A quick day trip is a great way to recharge your batteries when you can’t get away on vacation. Taking a fun break and getting out of town for even a few hours is shown to reduce stress levels, is affordable as there are no hotels or flights to pay for, and can be done with minimal planning for a spur of the moment adventure. So plan a day trip to take that break from reality you need, create memories and return home refreshed and ready to take on the world!
If you live in the GTA, these are 10 of the best day trips from Toronto that are within a 2 hour drive of downtown. There’s a destination that will appeal to everyone whether you enjoy outdoor activities, sightseeing, cultural activities, shopping or food.
Distance from Toronto: approximately 150 km from downtown (2 hours driving time)
Located on the banks of the picturesque Avon River in southwestern Ontario, the city of Stratford, Ontario is the perfect destination for a day trip for families, couples, groups of friends or solo travellers.
We have visited Stratford several times a year for 30 years in a mix of overnight getaways and day trips and it is one of our favourite places in the province. We visit primarily for theatre at the Stratford Festival but there is much to do whether you enjoy the arts, outdoor activities, food or shopping.
Visitors can enjoy a day of shopping at the one of a kind shops and boutiques in the downtown area followed by a bite to eat at one of the many cafés and restaurants. Gallery Stratford and the Stratford Perth Museum are both worth a visit if you enjoy museums and galleries and outdoor enthusiasts will love the opportunity to rent a paddle boat, kayak or canoe and spend some time on the river. You can even combine sightseeing and eating on one of the town’s culinary walking trails (bacon and ale or chocolate) – if you’re feeling decadent then do both!
Stratford is best in spring, summer and fall, however, there’s now also the Lights on Stratford winter festival that runs from mid-December through mid-January if you are inclined to visit during the festive season to do some shopping, dine and see the lights.
Distance from Toronto: approximately 45 km from downtown (39 minutes driving time)
One of the main things to do in Kleinburg is visit the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, however, this charming village offers activities for outdoor enthusiasts, shoppers and foodies as well!
Kleinburg is an easy day trip from anywhere in the Toronto area – we generally spend about half a day when we visit.
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is a gallery featuring distinctly Canadian landscape work of The Group of Seven as well as First Nations, Inuit and other Canadian artists. There’s also an outdoor sculpture garden on the property and access to walking trails through the woods of the Humber Valley.
Once you’re finished at the McMichael, head into the village proper to spend some time strolling the quaint main street’s shops, restaurants and cafés. If you want a full day of activities then head to the nearby Kortright Centre for Conservation which has more than 16 km of hiking trails open year-round and is considered one of the best spots for hiking and bird watching in the GTA.
We have visited Kleinburg in all four seasons but my favourite is fall when the leaves are changing colour!
3. Port Dover
Distance from Toronto: approximately 135 kilometres from downtown (1 hr, 45 minutes driving time)
Port Dover, located on the shores of Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario’s Norfolk County, is an enjoyable day trip destination that’s a little under a two hour drive from downtown Toronto. One of the most notable things about Port Dover is the beach in the downtown area and the palm trees that have been planted on the beach at the Beach House Restaurant which gives it a fun tropical vibe!
Things to do in Port Dover include taking a stroll on the pier to Port Dover Lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour, attending a performance at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre professional theatre company, visiting the Harbour Museum to learn about the history of Port Dover with a focus on commercial fishing heritage or playing a round of mini-putt. You could also spend the better part of an afternoon browsing the shops and dining at one of the town’s restaurants.
There are two provincial parks nearby if you want to spend a day at the beach – Long Point Provincial Park and Turkey Point Provincial Park. Turkey Point also has several hiking trails and Long Point is considered to be one of the top bird watching destinations in North America.
We recently visited for the first time on a warm early fall day and enjoyed a walk around town and on the beach as well as a bite to eat at Knechtel’s on the Beach which is famous for their fresh Lake Erie perch and pickerel and has an outdoor picnic area. We also did some browsing in the shops, picked up some treats to go at Cocoa Cabana and an ice cream cone at The Ice Cream Tank.
Port Dover would be best for day trips in the spring, summer, and fall. We visited in September and drove through Simcoe on the way back to buy apple cider donuts at The Apple Place (99 Queensway East) – worth the detour!
Distance from Toronto: approximately 130 km from downtown (1 hour, 35 min driving time)
Located on the south shore of Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake is often described as the prettiest town in Ontario with good reason! NOTL is a great town for walking as the downtown historic district is home to many boutique shops, restaurants and cafés as well as the Shaw Festival theatres.
If you’re a history buff then you can also fit in a visit to the Fort George National Historic Site and the Laura Secord Homestead to learn more about the history of the Niagara Region particularly as it relates to the War of 1812. If you’re a visitor to Toronto taking a day trip to Niagara Falls then definitely include Niagara-on-the-Lake in your plans as well – you’ll be glad you did!
NOTL is busiest in the summer but is great for a day trip or a weekend getaway any time of the year and is extra special during the festive season when the town transforms into a beautiful Christmas village.
5. St. Jacobs
Distance from Toronto: approximately 120 km from downtown (1 hour, 20 min driving time)
Located just outside of Waterloo, Ontario, along the Conestoga River, the village of St. Jacobs is primarily known for Canada’s largest year-round farmer’s market but there is much more to do on a day trip. Visitors can enjoy one-of-a-kind shopping, restaurants and a craft brewery or take in a performance at one of the two Drayton Entertainment theatres – St. Jacobs Country Playhouse and St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre.
The Mennonite Story is worth a visit to learn more about the history and culture of the Mennonite people who make their home in the area, guided walking tours of the village of St. Jacobs are available or you can enjoy a self-guided art walk to see the outdoor murals around town.
The market is open year-round but I think of St. Jacobs as a spring, summer, fall destination – I just find it much more pleasant to wander around when the weather is nice, however it is a great destination for holiday shopping as well.
Distance from Toronto: approximately 38 km from downtown (40 minutes driving time)
Located on the shores of Lake Ontario between Toronto and the Niagara Region, my hometown of Oakville is rich in history and beauty. Visitors flock to the charming downtown in Old Oakville for the unique shops and some of the best dining in the GTA at the various restaurants and cafés. The Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts is also conveniently located in the downtown core and hosts a variety of performances.
Just a short distance from the shops and restaurants on Lakeshore Road, you can take a walk along the picturesque Lake Ontario waterfront around Lakeside Park or Tannery Park and stroll the pier to the red-capped Oakville Harbour Lighthouse which is a popular for photos. If you’re interested in history then be sure to pop into the Oakville Museum at Erchless Estates (admission by donation) which has an excellent exhibit on Oakville’s Early Black History as the town was a stop on the underground railroad.
Most visitors to Oakville spend all of their time in the downtown area but it’s also worth checking out Gairloch Gardens and Oakville Galleries which are a few minutes east of downtown. The town also has an abundance of walking trails including the Sixteen Mile Creek Trail and several at Bronte Creek Provincial Park that are great if you want to spend some time outside enjoying nature.
7. Niagara Falls
Distance from Toronto: approximately 128 km from downtown (1.5 hours driving time)
A day trip to Niagara Falls is fun for everyone but is a particularly good idea if you’re looking for something to do for the day with kids or if you’re a visitor to Toronto and want to see one of Canada’s natural wonders while you’re here.
The absolute best thing to do in Niagara Falls is taking a cruise to the base of the falls – you might get soaked but it’s worth it for the thrill! The next best thing is Journey Behind the Falls which takes you down through bedrock tunnels to observation decks at the base of Horseshoe Falls – not quite as wet and it’s still an option on a winter day trip when the cruises are not available.
There are plenty of additional activities to keep you busy on a day trip (or a longer stay) including ziplining, riding the Niagara Skywheel, enjoying the views from the observation deck of the Skylon Tower, visiting nearby historic attractions or visiting the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory.
We have visited Niagara Falls in every season but winter but I would love to make the drive at some point when the falls are frozen – what a sight that would be! There’s also a winter light festival in Niagara Falls every year through December until early January that would be a great excuse for a day/night trip.
8. Milton (Halton Conservation Parks)
Distance from Toronto: approximately 65 km from downtown (55 min driving time)
If you’re looking to get out of the city and spend some time outdoors then consider visiting some of the Halton Conservation Parks which are ideal for for hiking and just enjoying nature.
Our favourites which we visit regularly are Rattlesnake Point, Hilton Falls, and Crawford Lake. Rattlesnake Point has a great combination of forest hiking and scenic escarpment views and is also popular for rock climbing. Hilton Falls has several great hiking trails as well as a 10 metre waterfall that is the most popular spot in the park. Crawford Lake has great trails, a rare meromictic lake and an Iroquoian Longhouse Village. Three distinct parks that are fun to visit and open year-round.
9. Rattray Marsh – Mississauga Waterfront
Distance from Toronto: approximately 32 km from downtown (40 min driving time)
Another great place for a day trip from Toronto if you want to spend some time outside getting your nature fix is Rattray Marsh Conservation Area in Mississauga which is the last remaining lakefront marsh of its kind between Toronto and Burlington.
There’s a pedestrian boardwalk overlooking the wetland which makes it a fairly easy and accessible walk with a possibility of seeing a variety of wildlife and birds. Rattray Marsh is particularly popular with avid birdwatchers as there are many species that make their home in the marsh.
Access to Rattray Marsh is through Jack Darling Park which also has a pathway along the lakeshore and is a popular picnic spot when the weather is warm. Parking can be challenging on the weekends particularly when the weather is nice. We have visited Rattray Marsh in every season – my favourite is fall when the leaves have turned.
Once you are finished with your visit to Rattray Marsh, head down Lakeshore Road to Port Credit – a village on the waterfront where you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants or cafés and browse the unique shops.
10. Caledon – Credit Valley Conservation Parks
Distance from Toronto: approximately 65 km from downtown (1 hour driving time)
Another great option when you want to get outdoors is a day trip to the Caledon area for some hiking and sightseeing in one of the Credit Valley Conservation parks.
We have day tripped to the area a couple of times and my favourite spot is Cheltenham Badlands Conservation Area which is one of the most incredible nature spots in the province! The site might look like the set for a movie that takes place on Mars but the rolling red hills and gullies were actually formed as the result of erosion accelerated by poor farming practices. Visits to Cheltenham Badlands are restricted to 90 minutes so you might want to include one of the other nearby parks in your day trip plans.
Both Belfountain Conservation Area and Terra Cotta Conservation Area are located a short drive from the Cheltenham Badlands and can be fun to visit. Belfountain features a few short hiking trails, a beautiful waterfall, a suspension bridge and a fountain while Terra Cotta has a variety of trails that wander through mature forests and past streams and ponds.
The Cheltenham Badlands and Belfountain Conservation Area are both closed for the winter season so this is best as a spring, summer or fall day trip. I recommend visiting in the fall because the Caledon area has some of the best fall foliage in the province!
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