The school year will be here before you know it, so it’s time to maximize your summer vacation time and cross a few items off that bucket list. Below, we’ve listed some of the most affordable and accessible Ontario locations for the prime day trip.
Dundas Peak, Hamilton
Toronto has many hiking trails within the city limits, but nothing comes close to Dundas Peak. A nature trail located in the Spencer Gorge/Webster Falls Conservation Area will allow you to access Dundas Peak’s picturesque views. You can also go back in the fall, when the scenery is bolstered by beautiful autumn colours. The Peak is a very attractive spot for both professional and amateur photographers wanting to capture breathtaking landscapes. The photos you take are guaranteed to be totally Instagram-worthy, but don’t stray too far in search of the perfect shot — sitting on the edge of the cliff is ill-advised.
Getting there: There is a $5 access fee per person plus $10 for parking; bring cash, since debit and credit cards aren’t accepted. By transit, it’s a two-hour commute with a lot of walking — take the GO bus to Hamilton, get off at Main and Longwood, take the 05 bus to Ogilvie and Governors, and then walk for 40 minutes.
Rattlesnake Point, Milton
Never gone rock climbing before? Rattlesnake Point provides an adrenaline rush that lures adventurous souls and timid newcomers alike. It is one of the most popular destinations for climbing cliffs in Ontario. If rock climbing doesn’t pique your interest, there are also beautiful hiking trails that will make you forget the hustle and bustle of city life. Check out the weekly summer yoga class, Yoga in the Park, in the middle of this exquisite setting to relax and clear your mind before going back to school. And don’t forget your yoga mat!
Getting there: Entering the park requires an access fee of $6.75. Rattlesnake Point is not accessible by public transit, but alternatives are available. Parkbus, a private bus company, will take you from Toronto and back for $35.
Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake
The Shaw Festival presents world-class theatre just an hour and a half from Toronto by car. For over 50 years, it’s featured the work of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. For its 56th season, the festival is offering 11 plays across multiple theatres. Students receive a steep discount: $25 tickets in any seating location at Special Matinee performances. While you’re there, enjoy strolling around magnificent Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you have some time to spare after the play, head south to Queen Victoria Park in Niagara Falls for some free live concerts as part of the Coca Cola Concert Series.
Getting there: Drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake or take the Toronto-Niagara Shaw Express for $25. It runs Thursday through Sunday, usually from 10 am to 5 pm. Other options include WEGO, the GO Train, and Via Rail.
Hell Holes, Napanee
Despite its sinister name, the Hell Holes’ jaw-dropping beauty, lush greenery, and peaceful ambience are hard not to admire. The legends surrounding the trail, however, give it an eerie vibe, only making the experience more thrilling. Walking along the 3.2-kilometre trail, you will come across the Devil’s Horse Stable Cave, where, according to religious lore, Satan stabled his horses. Shortly after, you will arrive at the Hell Hole, an approximately 7.5-metre deep, pitch-black cavern. Climb down the ladder if you dare.
Getting there: There is a cash-only entry fee of $7. If you don’t have access to a car, the easiest way to get to Napanee is by VIA Rail.
This small town, only an hour’s drive northwest of Toronto, will captivate you with its beauty and charm. Artists have created the Art Walk of Tree Sculptors by transforming over 50 trees into unique and intricately carved sculptures. Wander through downtown Orangeville and let the unique architecture of the nineteenth-century buildings take you back in time. Take a self-guided walking tour or make sure to visit on a Saturday before October to take the town’s culinary walking tour, Savour the Flavour, and explore its thriving food scene for only $25.
Getting there: Drive or take the GO Bus to Brampton, then the 37 bus to Hansen Blvd. at Front St.
The Bruce Peninsula Grotto, Tobermory
Although a little further and pricier than the other options, what better way is there to beat the heat than by taking a dip in one of nature’s most breathtaking, turquoise pools of water? The Bruce Peninsula Grotto, part of The Bruce Peninsula National Park, is one of Bruce County’s most popular attractions, with travelers coming from far and wide to visit this iconic natural feature. The Georgian Bay cave is hidden in the cliff face of an escarpment in the Bruce Peninsula. Light emanates from an underwater tunnel in the Grotto, which only makes the water look even more surreal and irresistible. The best time to visit the Grotto is in July and August, but spring and fall visits might be a safer bet if you’d rather avoid the summer crowds.
Getting there: Tobermory is about a four-hour drive from Toronto, though Parkbus offers return trips to the area for $80. If you choose to spend a night or two in town, check out Bruce Country’s tourism website for information about accommodations.