With the summer and long weekend season just around the corner, here are the top quick getaways for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of busy, buzzing Toronto (or maybe just to change the scene). Here are 20 0f the best long-weekend destinations that you can get to from Toronto.
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There may be no better way to celebrate the Canada Day long weekend than to rent a pontoon boat with friends and family, and enjoy one of the many Kawartha lakes. Circle Bobcaygeon — made famous by The Tragically Hip and Canadian legendary singer, Gord Downie. (We won’t fault you for blasting this and other Canadian classics on repeat all weekend long). Word to the wise: just don’t miss out on Moose Tracks ice cream.
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There are few spots that are as dramatic in landscape and that are as accessible from Toronto than the gorgeous Elora Gorge. Located in Ontario’s Grand River valley and about 25 km north of the city, there are scenic overlooks, 22-metre high cliffs and riverside trails. Spend your weekend hiking, kayaking, fly fishing or tubing, and you can stay the night at one of the campsites at Elora Gorge Park.
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With their red soil, they look like they’re straight out of the Australian Outback, but the Cheltenham Badlands are actually located in the Greater Toronto Area. They were formed in the 1930s when poor farming practices led to soil erosion, and are one of the more unusual places that you can visit in Canada.
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Visit this natural wonder, and you can even wrap in one of the best train trips in Canada. The trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls takes just under two hours, and once you’re in Niagara Falls, you can rent a bike for exploring the region at your own pace. There are many accommodation options for you to enjoy the weekend, simply taking in the glitz, kitsch and natural beauty of the region all weekend long.
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Ontario has its very own beach town. There are 11 kilometres of white sand just waiting for you. Located on Lake Huron near Owen Sound, it is the world's second-longest freshwater beach. According to the Toronto Sun, this may be the perfect beach for families with young kids, because the sandbars keep the water warm and shallow. An insider will tell you, there is also great surfing to be had (yes, there is lake surfing in Ontario), if the conditions are just right. Do be mindful of water safety, however. Explore the nearby shops or sit down and enjoy your morning coffee in a nearby cafe. This is one of the must-see beaches to visit this summer. There are nearby falls, and if you’re wondering where to stay, there are campgrounds about a 15-minute drive away.
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Within a five-to-six hour drive, Montreal is a great place to visit any time of the year, but this is especially true for the summer months. Hardly a day goes by that Canada's second-most populous city doesn't have some kind of festival happening, including the famous Montreal International Jazz Festival. It is home to attractions such as the Notre-Dame Basilica and Old Montreal. Get a taste of Europe without leaving the country.
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Bruce Peninsula and Tobermory
Hike one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Ontario (nay, Canada!) and explore old shipwrecks in the clear but cold turquoise waters. Camp out at the gorgeous Cypress Lake Campground. And be sure not to miss the otherworldly Bruce Peninsula grotto. This, in itself, makes the trip north worthwhile.
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There is no reason to stay in and feel bored when the world's longest freshwater beach is within reach. Areas 1, 2 and 5 have even been given Blue Flag status recently, which means the spots are noted for their cleanliness, safety and environmental standards. With a busy boardwalk full of shops, restaurants and beach-side attractions, there’s something for everyone at Wasaga Beach. From good eats, waterside sports, sunbathing, or enjoying an ice cream or beer, you'll feel like you're somewhere south of the border without going very far. On the downside, said attractions also make this one of the most expensive beaches in the world.
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Whoever counted the Thousand Islands where the St. Lawrence River flows into Lake Ontario was off by 864. Then again, who wants to fret about numbers when there are all of these islands to explore? Some are big enough to house old forts and castles; others have just enough room for a tree or two. Not all of the 1,864 islands in this archipelago are in Canada, though: some are part of the United States instead, so bring your passport. We bet there is at least one mysterious island to explore.
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Not just for the winter months, Blue Mountain is a bustling spot for adventure, nightlife and attractions. Home to Ontario’s largest lift-accessed bike park, it is a great spot for adventurous types; challenge yourself on the Timber Challenge — a rope course featuring everything from suspension bridges and ladders to cargo nets and zip lines (some of which are 50 feet above ground). The best part? Because the zip lines are parallel, you can do it along with your pals taking in the best scenery around. Prefer to slow things down? Enjoy delicious restaurants, take a relaxing gondola ride to the top of the escarpment and down towards the village. And if that’s not enough, check in to the nearby Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain. It offers not only massage treatments, but also access to their unique and transformative Scandinavian baths.
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Located near Sudbury, French River is a great place to spend your long weekend if you are looking to do an extended canoe trip with minimal portaging. The area is full of natural beauty, and less crowded than some of the more commonly visited spots on this list.
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On the up and up since the 2008 recession, Detroit Rock City is a great spot to visit with the whole family. It features great eats, a kids’ paradise with attractions like Comerica Park, the Detroit Zoo, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, not to mention deep-dish pizza and the hot dogs (coneys!). If you venture just a little bit beyond the core, there are many lakes that dot the area, for a familiar-but-new cottage country feel.
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Algonquin Provincial Park is huge: nearly one-and-a-half times the size of Prince Edward Island. Good thing, as its location near Ontario's big cities means the park is very popular with tourists. There are endless outdoor activities on offer and more than 1,200 campsites spread across the park. It's the oldest provincial park in Canada and one of the most beautiful places in Ontario. It is located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River, and it has even inspired the Group of Seven. This is the park you’ll want to check out later into the season as well, once the leaves start turning colour.
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Manitoulin Island and Grey County
Take a ferry then explore islands in lakes on an island in a lake: that’s what you’ll find on Manitoulin. Located in Lake Huron, it’s the world’s largest freshwater island. Tipi tent overnight at Gordon’s Park and trek through the surrounding Grey County — home to nine different waterfalls, including the famed Bridal Veil falls (pictured here).
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Plan a romantic weekend in this quaint city. A stone's throw from the Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and its fine hotels, award-winning restaurants, wine from nearby wineries, historic theatres, boutique stores and smalltown feel is both classic and classy. The region is prized for its numerous restaurants, orchards, vineyards and wineries, and the acclaimed Shaw Theatre Festival. The region’s mild climate is another reason why it’s become one of the country’s top retirement destinations. It is also one of the best places to retire.
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Prince Edward County
Want to booze your away through wine country but can’t afford Niagara-on-the-Lake? Then try Picton in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. It’s under three hours from Toronto and nestled amid some of the Canada’s finest vineyards. Bonus: it’s also a short drive the dune-filled Sandbanks Provincial Park.
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The Muskoka Region is one of those places in Canada you won’t believe exist. Torontonians, however, have been in on the secret for a very long time. With about 1,600 lakes, Muskoka is where many vacationers come to cottage and unwind from the stresses of life in the big city.
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Stratford is one of the best cities in Canada to visit during summer, and it’s not only because this is when the Stratford Festival is on (when it's on). You can spend days just wandering the streets, admiring the Victorian buildings. Another must is to take a stroll along the Avon River to see if you can spot the swans.
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Sandbanks Provincial Park
Dunes in Ontario? Of course there are! Located in Prince Edward County on the shores of Lake Ontario, Sandbanks Provincial Park is home to the largest freshwater sand bar and dune system in the world.
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Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney Provincial Park may not be quite as famous as nearby Algonquin National Park, but it packs a perfect punch when it comes to natural beauty. Among the treasures here are lakes that are devoid of algae and have crystal-clear waters. The park has plenty of opportunities for canoe-in backcountry camping.