Come Wander
Main Street in Carleton Place

The weekend is here. You’ve got a full tank of gas, an itching to get out of the city, and a friend or two to tag along. The makings are there for a spontaneous day trip, but where will you go? There are so many great places to explore within a few hours from Ottawa, where you can enjoy both the drive and the destination. Bust out that carefully curated playlist and hit the road to discover the best spontaneous road trip destinations near Ottawa.

Carleton Place – 35 minutes

The Lanark County town closest to Ottawa, and therefore the shortest of drives, is Carleton Place. Whatever you do, make sure you come hungry. Fill your belly at any of the exceptional restaurants in town, like the artfully decorated Smith & Barrel, brunch hotspots Freska and the Good Food Company, or casual fine dining spots Black Tartan Kitchen and Boulton House.

Walk around town to burn off lunch, or see if you can get a lane at Chasin’ Turkeys, a five-pin bowling alley right on Bridge Street. Before you head out, considering visiting one of the two breweries in town – Braumeister or Stalwart – to pick up some goodies for home.

Mississippi Mills – 45 minutes

Mississippi Mills is made up of several communities, including Almonte and Pakenham. Start in Almonte with a walk down the peaceful Riverwalk along the Mississippi River. Wander through Sivarulrasa Gallery, or hit the shops in search of housewares from Pêches et Poivres, unique gifts from Cheerfully Made, trendy clothing from Doree’s Habit, or a good read from Mill Street Books.

Is your stomach growling yet? Your next challenge is to select from the plethora of dining choices in Almonte, including Heirloom Café, Mill Street Crepe Company, and Café Postino, to name a few. Fuel up before you hit the road with a coffee from Gaslight Café or Equator Coffee Roasters before heading north to Pakenham to visit the Five Span Bridge.

Perth – 1 hour

Take a jaunt down Highway 7 to Perth, a picture-perfect town just about an hour from Ottawa. You’ll feel like you’re in a movie when you walk over the classic red bridge in Stewart Park, or sit in the courtyard of the historic Code’s Mill on the Park, sipping a rich hot chocolate from Perth Chocolate Works. Call ahead to Art & Class studio to see if there’s room in any of their classes, or ask about a private painting class for your group.

Don’t leave Perth hungry! Fill up at Fieldhouse, O’Reilly’s Ale House, Rocky River Café, or any of the eateries that beckon. Visit Top Shelf Distillers before you go to browse the flavoured moonshines that you can’t find in the LCBO, or bring back a few beers from local breweries Perth Brewery or Weatherhead Brewing Co.

Smiths Falls – 1 hr

Smiths Falls, also about an hour from Ottawa, is a nice place to get away from the busy city, slow your pace, and just wander. Hungry? Start with “the sandwich of your dreams” at the Pickled Pig, or have a seat at Axe and Arrow Gastro Pub, or Chuckles Jack. Do yourself a favour and save room for dessert at C’est Tout Bakery.

If the weather’s nice, wander down by the locks of the Rideau Canal, a manmade waterway that connects Ottawa and Kingston. See if any movies, concerts, or plays are on at the Station Theatre, a former CPR Railway Station that was converted in 2010.

Calabogie/Burnstown – 1 hr 15

If you like road trips that include a solid hike, meander down the 417 to Calabogie and Burnstown. Head to Calabogie first to work up an appetite hiking to Eagle’s Nest Lookout. You can park your car along Highway 508 and take an easy 30-minute walk to the lookout spot, or start from one of the trailheads on Barrett Chute Road just past Calabogie Peaks Resort for a longer hike.

When you’re ready to refuel, grab lunch at Calabogie Brewing Co or Redneck Bistro in Calabogie, or drive a few minutes down the road for woodfired pizza at Neat Café in Burnstown. If you’re lucky they may have a concert on that night – and if you’re extra lucky, there might still be tickets available!

Pembroke – 1hr 45

It’s a little further than the others but well worth the drive, still clocking in less than two hours from Ottawa. Take a drive out to Pembroke, a small city on the Ottawa River that’s as cute as it gets. Visit the shops on the main street like Pick-it Fence and Local, snapping photos of the dozens of heritage murals adorning the sides of buildings as you go. Call ahead to reserve your spot for afternoon tea, served Saturdays and Sundays at the historic Grey Gables Inn.

We wish you luck in choosing where to eat in Pembroke, but the good news is you’re bound to be pleased with any selection. There’s Ullrich’s, a crowd-pleasing deli, The Nook Creperie, Janna and Kerry’s, Blendz Smoothie Shop… See what we mean?

Stories

Winter is calling…

If you can’t beat winter, join it with an epic dog sledding excursion through some of the most beautiful forests in Ontario.

Shine at Giving this Holiday Season

Today’s craft markets are full of fresh, hip products made by creative and talented makers. This holiday season, go above and beyond by picking up handmade items with a story to tell at one of these Ontario holiday markets.

Discover Historic Accommodations in Ontario

Spend the night in historic accommodations to take yourself to way-back-when, and get into the spirit of the community you’re visiting. These inns have stories to tell of the people who lived and breathed inside their walls.

Cider Season

Find these cideries on your next road trip through Ontario’s Highlands to discover a refreshing way to toast the apple harvest with a cold cider.

An Ode to Poutine

Discover these chip trucks and their classic dishes, located throughout Ontario’s Highlands.

The Great Pizza-Off

Chow down on artisan wood-fired pizza at any of these gems across Ontario’s Highlands.

Before the Lake Wakes

Wake up lakeside with a steaming cup of coffee from a roastery in Ontario’s Highlands.

A Delicious Day Trip

Sip & Savour your way through the best food and drink spots in Lanark County.

The Perfect Scoop

Discover these top ice cream stops across Ontario’s Highlands to keep cool this summer on your road trip.

Exhale and Unwind

Experience a slice of farm life at Dwyer’s Farmhouse in the Ottawa Valley.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Discover these top ways to enjoy the strawberry season, when you let these farm-fresh berries shine on their own or in a variety of treats.

Farm Fresh Finds

Indulge your taste buds this summer with these 5 local finds at Farmers Markets through Ontario’s Highlands.

Pause for Pi Day

Celebrate PI Day with the best pie at these bakeries in Ontario’s Highlands.

Winter Jams

Warm up your winter with good music and good food, together, at the Sharbot Inn & Crossing Pub, in Sharbot Lake, Ontario.

Valentine’s Day Treats

Treat that special someone this Valentine’s Day to a gift of sweets at one of these top places.

Moo-ve Over, Vodka

Discover Vodkow, the new beverage from the Dairy Distillery causing a stir in Almonte, Ontario.

The Best Baked Goods

Discover some of the best bakeries in Ontario’s Highlands and their tasty treats.

A Day in Ormsby

Discover why Ormsby Ontario is worth exploring on your next road trip.

A is for Apples

Meeting cider kings and discovering great things in Hastings County.

Concerts with a Community

In September each year, the spirit of community comes alive all across Ontario’s Highlands when the Festival of Small Halls rolls in.

Roam If You Want To

Follow along with Chris from Travelling Mitch as he wanders through Haliburton Highlands and Hastings County on the Rustic Roamer Road Trip.

Ground to Glass

Discover how four craft drink makers harness Mother Nature’s flavours to elevate their beverages in Ontario’s Highlands.

5 Senses of Nature

Leave the city behind and immerse yourself in the natural charm of Ontario’s Highlands.

Where Am I?

Devour an Ottawa Valley tradition and feel your taste buds rejoice with Wes’ Chips in Arnprior.

Where Am I?

Discover the big things happening in the small towns along the Rideau Canal.

Top 4 Summer Treats

Top 4 summer treats that are worth the stop on your next Ontario’s Highlands road trip.

The Rustic Roamer

I’m a Rustic Roamer. I wander to discover authentic moments, to embrace the spirit of locals, and to understand the stories of the communities and countryside that I visit.

Where Am I

Explore the sweet moments and ageless beauty of Perth, Ontario.

Maple Mania

Discover one writer’s quest to discover what makes Lanark County so sweet with Maple Mania.

Life is a Highway

Two wanderers explore 135 kilometres of hidden gems in Hastings County.

The Ultimate City Escape

Explore these three ways to escape the city, slow down, and absorb rural life in Ontario’s Highlands.

My Hometown: Haliburton

After years of travel, read the story of why Emily returned to Haliburton to officially call it her home.

Journal of a Foodie

Take a journey through Ontario’s Highlands on a road trip that will satisfy your inner foodie.

Summer Brews

Take a trip around Ontario’s Highlands to these micro-breweries to discover your perfect summer beer.

A Different Kind of Detour

Take the road less traveled through Ontario’s Highlands to these unique festivals that are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Good Food, Great Company

The Good Food Tour, a delectable walking tour in Almonte the showcases a story and the local flavours.