Air travel may be paused for the moment, but you can still escape the city. A weekend getaway is a great way to soak up the last of summer and features the requisite pit stops, that random detour (or two), meeting quirky characters, and wild-eyed adventures at every turn. With that in mind, we’ve mapped out some sun-kissed spots that are visit-worthy delights; and best of all, they’re a jaunty drive away from the big city. So pack a bag, fill up the tank, and hit the road to experience these top destinations.
Prince Edward County
PEC is where hipster meets history in an endearing manner that sees art, food, wine and culture collide in the best, most eclectic way possible. It’s about a two-hour drive east to reach this county haven. Along with gracious glimpses of Lake Ontario’s northeastern shoreline (yes! No kidding: the waters on this side of the proverbial pond are crystal clear), your best bets are to book at stay at hotspot Drake Devonshire – whose loft style Owner’s Suite comes highly recommended, then get your gastronomic fix on at East and Main (stout braised beef short rib is calling) or tuck into fresh oysters and seafood platters at Sand and Pearl Oyster Bar, and of course – sip on sublime spirits, suds, and vino (the region features 40 wineries and 10+ breweries) from spots such as Kinsip, Parsons Brewing, and Grange of Prince Edward Vineyard & Estate Winery. Art and culture fixes can be found over at Yellow Studio, Sparkbox Studio, and Hatch Gallery. Other sun-drenched activities include working on your tan at Wellington Rotary Public Beach and watching the sunset à la an evening paddle with PEC Kayaks.
This charming town in southern Ontario (and in close proximity to the US/Buffalo border) is rife in natural beauty. Known for its plentiful wineries (over 40), craft breweries, endless dining options, and theatre productions – its bustling ‘downtown’ area of Queen Street features 19th century buildings that are reminiscent of Downton Abbey. Additionally, being situated on the southwestern shoreline of Lake Ontario makes for stunning scenic views, especially for avid golfers who can play on the historic grounds of Fort Mississauga (fun fact: Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club is the oldest course in North America). But first, you’ll want to set up digs at the ornate and posh Prince of Wales Hotel. Then meander down to their spa for some much needed R&R. For fine fare, seek out the likes of gastropub Garrison House(you can never go wrong with a flat iron steak), cozy local comforts at Valley Restaurant (veal parm and classic lasagna are indulgent must-orders here), and Treadwell Cuisine for haute takes on Canadian fare (you’ll thank me once you tuck into euphoric duck fat fried lobster club). Oh and back to those wineries you’ll go to (taste): memorable ones include Peller Estates (book their Greatest Winery Tour whose finale includes literally chilling out inside their igloo-like ice bar), Wayne Gretzky Estates for refreshing brews and vintage varietals, and the favourite amongst presidents and prime ministers – Stand Up Paddleboarding) session with Tim at Paddle Niagara for a great core-strengthening workout.
Often referred to as “cottage country”, this summer playground has everything you need for the perfect getaway. About a two-and-a-half hour drive north of Toronto, its natural beauty includes Geogrian Bay in the west, Algonquin Provincial Park in the east, and the calming waters of Lake Couchiching in the south. But that’s not all, there’s loads of outdoor adventures to seek out (like this badass Night Trek experience from Treetop Trekking), country clubs/ golf courses (such as the iconic Deerhurst Resort), and wow factor helicopter-dinner experiences. If you’re more about cultivating some zen, there’s yoga retreats and spas (such as the euphoric Spa Rousseau’s Men’s Facial and Body Rejuvenation) to soothe your weary soul. And of course, there’s fine fare here (Smoking Hot BBQ’s ribs and all the fixin’s), woodfired pizzas, and mammoth surf and turf spreads) as well as a booming craft beer scene – in fact, 3 of Ontario’s top breweries are from this area (looking at your Sawdust City Brewing, Muskoka Brewery, and Clear Lake Brewing Co.). But if you’re not a fan of beer, there’s also a coffee roastery worthy of a visit. Lastly, for sound slumbering Zzzzs, catch your beauty sleep at the fancy JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa; or for something more low-key, find yourself one with nature in one of Cotton Co.’s glamping tents.
Waterloo Region is far more chill and less densely populated compared with the other hot spots on this list. And outside of its reputation for being a uni town, it does have a lot going for it with adventures in spades. Case-in-point: hang gliding like a bird with Instinct Windsports, olympic-caliber airborne trampolining, and flying a real fighter jet from the Cold War(!) Once you decide you want to bring your adrenaline levels back down to earth, you can relax with a pint or two and visit some of the best breweries in the area (such as Abe Erb, Descendants Beer, and Counterpoint Brewery, to name a few), and satiate hunger pangs with international creations like Carribean curried goat at Ellison’s Bistro, Bavarian Schweinshaxe (pork hock) at the Concordia Club, and duck confit wings at The Bauer Kitchen. For swank sleeping quarters, your top pick is Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa. Or if you’re more apt for a quaint dwelling, consider Morning Glory – a 175 year old blacksmith shop that’s been converted into a charming bed and breakfast.
Situated at the southern tip of Georgian Bay is this bustling town which is often considered the gateway to Blue Mountain ski resort; however, the town is worthy of a four season visit – not just in the wintertime. It’s about a two-hour drive north of Toronto; and upon arrival, you’ll want to get a bit of a refresher at The Westin Trillium House whose idyllic verdant backdrop makes for an iconic retreat. Or for something more intimate, consider the VanderMarck Boutique hotel whose bright open concept studio makes for a contemporary yet cozy stay. If you’re ready to embrace your vacay-vibes, then head straight for Wasaga Beach for sand, sun, and shenanigans. Then cool off with a pint at The Collingwood Brewery (Charm & Wit Belgian style witbier is the perfect patio companion) or Northwinds Breweryfor beer pretzels, sticky pork ribs, and Hilltop lager to guzzle it down with). For some exploratory trekking, visit Scenic Caves Nature Adventures for self-guided tours of the area’s caves and caverns. Above ground, venture down Ontario’s longest suspension footbridge for spectacular sights of the countryside and south Georgian Bay. Back in the city centre, head Bent Taco for beet chorizo tostadas, The Iron Skillet for global comfort fare (on the spectrum there’s everything from seafood paella to stuffed yorkshire pudding), or TheSmoke whose meat combo platters of juicy brisket, pork, ribs, wings and all the fixings will make for a carnivore lover’s dream spread. Other worthy things to add to your itinerary include leisurely strolls and/or morning runs through Sunset Point Park, hitting the links at Cranberry Golf Course, and signing up for a wild edibles foraging experience with Free Spirit Tours.