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6 of Ontario's best weekend getaways

Ontario Muskoka

6 of Ontario's best weekend getaways

Country mouse or city mouse? Why not both? True, Ontario is known for its big cities: Toronto, Ottawa, London, Niagara-on-the-Lake. But there is just as much to see, do, and savor outside them. After you've done up the big city, head out on a weekend getaway for something different.


First, choose a city and region, then match it to what you like to do -- read a novel by the lake, go paddling, join a foodie tour, try canoeing, or relax at the spa?

Wine Country

Taste and tour

Ontario wine tasting
Wine taste in Ontario or join a tasting tour — by car or on bikes.

Sipping and swirling is a must in Ontario's wine country, famed for its rieslings, cabernet francs, and signature ice winesExternal Link Title. If you're looking for a romantic escape, this place fits the bill with its cozy inns and quaint Victorian architecture. The luxurious Prince of Wales Hotel External Link Titleis a classic. Stay or just enjoy the setting for afternoon tea and scones. CyclingExternal Link Title between wine and cheese pairings is a novel way to tour. Stop in at Balzac's caf?External Link Title in the charming Historic District for a local roast and homemade goodies. For dinner, TreadwellExternal Link Title is the go-to for its quality mom 'n pop suppliers and -- no surprise -- a superb wine list. If the timing is right, catch some top-notch theater at the famed annual Shaw FestivalExternal Link Title.External Link Title


Meet the new Hamilton

In southern Ontario near London, Hamilton is a port city on Lake Ontario divided by the forested Niagara Escarpment ridge with pretty architecture and leafy parks. Having shed its rep as a gritty steel town, Hamilton is mid-renaissance, though still refreshingly real. Expect trendy galleries and cafes, bike sharing, and yoga, but also an artsy downtown where people live, work, and play. Of course, the dining scene is going offExternal Link Title, too: visit a pop-up dinner External Link Titleor Jonny Blonde's food truckExternal Link Title. See some of the town's 100 waterfallsExternal Link Title,External Link Title especially lovely lit up at night. Tew FallsExternal Link Title on the Bruce Trail is a fave. Tour the 2,700-acre Botanical GardensExternal Link Title (Canada's largest), then meet the locals at the year-round farmers' marketExternal Link Title.


Muskoka and chill

Muskoka, Ontario getaway
Do as little or as much as you like in Muskoka. Laidback is key.

There's a reason Canadians call Adirondack chairs Muskoka External Link TitlechairsExternal Link Title.  MuskokaExternal Link Title is Ontario's beloved Cottage Country outside Toronto, the place urbanites go to play and relax by the 1,600 lakes, plus rivers, and beaches, in the green rolling countryside. Choose a funky lakeside cabin, upscale dockside retreat, or vintage inn, then grab a craft brew and pull up a lounger. Rent a boat, beachcomber, mountain bike, or canoe. Feel like learning? Take the free tour of Johnston's Cranberry MarshExternal Link Title to find out how farmers grow and harvest the little reds. (Hint: It's not what you think. They flood the bogs the night before, then use an eggbeater-like contraption to loosen and reel in the floating berries.)

Prince Edward County

Foodie tour

Prince Edward County is Ontario's gastro capital, so loosen your belt buckle and prepare to eat your way through. Get a map and meander the pretty country roads, past gabled barns on rented bikes or via car, stopping in at farms, artisan, and antique shops, galleries, craft breweries, ice creameries, cideries, and wineries. Or follow the Taste TrailExternal Link Title,External Link Title which details key stops, such as The County Cider TrailExternal Link Title, External Link TitleHillier Creek EstatesExternal Link Title, and Slickers County Ice CreamExternal Link Title. Check the festival scheduleExternal Link Title to see what's on while you're there. Pack a gourmet picnic and find a spot on the white sand dunes at Sandbanks Provincial ParkExternal Link Title near Picton. If you like, take up temporary residence at a working organic farm/B&BExternal Link Title for the bona fide experience.


Get into nature

Algonquin Park paddling
Try a paddling trip with Algonquin Canoe and Log Cabin Adventures. Credit: Voyageur Quest

Though only three hours from Ottawa, iconic Algonquin Provincial ParkExternal Link Title is wild and beautiful. In fact, the only way to explore it is by foot, canoe, or horseback. Hike one of the well-signed woodsy trails -- fall foliage is spectacular -- or try your hand at trout fishing (May is the best time). Don't be surprised if you spy a shy moose among the maples, lakes, and craggy ridges or hear a wolf howling. The top three-day hikes are the easy four-mile Bat Lake TrailExternal Link Title,External Link Title seven-mile intermediate Mizzy Lake TrailExternal Link Title, ideal for wildlife spotting, and advanced, multi-day Highland Backpacking TrailExternal Link Title External Link Title(choose the 12- or 22-mile route), according to ExploreExternal Link Title MagzineExternal Link Title.

Thunder Bay

Outdoor central

Thunder Bay is all about water. After all, it's on the northern shore of the world's largest freshwater body, Lake Superior. Rent a sailboat, learn to sail, or hire someoneExternal Link Title to take you out for an hour or three. On the tour, you can enjoy an al fresco picnic while learning a bit about the area and its hundreds of volcanic islandsExternal Link Title.External Link Title Locavore? Drive to Thunder Oak Cheese FarmExternal Link Title to sample gouda or watch cheese making (Mondays). Wrap in a stop at Niagara North, aka Kakabeka FallsExternal Link Title. If outdoor adventure is your thing, you've scored: kayaking, hiking, single track ridingExternal Link Titlehunting, flightseeingExternal Link Title External Link Titlein a converted WWI Otter float plane, and fly fishing on the Nipigon RiverExternal Link Title; and in winter: skiing, snow shoeing, dog sleddingExternal Link Title, and ice climbing. The only problem: which one to choose?

To find more top getaways, visit the Ontario Travel website.