an Ontario road in fall

5 Awesome Ontario Scenic Drives Not To Miss

The province of Ontario’s tagline is “Yours to Discover,” and what better way to explore the beautiful places in Ontario than on a scenic road trip? Ontario is a beautiful Canadian province to explore by road, as there are so many unique places to stop, sights to see, and picturesque small towns to visit. 

The landscape of Ontario drastically changes from region to region and offers over 650,000 kilometers of winding roads and over a million square kilometers of terrain to explore!

So pack your snacks and cooler and hit the road to enjoy the best road trips in Ontario. Explore all the beautiful physical regions of Ontario, from the Canadian Shield to the Great Lakes – St.Lawrence Lowlands. Each region offers beautiful scenery, exciting attractions, and charming scenery for the whole family! 

Discover all the province has to offer with these top five scenic drives in Ontario that are sure to create family memories and offer picturesque settings for photography. Whether you plan to start your road trips from Toronto or another major Ontario city, you are sure to find Canadian hidden gems. 

Canada Family Road Trip planning tips

The Top 5 Ontario Scenic Drives: 

These unforgettable road trip options are some of the best scenic drives in Canada

1. The Bruce Peninsula – Blue Mountain to Tobermory 

  • Distance: 162 km 
  • Time Needed: 2 hours to drive, a full day to explore 

The scenic drive along Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula from Collingwood to Tobermory offers panoramic views of the sparkling waters of Georgian Bay as you start your drive. Highway 6 connects Collingwood to Tobermory, which is a small town at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.

The Highway 6 corridor offers you scenic views of the Bruce Peninsula and Huron Shores. This stretch offers lots of activities along the way, as there are multiple beautiful beaches, local restaurants and breweries, and a variety of hiking trails along the route. 

Ontario Scenic Drives - The Bruce Peninsula, Ontario

Before you reach Tobermory, you will want to stop at the Grotto located at Bruce Peninsula National Park, which is a popular attraction to thousands of visitors yearly.

The Grotto is a hiking trail through intricate limestone caves that eventually lead you to beautiful turquoise waters that you can swim in. As you hike, you will encounter wetlands, cliff edges, huge ancient cedars, caves, and local flowers like orchids and ferns. 

Tobermory is unique and special as it acts as a gateway to Manitoulin Island and Flowerpot Island. If you are visiting Tobermory, you want to make sure you stop and visit the interesting historical shipwrecks at Fathom Five National Marine park either by scuba diving or on a glass-bottom boat tour.  

The traditional land is home to the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and is famous for its picturesque blue waters that are part of the Great Lakes and are home to over 24 shipwrecks.

Once you are in Tobermory, make sure you find a restaurant that offers all-you-can-eat fish and chips as you won’t be disappointed, and if you have any room after, then stop at the local sweet shop. 

While you are in the area, make sure you take a ferry and go and explore Flowerpot Island, one of Canada’s most unique natural attractions. Flowerpot Island is a creation of natural sea stacks that are in the shape of a rock pillar. The Island also offers a fun adventure for explorers as they can visit caves, a historic light station, and hiking trails. 

When to go: Summer is the best time to explore the Bruce Peninsula, as although it can be busy with tourists, this is when the water is the warmest to swim. We recommend this drive during Spring or Summer as many businesses are seasonal. 

2.  Niagara Falls to Niagara on the Lake on the Niagara Parkway 

  • Distance: 55km 
  • Time Needed: 30 minutes to drive, 4 hours to explore 

The Niagara Parkway drives alongside the Niagara River, offering views of the rushing waters, gorgeous countryside, world-class wineries, picnic spots, gardens, hiking trails, waterfalls, and a variety of attractions.

Former British Prime Minister Sir William Churchill coined this route the “prettiest drive for a Sunday afternoon” as it offers beautiful scenery and a chance to relax. 

Ontario Scenic Drives - Niagara Falls, Ontario

While you are in Niagara Falls, you will want to stop and visit Horseshoe Falls, which is the largest of the three waterfalls that form Niagara Falls along the Canada- United States border.

As you drive along the Niagara River, there are many beautiful gardens that offer blossoms in spring and spring, so be sure to stop and “smell the roses” or visit the Niagara Floral Clock.

If you are visiting in the winter, you will want to check out the Winter Festival of Lights, which is famous for its millions of lights. In addition to viewing foliage in gardens, you may choose to explore one of the amazing hiking routes along the Niagara Gorge. 

Niagara Falls is home to many popular tourist attractions like the Butterfly Conservatory, Bird Kingdom, Whirlpool Rapids, Hornblower Cruises, and the Table Rock Restaurant, where you can dine and overlook the falls. The kids will want to explore Clifton Hill entertainment district that offers arcades, bowling, indoor waterparks, and much more! Parents may also choose to take their chances and visit the nearby Casino to try their luck! 

You will want to take Niagara Stone Road on your way to historic Niagara on the Lake as it offers countryside views and a plethora of local wineries to stop and enjoy as there are over 20 wineries in the area. Once you reach Niagara on the Lake, you will want to explore the local boutiques, restaurants, historic hotels, and world-class theater performances. 

When to go: Year Round – Every season offers an entirely new experience! 

  • Pro Tip: If you decide to stay overnight in Niagara Falls, search for deals, as there often are package deals for hotels, restaurants, and attractions, which could save you some money. Parking in Niagara Falls can also be expensive, so look for a hotel that allows you to walk to most attractions. 

3.  Northern Ontario – Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay 

  • Distance: 700 Km 
  • Time Needed: 8 hours to drive, multiple days to explore 

The drive from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay has tons of family-friendly activities, and Northern Ontario is incredibly scenic, so take a road trip and enjoy all the stops along the way.

As it is about an 8-hour drive between the two destinations, you may choose to break the drive into two days and stop halfway or even spend up to a week exploring, as there is so much to do.

The entire route takes place on the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 17), which is known as a bear country, so keep your eyes on the lookout! 

Ontario Scenic Drives - Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

This Northern Ontario route has a variety of longer stops for hikes, as well as shorter fun roadside stops. This route is great for outdoor enthusiasts that want to explore the natural beauty of Ontario. 

One stop you don’t want to miss out on is the beautiful cascading Chippewa Falls, which are almost 25 ft high. They can easily be seen from the highway and are known as a  popular rest stop as it is the halfway point on the Trans Canada Highway. Be sure to walk across the bridge for a better bridge, or if the water is low, you can walk up either side of the falls to the top. 

If you are looking for a day at the beach, then make a stop at Batchewana Bay Provincial Park, which has many amenities, including a picnic area, children’s playground,  and visitor’s center.

Pancake Bay is known for being perfect for families as the water is very warm and the water is shallow for young children. Just down the street is Voyageur’s Lodge and Cookhouse if you’re looking for accommodations, a restaurant, snacks, or alcohol.  

Pancake Bay is another popular park that offers biking, swimming, hiking, boating, and wildlife viewing. If you enjoy hikes, head to the Lookout Point Trail, which takes you through a forested path to a viewing platform that lets you see Lake Superior.  

Agawa Pictographs is a must-stop along the Northern route, as it has 35 pictographs to view and is the largest collection in Ontario, and is one of the only collections you can view by foot. This trail is not great for very little kids as you must walk along the rock face to view the pictographs. Make sure the weather is dry if you are taking the trail, as it can be very slippery when wet! 

If you’re looking for a quick roadside stop, then find the Winnie the Pooh statue in White River that marks the birthplace of the real bear that inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories. Be sure to check out the visitor center to see more memorabilia and history.  

Wawa is the largest town along the route from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay and is home to a large Canada Goose sculpture that offers a great photo spot. Wawa means Goose in Ojibway and thus why Wawa is home to not one but three large goose sculptures. Wawa is the perfect stop for an overnight stay, gas, or snacks for the rest of the trip. 

When to go: Due to the variable weather on the Trans-Canada highway, the best time of year to go is in the summertime when the roads are dry, and you can enjoy the multiple provincial parks along the route. 

  • Pro Tip: Fill up at any gas station you see, as they are located far apart, and you don’t want to end up in a remote area of Northern Ontario without gas. Also, wildlife is very active near roadways, so make sure you are aware of your surroundings when driving near dawn or dusk.  

4.  Gananoque and the Thousand Islands  

  • Distance: 157 km 
  • Time Needed: 1.5 hours to drive, 1 day to explore 

Enjoy the unforgettable journey along the Thousand Island Parkway and enjoy the panoramic view of the natural landscape and features that the 1000 Islands region offers, whether you enjoy adventures on the water or on the land. This route offers activities such as cycling, camping, hiking, and boating.  

Ontario Scenic Drives - Thousand Islands, Ontario

Start in Gananoque, known as the Gateway to the 1000 Islands, and be sure to stop at Panache Bakery to grab lunch for the road. After you have grabbed a snack, then take a short drive to Gray Beach to enjoy your picnic lunch. This spot offers picnic tables, a gazebo shelter, and a panoramic view of the water.  

Another interesting stop along this scenic drive is Landon Bay, which is a lush forested area that offers five different casual hiking trails that are each unique. The Easy Trail is perfect for beginners and offers views of St. Lawrence, while the Donevan Trail has a mythical stone archway to start the trail and beautiful flowers to view. This stop is a hidden gem if you enjoy hiking, exploring the natural environment, and or enjoying lookout points. 

The 1000 Island tower is a unique tourist attraction that will allow tourists to view the whole South Eastern Ontario area. The tower has three different observation desks and offers views of the 1000 Islands and the St.Lawrence River, allowing you to see picturesque views of the 1000 Islands. 

One last stop you don’t want to miss is the Palaces And Palisades Cruise, which is a fun two-hour sightseeing tour. Along the cruise route, you get to enjoy the St.Lawrence River as you head towards the 1000 Islands Bridge, and you can view Boldt Castle and luxurious cottages known as Millionaire Row. From beginning to end, you can enjoy the fresh air through your hair and spectacular views. 

When to go: Summertime is the most popular time to visit due to the warm weather; however, the fall can be nice as it is not as busy with tourists, but still beautiful weather. 

5. Algonquin Park along Highway 60 

  • Distance: 60km 
  • Time Needed: 4 hours 

Algonquin Park is one of the most popular campgrounds in all of Ontario, especially for naturalists looking to explore nature and wildlife. Highway 60 runs right through Algonquin Park, which is located in Huntsville, Ontario, and is a famous destination around the world.

Highway 60 is the perfect destination for a scenic drive as you can view spectacular scenery and a variety of trees, and if you’re lucky, you may see some wildlife, including wolves, moose, and bears. 

Ontario Scenic Drives - Algonquin Park, Ontario

The Highway 60 corridor is one of the best Ontario drives as you have a high likelihood of seeing wildlife in this natural playground of rocky ridges, lakes, and dense forest areas. This scenic drive offers breathtaking wilderness and offers Canadians an accessible outdoor adventure that would be perfect for a weekend trip.

Algonquin Park is home to over 30 species that you are likely to see along your drive, including bears, deer, moose, loons, beavers, turtles, and many more local animals in Ontario. 

Highway 60 connects the East and the West Gate entrances of Algonquin Park, making it super convenient to stop and stay a night in the campground, enjoy an afternoon at the beach or simply enjoy learning more at the Visitor Centre. Highway 60 runs from Huntsville to Renfrew while passing through the largest provincial park of Algonquin. 

When to go: Spring is the best time to visit as the area is quieter than in the summer. Spring is often a busy season for animals as they are mating, so you are more likely to see moose likely to come out to the roadways as they are attracted to the leftover salt from the winter. Also, don’t be surprised if you go in early spring, such as May. You may still see some snow as it takes a lot longer to melt there than in the urban centers of the province. 

  • Pro Tip: Be prepared that while most of this route is paved and smooth that some roads that are off the main corridor are indeed dirt roads.  

More Canada Driving Inspiration

If you’ve enjoyed this guide, you may also want to learn more about:

Find our complete collection of awe-inspiring scenic drives in North America here

download your free road trip checklist click here button

© Family Road Trip 2024

Similar Posts