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Ontario is full of stunning locations that make great road trip destinations. Living in Barrie, we’re central to many of those places. That means there are many great day trips or weekend getaways just a couple of hours away.
Here are 7 incredible road trips you can take that are less than 2 hours from Barrie.
1. Midlothian Ridge (1 hour 43 minutes)
Less than 10 minutes west of Burk’s Falls is a large acreage of land known as Midlothian Ridge. What makes this property so spectacular is that a local artist has turned it into a larger than life surreal artscape.
Peter Camini, a retired teacher with artwork in the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, still lives on the property. He continues to work at home in a large tower shaped like a screaming head, reminiscent of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. The home also features:
- A statue of a fire breathing dragon
- Stone lions
- Iron web-like gates
- Stone walls
- Live peacocks roaming freely around the yard
Beyond the walls of his home are outbuildings with stunning paintings and art displays. Paths wind past these buildings towards 300 acres of forests, meadows and ponds. And this is where the magic really begins.
Scattered across the property are huge concrete sculptures up to 20’ high. Camani named the art installment The Screaming Heads and it features several different designs. This includes trees, hands and (as you may have guessed) screaming heads. You can also find dreamcatchers and other unique pieces throughout the site.
Some describe the artwork as enchanting. Others say eerie. And then there are those who simply find it intriguing. Whatever you feel once you see this hidden gem, you’re sure to remember it.
It’s free to visit Midlothian Ridge. But there is a donation box on site for non-perishable food items if you wish to bring some. Pets are welcome and there’s plenty of parking.
Once there, you’re free to explore the trails and get up close to the installments. You’re allowed to touch, walk through and pose with the sculptures. Rumor has it that Camani will sometimes even invite visitors to explore his home and yard.
More Road Trip Stops Near Midlothian Ridge
During your drive to Midlothian Ridge, you’ll pass through several Muskoka towns. These are great places to stop and stretch out your legs. While there, you can explore shops, grab a bite to eat and enjoy stunning views.
If you want to go a bit farther on your road trip, you can drive up to South River. Here you’ll find the Crystal Cave Mineral Exhibit. The exhibit has minerals and fossils from around the world. There’s also a crystal shoppe, learning centre and artisan village.
If you’re looking for more outdoor fun on your way back to Barrie, stop by Bracebridge. The town features 3 of the area’s most beautiful waterfalls for you to explore.
2. Elora (1 hour and 44 minute)
Elora is a small village on the Grand River in Southern Ontario with much to do and see. One of the biggest draws is the Elora Gorge with breathtaking views of the Grand River cutting through 22 meter high cliffs.
Parts of Elora Gorge are within a local conservation area. If you’re looking to make a weekend of your visit, this is a great place to camp. Otherwise, you can pay a fee to visit for the day.
While the views from the Conservation Area aren’t as picturesque as the views in town, there are other draws. The first is the Hole in the Rock staircase that runs through a large boulder. You can also kayak, tube or raft the river that runs through the gorge here.
Outside of the Conservation Area, there are trails and lookouts scattered throughout town. You can find some of the best views downtown or in Victoria Park.
Steps away from downtown, there’s a beautiful waterfall that cascades down the gorge. You’ll also be able to see the Tooth of Time. This rock islet is a unique natural formation that seems to defy the odds.
“… the river having worn a channel thirty-five or forty feet deep through the solid stone rock. A large rock stands in the centre of the stream, just above the Falls, bearing trees; the base of which is nearly worn away by the constant friction of the water.” – The Canadian Gazette
More To See In Elora
While downtown, be sure to take in the historic limestone buildings and do some shopping. You can also head over to the Elora Green Space to relax among mature trees and view the Tall Man Sculpture.
If you’re viewing the gorge from Victoria Park, there are stairs you can take to the bottom of the gorge. Once there, you can walk the shore or step right into the shallow waters.
After you finish admiring the gorge, you should take some time to explore the Elora Quarry on your road trip. The 2 acre limestone quarry is surrounded by cliffs. It was an operational quarry from the early 1900s to 1930s. Today, it’s a space to picnic, swim and hike for a small fee.
3. Lake Rosseau (1 hour 25 minutes)
Muskoka Lakes is made up of three interconnected lakes: Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau and Lake Joseph. One of the most popular is Lake Rosseau.
There are several communities on the shores of Lake Rosseau, including Port Carling and Rosseau.
While traveling through Port Carling, be sure to take in the Port Carling Wall. From afar, the mural looks like a stunning image of a steamship. But as you move closer, you’ll see that the 11X45 foot image is actually made up of 1000s of smaller images. Each one captures life in the town between 1860 and 1960.
If you want to learn more about the history of the area, head to the Muskoka Lakes Museum. The museum has been there since 1964 and has 6 exhibits. Each of the exhibits illustrates the settlement and development of Muskoka Lakes District. Walking tours and museum tours are also available.
More Places To See On Your Lake Rosseau Road Trip
Depending on how long you plan to stay in Port Carling on your road trip, you can also take a Peerless II Cruise. During the cruise, you can take in the sights of Lake Rosseau, Lake Joseph and Lake Muskoka. You’ll also learn about the history and lore of the area.
Once you’re done in Port Carling, you can head north to Rosseau for more adventures. Here you can spend the day on the shores of the lake at Rosseau Waterfront Park. If you’re in Rosseau on a Friday, you can also peruse a vendor market with craftspeople, artisans and farmers.
Rousseau also has a waterfall with two separate cascades. The upper falls have a small picnic area where you can enjoy treats from the market. The lower fall exits into the mouth of Lake Rosseau.
For some more history, be sure to head to the Rosseau Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1890 to help steamboats avoid the rocky shoals. The first light keeper was there for 27 years before leaving his duties to his daughter. In 2014, the lighthouse was restored and is now protected under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.
4. St Jacobs (1 hour 54 minutes)
St Jacobs is a village in Southern Ontario that’s steeped in Mennonite history and is a great road trip destination. To learn more about the Mennonites of St Jacobs, be sure to visit The Mennonite Story. This interactive centre has great information about the history of the area and Mennonite Culture.
While in St Jacobs, you’ll also want to visit the Farmers Market. It’s the largest year round market in Canada and a big draw for the area. The market features 3 buildings and an outdoor space in good weather with 100s of vendors.
The village is also home to the St Jacobs Antique Market. Named the best antique store for 6 years running, it has 100+ vendors spread out over 22,000 sq ft.
Once you have checked out these two markets, you can head into the heart of St Jacobs to shop along the Conestoga River. The Village of St Jacobs has dozens of one of a kind shops and is full of historic buildings to admire.
St Jacobs Has More Than Shopping
If shopping the day away isn’t what you’re looking for, you can take a trip on the Waterloo Central Railway. This is a heritage railway with historic train rides between St Jacobs, Elmira, the St Jacobs Farmers’ Market and Waterloo. The railway also offers themed seasonal rides. In the past they have done the Hogwarts Express and Polar Express.
After you enjoy a train ride, you can head to the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway. Here you’ll find a model train layout depicting Southern Ontario in the late 1950’s. You can also head to the Maple Syrup Museum of Ontario to learn about the production and consumption of this Canadian staple.
For those who love the outdoors, you can hike the Mill Race Trail. This route provides scenic views of the river and the millrace that was constructed in the 1860s. A millrace is a channel that carries water to and from a mill wheel. Or head to the Health Valley Trail to visit the Wise Old Oak.
5. Port Perry (1 hour 30 minutes)
Port Perry is a quaint town with something for everyone.
If you want to spend the day outdoors, head to the Crows Pass Conservation Area. This space is 158 acres and has 3 kms of trails that connect to the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail. If you still want more outdoor space to explore, visit the Nonquon Wildlife Area.
Nonquon is 2,800 acres with several unmarked trails, large woodlots, streams, marshes, fields and low lying hallows. The river flows through the area, so there are also lots of local flowers and wildlife. The area is great for birdwatching, and spotting:
- White tail deer
- Ruffed grouse
- Wild turkey
To learn more about wildlife, be sure to stop by the Pegasus Animal Sanctuary. Here you can take a tour to learn about the sanctuary, the animals and how Pegasus works to improve their lives.
Indoor Activities In Port Perry
If spending all day outside isn’t for you, consider heading to the local winery or brewer.
Ocala Winery and Orchards offers wine tastings, weekend lunches and events throughout the year. The winery started in 1912 and is in a century old board and beam dairy.
Old Flaming Brewing Co is in an 1874 building that was home of the Ontario Carriage Works. Horse drawn carriages were built there until the 19th century. It then went through many hands where it was a:
- Massey-Harris dealership
- Shoe factory
- Lumber yard
- Textile factory
When Old Flame was renovating the building, they exposed original brick and burnt timber, which you can see when you visit. The brewery offers tours and tasting throughout the year.
Another must see during a road trip to Port Perry is the Scugog Shores Museum Village. The museum shares what daily life was like in the 1800s.
There are 11 restored buildings including homes, schools, shops, barns and more. You can also view the Ojibway Heritage Interpretive Lands. This is an exhibit that shares the natural and cultural history of the Scugog Watershed before Europeans settled in the area.
If you like games of luck and chance, you can head over to the Great Blue Heron Casino. The property offers table games, slots, dining and a hotel.
6. Algonquin Provincial Park (2 hours and 1 minute)
Technically this trip is out of the 2 hour range, but the extra 1 minute is worth it.
Algonquin Provincial Park is 1,886,650 acres of pristine wilderness made up of maple hills, rocky ridges and lakes. Visitors have said the park offers some of the best camping in the world and is best enjoyed over a few days. But even a day trip to Algonquin is a must!
When you arrive at the park, be sure to grab their weekly newspaper. This will tell you everything that’s happening at the park, including performances and educational programs.
Once in the park, there are tons of trails for biking and hiking. There are also tons of lakes for paddle boating and one that allows power boats. Algonquin is a portagers dream with many campsites that are only accessible by boat.
The top places to see during a road trip along Highway 60 are:
- Mizzy Lake Trail
- Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail
- The Lookout Trail
- Canoe Lake
- Canisbay Lake
- Western Uplands Backpacking Trail
- Barron Canyon
Indoor Activities In Algonquin Park
If you want to enjoy an indoor activity, Algonquin has those too. The Algonquin Art Centre has art from Canada’s top wilderness and wildlife artists that change yearly. There are also daily art activities and artist meet and greets to enjoy.
You can also visit the Logging Museum off Highway 60. This museum shares a history of logging in the Algonquin area, and has an optional walking tour. During the tour you will see different displays including the amphibious steam tug and recreated camboose camp.
You can also grab a bite to eat or buy a keepsake at Algonquin. There are a few different cafes and an Algonquin outfitters within the park.
Because the park is so large, you can expect to spend a bit more time driving, but we promise the views are worth it. And you may be lucky enough to spot a moose or other unique wildlife.
7. Collingwood (52 minutes)
Less than an hour from Barrie is the historic Town of Collingwood. Collingwood’s downtown is the only downtown core recognized in Canada’s Registrar of Historic Places so it is a must see. While there, be sure to take in the historic architecture and stunning murals.
If you’re interested in learning more about the area, you can also go on a self-guided heritage walking tour.
Once you have had a chance to explore the downtown core, there are many other fun activities you can do in the area. Two adventures on the top of most visitors’ lists are the Scenic Caves and Blue Mountain Village.
The Scenic Caves are part of the Niagara Escarpment and are one of Collingwood’s biggest draws. There are several caves and caverns to explore, as well as 15 km of trails through 370 acres of unspoiled natural space. The area is also home to the longest suspension bridge in Southern Ontario. The bridge, which is 420 ft long and 80 ft off the ground, offers breathtaking views.
After you’re done exploring you can enjoy:
- Adventure playgrounds
- Gemstone mining
Blue Mountain Village is a cobblestone village west of Collingwood. It has a wide variety of accommodations, shopping, dining, activities and events. While there you can also check out the:
- Zipline: experience the freedom of flight and stunning views with 50 feet of zipline.
- Rope Courses: chart your own course with ladders, bridges, logs, cables and ziplines to explore nature with Timber Challenge High Ropes or Woodlot Low Ropes.
- Segway Tours: explore the wooded terrain of Blue Mountain for 1 to 1.5 hours on a segway.
- Open Air Gondola: enjoy a 360 degree view of Blue Mountain on the way to scenic trails and lookouts.
- Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster: tour the forests of Blue Mountain on 1 km of track at up to 42 km/h
- Water Trikes: try out Blue Mountain’s all new water trikes in the Mill Pond
More To Explore On Your Road Trip To Collingwood
The Collingwood Museum is also a great place to visit. There are many different exhibits to see. This includes the town’s shipbuilding history, local art, statues and interactive displays.
If you have time left after checking out these popular spots, stop by Harbourview Park. The park has a boardwalk trail that travels over local wetlands. It also has a 2D labyrinth constructed of historical bricks from downtown.
You can also visit Awen’ Gathering Place. This is a sculptural pavilion dedicated to the First Nations in Southern Georgian Bay. The design links the 7 layers of the food forest to the 7 grandfather teachings of the Anishinaabe/Midewiwin. These teachings include:
Before heading home, you can head over to the Arboretum next door. The Arboretum has over 5 acres of winding trails with 170 trees, many of which have been tagged and named.
From small towns to big cities, there are dozens of fun road trips you and your family can take in Ontario. So pull up your map, choose a destination and go on a road trip. You’ll be surprised by all the wonderful places there are to explore just a couple of hours outside Barrie.