We asked a few travel experts for their best budget-friendly destinations and activities in Ontario — and they’ve got spring and summer travel inspiration written all over them.
Lauren Yakiwchuk, travel blogger and content creator at Justin Plus Lauren
“My top choice for an excellent, budget-friendly destination in Ontario is the Thousand Islands region. While it’s not too expensive to stay at a hotel in Gananoque, you can also book a Parks Canada oTENTik — a cross between a tent and a rustic cabin — within the Thousand Islands National Park for just $96 a night. Of course, you can also go camping. The national park has campsites and oTENTiks on the mainland, and on two of the islands themselves, an amazing retreat for boaters and paddlers.
The 1000 Islands region is incredible for lovers of the great outdoors — perfect for hiking, cycling and kayaking. For a more relaxing journey, take a boat cruise around the Thousand Islands themselves, adding a stopover at the enchanting Boldt Castle in New York state (don’t forget your passport!). Gananoque is also home to several fantastic restaurants, as well as its own craft brewery, Gan Brewing Co. If you have room to splurge, book a helicopter ride of the region. It’s breathtaking from above.”
Jennifer Foden, writer and editor
“This may be controversial, considering it’s the most expensive place to live in Ontario, but some of my favourite things to do in Toronto are free or under $10. There’s no-cost outdoor art like Graffiti Alley; inexpensive eats (my fave, the jerk chicken sandwich from Mr. Jerk on Wellesley St., costs $9); free outdoor rinks in winter (I like the Barbara Ann Scott Ice Trail behind College Park) and outdoor pools in summer (the ones at Christie Pits and Riverdale are the best in my opinion).
There’s biking around the city (a Bike Share pass costs $7 for a day), and visiting the Toronto Islands (the ferry will only set you back about $9). For travellers, the only hiccup might be finding affordable accommodations, but in the off season or during the week, you can get some deals.”
Paul Knowles, travel writer and author
“Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., is a fascinating, multi-day destination — who knew? Moderately priced accommodations are located near the beautiful Waterfront Walkway, stretching along the St. Marys River. On a recent trip, this river took me to the historic locks, at the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, and to sacred Whitefish Island, the meeting place of many of the peoples of Turtle Island (the Indigenous name for North America).
I explored the Sault’s foundational cultural ties with Canada’s First Nations, most movingly at the former Shingwauk residential school, now a centre for Indigenous education at Algoma University. And I was equally fascinated by the multiple connections with Canada’s iconic artists, the Group of Seven — right in the Sault (where I visited their boxcar studio, and saw original works at the Art Gallery of Algoma), during the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, and at well-signed Group of Seven sites along Lake Superior. There is a charge for the tour train, of course, but otherwise many of these activities are free or available for a small fee.”
Megan Honan, travel writer
“In true Torontonian fashion, there is no place I’d rather be in the summer than Prince Edward County. There is always such an eclectic mix of things to do, starting with biking to the local wineries, many of which offer reasonable wines by the glass or even inexpensive flights (Grange of Prince Edward, Trail Estate Winery and Traynor Family Vineyard are favourites).
There is a real sense of entrepreneurship in P.E.C., with many creatives having left cities like Toronto to explore a slower pace of life here. That passion can best be experienced at restaurants that celebrate the county’s agricultural roots, like Stella’s Eatery for innovative comfort food. When it comes to a good night’s slumber, I enjoy the Drake Motor Inn, but for especially budget-friendly waterfront views you can always book a campsite at Sandbanks Provincial Park.”
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