6 Exciting Day Trips From Toronto

I love using weekends to go on day trips from Toronto! It’s a perfect way to get outdoors and explore some of the quieter parts of Ontario. 

As much as I love Toronto, it still feels great to escape for a day every once in a while. While there are truly tons of day trips from Toronto that you can do, I wanted to include just my personal favourites in this guide. I hope these ideas inspire you to explore more of Ontario! 

Before we dive into 6 exciting day trips, I wanted to touch on getting around. Many of us Torontonians don’t have cars. I absolutely love living car-free (I cycle everywhere!). But, it can be inconvenient when I want to escape the city. There are three ways that I manage to day trip without a car:

  • Car-sharing and car rentals

I actually looked into getting a car in Toronto, but after calculating the amount my partner and I would spend on insurance and other costs, we decided that it was more economical to be car-free and simply rent when we need to. For multi-day trips we typically rent a car the traditional way, but for day trips, we rely on our car sharing service. There are a couple that operate in Toronto, but we’ve been using Communauto. Membership is free, and it allows you to use an app to reserve vehicles that are typically available within walking distance.

  • Parkbus

Parkbus is a service that connects city dwellers with nature through accessible transportation options. They operate bus services to several National and Provincial Parks from major cities across Canada. While it’s possible to book this service for multi-day trips, I find that it’s especially awesome for when you’d like to go on a daytrip. You can check out Parkbus, here!

  • Public transit

You’d be surprised how many places you can go using Toronto’s public transit system! The TTC combined with GO Transit connects you to many of the towns outside of the city

Bass Lake sunset in Orillia Ontario
Sunset at Bass Lake

Swim at Bass Lake and explore Orillia

Traditional land of the Anishnaabeg people, including the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Pottawatomi nations.

Bass Lake is a small lake just a 10 minute drive from the charming town, Orillia. The lake is home to Bass Lake Provincial Park. Head to the provincial park and grab a day pass to enjoy the park’s facilities: picnic areas, a beautiful sandy beach, and playground, and boat rentals on site. The lake has shallow and clear waters that are perfect for swimming and for paddling. Once you’ve had your fill of lake life, head into Orillia!

Orillia has two farmer’s markets that are worth checking out. The downtown market is, of course, downtown, making it super accessible. Then, there’s the Orillia Fairgrounds Market. At both, you can discover local artisans, try locally made foods, and buy fresh produce. After exploring the markets, head to Orillia’s main street. There you’ll find lots of trendy boutiques selling everything from cottage decor to clothing. 

The Mariposa Market is an Orillia staple, having been on the main street for over 30 years. The Mariposa has a gift shop, bakery, market, and a scent shop. When you’re hungry, head to the Studabakers patio, and then drop by Couchiching Craft Brewery for a locally made beer.

How to get to Bass Lake and Orillia: 

It’s easiest to get to Orillia by car. Take highway 400 north, and then switch to the ON-11 to Mississaga St W in Orillia. Take exit 131A. When you take the exit, turn left to go to the lake, or right to go into Orillia. The drive from Toronto to Orillia is about 1.5 hours. 

Explore the famous Niagara Falls

Traditional land of the Anishinaabe, Attiwonderonk (Neutral), Haudenosaunee and Mississauga Peoples.

Niagara Falls has been known as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World” since the 1800s! The Falls definitely have a romantic feel to them, but they are equally fun to visit with friends, with family, or alone.  

The top of Niagara Falls from the Ontario side
The top of Niagara Falls

The city is named after the impressive waterfall, Niagara Falls. These falls are known worldwide because of the amount of water flowing over them. Typically, tall waterfalls have very little water flowing over. This isn’t the case for Niagara Falls. These falls have an epic combination of height and volume which makes them particularly breathtaking.

There are tons of ways to experience the falls. You can admire them for free at the Table Rock Welcome Centre. The viewing platform is open all the time, day and night! You can also opt to get up close to the falls by taking a boat ride on the Maid of The Mist or by Journeying Behind the Falls. Once you’re done enjoying the falls, head downtown to visit one of Niagara Falls museums or dine in one of the city’s restaurants.

How to get to Niagara Falls:

You can make the trip to the falls super easily from Toronto, and the best part is, you don’t need a car! Toronto’s GO Transit will take you there and back by bus. The trip is about 2 hours each way. You can also opt to visit the falls on an all-day tour. With a car, the trip there and back is around the same length – just under 2 hours each direction. 

The Maid of the Mist boat out on the river, at the bottom of Niagara Falls Ontario
Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls

Hike to a waterfall at McCrae Lake 

Traditional land of the Anishinaabek, under the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850 and Williams Treaties of 1923. 

McCrae Lake is a medium sized lake that’s connected to Georgian Bay thanks to a stream called the McCrae Rapids. Because the lake is near Georgian Bay, it’s part of the famous Canadian Shield, which is unique terrain that is the result of glacial erosion during the last ice age.

McCrae Lake is a special part of Georgian Bay because unlike most of the lakes in the region, it has no cottages on it. This makes it a quiet and serene lake to explore by foot or by paddling. It’s possible to access the lake by water, but if you’re coming to McCrae Lake for a day trip, you can access it by car. Directly off of Highway 400, there is a small parking lot at the trail head which brings you to McCrae Lake. 

McCrae Lake Waterfall in Ontario, one of the best day trips from Toronto
The McCrae Lake waterfall

There are two hikes you can do at the lake. The first is the McCrae Lake Waterfall Trail. This 2.5 kilometer trail brings you to a beautiful waterfall which connects McCrae to another lake. The other trail is more of a challenge. McCrae Lake Conservation Yellow Blazes Trail is a 14.3 kilometer out and back trail that brings you around the entire lake. This hike will easily take up a full day, so if you’d like to do a shorter version of it, you can hike it just to the Eagle’s Nest Lookout and back. Hiking just to the lookout and back takes about 2 hours total. 

How to get to McCrae Lake:

The only way to access McCrae Lake hiking is by car. The drive takes just under 2 hours each direction. It makes for a long day trip, but having done it myself, I can confirm it’s doable (and very fun!). To drive there, take Highway 400 north, and take exit 168. Finding the little parking lot can be tricky, so be sure to pop McCrae Lake into your GPS. 

Float or paddle down the Grand River

Traditional land of the Neutral, Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon Treaty between the Haudenosaunee and Anishnaabe peoples.

There are lots of spots around Toronto where you can go paddling, but you can also venture outside of the city to paddle down the Grand River. And if you’re feeling lazy, you don’t even need to paddle. You can simply float! You can rent a canoe, kayak, tube, or another floating device through The Grand River Rafting Company. Some of their floating devices fit up to 8 people!

There are various river routes that you can do, and the best part is, Grand River Rafting drives you to the river starting point. Then, you paddle or float down river, back to where you’ve parked your car. When I did this, I did the Paris to Brantford route. My friend and I parked at the Brant Conservation Area (just outside Brantford), where we picked up our paddles and life jackets and got a briefing on safety. Then we hopped on a school bus which drove us to Paris, and dropped us off at the river entry point.

This river floating route is three to four hours long. Because of the river’s current, you don’t have to paddle. You can sit back and relax and let the river do the work! We packed a lunch and our swim suits and had an amazing time floating, paddling, and occasionally hopping into the river for a swim.

A woman sitting in an inflatable kayak on the Grand River Ontario
Floating on the Grand River

How to get to Brant Conservation Area:

Brant Conservation Area is just outside Brantford, Ontario which is about a 1 hour and 15 minute drive from downtown Toronto. To drive there, take the ON-403 West past Hamilton, and get off on exit 38. To do the river floating through Grand River Rafting, you’ll leave your car parked in the Brant Conservation Area.

Visit Port Perry and meet alpacas 

Traditional land of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, and the territory that is covered by the Williams Treaties. 

Port Perry is a small town on the southwestern banks of Lake Scugog. It’s a picturesque Ontario town that has plenty of history, and tons of activities. The main streets of Port Perry are lined with historic buildings, Victorian style. Inside some of them you’ll find boutiques, shops, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and more. Be sure to drop by Hank’s Pastries for one of their famous cinnamon buns. This iconic bakery is 100 years old!

From Port Perry’s main street, you can walk right to the waterfront of Lake Scugog. There, you’ll find two parks that you can explore. A walking trail will bring you along the waterfront, with beautiful views of the lake. Bring a blanket and picnic, or stop by one of Port Perry’s restaurants for lunch! 

A woman walking an alpaca at Our Tiny Farmstead
Taking an alpaca for a walk at Our Tiny Farmstead near Port Perry, ON!

When you’re done exploring Port Perry, drive 20 minutes into the countryside to visit Our Tiny Farmstead. Mitch and Moranda will give you a tour of the farm, which has alpacas, honey bees, babydoll sheep, free-range hens, horses and donkeys. You can learn all about the farm animals, and even take one of the alpacas for a walk! Be sure to book your visit ahead of time online, and pick from various experiences, from a classic farm tour to yoga with alpacas. The fun doesn’t stop there. After your farm visit, swing by Sargent Family Dairy to pick up some fresh dairy products!

How to get to Port Perry: 

Port Perry is a 1 hour drive, north-east from Toronto. To reach it, take highway 407 east, and then highway 12 north. It is possible to get to Port Perry by public transport, but be warned that the trip there (and back) takes twice as long that way!

Read my full guide to visiting alpacas in Ontario.

Go swimming at Rockwood Conservation Area

Traditional land of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation of the Anishinaabek Peoples.

Rockwood Conservation Area is a Grand River Park in Rockwood, Ontario. It’s one of my favorite spots to escape to during the summer for an easy hike, swimming and paddling. Rockwood has a public beach that has a sandy area and a grassy area, and the water is perfect – plenty of shallow water that eventually becomes deeper. 

If you’d like to get active at Rockwood you can launch a kayak, canoe, or paddle board from the beach. If you don’t have your own, rent one from Inside Out Nature Centre. The park also has two hiking trails, the Pothole Trail and the Cedar Ridge Trail. The trails run along the Eramosa River, and although they aren’t very long or challenging, both trails provide stunning views overlooking the river below. There are two designated lookout spots that you can stop at to take in these views. 

Kayakers on the lake at Rockwood Conservation Area, one of the best day trips from Toronto
Rockwood Conservation Area

At one end of the Cedar Ridge Trail, you’ll find an interesting attraction: a collection of natural caves! Some of them stretch back quite deep, so much so that you’ll need a headlamp or the flashlight on your mobile phone to be able to explore them. During the summer, you’re free to explore the caves, but they are closed from October 16 to March 31 to protect bats that are hibernating.

How to get to Rockwood Conservation Area:

It’s an easy 1 hour to 1.5 hour drive from Toronto to Rockwood! You simply take Highway 401 headed west, and at Campbellville exit onto Guelph Line 1 headed north. If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can book transit to Rockwood for a day trip using the service Parkbus. 

Read my full guide to Rockwood Conservation Area, here.

More Ontario travel inspiration:

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9 thoughts on “6 Exciting Day Trips From Toronto”

  1. I love that there are so many great outdoor activities in this post. A visit to McCrae Lakes sounds like the perfect way to spend the day!

  2. I want to go to Our Tiny Homestead and meet those alpacas! Thanks for these tips. I’ll be in Toronto at the end of the year (pandemic permitting), so I’m definitely saving this for my trip!

  3. I would love to explore more of Canada! It is such an amazing country. I was about to visit Canada at some point but had to put it on hold when Covid struck. However, it was useful to learn that you can visit many of the attractions outside Toronto on public transport. I mostly rely on it in my international travels.

  4. I love your suggestions on day trips from Toronto. It’s been a while since I travelled to Canada, so I definitely want to go back and check some of these places 🙂

  5. Linda (LD Holland)

    We have certainly enjoyed the chance to do more day trips from Toronto in the past 18 months. I like the variety in the great outdoor spots you have shown. McCrae Lake and the Grand River will need to be on our plans before the weather turns.

  6. This is an awesome list if we’re ever in Ontario so definitely saving for later! (P.S. – Loved that you included the native American original land owners – that’s something we should all be doing a little more!)

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