Cheap Road Trips
from Toronto

Cheap road trips starting from Toronto are easy with these great itineraries. Check this road trip planning guide for tips on weekend trips to Niagara, Stratford, London, Picton, Hamilton and more. Great for planning day trips too!

Tour #1 of Cheap Road Trips:

Toronto to Niagara region in 2 days

Day 1:

Take the QEW then the Highway 403 to Fort Erie.

Tour Old Fort Erie, a War of 1812 site.

Drive to Mather Arch Park near the Peace Bridge, the busiest of 4 bridges that span this river. The others are: the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and the Rainbow Bridge. Look across the river and you’ll see Buffalo, NY.

Get back on the scenic Niagara Parkway which skirts the Niagara River. Count how many cyclists you see along the bike path.

Stay the night in Niagara Falls Canada. Check ahead for one of these great Niagara Falls Hotel Packages.

Visit some of the Niagara Falls attractions like the Hornblower Niagara Cruises (replacing the former Maid of the Mist), the IMAX Niagara Falls theatre, Skylon Tower and the area’s beautiful gardens.

Day 2:

Head north along the beautiful Niagara Parkway to Queenston, and stop in Queenston Heights, a beautiful park, or just stop at one of the lookouts and stroll for a bit along the bicycle path the skirts the Parkway.

If you’re energetic, climb Brock’s Monument commemorating the War of 1812. Bring your lunch and picnic in the park, or for a splurge, dine at the scenic Queenston Heights restaurant.

Visit one or more of the interesting museums along the way:

  • Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum. Try your hand at printing a poster on the 200 year old printing press!
  • Riverbrink Art Gallery at Queenston. A smaller museum packed with historic Canadian art.
  • McFarland House. This restored Georgian style home was used as a hospital during the War of 1812. Tour the house with a costumed guide. Stop for afternoon tea in their gorgeous conservatory.

Enter Niagara on the Lake. You won’t have time to see all the sites but you can pick one or two:

  • Fort George
  • Niagara Museum
  • The Apothecary

Shoppers love Niagara on the Lake. So watch the budget!

Need some free fun? Be sure to take a stroll in the park by the lake (great photo-op).

Have dinner at one of these budget-priced Niagara on the Lake Restaurants.

Love theatre? Catch an evening show at the Shaw Festival.

At night, drive back along Niagara Stone Road where you’ll see many shops selling Antiques, plus a few Niagara wineries. However, at this time, they will be closed, so you will have to save them for another trip. What a great excuse to return and explore more in depth!Hop on the QEW Highway back to Toronto.

Tour #2 of Cheap Road Trips:

Toronto to Lake Erie in 2 days

Day 1:

Drive to Port Dover Ontario, a cute little seaside beach town with gift and craft shops and the cozy Port Dover Harbour Museum. It’s also famous as the home of “Friday the 13th”, a popular motorcycle event.

Stop in Port Rowan, another town along the shore of Lake Erie. If it’s summer, even if you’re not in the mood for ice cream, it’s worth stopping into the adorable “Twins Ice Cream Parlour” for the quirky decorations alone.

Stop at Long Point Beach. Stroll along the sand. Enjoy an inexpensive and tasty lunch at the restaurant at the beach.

Do you love folk art? The Winter Wheat gallery near Sparta is a must-see.

Stop at the Sparta Tea Room for lunch (in tiny Sparta Ontario) and try to count how many extraordinary tea pots line their walls. It’s around 300! I don’t think I’ve seen so much variety in tea pots anywhere.

See a play in Port Stanley and/or take a vintage steam train to St Thomas.

Stay the night in Port Stanley. The historic Kettle Creek Inn is smack in the middle of town a few steps from the chunky little lift bridge and marina. Or try one of the hotels or B and Bs.

Day 2:

Check out the shops in Port Stanley or visit one of the beaches (there are three in town).

Drive to St Thomas and tour the massive old railway station and the railway museum and learn why St Thomas is the Railway Capital of Canada.

On the way home in the afternoon, depending on which road you take, you could choose two different pits stops:

Evening: drive back to Toronto. Think about your next cheap road trips.

Tour #3 of Cheap Road Trips:

Toronto to Hamilton in 2 days

Day 1:

Skip the highway and all that commuter traffic and take the slower but scenic Lakeshore Road to downtown Burlington.

Visit the Burlington Art Centre, walk along the waterfront in Spencer Smith Park, check out some of the shops.

Take the scenic Lakeshore Road to the world-famous Royal Botanical Gardens.

Do you deserve a treat? Try lunch at the tea room in the Rock Garden. Hike some trails in Cootes Paradise.

Drive along the Lakeshore as far as possible into Hamilton. Have dinner at a Hamilton restaurant.

Stay the night in Hamilton.

Day 2:

Visit historic Dundurn Castle, one of several interesting Hamilton Museums.

Visit the waterfront park at West Harbour of one of the waterfalls that spill over the Niagara Escarpment. Or if you’re feeling artsy, check out the Art Gallery of Hamilton, have dinner and take in some live Hamilton entertainment: professional theatre, Opera Hamilton, Hamilton Symphony Orchestra, or live music in a pub or club. Go antiquing on Ottawa Street Hamilton.

Drive back to Toronto via the QEW.

Tour #4 of Cheap Road Trips:

Toronto to Elora in 2 days

Day 1:

Love birds? Get on the 401 heading west. After an hour, look for the signs for Campbellville. Nearby you’ll find the Mountsberg Conservation Area. This is a bird and animal sanctuary. Sit in on some of the live bird shows or just wander around visiting your rescued feathered and furry friends. In addition to birds there are sheep, goats, bunnies, horses and bison.

Find your way to Guelph Line. Not far along, you’ll come to the gate for Halton County Radial Railway Museum, an outdoor museum featuring a large collection of vintage trains.

Wiggle your way down the rolling country roads to Elora, a popular day tripping spot for lovers of antiques and nature. Make a photo-op stop at Elora Gorge, or if you’re more energetic go inner tubing down the river.

Stay the night in Elora.

Day 2:

Check out the art galleries, antique shops and home furnishing and gift boutiques in Elora. Visit the antique mill (which is now an inn and restaurant open to the public) and maybe have lunch there.

Before heading back to Toronto, stop in the town of Fergus and visit the Wellington County Museum just on the outskirts. This former poorhouse offers fascinating glimpses in a little-known past.

Grab something to eat before heading back to Toronto.

Tour #5 of Cheap Road Trips:

Toronto to Kitchener-Waterloo in 2 days

Day 1:

One of the best times to plan cheap road trips to the Region of Waterloo is during Oktoberfest. However, there is also plenty to do in this area year-round.

Take the 401 going west.

Cambridge is the first city on this route and it’s where you’ll find the African Lion Safari and a big greenhouse full of free-flying butterflies at Wings of Paradise. Note: if you pick the safari, you’ll probably need most of the day, so you’ll have to save the rest of Day 1 activities for another trip. The butterfly place is smaller and you can see it all in an hour.

Get back on the highway and drive into Kitchener downtown. At the Kitchener Farmers market, pick up some goodies for a picnic or snacks to take home. Choose one of these museums in the area:

  • Clay and Glass Museum in Waterloo
  • Joseph Schneider House – see how the area’s early Mennonite settlers lived.
  • Homer Watson – visit the former home and studio of one of Canada’s first internationally-recognized painters.
  • Waterloo Region Museum and Doon Heritage Village

Stay the night in Kitchener or maybe nearby St Jacobs.

Day 2:

Visit St Jacobs today. This small but busy little town is famous as a Mennonite centre and you can find all kinds of local crafts and delicious home-made food here. Visit the market for take-home and eat-in treats, Mennonite quilts, etc.

Fans of live theatre are spoiled for choice here. See what’s playing at the St Jacobs & Schoolhouse Theatre both in St Jacobs, or the Drayton Theatre in nearby Drayton Ontario.

Scoot out to Baden and visit Castle Kilbride, a gorgeous century home once occupied by Scottish immigrants, that is over-the-top luxurious and an interesting contrast to the spare, simple designs of the local Mennonite tradition.

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Tour #6 of Cheap Road Trips:

Toronto to Stratford & London

Day 1:

Take the 401 going west.

Stop in Kitchener and explore the Kitchener Farmers Market. Have early lunch at one of the booths, or pick up a picnic lunch to take to Stratford Ontario.

Get back on the highway and drive to Stratford. Explore its downtown with its art galleries and boutiques. Picnic at the lovely riverside park, and wander through the Shakespeare Gardens with its sculpture and plants mentioned in the plays of the bard. See if there’s any live music festivals happening. For dinner, try one of the popular restaurants in town.

Stay the night in Stratford. See a play tonight at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival or take in some music at a pub.

Day 2:

Drive to London. Visit the downtown shopping district, then check out Museum London and Eldon House to explore Canadian art and history. Or spend the day in another time period at the Fanshawe Pioneer Village.

Catch Highway 401 going back to Toronto.

Tour #7 of Cheap Road Trips:

Toronto to Picton in Prince Edward County in 2 days

Day 1:

Take the 401 east to Port Hope. Look around this popular town known for its heritage buildings and antique shops. Linger over lunch.

Back on the highway for another hour, then make your way to Picton Ontario, the main town of Prince Edward County. Tour the main streets and plan your next day’s adventures. Enjoy a great meal in this district know for its foodie delights.

Stay overnight in Picton. See what’s going on at Regent Theatre or the other live entertainment venues in the area.

Day 2:

Spend the day at the beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park. Or go birding or get a spa treatment. Follow the arts trail and visit artisans’ studios in the region. Sample some of the local wineries’ products, cheesemongers’ wares or bakers’ delights.

At the end of the day, tear yourself away and head back on the 401 to Toronto.

Tips for making your cheap road trips affordable:

  • have one splurge a day at an interesting local restaurant but have other meals at an inexpensive chain restaurant like Tim Horton’s, Swiss Chalet, etc.
  • pack a picnic or buy something at a deli en route and eat in your room when you get back at the end of the day; or eat in your car if it’s raining
  • look for Bed and Breakfast places, or hostels or YMCAs, or university residences during the summer. Or go camping.

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