Jon Montgomery highlights the best activities, restaurants, shops, and activities to do in hidden gems and well-known destinations located just outside of the magnetic city of Toronto. Jon highlights adventures from his College days, where he explored hidden caves while camping in Nottawasaga, and gives us plenty of recommendations that are bound to inspire you to get out and take a long weekend RV trip with friends and family.
Located less than a two hour drive north of Toronto, Gravenhurst is a small community sitting among the densely forested and picturesque Muskoka Lakes region. Start your visit by grabbing a coffee at one one Ontario’s best coffee shops, Mornin’ Babe and explore Gravenhurst’s downtown along Muskoka Road South. One of Gravenhursts’ top attractions is taking a boat tour through Lake Muskoka, but the town offers plenty of outdoor attractions to fill your day. Take in the scenery by walking or hiking one of many trails, a local favourite is the charming Peninsula Trail where you can see breathtaking views of Lake Muskoka. Or, hit the links at one of Gravenhursts many golf courses. During your visit, Jon also recommends visiting the quaint community of Severn Bridge to bask yourself in even more green space and enjoy one of the many walking trails. A popular trail here is the Kahshe Barrens Trail, one of the most naturally preserved and rugged trails in Gravenhurst which consists of two loops – both offer views of majestic oaks and evergreens. In the winter time, Gravenhurst offers everything from cross-country skiing & snowshoeing, ice skating, and snowmobiling to name a few.
A 96 km drive from Gravenhurst and nearly two hours north of Toronto is the sunny summer resort of Wasaga Beach, the longest freshwater beach in the world, and a popular summer tourist destination. This beach town offers six long sandy beaches, stellar views of Blue Mountain, and a boardwalk filled with souvenir shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for more than catching a tan and throwing a football by the beach we recommend these activities – try your putting skills and the Skull Island mini golf course, complete with pirate shop and moat! Check out the beloved landmark souvenir shack, Pedro’s and Nancy Island. For lunch, take a beach stroll over to Finoa’s Bakery and Tearoom for their drool-worthy lemon tarts and date squares. When it’s time for dinner, we recommend Catch 22, a fresh market grill inspired by locally farmed ingredients. It’s important to note that Wasaga Beach can get extremely busy and often reaches capacity on hot summer days, so book your campground well in advance to beat the crowd.
Blue Mountain Resort
Blue Mountain resort is one of the most popular four-season getaways in Ontario, as Jon refers to it, it can be seen as Ontario’s “mini Whistler”. This incredible Collingwood resort may be at its tourist peak during the winter ski-season, but there are so many things to do at Blue Mountain in the summer and fall, it’s well worth making a visit here in the off-season. Take a ride on the Ridge Runner Mountain Roller Coaster to immerse yourself in the fall colours in a thrilling way, or take a treetop trek adventure at the Timber Challenge Ropes. You have to experience a hike along one of Blue Mountain’s many walking and hiking trails. The Cascade Trail loop is one of the best-kept secrets Blue Mountain has to offer, and it’s perfect for a scenic fall hike. We recommend purchasing an explore pass which gives you access to Blue Mountain’s entire trail network, plus it includes the Open-Air Gondola, allowing you to soak in the beautiful scenery from . After your day of adventure, The Mill pond is a vibrant hot-spot four seasons of the year, with the sounds of wildlife and the glow of the autumn sun on the water. Along its edge are a number of great lunch spots like Kaytoo Restaurant & bar or Oliver Bonacini café grill.
If you’re looking for a place to escape into nature within close proximity to Toronto, Jon suggests a visit to Nottawasaga Bluffs. This 400-acre conservation area forms part of the Niagara Escarpment and features numerous trails that pass through caves, coniferous forests, and open meadows. But the most notable feature of the region is definitely the massive rock crevices and cliff structures that can be found inside the area. Jon has novel memories of exploring deep into the caves with friends during his college years while camping around Nottawasaga bluffs, something he never thought to experience in Southern Ontario’s region. Of course, use caution if you choose to explore the subterranean landscape. You can spend an entire day exploring Nottawasaga Bluffs landscape, and there are multiple trails that run through the area. Some of the trails are actually part of the Bruce trail which runs all the way from Niagara to Tobermory! If you haven’t hiked this section of the Bruce Trail yet, put it on your summer bucket-list.
If you’re looking for good times and family fun, Jon recommends visiting Canada’s Wonderland, Canada’s largest theme park located just 30 minutes north of Toronto. The park stretched over 300 acres and is packed with over 200 attractions, two children areas, and 17 different rollercoasters to choose from, with more added year over year. For the water lovers, they have a 20-acre water park, “Splash Works”, if your visit lands on an extra hot day. If you’re a season’s pass holder, you get early access to the Splash Works water park (9 am – 10 am) which is an awesome perk! If you or your kids need a break from the rides, enjoy the endless food options to choose from at Canada’s Wonderland, or check out an event or performance where you can enjoy family and kid-friendly shows.