10 Best Weekend Escapes Within a Drive From Detroit

There’s something for everyone in Ontario—and it’s an easy drive from Detroit.

Just look north for countless great weekend vacation options within an easy drive of Detroit. Across the international border in Ontario, you’ll discover world-class outdoor activities, relaxing retreats and unique cultural experiences. Pack your bags: here’s our short list of awesome Ontario escapes.

Grey County: Blue Mountain is Calling

Grey County, located about four hours north of Detroit, is an idyllic escape from the daily grind. The pastoral landscape is punctuated by the rugged limestone geology of the Niagara Escarpment, interspersed with rural communities reminiscent of a different time, and fringed by the big water of Georgian Bay.

Blue Mountain Village is one of Ontario’s finest year-round attractions. Blue Mountain Resort is the province’s largest alpine ski destination, with great snow conditions and lots of variety of downhill runs on 720 feet of vertical elevation. Blue boasts a vibrant nightlife, great accommodations and plenty of activities for all tastes, including the Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain and iwa Spa. For a summer vacation, check out the resort’s treetop canopy adventuresziplines, golf, mountain biking, and sugar-sand beaches on Lake Huron. Grey County is a hub for craft breweries and cider producers. The Beer Bus or Ace Transportation offer guided tours of Grey’s wineries, breweries and cideries. Do it yourself with the Saints & Sinners map

Charming Blue Mountain Resort buildings at night with ski hill.
Great skiing, accommodations and nightlife are hallmarks of Ontario’s Blue Mountain Resort. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Tobermory: Surf and Turf on an Inland Sea

The stunning Bruce Peninsula offers the world’s finest freshwater diving, with beginner- to expert options to experience the crystalline waters of Lake Huron. The quaint town of Tobermory, Ontario, your gateway to the wonders of Fathom Five National Marine Park, is only a five-hour drive from the Ambassador Bridge. The park boasts 22 dive sites, including many well-preserved wrecks. Diver’s Den offers guided scuba and snorkelling tours, along with certified instruction. Boat tours offer a less immersive way to experience the shipwrecks and visit Flowerpot Island, with its iconic limestone rock formations and remote Parks Canada campground.

If you’d prefer to keep your adventures on dry land, check out Bruce Peninsula National Park, which features great campsites (including cozy yurts for more glamorous camping), remarkable spring wildflowers and rare wildlife, and stunning hiking on the Niagara Escarpment’s Bruce Trail—part of a UNESCO biosphere reserve for its unique landforms and rich biodiversity.

Woman sitting on cliff overlooking the water.
The spectacular Niagara Escarpment meets the vastness of Georgian Bay at Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula. Photo: @explorethebruce

Grand River: Watersports and Theatre in Ontario’s Heartland

A Canadian heritage river is within easy reach for Detroit watersports enthusiasts. The community of Paris, Ontario is your access point for family-friendly whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding on Southwestern Ontario’s Grand River, barely three hours by road from the Motor City. Or visit the nearby town of Stratford for a unique cultural experience. For nearly 70 years, the Stratford Festival has kept the works of William Shakespeare (and other legendary and contemporary playwrights) alive, with musicals, classics, and dramas scheduled from April to October.  

Group of people paddling a blue raft in small rapids.
Rafting on the Grand River, near Paris, Ontario. Photo: Ontario Tourism // Ethan Meleg

Rondeau, Point Pelee AND LONG POINT: A Short Drive to Witness the Wonder of Migration AND NATURE

Long Point Eco-Adventures, located in the designated UNESCO Long Point Biosphere Reserve, features a broad range of adventure activities (mountain biking and ziplning) plus wildlife and birding tours. Try glamping in a pod or wilderness safari tent

The Ontario shore of Lake Erie is a world-renowned location for birding—and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Detroit. Rondeau Provincial Park serves as a critical resting spot for migratory songbirds and waterfowl in the spring and fall. Over 330 species of birds have been recorded in Rondeau, including the rare Townsend’s solitaire, yellow-throated warbler, blue grosbeak, and painted bunting. Stay on top of the action by reserving a campsite; even if you’re not a diehard birder, you’ll love Rondeau’s endless beaches. 

Just down the shore, Point Pelee National Park is another birding hotspot, boasting some of the richest biodiversity in all of Canada. Magical Monarch butterflies join the Pelee migrants each fall. Supplement your Ontario birding getaway with great food and drink: The broader Windsor-Essex region has also emerged as one of Canada’s finest destinations for wine lovers.

Sun setting over boardwalk
Experience the greatest wonders of nature at Ontario’s Point Pelee National Park. Photo: @langfordsuiteairbnb

Bike the Border City of Sault Ste. Marie

Mountain, road, and fat-biking enthusiasts take note: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is emerging as one of the best cycling destinations in the Midwest—and at barely a five-hour drive, it’s far closer for Detroit residents than other riding hotspots in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A panoply of cycling options in “the Soo” includes epic mountain biking at the Hiawatha Highlands; long-distance road biking on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail; winter fat-biking on groomed trails; and gravel and paved trails and a BMX pump track for urban riding. Rentals are available from Velorution, Algoma Bicycle Company, and Parks Canada.

Bikes leaning up against shop window
Bikes and brews in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Photo: @velorution_bike_ski

A Forest on Fire: Autumn in Algoma Country

Experience true wilderness in Algoma Country, just north of Sault Ste. Marie. The Agawa Canyon Tour Train takes you deep into the Canadian backcountry, where you’ll experience pristine lakes, waterfalls, endless hills, and the spectacular Agawa Canyon. One-day rail adventures are offered June through October, but they’re best in the fall—when red maple and golden birch set the Algoma hills on fire. It’s easy to see why this landscape inspired some of Canada’s finest artists. Learn more about the Group of Seven with a visit to the Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie. Make your weekend complete with a meal at one of Sault Ste. Marie’s famous Italian restaurants, and check out Outspoken Brewery’s funky downtown pub for a taste of craft beer. Tour train packages are available.

Train winding around hill of vibrantly coloured leaves in the fall.
The Agawa Canyon Tour Train takes you deep into some of Ontario’s most scenic landscapes. Photo: Ontario Tourism // James Smedley

Snowy Sault Ste. Marie

You’ll be shocked at the winter wonderland that is Sault Ste. Marie from December through late March. Ample snowfall and rugged terrain combine to make for some of the finest nordic and alpine skiing in the Midwest. Hiawatha Highlands boast 40 km of impeccably groomed cross-country ski trails, with options available for beginners to experts, as well as rentals, within Sault Ste. Marie city limits.

Stokely Creek Lodge is located only 30 minutes north on the Trans-Canada Highway, but the Scandinavian-style accommodations feel like they’re set deep in the Canadian wilderness. Stokely annually ranks amongst North America’s finest winter destinations, with over 100 km of cross-country ski trails and 25 km of snowshoe trails. You won’t find a better place to unwind, experience nature and enjoy fantastic dining.

If you’re more interested in downhill skiing, Searchmont Resort offers Ontario’s most challenging alpine ski terrain, an onsite bar and slopeside accommodations. Meanwhile, Goulais River’s Bellevue Valley Lodge is the province’s only dedicated backcountry ski area. 

Woman walking among snow-covered trees.
Life in a snow globe in Sault Ste. Marie. Photo: @welcometossm

Big Lake Beaches: Pancake Bay and Lake Superior provincial parks

Two of Ontario’s finest provincial parks are located just north of Sault Ste. Marie on Highway 17. Pancake Bay Provincial Park features one of Ontario’s finest beaches—an immense swath of sand that once served as a layover for voyageurs in the historic Canadian fur trade. Today, there are more than 300 campsites available for RVs, trailers, and tent campers, as well as great swimming and hiking—including a heart-pumping trail to a lookout to view the final resting place of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Further north, Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Agawa Bay campground is even wilder—the perfect base camp for hikers, paddlers, and nature enthusiasts to witness wilderness waterfalls and ancient Indigenous rock paintings.

Sunset from between the trees
Nightfall on the beach at Agawa Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park. Photo: @pixelkaelin

Down the Line: St. Joseph Island and the North Channel

Discover a variety of vacation options just east of the border at Sault Ste. Marie, on Lake Huron’s North Channel. St. Joseph Island is known for its relaxed pace and wonderful scenery, with great options for cycling, boating and weekend accommodations. On the mainland, check out Melwel Lodge on Basswood Lake—a peaceful, timeless destination for fishing and families. You can even rent a historic Great Lakes lighthouse for the weekend in the waterfront village of Bruce Mines.

Wawa is Worth the Trip: Rock Island Lodge

The town of Wawa, Ontario, located about 2.5 hours north of the border at Sault Ste. Marie, is well worth the drive from lower Michigan for a long-weekend getaway. Wawa offers a range of great outdoor activities, including world-class fishing, hiking, and sea kayaking. Check out Naturally Superior Adventures’ Rock Island Lodge—the region’s only accommodations on the spectacular shore of Lake Superior.
Aerial photo of coastline
Located near Wawa, Ontario, Rock Island Lodge occupies perhaps the most spectacular piece of coastline on the entire Great Lake. Photo: Naturally Superior Adventures / Joel Cooper

Make this your base for a weekend of paddling on Michipicoten Bay (guided tours and rentals of canoes, kayaks, and standup paddleboards are available) and hiking in Lake Superior Provincial Park, and feel your tensions ease.

Pack your bags and set out on your awesome Ontario escape.

About Conor Mihell

Conor Mihell is an award-winning environmental and adventure travel writer based in Sault Ste. Marie. Read his work in the Globe and Mail, Explore, Cottage Life, Canoe & Kayak, ON Nature, and other magazines and newspapers. He's been a sea kayak guide on Lake Superior for close to 20 years, and has paddled from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. 

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