Are you longing to get out of the city this summer? Relax. We’ve put together a trio of Grid-approved summer-weekend road trips for two.
NORTHBOUND: The great outdoors
So you want to get out of town for the weekend but only have a couple hundred bucks to spend? You can still have a great time, as long as you don’t mind sleeping under the stars. On this outdoorsy route north of the city, you’ll check out scenic hiking trails and sandy beaches. (What’s more cost-effective than enjoying nature, right?) Here’s your chance to take in the quaint townships of south-central Ontario. Doing everything on the cheap requires a bit of planning, so make sure to pack snacks for the ride, as well as a Saturday lunch and some breakfast for Sunday morning. Now hit the road and breathe in that fresh air.
Rock Garden Farms
This roadside market is a great first pit stop, offering an extensive selection of baked goods, stellar Ontario produce, and artisanal cheese and meats. Don’t resist the urge to grab a basket of strawberries ($4.95/quart) from Rock Garden’s own fields.
16930 Airport Rd., Caledon East, 905-584-9461.
Hiking at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park
Part of the Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail, this provincial park features tall limestone cliffs and deep valleys full of vegetation. There are a half-dozen hiking trails here; most take about two hours to complete. Plus, there are many lookout points where you can stop and enjoy the lunch you’ve packed. An adventurous walk off the beaten path might even lead to the discovery of infrequently explored crevices and caves.
Mono Centre, 705-435-2498.
Lunch at Mono Cliffs Inn and Peter Cellar’s Pub
This local favourite consists of a fine-dining area, a low-lit, cavernous pub, and a leafy patio. If the weather’s nice, sit outdoors and try the phyllo-wrapped brie with raspberry coulis ($13) from chef Jason Reiner’s ever-changing, locavore-focused menu.
367006 Mono Centre Rd., Mono Centre, 519-941-5109.
Creemore Springs Brewery
Situated on the main street of a beautifully preserved town, the Creemore Springs Brewery is housed in a 19th-century building that used to be a hardware store. Half-hour tours are offered five times a day, and the helpful guides are more than generous with the free samples of their pride and joy, Creemore Springs.
139 Mill St., Creemore, 705-466-2240.
DETOUR: The Old Mill House Pub
If you and your travel companion are still thirsty after the tour, head to this 70-year-old watering hole for the freshest pint of Creemore outside the brewery.
141 Mill St., Creemore, 705-466-5244.
Get your tan on at Balm Beach
This tiny bayside hamlet, nestled around a crescent-shaped beach, offers ample opportunities for swimming and sunbathing. Driving here is half the fun: The tree-lined roads wrap around the shores of Georgian Bay, and lead past some incredibly stylish cottages that date back to the area’s development as a summer-holiday destination in the 1930s.
DETOUR: Balm Beach Go-Karts and Mini Golf
The half-mile asphalt go-kart track should satisfy your need for speed (one lap/$3.50, nine laps/$20). Those looking for a more subdued form of entertainment can check out the 18-hole mini-putt golf course ($6 per person).
239 Balm Beach Rd. W, Balm Beach, 705-526-6801.
Dinner at The Surf Restaurant
Scrumptious, well-priced pub food abounds at this nautical-themed beachside restaurant. Take in the sunset, grab a drink on the patio (which is in the hull of a boat), and enjoy a grilled-steak burger ($12) or fish and chips ($9.49).
369 Balm Beach Rd., Balm Beach, 705-361-1612.
Georgian Grill Restaurant and Arcade
This classic arcade, almost 80 years old, will have you feeling like a kid again. Waste the night away by indulging in some Skee ball, table hockey, pinball, and classic video games (including Pac-Man).
7 Tiny Beaches Rd. N., Balm Beach, 705-361-1861.
Awenda Provincial Park
With over 300 well-maintained campsites (most featuring hydro, showers, and bathrooms, $38–$43 per night), this provincial park is an ideal place to get away from the bustle of the city. Don’t forget the requisite marshmallows for the campfire.
Awenda Park Rd., Tiny Township, 705-549-6378.
Awenda Provincial Park
Wake up with a warm bowl of porridge and some fruit, or an energy bar. You’ll need some kind of boost to explore the four sandy beaches, seven hiking trails, and glacier lake that make Awenda an accessible one-stop shop for those looking to embrace nature.
Awenda Park Rd., Tiny Township, 705-549-6378.
Wendy B’s Fine Foods
Fresh deli sandwiches, organic cheese and milk, and homemade preserves are all on offer at Wendy Hunt’s food emporium. But it’s the daily-baked butter tarts (six for $7), with their crumbly, buttery base, that are worth taking home as a souvenir.
339 Lafontaine Rd. W., Lafontaine, 705-533-1547.
Penetanguishene Disc Golf Course
On your way back south, stop by this free nine-hole disc-golf course (you remembered to bring a Frisbee, right?). You’ll need about 90 minutes to complete the circuit, which offers a stellar view of Georgian Bay.
8 Owen St., Penetanguishene,705-549-7453.
DETOUR: Treetop trekking at Horseshoe Valley
Still feeling active and looking to splurge? For $64, you can experience this aerial course, walking and swinging between trees high above the forest floor. You’ll also get the chance to take the 983-feet-long zip line, which propels you between trees at 40 km per hour.
1101 Horseshoe Valley Rd., Barrie, 705-835-7600.
Big Chris BBQ
The massive portions of smoky ribs (half-rack, $13) and juicy pulled pork (large sandwich, $10) help explain the popularity of this unassuming barbecue joint. The friendly, speedy service doesn’t hurt, either.
110 Anne St. S., Unit 8, Barrie, 705-721-7427.
The 400 Market and the Roadshow’s 400 Antiques Mall
Perched on the side of Highway 400, these eclectic (and adjacent) retail institutions attract hundreds of independent vendors each weekend, who peddle vintage clothing, furniture, local art, and electronics. Record collectors tired of the overpriced Toronto market will be happy to note that the Antiques Mall has a half-dozen vendors with extensive vinyl offerings.
2207 Industrial Park Rd., Innisfil, 705-436-1010.
Holland Marsh Provincial Wildlife Reserve
A hidden treasure of the Holland Marsh, this 1,400-acre reserve is easily explored on foot, thanks to raised boardwalks that take you over the swamp to viewing platforms. From there, you can catch a glimpse of the vibrant local wildlife, which includes beavers, otters, red-winged blackbirds, and waterfowl.
11th Line and 20th Sideroad, Bradford West Gwillimbury, 905-713-7400.
Burgers at Golden Star
This iconic Thornhill burger joint isn’t that far out of town, but let’s face it: You’re rarely this far north. A juicy “homemade all-star burger” ($6.70) savoured at one of the outdoor picnic benches marks the perfect end to your budget-conscious road trip.
7123 Yonge St., Thornhill, 905-889-6891.
$5 Strawberries at Rock Garden Farms
$30 Two drinks and a snack at Mono Cliffs Inn
$35 Dinner with two drinks at The Surf
$15 Georgian Grill Restaurant and Arcade
$43 One-night accommodation, Awenda campsite
$10 Canoe rental at Awenda Provincial Park
$7 Butter tarts from Wendy B’s Fine Foods
$35 Lunch at Big Chris BBQ (with two soft drinks)
$20 Dinner at Golden Star
Next page: venture eastbound, for a hipster odyssey