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10 Great Day Trips from Hamilton

No matter which direction you head out of "The Hammer," you’ll find plenty of fascinating places worth exploring.

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Road trips from Hamilton - St. JacobsPhoto: Destination Ontario

St Jacobs, Ontario

Where worlds collide

Enjoy a mix of traditional and modern in this easy day trip from Hamilton. On one hand, St. Jacobs is a quaint village with a timeless feel, and you might even share the road with members of the Mennonite community driving a horse and buggy. Visit the Mennonite Story Interpretative Centre to learn more, then swing by local museums devoted to charming model railways and the discovery of electricity. On the flip side, shoppers can find their happy place at the modern outlet mall.

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Road trips from Hamilton - Niagara Falls ZiplinePhoto: Destination Canada

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Eau, what a feeling!

There’s no debating, the falls are the star here. They dazzle in every season and at any time of the day—even after dark when they’re illuminated with awe-inspiring light shows. Hear the thunder from behind the falls, visit the Niagara Parks Power Station which is now offering guided tours, ride a zipline through the mist of the falls (above) and set sail on Niagara City Cruises. Cap off your day trip from Hamilton with a reservation at Table Rock House Restaurant—billed as the closest you can dine to the cataract.

Discover 10 more unique things to do in Niagara Falls.

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Road trips from Hamilton - Port Dover BeachPhoto: Norfolk Tourism

Port Dover, Ontario

Dog day afternoons

Hamiltonians have been flocking to Port Dover long before it became synonymous with Friday the 13th. Some go to fish off the pier, while others relax on the beach, or go to The Arbour, a century-old institution, for hot dogs, chips and its signature sipper, the “Golden Glow.” The town also has some cool shops, including Grand Trunk Station, where you’re sure to find a nautical souvenir to add to your home decor. Charcuterie fans will want to stop by the Dover Cheese Shop to sample an impressive selection of artisanal cheeses and meats.

En route, keep an eye out for the beautiful barns of southwestern Ontario.

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Road trips from Hamilton - Bell Homestead, BrantfordPhoto: Tourism Brantford

Brantford, Ontario

Nature (and history) calls

Wonder where all the folks from Ontario’s big cities have escaped to? Often times, it’s here, thanks to nature trails along the Grand River and amenities like the Sanderson Centre For the Performing Arts, a historical theatre with affordable tickets for live performances. Brantford also boasts a growing local craft beer and spirits scene, which is best sampled with a flight from Mash Paddle Brewing Co. and cocktail essentials from Manns Botanical Spirits. Meanwhile, history buffs will want to pay a visit to Bell Homestead National Historic Site (above), the 19th-century house in which Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

Check out 20 more great Canadian inventions worth celebrating.

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Road trips from Hamilton - Peterborough Lift Lock in FallPhoto: Peterborough & The Kawarthas Tourism

Peterborough, Ontario

Locks, tarts and canoes

If you’re fascinated by engineering marvels, a visit to Peterborough, Ontario’s Lock 21 (above) is a must. Opened in 1904, it’s world’s highest hydraulic lift lock, and one of the most impressive features of the Trent-Severn Waterway, a great spot for paddlers. Speaking of which, make your way (by land) to the unique Canadian Canoe Museum, where you’ll learn how to carve your own paddle. For the two-hour trip home, stock up on butter tarts from the Kawartha Buttertart Factory. Fans of the sweet treat may want to take a detour down Ontario’s butter tart trail.

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Road Trips From Hamilton - Horseshoe ValleyPhoto: Vetta

Horseshoe Valley, Ontario 

Aim for the Finnish line

If you’re a skier, you might already be familiar with these popular slopes north of Barrie (a one-hour, 40-minute drive from Hamilton). What you might not know, however, is that the region offers plenty of summertime fun, including Treetop Trekking, ideal for tree climbers and zipliners, and a 12-hole golf course at Horseshoe Resort. Refuel with a tasty homemade burger and a pint at HQ Restaurant and Taphouse, then recharge at the new Vettä Nordic Spa (above) with Finnish-inspired treatments.

Here are 13 great Canadian golf courses under $100.

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Road trips from Hamilton - Peller Estates in NiagaraPhoto: Destination Ontario

Niagara Escarpment and area, Ontario

Heard it through the grapevine

Is your stash of Ontario wine running low? Buy directly from wineries just 40 minutes outside of Hamilton at a place like Creekside Estate in Jordan Station. Stay for lunch and grab bottles to go, then head down the highway to hit up big, fancy vineyards like Peller Estates as well as smaller operations such as Foreign Affair. In pretty Niagara-on-the-Lake, step into romantic streetscapes captured by painter Trisha Romance and catch a play at the Shaw Festival.

Explore more hidden gems across Ontario.

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Day trips from Hamilton - Nickel Beach in Port ColbornePhoto: Sevenstock Studio / Shutterstock.com

Port Colborne, Ontario

Life’s a beach

Some lakeside spots can get pretty busy on weekends, but Port Colborne seems to maintain a laidback vibe. At the south end of the Welland Canal, the silky sands of Nickel Beach (above) tickle your toes and lake breezes ruffle your hair. Scuba divers love the area for its Lake Erie shipwrecks, while Instagrammers are drawn to the photogenic lighthouse and historic West Street. Before heading back home, be sure to grab a banana cream pie from The Pie Guys Bakery.

Don’t miss this gorgeous gallery of Canada’s most beautiful lighthouses.

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Road trips from Hamilton - Toronto CN Tower EdgewalkPhoto: CN Tower

Toronto

Small bites, big thrill

Canada’s largest city has oodles to offer, which means it’s best enjoyed in small slices for day trips. Concentrate on one neighbourhood at a time, like Chinatown or Kensington Market, or taste your way through St. Lawrence Market, where a peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery is a must. If you’d prefer to leave the itinerary to the pros, book food-focused walking tours through Culinary Adventure Co. Looking for a thrill that extends beyond your taste buds? Tap into your inner daredevil at the CN Tower Edgewalk—a 114-storey-high stroll around the mast of the iconic Canadian landmark.

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Six Nations of the Grand RiverPhoto: Reimar / Shutterstock.com

Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario

Grander experiences

Explore Indigenous culture in Canada’s most populated First Nation. Visit Chiefswood National Historic Site, birthplace of Mohawk/English poet, E. Pauline Johnson, and support local artisans by shopping at retailers like Iroqcrafts (known for moccasins) and jewelry experts Sapling and Flint. Plan to eat at Burger Barn, a favourite spot for comfort food in Ohsweken, or enjoy dinner with a side of showstopping scenery on a Grand River Dinner Cruise.

After you’ve checked these day trips from Hamilton off your list, take inspiration from these 10 iconic Canadian road trips.