Festivals, Craft Beer, and Culture in Ontario

This 7-day circuit is ideal for a group of friends looking for an epic summer trip right here at home.

Planning the perfect RV trip is easy with the Go Tour Ontario Trip Planner, but we’ve made it even easier with this itinerary for instant fun: a seven-day RV trip around Ontario. Check out our picks for must-see festivals, breweries, and provincial parks to explore along with recommendations for campsites and cultural icons to check out along the way. The festival circuit takes travellers from Niagara Falls to Manitoulin Island and back again. 

We’ve started with a clockwise route from Niagara Falls but begin wherever is convenient. You’ll end up back there again in seven days! It’s the perfect option for travelers who want a quick and scenic getaway packed with cultural things to enjoy. The seven-day RV adventure starts in Niagara Falls.

Day 1: Wine and waterfalls in Niagara Falls

From casinos and steak dinners to the sights and sounds of kitschy Clifton Street, Niagara Falls is a great spot to stop and enjoy one of Canada’s most famous tourist attractions. If you’re visiting in late September, be sure to check out Canada’s largest wine festival, the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival nearby in downtown St. Catharines. There’ll be award-winning Niagara wine, local cuisine, and live music all day and all night. The festival runs the weekends of September 14-15, 20-22, and 27-29. Tickets and more information available here.

Once you’ve got your fill of wine and waterfalls, head west along the QEW for about an hour and a half to your next destination—Kitchener-Waterloo!  

Day 2: Beer and Bavarian Culture in Kitchener-Waterloo

This region is steeped in German heritage thanks to all the immigrants who settled here in the 1800s, so perhaps it’s appropriate that the world’s second-largest Oktoberfest celebration is held here every year! In fact, the town of Kitchener used to be called Berlin up until 1916 (the advent of the first world war inspired patriotic residents to choose a less German-sounding name).

So join in the town’s joyful celebration of Bavarian culture at this year’s Oktoberfest with a free pancake breakfast, a 5k Turkey Trot, barrel race, and parade—and of course, be sure to visit the beer halls and raise a refreshing pint or two with friends and family. Waterloo Brewing Company even has a delicious Waterloo Festbier created especially for the festival. Its Marzenbier-style brew is sure to put you in a celebrating mood!  The festival runs October 11-19, 2019. Check out http://m.oktoberfest.ca/ for more information.

From Kitchener-Waterloo, head north for about three hours until the next stop—Tobermory!  

Day 3:  Sea stacks and starfish in Tobermory

Tobermory lies at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, one of the most beautiful regions in Canada—it’s also home to the Fathom Five National Marine Park! Here you’ll find the unique Flowerpot Island sea stacks, thousand-year-old cedar trees, and some of the best freshwater SCUBA diving in the world, thanks to the area’s numerous shipwrecks. Take the day and explore the park via kayak, canoe, or small boat, or just lounge on the shoreline with a good book, your fishing gear (make sure to follow the park rules and regulations, and have a valid Ontario fishing license), and a craft beer or two.

RVs are welcome at Tobermory Village CampgroundLands End, and Happy Hearts Tent and Trailer Park. Once you’re set up at the campground of your choice, the area is yours to explore.

From Tobermory, it’s just a quick ferry to Manitoulin Island—the world’s largest freshwater island! The Chi-Cheemaun Ferry runs May 3 to October 20, so plan your trip accordingly! Take the earliest scheduled ferry to give yourself time to explore your next destination.

Day 4: Indigenous theatre, craft brews, and beautiful views on Manitoulin Island 

There are many things to see and do on Manitoulin Island—it’s an arts and culture paradise. The Debajehmujig Creation Centre, Canada’s only Indigenous-owned and operated theatre, is a must-see with a gift shop, art gallery, and programming throughout the year to check out.

Have a beer on the patio overlooking Gore Bay at Split Rail Brewing Company, then stop off at Manitoulin Brewing’s Silo Cafe—the patio’s bar is made from an old grain silo. Try the Swing Bridge Blonde Ale—you’ll be driving across its namesake shortly! 

Providence Bay Tent & Trailer Park has 250 spots along a massive sandy beach. With free hot showers and a convenience store nearby, travellers will have all they need to relax after a day of exploring.

On your way off the island, you’ll cross a local icon: Little Current Swing Bridge is a single-lane bridge and Manitoulin’s only road link to the mainland. Built by Algoma Eastern Railway in 1912 and abandoned by CPR in the 80s, the bridge is now primarily used by cars, lifting just 15 minutes in the early mornings to accommodate marine traffic. 

Next up, Sudbury! Birthplace of Alex Trebek and the Up Here Festival.  

Day 5: Suds, cents, and sounds in Sudbury! 

Canada's largest mural is one of many reasons to visit the Nickel City

Sudbury is the cultural capital of Northern Ontario—and for good reason. The city is packed with festivals and arts events year-round. We recommend checking out an indie film at Cinéfest Sudbury. This international film festival runs from Saturday, September 14 to Sunday, September 22. Check out the festival website for more details.

The city is also home to the Up Here Festival that runs mid-August. Live music, public art, and community pride are the hallmarks of this edgy event that celebrates all things weird and wonderful in Sudbury. Check out the website for details about the 2020 festival. Be sure to stop by the site of Canada’s largest mural, completed in August 2019!

Beer lovers will love the craft brews from Stack Brewing46 North Brewing Corp., or Spacecraft Brewery—available on tap around town or stop in the breweries for tours and tastings. Science North is also a perfect place to stop to escape the summer heat (or the fall chill) and learn a bit about the city’s geological history (Sudbury is famously built in the crater left by a prehistoric meteor).  

Don’t forget to stop and get a photo in front of the world’s largest nickel, located on the grounds of Dynamic Earth, Science North’s sister site. Sudbury’s big nickel should be on everyone’s selfie bucket list.

From Sudbury, head south to Killarney Provincial Park where you can spend the night among the stars.

Day 6: Stars, pink rocks, and the Group of Seven in Killarney Provincial Park

See the rest of the universe at the Killarney Dark Sky Preserve

Killarney Provincial Park is a designated dark-sky preserve and is known for its pink granite coastline and vistas made popular by Group of Seven artists like A.Y. Jackson and A.J. Casson.  

The most unique offering here is the Killarney Provincial Park Observatory, with its research-level 10” and 16” telescopes. The observatory offers free access to its instruments to anyone interested.

After a short training course provided by staff members, budding astronomers can ponder the vastness of the universe (or just look for UFOs). This program is available from July through September. Killarney is the perfect place to take a break from the pressures of big city (or small town) life and to just relax.

Campgrounds, a cabin, and the more trendy yurts are available for overnight stays year-round. Travellers can reserve their spots through the Ontario Parks website.

Next up is Wasaga Beach—with a stop at Big Chute Marine Railway along the way. Just off the 400 before Port Severn on the Trent-Severn Waterway, this unusual contraption is the only “marine railway” still in operation in North America.

Two pups confounded by the engineering that went into the Big Chute Marine Railway

After running out of money to build a proper lock, this temporary solution was put in place in 1919—and has remained operational ever since. Boats are floated into a metal cradle, then transported horizontally on a motorized, dual-metal track to the bottom of the 60-foot incline. It’s a marvel of early 20th-century engineering and quite a sight to see.  

Day 7: Wasaga Beach: Waves and wings

After a leisurely four-hour drive from Killarney down the eastern shores of Georgian Bay, travellers will be stoked to arrive at the longest freshwater beach in the world, Wasaga Beach. This lively lakefront town is packed with festivals so visitors can take their pick.

The Waterfront Festival in June offers sandcastle competitions, Kitefest, Ploverpalooza, and live entertainment. Wasaga Beach RibFest is in early August while the Wasaga Beach International Fun Food Festival (20 food trucks, DJs, and a beer garden) is later that month. Plus enjoy live entertainment with Music in the Market every Friday and Saturday all summer long. Check out the town’s website for more information on the festivals and scheduling

Check out Gateway Camping on Main Street for a spot to spend the night. Close to the beach, it also has a heated pool and 50 RV campsites with water, sewer, and electricity. Call 1-705-429-5862 for reservations and information. Jell-e-Bean Campground & Trailer Park is another great option with serviced sites including electricity, water, a fire pit, and a picnic table. Wander over to the Wasaga Beach Brewing Company’s Beach Bar for a taste of its Beach One Cerveza and a view of... what else? The beach!

After a leisurely morning at the beach or wandering main street, travellers can hit the road knowing they’ve enjoyed some of the most scenic landscapes Ontario has to offer while also taking in some of the most famous festivals around.  

The 7-day RV adventure is flexible—make it your own!  

This seven-day Ontario RV trip can be adapted to suit any traveller’s needs—add on a few days here and there to spend time in a favourite spot, or skip a stop or two if the timeline is tight! Hit up the best breweries and chat with the locals, or relax with a private pint and a view of the sunset. But rest assured—no matter what kind of trip you choose, this will be an adventure to remember forever. Festivals and having fun are what Ontario is all about!

About Jennifer McCartney

Jennifer McCartney is a New York Times bestselling author. She has written a number of books including So You Want to Move to Canada, Eh? Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Vice Magazine, Teen Vogue, and CBC.

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