With plenty of time left to sightsee this summer, many of us are looking forward to getting behind the wheel, hitting the open road and exploring Canada’s secret treasures.

Ontarians are craving their cars, according to a national survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Toyota Canada, with over half of respondents stating that staying at home during the pandemic has made them miss driving.

Although vacations may look a little different this year as we prefer to stay closer to home, the day trip has emerged as the preferred getaway.

Only a quarter of Canadians feel comfortable taking a plane at the moment, but 70 per cent do feel comfortable travelling by car outside of their city or town, and almost half are planning at least one day trip over the next two months. Of those planning to hit the road, most are opting to stay within a 100-kilometre radius of home.

But with everyone aching to get out of the house, popular destinations are bound to be overrun by tourists. Fortunately, there are still plenty of places to visit if avoiding crowds is a priority for you.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack up your vehicle and check out these lesser known but exciting day-trip destinations!

Toronto

  • Balls Falls Conservation Area. Who needs to brave the throngs in Niagara? Set within the breathtaking Twenty Valley, this award-winning LEED Gold certified facility offers spectacular scenery and natural beauty minus the crowds. You’ll also enjoy interactive exhibits and displays focusing on nature, conservation and culture in the context of the area’s history, the Niagara escarpment, and the watershed.
  • Greig’s Caves. While everyone else heads to the Flower Pots, Greig’s Caves may be the Bruce Peninsula’s best-kept secret. It offers rugged hiking through forested trails and, of course, spectacular natural limestone caves.
  • Big Tub Harbour. This hidden gem has tons to explore, from quaint galleries to natural wonders including two breathtaking harbours, lovingly named Little Tub and Big Tub Harbours. The cool, crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay behold some of Canada’s best-preserved shipwrecks, many dating back to the mid-19th and early 20th centuries that can be explored by snorkeling and scuba-diving.

Ottawa

  • Remic Rapids Park. Looking for an alternative to the Parliament buildings? Once a popular trading and rest area for Indigenous peoples and early explorers, Remic Rapids Park is situated on the shore of the Ottawa River. The site provides stunning views of the river, is home to countless species of plants and animals, and is a significant zone for migratory birds. Visitors can also explore the unique rock sculptures along their way.
  • Bonnechere Caves. An adventure at Bonnechere Caves is an exhilarating trip for the whole family. Explore a fun, safe, educational and stunning experience as the staff takes your family on a fun tour through the natural, beautiful trails featuring caves, waterfalls and fossils.
  • Merrickville. This tiny town is less than an hour from Ottawa and is perfect for a relaxing day trip. The main street (St. Lawrence) is full of independent shops that sell clothing, artisan soaps, garden decorations and beautiful glass pieces, along with unique restaurants to satisfy any palate. Merrickville is along the Rideau River, and the Merrickville Ruins, on a small island across the bridge, can be explored as well.