Natural wonders and hidden gems just a couple of hours away from Toronto

Southern Ontario is full of many scenic towns and adventures not far from the big city. With easy access to the Great Lakes and valleys, you can explore the natural beauty and hidden gems that are just a two-hour drive away from Toronto.

There are all kinds of adventures waiting just a short drive away from the big city

If you're looking for a break from Toronto, Ontario Parks has plenty of spaces just outside of the city to enjoy. (Bill Steer)

As the summer kicks off,Torontonians will be making their way to unique pockets outside of the city that offer a day of exploration. 

Day trips from Toronto do not have to be restricted to well-known tourist attractions. Here are a list of places within a two hour drive of Toronto that offer new adventures for thrill seekers and those just looking for day away from the city: 

Elora ​
(Conservation Ontario)

A beautiful gem just outside of Toronto, Elora offers a variety of activities for a successful day trip. Visit the Elora quarry,  a swimming hole surrounded by cliffs up to 12 metres high or hike the park's one-kilometre loop trail.

When you are done visiting the quarry, take a short drive over to Elora Gorge Conservation Area, where the water fun continues with canoeing, tubing adventures, and a splash pad. Both the quarry and the gorge offer picnic spots. If you prefer to grab a good meal in the town, visit Gorge Country Kitchen (a popular site for locals).

Another hidden gem is the Tooth of Time waterfall, which flows into the Grand River. Visit the Wellington County Museum and Archives and the Heritage Gardens.

Elora is just an hour and half away from Toronto.

Prince Edward County
(Ontario Parks)

It's the home of the popular Sandbanks beach, but Prince Edward County, just two hours away from Toronto, has much more than that to offer, including canoeing and sailing.

Visitors who want to take an in-depth tour of the county should travel south to Little Bluff Conservation Area for a panoramic view of Prince Edward Bay, perfect for great nature shots.

Known for wineries and vineyards across the county, visitors can take a wine tour and taste the flavours of Prince Edward County from artisan shops to local farmers markets.

Walking trails offer visitors the opportunity to explore the county on foot. Birdhouse City, located near Picton, is also a sight to see with over 100 birdhouses. 

Grand Bend 
(Marcus Obal)

A well-known Lake Huron hotspot, Grand Bend brings people of all ages to the beach for sports and relaxation.

There is parasailing, wakeboarding, seadoo-ing, and parachuting available.

Grand Bend offers a variety of culinary options after a day on the water.

It's is located two-and-a-half hours away from Toronto.

Paris, Ontario

Paris is known as the "Cobblestone Capital of Canada" for its historic cobblestone buildings.

Also sometimes called "Canada's Prettiest Little Town" Paris offers an abundance of activities. Trails that weave through Paris and its outer core are available to explore the natural scenery. Downtown Paris provides a small town feel with cafes, bakeries, and cheese shops.

Paris is about an hour and a half from Toronto.

Rattlesnake Point
(Conservation Halton)

A hidden beauty within Halton region, visitors to Rattlesnake Point can climb on the cliffs hike its trails for hours on end.

Take the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail to Crawford Lake. While the hike may be about four to five hours round trip, visitors can be entertained by geocaches hidden along the way from Crawford Lake to Rattlesnake Point. Using a GPS, visitors can find "treasures."

There's a great view of the escarpment from Buffalo Crag Lookout Point.

 This outdoor hub of adventure is located in Milton, Ont. just an hour outside of Toronto.

(Ontario Pics)

For those on a tight timeline, Caledon might be the way to go. Located just north of Brampton, Caledon offers a vibrant art scene, theatres and galleries, as well as an abundance of trails for those who prefer to see the area's natural scenery on foot.

Visit the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park and experience the rolling terrain, wetlands, and waterfall views. You can also visit the Great War Flying Museum, which features replicas of First World War aircraft.

Caledon is about an hour's drive north of Toronto.

Ferris Provincial Park
(Ontario Parks)

This provincial park is more than just a grassy field. It offers spectacular views over Ranney Falls and has a pedestrian suspension bridge over Trent River Gorge. The park has over 10 kilometres of forest trails.

This summer, Ferris Park will be offering many special events. This outdoor adventure is located just under two hours away from Toronto.

Petroglyphs Provincial Park
(Ontario Parks Canada)

Just two hours north of Toronto, Petroglyphs Provincial Park is known for its large concentration of Indigenous rock carvings, located in Woodview. Visit the Learning Place Visitor Centre to learn about the Ojibway (Anishnaabe) people.

There's also the Meromictic McGinnis Lake with its layers of water that never intermix. 

A series of hiking trails throughout the Petroglyphs provides a natural workout amidst beautiful views.

Warsaw Caves
(Orna Lavie)

Warsaw Caves Conservation Area is a two hour drive north of Toronto, offering visitors a plethora of outdoor activities. Located in the Peterborough region, there are seven caves within the park.

The exploration of the caves can take anywhere from a couple of hours to an entire day, depending on the amount of time you want to spend spelunking.

Other activities include hiking through the forest along the 15-km trail at the conservation area, or canoeing on the flat water of the Indian River amidst the beautiful scenery.

(Blue Mountain)

A popular cottage destination, Collingwood offers more than what meets the eye.

Visitors can head to Scenic Caves Nature Adventures and walk on the 128-metre suspension footbridge that spans the valley and provides beautiful views of Georgian Bay from 25 metres above ground.  A 45-minute walking trail to the footbridge immerses visitors in nature.

Just a short drive to the west of Collingwood, those seeking total relaxation can visit the Scandinave Spa in The Blue Mountain area. 

You can also rent a canoe or kayak and navigate the Beaver River alone or with a guide. You can learn how to paddle and get information on routes to take. This destination is a two and a half hour trip from Toronto.