14 Towns In Ontario To Visit If You're Too Broke To Go To Europe

Bustling towns with European flair only hours away.

When your daydreaming about Europe your mind instantly thinks of: beautiful people, stunning architecture, scenery, and adventure. Other thoughts about Europe = an empty wallet, because it's an expensive place to live! What is the beauty about this scenario? We're blessed to live in the province that is a Europe 2.0.

The best part about a European vacation is that your options are endless. From the mountains of Switzerland to beautiful canals in Venice there's a mini-trip for everyone. If only we had that in Ontario-OH WAIT! Ontario is bigger than France and Spain combined and three times larger than Germany ALONE. So what? So that means we're living in the province that was made to provide an insane amount of adventure for any kind of person!

Have you ever heard Ontario being described as, "Oh you know, it's where Toronto is, and then some other places"? You may have heard coming from your own mouth, or your friends but regardless, there is way more to Ontario than what we usually think. Head to these towns in our beautiful province to find out why we're so glorious and free..

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1. Cambridge

No need to hop on a plane to see a river wrapped town that looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale, why not head to Cambridge? At first glance Cambridge just may seem like another suburban drive by, but if you hit downtown you'll find beautiful architecture just like that in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. Go and be surprised by the gorgeous buildings in this charming town!

Must Hit: The Downtown Galt for some unique boutiques and shops (hello Reid Chocolates!), Trinity Anglican Church, Grand River Brewing

Type of Europe Trip: Relaxing- this is the perfect trip for you and your ~bae~ to stroll hand in hand along the river while taking in the stunning architecture.

Distance from Toronto: Just over an hour

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2. Thunder Bay

I know, the thought of Thunder Bay doesn't exactly scream Europe. But don't underestimate this unreal nature lover's paradise just yet. From vast lake views to amazing mountain scenery and landscapes, we instantly feel like we've been transported to the similarly rugged Norway. With it's sweeping lake views and quaint towns you'll feel like you're at the Skaala tower in Nordfjord.

Must hit: Lake Superior, Kabeyun Trail, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, The Sea Lion, Chimney Look Out, and the ever charming Silver Islet!

Type of Euro Trip: Adventurous - perfect for any squad looking to get that dose of adrenaline and cross a couple things off their bucket list.

Distance from Toronto: Driving will take you just under 15 hours (road trip time)! Or fly there in just over 2 hours.


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3. Kingston

The home of our first Prime Minister, and stage to the final Tragically Hip concert is making a name for itself as a hidden gem of Southern Ontario. After a visit here you'll definitely stop thinking about Kingston as just another small town with a Tim Hortons. Head downtown for the beautiful cobble streets, city square and craft coffee shops. Get your European taste buds on and your cameras out, because Kingston will have you feeling like you're in a different country!

Must hit: The Pier, Wolfe Island, City Square, Princess St. Shopping

Type of Euro Trip: City Centre Lovers - calling all patio lovers and shopping queens, this town is calling your name. Get a switch of scenery by taking in the views of Lake Ontario not from the 6ix, but from the beauty of a patio right by the historic city square.

Distance from Toronto: Just under 3 hours.

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4. Prince Edward County

Want to feel like the queen you are in the lush lavender fields of France but are low on cash? Head to one of the beautiful towns in Prince Edward County. With lavender fields and a wine country that'll make you feel like your in the French vineyards, there's no better place to get a sense of French living than in this charming town only 2 hours from Toronto.

Must hit: Head to a vineyard (we're heading to the Closson Chase Vineyards), Dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park, stay a night in The Drake Devonshire, trek through the Art Trail for all you artistes!

Type Of Euro Trip: Foodie - this is almost self explanatory. Prince Edward county is filled with vineyards and creations so mouth watering you'll be tempted to stay forever.

Distance from Toronto: Just over 2 hours.

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5. Almonte

We'll be honest, until recently we had never heard of Almonte, but that won't be the case for a lot of people for long. This underrated town is definitely going to be the most visited destination soon. From an unreal waterfall to the cute shops on Mill St., you'll definitely feel like you're in the historical streets of Europe instead of right beside Ottawa. Whether you go for some nature trails or the Almonte Celtfest, you'll have a hard time not falling in love with the celtic charm of this town surrounded by waterfalls and filled with heritage buildings in the Ottawa Valley.

Must hit: Heirloom (get the fish tacos, trust us), Mill Street shopping, Almonte Riverwalk

Type Of Euro Trip: Photography lovers dream - The hidden beauty of this small town won't only get your inner Ansel Adams going, but your Insta followers will also thank you.

Distance from Toronto: Just over 4 hours.


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6. Sault Ste. Marie

Ever dreamt of going on the Hogwarts Train in Scotland ever since pre-pubescent Harry found out he was a badass wizard? All you need to do is head over to Sault St. Mrie and hop on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. It's one of the most beautiful train tours in all of North America, covering 183kms of the beauty of the Agawa Canyon. You'll feel like you're in the valleys of the (formerly) European UK that will take you far away from your familiar views of the CN tower. But even better, Sault Ste. Marie is filled with diners to get your tastebuds excited, and museums with exhibitions that will get you itching to visit Lake Superior.

Must Hit: Art Gallery of Algoma, Docks, Sault Ste Marie Canal National Historic Site, and of course the Agawa Caynon Tour Train

Type of Euro Trip: Ultimate scenic escape - the views from the train won't only take your breath away, but you and your BFF will have an unforgettable experience to look back on for years.

Distance from Toronto: A little over 7 hours.

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7. Southampton

Hampton's of the north isn't just limited to Muskoka, how about switching it up to the adorable beach town South Hampton? Just a quick drive past Collingwood will make you feel like you're in breathtaking and relaxing Portuguese beach towns. White sandy beaches isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mine when you think of Ontario, but that's exactly what you'll get here. Enjoy your European vacation.

Must hit: Rail Trail, Chantry Island, Main Beach and Dunes System, Southampton Boardwalk

Type of Euro Trip: Beach Bum - time to kick your feet up and relax. This small town with a surplus of beach tainted charm will leave you relaxed and revived!

Distance from Toronto: Just under 3 hours.

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8. Elora

This is the must hit town for anyone who has ever wanted to forget all their problems in the charm of a small town. By charm we mean amazing river scenery, inn keepers, artists and culinary geniuses who are making this European-esque town more and more popular! Walking down the streets of a small town in Denmark (like Odense), or travelling through the impressive nature there, have never seemed closer.

Must hit: The Elora Gorge Conservation Area, Elora Skyrider Zipline, see The Tooth Of Time, take a glass blowing class, visit the Elora Farmers' Market and Elora Music Festival

Type of Euro Trip: Romantic Getaway - pre, post or not even close to your honeymoon? Elora is still the perfect romantic getaway for any type of couple with it's beautiful small town charm and eclectic shops that will keep you and your significant other roaming for hours.

Distance from Toronto: About 1 hour and 30 minutes.


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9. Manitoulin Island

An island this remote has never been more picturesque. This small island filled with #views is the place to go to if you've ever wanted to see the Northern Lights from a European dream spot like Sweden. The natural feel you thought you could only get from the Swedish landscape turns out to have been right near us this whole time. They also have a number of adventurous activities and the island is rich in Aboriginal culture. All of this we guarantee will get you right out of your Toronto bubble and into the simplicity that comes with embracing nature.

Must hit: Aurora Borealis Weekends to see the Northern Lights, Benjamin Islands, Bridal Veil Falls, The Great Spirit Circle Trail, South Baymouth Range Lighthouses, Split Rail Brewing Company

Type of Euro Trip: Adventourous - For anyone whose perfect vacation includes soaking up nature while climbing mountains, canoeing, and being totally disconnected from any technology: this is the one for you.

Distance from Toronto: A little over 6 hours.

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10. Cobourg

Are you looking out at the Mediterranean Sea or Lake Ontario? Coburg is the place to be if you've ever dreamed of vacationing in an Italian seaside town. Whether you're taking in the local produce at the farmers market or relaxing beside the pier, the eclectic charm of this small town will leave you with a sense that you just travelled much farther than just an hour out of the city.

Must hit: Coburg Beach, Concert Hall at Victoria Hall, St. Peter's Anglican Church, Cobourg Marina

Type of Euro Trip: Relaxing - with all of the perks of a small town in Italy, Coburg is the perfect place to go if your looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and take in the calming sights of rolling hills.

Distance from Toronto: About 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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11. Stratford

This town blessed us with the Biebs, and also continues to give us a European flair day in and day out. From the booming theatre scene to the Victorian style shops, there is so much beauty in this small town even your best insta pic may not be able to catch up to it. No need to travel to Europe for fine dining and rich culture, just head two hours North of the six for your next vacation.

Must hit: Stratford Festival,  Shakespearean Gardens, Gallery Stratford, Pubs, Pilsners & Spirits Haunted Pub Crawl, Stratford Chefs School

Type of Euro Trip - Theatre Lovers Dream - anyone who considers themselves somewhat of a cultural connoisseur will instantly fall in love with Stratford. Their theatre scene is the true gem of Ontario and with the complimenting artisan shops, you'll be right in your element!

Distance from Toronto: Just under 2 hours.


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12. Bayfield

It's never been easier to feel like you're roaming down a small seaside town in Greece with Bayfield. Start with the eclectic main street shops for some artisanal flair before heading to the Mediterranean like sandy beaches of Lake Huron! Make sure you check out one of their boat tours to also feel like you're exploring the European coast.

Must hit: The Black Dog Bistro, Sail Huron, take in the Sunset where the Bayfield River turns into Lake Huron, The Explore Beyond the Shore Experience Tours 

Type Of Euro Trip: Boating escape - Bayfield is home to some amazing boating cruises that will make you feel like you are far away from the Ontario you thought you knew, and into submerse yourself into a new world. Grab your squad and start your own version of a European cruise today, because it won't be a secret for long.

Distance from Toronto: About 2 hours and 30 minutes.

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13. Perth

As you walk along the canals that snake through the city, you'll definitely feel like you're in a European oasis rather than a small town in Eastern Ontario. When we think of romance we think of Europe, but get ready to start thinking of Perth as well. Whether you're walking along the downtown heritage core, checking out a flea and/or antique market, or seeing the Links O'Tay Golf course (which was founded in 1890); it's a beautiful fusion of Scottish flair and dutch canals that will leave with with unforgettable memories!

Must hit: Murphys Point Provincial Park, Kiwi Gardens, Perth Brewery, Mex&Co Restaurant

Type of Euro Trip: Sip, Stroll and Shop - ahhhh yes, the ideal combination for anyone looking to indulge in small town living! Markets, canals and cafes will make you feel like you're in Europe as you savour each new wonder around every corner.

Distance from Toronto: Just over 3 hours and 30 minutes.

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14. Goderich

Walking through the city centre of Goderich is the same as walking through the beautiful streets of Portugal, and it only gets better when you head out to Lake Huron to take in the stunning waterfront. As a town that's known as the Prettiest Town In Canada it's a must hit to experience that out of country vibe. Hit the courthouse square that reminds us of beautiful city squares in Europe, then take a walk to the shore line of Lake Huron, or take a seat at a Cafe in the square and see the farmers market in all it's action. Feeling European yet?

Must hit: Cove Beach, Point Farms Provincial Park, Goderich Lighthouse, Courthouse Square

Type Of Euro Trip: City Centre and Beach Fusion -  if you're as indecisive as us, you'll definitely want to head to Goderich. It's beautiful city centre mixed with the stunning views of Lake Huron will keep you entertained the entire trip.

Distance from Toronto: Just over 2 hours and 30 minutes.

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Kate Farrell Hopelessly awkward and overconfident 20 year old from Toronto. I study Philosophy at Queen's in hopes of becoming a back up dancer for Beyonce, or something like that.