We regularly go on trips to Montreal from Toronto to see the in-laws and with two kids boredom is inevitable for a 5-6 hour drive. We have come to realise there are a few pit stops that make it a bit bearable, despite the delays these pit stops create, they are worth it and do make the journey as fun if not more than the destination.
These stops have become tradition now and something is a miss if we don’t do them. Typically we do 3 stops each way, plus maybe one additional for the “ONRoute” gas station stops to fill up for a total of 4, the last one though is usually a quick one. Just be aware of the radars, hidden cop cars (especially on holidays) and the confusing road works – at the time of writing this, work sin Kingston and Montreal were a complete but unavoidable nuisance.
Make sure you avoid the Toronto (GTA) rush hour in both directions at all costs, this adds at least 1 to 2 hours of unbearable stop and go, and with kids that will feel like a lifetime. These are accessible all year long, if you are going in the summer, Upper Canada Village is an option, but you’ll need a good few hours there to enjoy.
- Big Apple (262 Orchard Rd, Colborne, ON K0K 1S0)
- About halfway to Kingston
- A delicious bakery with lots of apple pies, apple breads and sweets
- Lots of artisan products and foods
- Great pit stop for bathrooms and to stretch your legs
- In the Summer has some play area and mini golf
- An authentic tourist trap, but a delicious one
- Wilton cheese Factory (287 Simmons Rd, Odessa, ON K0H 2H0)
- A quick 10 min. detour from Kingston north
- Delicious variety of cheese
- Small village, short but nice drive to it from the highway (especially in winter and fall)
- If you go the right time and you have kids, they may allow them to see the actual factory
- Got some nice sweets and treats for the kids
- Sampling of cheese
- Gananoque Town
- Stop in this little town and have a quick break/coffee at Laverne’s Eatery
- You can stretch at nearby confederation park before you head on your last stretch to Montreal after Kingston OR after your break drive along the 1000 Island Pkway and connect up to the 401 at Cliffe Road, stop once or twice on that route for a couple of photo ops
Coming back West
- Cornwall or Selton
- Stop by the Truffle Burger Bar or Schnitzel across the street for a delicious and affordable bites and have a pit stop break in Cornwall square (5 min walk from both restaurants).
- Alternatively if you want to by-pass Cornwall, cause it’s too close to Montreal, make your way after Brockville to Selton. If you are up for it, go to the 1000 Island Tower (716 Highway 137 Hill Island, Lansdowne, ON K0E 1L0) to get incredible views all year long near, there is an ice cream store there as well.
- Promise Land Family Fun Farm (640 Hamilton Rd, Belleville, ON K8N 4Z5)
- Pet some Alpacas and other great animals (and feed them as well.
- Great place to keep the young ones busy while you take a bathroom break and pit stop to stretch out those muscles.
- Will be the highlight of your kids journey, trust me!
- Can grab a bite to eat nearby.
- Reptilia Whitby OR Oshawa Botanical Gardens
- Fun for the little guys, you’ll learn to love them too – the Reptilia Whitby (1400 Victoria St E, Whitby, ON L1N 0M2) is close to the highway and is a nice quick win to keep their minds off of the mad busy GTA rush their about to head into on the 401. It’s enclosed so a good winter indoor option.
- Alternatively try the Oshawa Botanical Gardens (155 Arena St, Oshawa, ON L1J 4E8), it’s open all year round and is a great calming experience before you head back to the routine in the longer term, and the Toronto-401-stretch bloodbath in the shorter term.
If you want to make more pit stop there are a few other places you can use, these ones are equidistant form each other more or less dividing the drive to about 1.5 to 2 hours each. Let me know if you want more ideas or if you have some other great hidden gems.