What to do around Toronto in less than an hour: Must-see activities

What to do in an hour around Toronto? It’s a question I often get, and one to which I didn’t really have any answers for a long time, for the simple reason that I didn’t get out of Toronto very much. My first few years here, I was really focused on settling in and creating a cool life for myself, so I took less time for tourism in Canada (I did most of my traveling outside the country). I thought it might be fun to compile for you the places I’ve visited and loved over the years, as well as the suggestions you shared with me several weeks ago on Instagram. I’ll be adding to it as I go along! And if you’re interested in the Valence version, I wrote an article a few years ago: what to do around Valence?

Upcoming articles: what to do around Toronto, 2 hours max edition, what to do around Toronto, + 3 hours edition.


But let me start with a little introduction to driving in Canada.

What you need to know when traveling by car in Canada

First of all, we need to talk about something that many French people don’t realize when they arrive here: distances! Everything is further away here. The country is immense, and long, endless roads are commonplace. On the plus side, most freeways are free. You’ll find freeway service areas called ONroute, which all look the same. It’s not a reproach, it’s just a little surprising when you think you’re always stopping in the same place, you’ll see!

If you’d like to take a bathroom or coffee break between rest areas, you can get out at practically any exit. Drive a few kilometers and you’ll find our super buddy Tim Hortons! He’s everywhere! And if you’re not quite sure how big France is compared with Canada, take a look at the photo below. It’s important to have this perspective to understand how difficult it is to find activities just an hour from Toronto.

Then something that surprised me at first: here you can drive for hours without really coming across a village to stop in. Let me explain: I grew up on the banks of the Rhône in Ardèche, very close to the busy A7 freeway, so if you choose not to take the freeway, you can take a longer route through all the little villages. I didn’t realize how interesting and typical it was.

It allows you to discover a multitude of small villages full of charm, local specialities, local craftsmen and a whole lot of super cool stuff that you can’t see from the freeway. So you get the idea: I love it. Except that the first time I went off the freeway to let chance guide my discoveries… I was a little disappointed. Secondary roads can be the same for miles and miles! You get used to it, but it’s good to know.

So let’s get to the heart of the matter: in the car, Simone! (that’s a French expression).


Distance from Toronto: 33km

Transports: car, bike, GoTrain

Unionville is a Markham neighborhood completely out of time. I spotted it before I even arrived in Toronto, for a reason that Gilmore Girls fans will love. Main Street was the setting for the show’s pilot and first episodes! That’s right! If you’re not familiar with the series, add it to your list for this winter. Yes, it’s a long winter, so start stocking up on series suggestions as soon as you get the chance. To find out more about Gilmore Girls & Unionville Radio Canada wrote an article on the subject last year.

I went there for the first time this summer. I’ve got friends who live there who played tour guide on a hot day. It was really very pleasant. And it meets the goal of activities within an hour of Toronto. You’ll be there in just 30 minutes from Toronto. Prepare to be disoriented and disconnected from the city. I’ll be delighted to return this winter to discover the village under the snow – Christmas atmosphere guaranteed!

What to do in Unionville ?

  • Stroll down Main Street
  • Admire the old houses on Main Street and the huge houses in the surrounding neighborhoods
  • Buy chocolates in the former fire station, now a chocolate store
  • Walk around the lake in Toogood Pond Park


Scarborough Bluffs

Distance from Toronto: 17km

Transports: car, bike, TTC

If you’re already in Toronto, I don’t think I’m telling you anything new: it’s a super hot spot and only a few kilometers from Toronto. I already told you about it in this article “Scarborough Crescent Park” in 2017 (sometimes it’s hard to realize that there have been articles here since 2014, it’s quite a story). The water in the lake is magnificent, you can take a stroll, stay on the beach, have a picnic. The choice is yours! (I’m adding to my list to go back soon to update the photos… because they’re old and it shows haha)

What to do at Scarborough Bluffs?

  • Stroll along the cliffs
  • Picnic by the water
  • Drinks at the marina
  • Enjoy the beach

Hamilton + Dundas Peak

Distance from Toronto: 90km

Transports: car

We continue with things to do within an hour of Toronto. It’s also a place I told you about a few years ago in this article, when I went there with a former work colleague on my return to Toronto. So let’s agree Hamilton, on paper it’s not exactly the stuff of dreams. When I say on paper, I should say from the car window on the way to Niagara Falls… but you get the idea.

But in fact that’s where you’ll find Dundas Peak, a pretty little hike that takes you to the heights of the town and offers one of the prettiest views of the valley in the region. At the time, we didn’t pay anything to go there, but things have since changed and access is now subject to a fee. The good news, however, is that from September 19, the park is once again open to visitors, but only on reservation! More info here.

What to do in Hamilton?

  • Dundas Peak
  • Webster Falls
  • Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Tiffany’s falls




Additional suggestions (very limited at the moment, as 1 hour from Toronto is not very far, but I’ll update them as soon as possible)

  • Port Crédit, Mississauga

Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments!

I hope you enjoy this non-exhaustive list of things to do within an hour of Toronto.


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