About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, ands show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”
Renowned for its forested hiking trails and beautiful rivers and lakes, Algonquin Provincial Park is a camp-lover’s dream. For those looking to explore the area with an effortless itinerary, this overnight trip to the southern boundary of the park will give you a taste of the outdoors along with plenty of self-care luxuries.
In the morning:
Pack a snackable breakfast for the drive and head north on Highway 404 before taking County Road 48 and Highway 35 toward Minden. In two-and-a-half hours, you’ll find yourself in the township of Minden Hills, where history buffs might want to make a stop at the Minden Hills Museum & Heritage Village.
Started in 1984, the site is composed of several heritage buildings, including a church, former schoolhouse, log house and blacksmith shop. The village is open seasonally Tuesdays to Saturdays from late May through early October, and admission is by donation.
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If the village is closed, the Minden Hills Cultural Centre is also home to the Agnes Jamieson Public Art Gallery, which is open all year. Its current exhibit, called “Places Count, Minden 2022,” is by local artists Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg. It is on display through Oct. 26.
Booklovers, on the other hand, will not want to miss the World’s Smallest Bookstore, located on County Road 503. This tiny 10-foot by 10-foot bookstore is worth a quick stop, even if only for an Instagram photo of this converted chicken coop. The story is open 24 hours a day and is self-serve on an honour system with a suggested $3 per book.
Continue driving northeast and head for lunch at the South Algonquin Diner in Wilberforce, where you’ll find classics such as burgers and fish and chips alongside specialty sandwiches including crab salad and Montreal smoked meat.
After your meal, check into NOMI Resort, which you’ll find just outside of the south end of Algonquin Park near Harcourt. About to undergo a major expansion with modern, upscale private villas, NOMI’s current accommodations in the main inn offer a simple cottage-chic aesthetic with cozy rooms decked out with niceties such as Frette linens and a Nespresso machine (perfect for brewing some coffee to enjoy the sunrise with).
In the afternoon:
Pull on your hiking boots and walk 20 minutes from the resort to the trailhead for High Falls (Remember that you’ll need an Algonquin Provincial Park permit for day use, which you can buy online before you leave on your road trip). The 70-minute roundtrip leads you through hardwood forest and features some rocky terrain that’ll make you grateful for your hiking footwear. You’ll be able to view the water moving downstream toward the falls once you reach the end of the trail.
The exhilarating waterfall might inspire you to get onto the water so once you make it back to NOMI, hit up its private beach on Benoir Lake to enjoy some stand-up paddleboarding – or simply take a dip and kick back in a Muskoka chair from the dock.
In the evening:
Something about that fresh cottage-country air works up an appetite. Head to the lower level of NOMI to Lands 8FIFTY restaurant, named after the 850 acres of land surrounding the resort.
Its menu offers favourites that are a step above what you might expect in your relaxed surroundings. P
an-seared steelhead trout, with a perfectly crisp skin, is served atop beet hummus and lentil succotash and tomato salsa, while its plate of chorizo and shrimp pasta is extra decadent thanks to a lemon-truffle emulsified butter. After dinner, head outside to enjoy the bonfire underneath the starry sky.
In the morning:
After breakfast at the resort (the eggs benedict’s hollandaise sauce features orange and sumac), drive along County Road 10 to Deep Roots Adventure to rent some kayaks. You’ll launch into Benoir Lake from just from behind the outfitting shop and after a short paddle you’ll have entered Algonquin Provincial Park.
After admiring the turning leaves from the water, paddle back to shore and return your kayaks to Deep Roots before heading to lunch next door at AM/PM Outdoor Gourmet. Enjoy one of its scrumptious sandwiches (daily specials might include Italian muffuletta or lemon pepper chicken) or some street meat (from Soloways Hot Dog Factory Outlet right next door).
In the afternoon:
Head to the resort’s spa for some pampering. From a massage with an expert RMT, customized to your body’s needs, to its Doctor Babor Pro Signature Facial (which targets skin’s hydration and vitality), you’ll make your afternoon drive back to Toronto glowing and feeling like a new person.
For the Drive
Give a listen to a few episodes of the podcast “Algonquin Defining Moments,” which dishes on the human history of Algonquin Park from the 1890s, including stories about its Wildlife Research Station and Algonquin’s Renaissance Man: artist, writer, teacher and avid canoeist Don Lloyd.
TIMELINE: Drive guide
- 9 a.m. Leave Toronto
- 11:30 a.m. Minden Hills Museum & Heritage Village
- 12:30 p.m. South Algonquin Diner
- 2 p.m. NOMI Resort
- 3 p.m. High Falls trail
- 5 p.m. Benoir Lake
- 7 p.m. Lands 8FIFTY
- 9:30 a.m. Deep Roots Adventure
- 11:30 a.m. AM/PM Outdoor Gourmet
- 1 p.m. NOMI Resort Spa
- 3 p.m. Drive back to Toronto