With summer officially here, there’s no time like the present to start planning your next road trip. Luckily, we’ve got a few suggestions of some great little places in Southern Ontario where the drive is just a gorgeous as the destination. Grab some snacks for the family, crank some tunes, and hop in your Lexus, because we’re going for a ride.

1000 Islands/Gananoque

Right above where the St. Lawrence flows into Lake Ontario, Gananoque is a perfect spot for nature lovers. There are great camping spots, and lots to do in or on the water. Rent a kayak, go on a day cruise, just make sure you get out on the water and find out for yourself why they call the region Thousand Islands. If you’re there between May and October, take a peek inside Boldt Castle, which is on its own little island across the pond in New York State. You can also see some old shipwrecks up close and personal by going scuba diving, or fly around on an aerial adventure zip line course.

Alexandria bay saint lawrence castle 05.07.2012.jpg
By Dirk Ingo FrankeOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

St. Jacobs/Elora

These two charming towns are a 20-minute drive from each other, so can easily be seen in the same day. North of Waterloo, St. Jacobs has the biggest year-round farmer’s market in the country. St. Jacobs also has a large Mennonite community; you can learn all about it and its fascinating history in the township. As for Elora, it’s home to Elora Gorge, a breathtakingly beautiful section of Grand River, where you can chill out with a riverside picnic, or go tubing. Elora itself is beautiful too, so much so that A.J. Casson, one of the Group of Seven, liked to sketch it.

Fun Tubing, Elora Gorge - panoramio.jpg
Elora Gorge. By Francine Pallister, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Mennonite carriage (cropped).jpg
St. Jacobs. By Mennonite_carriage.jpg: Lin Mei


Picton’s a little community in Prince Edward County. The highlight is definitely Sandbanks Provincial Park, which lives up to its name with some jaw-dropping sandy beaches. There are also tons of picturesque wineries. The Drake Devonshire Inn is a great place to stay the night, with amazing views of Lake Ontario, or you can go camping right in Sandbanks Park. Just five minutes from downtown Picton is the lush Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area. There’s also a great waterfront drive along the peninsula, east of Picton.

Sandbanks Provincial Park.jpg
By ÓðinnOwn work, CC BY-SA 2.5 ca, Link

Port Carling

Port Carling is a little cottage country community in the Muskoka Lakes area north of Toronto. Take in a little retail therapy at some of the high-end shops right on the water, a little luxe oasis nestled in between Lake Rousseau and Lake Muskoka. Snag some tacos from Grand Electric Muskoka and take a tour boat through either of the lakes. Then relax in style at one of the many resorts in the area. Since Port Carling is pretty much surrounded by water, no matter where you go you’re likely to have lake views. Of course, there are also plenty of places to rent canoes, and some resorts offer them for free.

Port Carling Main Locks.jpg
By WookieInHeat, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Unlike its French counterpart, Paris, Ontario is a charming little town with amazing historic hiking and biking trails. Paris sits at the intersection of Grand River and Nith river (which for some reason is named after the river Nith in Scotland). Paris is a quaint little town, with lots of cobblestone buildings. Strap the bikes to the Lexus and plan on taking some trails in Barker’s Bush forest, or just go for a stroll through the streets. If you’re there over Labour Day weekend, Paris has a massive Fall Fair complete with rural life exhibits, a midway, big country music acts, and a wicked demolition derby.

Paris Ontario Grand River riverfront 1.JPG
By BalcerOwn work, CC BY 2.5, Link