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Road tripping Ontario – Circular route self-drive from Toronto
Before embarking on your road trip through Ontario, spend a few days in the international gateway city of Toronto - one of the most beautiful cities in all of Canada. Boasting everything you could ask for, from stunning lakeside views to a thriving downtown core, with a wide range of opportunities and experiences. Multiculturalism and diversity is a big deal in Toronto, with this being reflected wonderfully in the wide selection of world class dining experiences on offer, from Michelin star restaurants and districts dedicated to a variety of cultures and cuisines right down to food markets and pop up stalls. Toronto is truly a foodie heaven.
Enjoy lots of great shopping, from the famous St. Lawrence Market - named among the best of its kind in the world (with over 120 specialty food stalls) to upscale retailers in the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood, designer boutiques in the pedestrian-only Distillery District and lots of malls and shopping centres. The CN Tower is not to be missed – zip to the top in the glass-fronted elevator before experiencing the exhilarating EdgeWalk, the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk on a 5ft ledge encircling the top of the tower’s main pod, a staggering 1168ft above ground level. Then head to the base of the tower where just across the road is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the largest indoor aquarium in the country is spread over 135,000-square-feet and features some 20,000 aquatic animals.
One of the great wonders of the world, Niagara Falls straddles the Canada and U.S. border in south-eastern Ontario with more than 750,000 gallons of water per second thundering down the 167-foot waterfall, considered the most powerful on the continent. The Horseshoe Falls, located on the Canadian side, with its 2,200 feet long crestline is the most impressive of the three waterfalls that make up Niagara - it carries about nine times the amount of water the U.S. side has!
Voyage to the Falls with Niagara City Cruises, this 20-minute boat tour brings guests on the journey of a lifetime. Enjoy stunning views of the Niagara Gorge, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, then come face-to-face with the famous Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Feel the thundering roar and the awesome power that comes along with this natural wonder.
Alternatively, take in an aerial view of the Falls with Niagara Helicopters. From the sensation of lift-off, to the excitement of soaring above the turbulent rapids and cascading waterfalls, your Niagara Helicopters ride will be a unique and spectacular experience.
Muskoka Pioneer Village, Huntsville and Algonquin Provincial Park
Travel north from Toronto towards Huntsville and Algonquin Provincial Park, through Muskoka cottage country with its rolling hills and sparkling lakes. While travelling in Muskoka, make sure to partake in one of the incredible ‘Bog to Bottle’ tours available at Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery. This iconic experience takes guests through the different stages of the cranberry harvesting process... Once you’ve witnessed all the hard work that goes into maintaining a cranberry farm, head over to (literally) enjoy the fruits of your labour through a tutored wine tasting. While in the town of Gravenhurst, make sure to experience the Muskoka Steamships - built in 1887 and an Ontario tourism icon, the 130 year old historic steamship R.M.S. Segwun and the modern replica steamship Wenonah II – is the only fleet of its kind in Canada. A variety of cruise experiences are offered from 1 hour to 4 hour sightseeing cruises. The Millionaires Row cruise, designated a Canadian Signature Experience, steams past palatial summer homes, many dating back 5 generations!
For your Algonquin Provincial Park adventure, snatch up one of just a handful of the park’s exclusive cabins, or base yourself in Huntsville where you’ll find plenty to do. In the summer Algonquin Provincial Park is especially popular for hiking and canoeing for visitors of all levels of ability and experience. With fully guided and outfitted tours, Algonquin Outfitters has you covered with a paddle in hand to take on the quintessentially Canadian experience. Don’t be misled by the peaceful silence, Algonquin is busy with beautiful wildlife to keep you company, from moose and black bears to loons and beavers!
Killarney Provincial Park
About three hours northwest of Hunstsville, the spectacular region of Killarney in Northern Ontario is considered the crown jewel of all the parks in this vast province, with deep sapphire lakes, lush pine forests, spectacular pink granite rock landscapes and ancient white cliffs. It’s popular for hiking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and camping. There are also some fantastic resorts such as the Killarney Mountain Lodge, which sits along the shoreline of Georgian Bay. On both the Georgian Bay and George Lake, you can paddle through the crystal-clear blue waters surrounded by views of the awe-inspiring wilderness. If you want to embark on an epic hike, take the (just under) 7-mile trek to Topaz Lake, a postcard-perfect stunner with an array of surreal sapphire and turquoise hues all surrounded by white quartzite cliffs.
Sault Ste. Marie and Agawa Canyon Train Tour
Driving south along Lake Superior’s shores, you’ll reach Sault Ste. Marie. This incredibly scenic city has a picturesque boardwalk that ends at the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site. The city is also home to some great museums such as the Sault Ste. Marie Art Gallery and Museum and the Bush Plane Museum, where you can explore the history of flight as well as forest fire protection. It features an astounding number of full-size aircraft that can be viewed - you can even take a seat in a cockpit and climb in the hold of a water bomber! While here, it’s imperative to go on the Agawa Canyon Train Tour. Departing from downtown Sault Ste. Marie, this 114 mile train journey reveals the rugged beauty of Northern Ontario, particularly in the fall when the surrounding forests transform into some of the most stunningly beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red you’ll ever see. GPS triggered commentary will guide you through your journey and teach you all about the history of the area as well as that of the Ojibwe, the Native peoples who used to live in the area. This day trip is one of North America’s iconic rail tours and provides a truly unique way to take in the breathtaking beauty of Northern Ontario.
Manitoulin Island brings even more opportunities for recreational activities among jaw-dropping scenery, as well as a dive into the rich cultural history of the area. The world’s largest freshwater island, there are five First Nation reservations here and it’s also home to one of North America’s oldest settlements – dating back some 12,000 years! While on the island make sure to participate in a tour by Wiikwemikong, who offer nature-based and cultural tours from an Indigenous perspective. Trips range from soft adventure to wilderness eco-adventures, reconciliation and educational interpretive tours. Daily cultural experiences are perfect for individuals and families looking to engage their senses and gain a better appreciation for the local indigenous culture.
Hand in hand with the Manitoulin Island experience should be the Fathom Five National Marine Park experience. Fathom Five’s unique and fascinating attractions surround the multiple natural shipwrecks beneath the clear waters, from glass-bottom boat tours stopping at the fascinating Flowerpot Island, to kayaking, and even scuba diving!
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