Cruising down an Ontario’s Highlands’ highway in fall is mesmerizing…the vibrant colours of the forest in fall draw you forward along stunning winding, tree-lined roads.

This autumn road trip will take you from rugged Canadian Shield to thick forests and lush pastoral terrain. Be prepared to hike to scenic views, indulge in rich, warm-you-up foods, and inspirational art.

2 Nights, 3 Days of Food, Art, and Stellar Autumn Views

Start Here: Sharbot Lake

At only an hour-and-a-half from Ottawa, Sharbot Lake is the perfect place to begin your trip. Expect to pass through beautiful scenery as you travel through this rugged Canadian Shield terrain. Plan your arrival in Sharbot Lake early enough to explore and maybe take a hike or paddle.

  • Perk up your morning with a coffee to go from Cardinal Café + Shop, or indulge in one of their delicious breakfast sandwiches.
  • Explore the K&P Trail as it crosses through Sharbot Lake by bike or on foot.
  • Bring a chair or blanket and get settled on the beach to watch the shoreline crowded with colourful trees.
  • Rent a canoe from Sharbot Lake Provincial Park and explore Sharbot Lake by boat.
  • Hike the Ridgeview Trail in Sharbot Lake Provincial Park to the top of the ridge for a spectacular view of Sharbot Lake in fall.
Sharbot Lake
Frontenac County
From Toronto: 290km • 3 hr 20 min From Ottawa: 120km • 1 hr 35 min

Time Spent Here: Plan on three-to-four hours here. You will want to be on your way shortly after noon in order to reach Perth in time to explore at your leisure.

Next Stop: Perth

The drive from Sharbot Lake to Perth takes you down Highway 7. As you travel you will be treated to fall scenery of Canadian Shield that slowly transitions to more pastoral views as you near Perth. If you see a sideroad that’s especially pretty, don’t be afraid to take a detour to bask in the fall splendour.

Lanark County
From Toronto: 320km • 4 hr From Ottawa: 85km • 1 hr 10 min

Perth is known as one of Ontario's prettiest towns, and once you visit you won't want to leave.  As a town older than Canada itself, it boosts over 100 designated heritage buildings, with boutique shops, specialty stores, and restaurants to suit your tastes.  Rent a canoe and explore Perth from water on the beautiful Tay Canal.

Time Spent Here: You could spend the whole day in Perth but try to keep your activities to four-to-five hours to keep on schedule.

Next Stop: Carleton Place

The 20-minute drive from Perth to Carleton Place continues your journey on Highway 7. A stop in Carleton Place should put you around dinner time and there are lots of dining options to choose from here, many of which overlook the mighty Mississippi River as it courses through town.

Carleton Place
Lanark County
From Toronto: 360km • 4 hr 30 min From Ottawa: 53km • 50 min

Park the car and still explore Carleton Place!  The Chamber of Commerce rents out bikes from its downtown office for $5 a day.  Call ahead and reserve to make sure one is available, and grab the free local cycling map to guide your trip.

Time Spent Here:

End Your Day: Almonte Riverside Inn

If you’re feeling a wee bit tired from all the activity you will be ready to be pampered at the luxurious historic Riverside Inn. Located on the Mississippi River in the heart of Almonte you won’t run out of fabulous scenery.

Start Here: Almonte Riverside Inn

A breakfast of champions will fuel the day ahead. Take your time enjoying the ambiance of the inn before venturing out for your day.

Next Stop: Almonte

Before leaving Almonte you will want to see a little bit of this vibrant and arts-centred community.

Lanark County
From Toronto: 360km • 4 hr 30 min From Ottawa: 52km • 50 min

Dr. James Naismith, the founder of basketball, was born in Almonte, where the original homestead still stands today.  Visit the Dr. James Naismith memorial statue on Mill Street, and get your picture taken with this Canadian legend.

Time Spent Here: You have a lot on the agenda for Day Two so keep that in mind when exploring Almonte. It’s such a fun town it’s easy for a quick visit to turn into an all-day affair!

Next Stop: Calabogie

The drive from Almonte to Calabogie will be one of the most beautiful of your trip. Plan your route to take you through Blakeney and Pakenham to keep the Mississippi River front and centre in your travels. The fall foliage through here will be spectacular.

  • Take the ski lift to the top of Calabogie Peaks for stunning scenery of the Ottawa Valley in Autumn. The fall colours chair lift runs weekends in October; tickets are required.
  • Lunch in the valley is not something you want to miss. Stop in at Redneck Bistro or On the Rocks right in the heart of Calabogie for an amazing meal.
  • For maximum fall colours, hike the nine-kilometre Manitou Mountain trail to find inspiring autumn vistas like Eagles Nest, Manitou Mountain and Red Arrow Rock.
Ottawa Valley
From Toronto: 372km • 4 hr 40 min From Ottawa: 102km • 1 hr 15 min

Referred to as 'the funnest small town in Canada' by CBC's comedy series, Still Standing, Calabogie more than lives up to the name.  From indoor activities like restaurant hopping, to outdoor adventure in watersports, backwoods play, and skiing Ontario's vertical drop at Calabogie Peaks, there's plenty of fun to be had at this outdoor paradise.

Time Spent Here: Calabogie is another spot that will draw you in for the entire day. Plan to be on your way with enough time for a couple more stops before you reach your accommodation in Pembroke.

Next Stop: Pembroke

Head north from Calabogie to reach Pembroke to head deeper into the valley. This route runs parallel to the majestic Ottawa River for most of the trip and the fall scenery will be stellar. Don’t be shy about stopping at one of the small towns you’ll pass along the way, like Burnstown, Arnprior, Renfrew, or Cobden. As beautiful as these are, Pembroke will exceed your expectations.

  • The Courtyard Bistro is a must-visit. Their unique Bistro Burger with garlic aioli is a must try.
  • Take a walk along the tree-lined waterfront trail that begins in Pembroke Waterfront Park and watch the setting sun over the Ottawa River turn the treeline into a blaze of colour.
  • Take a step back in time at the Champlain Trail Museum and Pioneer Village. Don’t miss the "The Pioneers of Pembroke Township 1820-1850" mural on the side of the museum
  • Pembroke is renowned for its stunning murals that celebrate the heritage and character of the region. Download a map and set off on a self-guided tour.
  • Autumn cocktails beg for some craft spirits. Sample valley moonshine (including a mocha moonshine!) and whisky, vodka and gin at O’Kenny Craft Spirits.
Ottawa Valley
From Toronto: 387km • 4 hr 50 min From Ottawa: 145km • 1 hr 45 min

Stroll the Pembroke's downtown and take in 30 historic murals celebrating the history and character of the city, from steam engines to logging.  Pembroke has more murals than almost any city in Canada.

Time Spent Here: You will likely only have a couple of hours before you'll want to be back at the inn to get settled in before bed so make the most of it!

End Your Day: Grey Gables Inn

If you didn’t already get supper along your route you can also dine in the on-site restaurant at Grey Gables Inn. This historic inn is not only beautiful and luxurious it’s also just a hop skip and a jump from downtown. Perched on a hill you may also get some good views of the city in fall.

Start Here: Grey Gables Inn

Waken refreshed from your sleep in one of the heritage rooms at the inn. Explore the inn’s amenities before heading down for a hearty breakfast.

    • Enjoy breakfast in the dining room at the inn -the portions here are big enough to fuel you for most of the day ahead.
    • If you missed some things on the “to do” list for Pembroke from the day before, now is the time to add them back into your itinerary!

    Time Spent Here: This is your last stop on your trip so feel free to take as long as you want to explore Pembroke!