New York - A city known for its rich history, cultural attractions, and as the gateway to the Finger Lakes region, offering a blend of urban and natural experiences.
  9. Oneida Lake, New York - The largest lake entirely within New York State, offering recreational activities like fishing, boating, and lakeside relaxation.
  10. Green Lakes State Park - Located near Syracuse, known for its strikingly clear green-blue lakes and lush forest, perfect for hiking, swimming, and camping.
  11. Finger Lakes - A renowned region in New York State, famous for its picturesque lakes, wineries, and natural beauty, offering a diverse range of outdoor and culinary experiences.
  12. Skaneateles, New York - A quaint and picturesque town located on the shores of Skaneateles Lake, known for its crystal-clear waters, charming downtown, and serene ambiance.
  13. Seneca Falls, New York - A historic town known as the birthplace of the women's rights movement, with charming streets and significant cultural landmarks.
  14. Rochester, New York - A vibrant city on Lake Ontario's southern shore, known for its rich history, cultural institutions, and as the home of the annual Lilac Festival.
  15. Buffalo, New York - A city with a strong industrial heritage, known for its historic architecture, vibrant arts scene, and as the gateway to Niagara Falls.
Beautiful autumnal view from the tower
You won't forget the stunning scenery that you can admire from the 1000 Island Tower any time soon!

Best time to go on a road trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls

A road trip to Niagara Falls offers amazing experiences across different seasons. Each has unique attractions and events depending on the season.

In spring, temperatures in Niagara Falls range from 4 to 20 degrees Celsius, making it the perfect time for sightseeing and enjoying the blooming landscapes. The roads on the Hamilton and Finger Lakes Routes are typically clear of winter hazards, though it's always important to check for any late-season snowfall.

Spring on the Hamilton Route brings Hamilton's Culture Days in September and October. This season is perfect if you prefer a tranquil travel experience with fewer tourists.

Summer is the peak tourist season in Niagara Falls, with temperatures ranging from 21 to 29 degrees. This warm weather is ideal for exploring the falls and enjoying the wonderful outdoor activities in the area. During this time, the Hamilton Route is bustling with events like the Festival of Friends in August.

On the Finger Lakes Route, the Rochester Lilac Festival in May features colourful flowers and activities. However, be prepared for heavier traffic, especially around the GTA on the Hamilton Route, and plan for potential border crossing delays on the Finger Lakes Route.

Fall sees temperatures in Niagara Falls between 4-19 degrees, accompanied by stunning fall foliage. The roads are usually clear, and the reduced number of tourists allows for a more relaxed journey.

The Finger Lakes Route celebrates the season with the National Buffalo Wing Festival in Orchard Park in September, adding a flavorful stop to your itinerary.

Winter transforms Niagara Falls into a frosty wonderland, with temperatures often ranging between -6 and 0 degrees. The Winter Festival of Lights illuminates the falls, creating a magical atmosphere.

Both routes require careful driving because of potential snow and ice. The Finger Lakes Route can be more challenging and some attractions, like the 1000 Islands Tower, are closed during this season.