The weekend is coming and you're itching to go for a drive and explore a new community's food and drink and cute little shops. But, let's face it, the price of gas is a real downer these days.

The good news is you don't need to travel far to have a great experience. There are plenty of great places to explore in the eastern part of Ontario’s Highlands, where you can enjoy the drive without worrying about needing to refuel even once.

Bust out that carefully curated playlist and hit the road to discover the best road trip destinations, close to home.

Almonte: Shop 'Til You Drop

If you like to shop at cute stores for locally-made goods, Almonte is the place to be. The exceptionally photogenic Mill Street has an array of stores to visit where you can browse for handmade trinkets, homeware, and clothing. Take a stroll down the peaceful river walk along the Mississippi River to feel your stress melt away.

A woman walks in a store.
Bring It Home:

On your way out of town be sure to stop in Almonte’s east end where you’ll find a foodie mecca. Pick up a bottle of craft vodka – aka Vodkow – at Dairy Distillery, award-winning chocolate at Hummingbird Chocolate, and a bag of freshly roasted beans from Equator Coffee Roasters for later.

Arnprior: Walk Among Giants

Did you know that Arnprior is home to Ontario’s tallest tree? Pack your hiking boots and hit the trails at Gillies Grove to find the 47-metre eastern white pine situated in one of the province’s last old-growth forests. Keep the heart pumping by extending your hike at the Macnamara Trail across town.

Bring It Home:

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, visit Mighty Fine Bakehouse & Café to find what pastries, breads, and take-home meals they’re cooking up. Or call ahead to order takeout from Krave Bistro and don’t feel ashamed if you decide to park your car and dig in.

Carleton Place: Classic and Cute

While in Carleton Place, start with a stroll down the scenic Bridge Street. Pop into shops like The Queens Crafters and Antique Market, the Granary, and the Real Wool Shop at the far end of the street. If you’ve come prepared for a long walk, stretch your legs on the Mississippi Riverwalk Trail too.

A streetscape in Carleton Place.
Bring It Home:

Before departing, grab some delectable Polish favourites to go at the new Bistro Polo or lunch and a treat from Taste Blooms.

Pembroke: Artistic Flair

Take a drive out to Pembroke, a sweet little city on the Ottawa River. Bundle up and depart on an outdoor art crawl, snapping photos of the dozens of heritage murals adorning the sides of buildings as you go. Mask up and step inside the shops on the main street that catch your eye.

Bring It Home:

We wish you luck in choosing where to get takeout 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, and Janna and Kerry’s...see what we mean?

Perth: Foodie Favourite

Pencil in a visit to picture-perfect Perth, another Lanark County gem. Start by treating yourself to a rich hot chocolate from Perth Chocolate Works and walk over to Stewart Park to feel like a movie star on a manicured set as you cross the classic red arched bridge.

Bring It Home:

There are a lot of things that Perth does well but the craft alcohol scene in town is one of the most notable. Hit up Top Shelf Distillers for a variety of spirits including flavoured moonshines and cocktail kits, or bring back a few beers from local breweries Perth Brewery and Laketown Beer Co. Pair it with an art kit from Art & Class Studio and you can make your own paint night at home.

Smiths Falls: Photo Opps

Smiths Falls is a lovely little town and a favourite among photographers. Wander along the Heritage Trail which follows the Rideau River as it cuts through town. Look for the iconic lock stations and the decommissioned Bascule Bridge, now designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Bring It Home:

We highly recommend a visit to The Pickled Pig where you pick up one of their “Share-Cuterie” for a different take on a charcuterie board.