Are you looking for inspiration for southwestern Ontario day trips suitable for families with teenagers? Then you are in the right place 🙂
Weekends are our best friends, especially the long ones. It’s our time to relax, explore, get away from the nonsense of the world and the grind. It’s our time to be with our kids fully present without duties and schedules. And because they grow with the speed of light, we’d better spend those weekends in the best possible way – exploring and having fun together.
Here below is a long list of awesome teenager-focused day trips to go on from London, Ontario. Almost like mini road trips, you can enjoy them from spring to fall, some places are great destination all year round. The suggested day trips mostly cover the area of southwestern Ontario and some reach further destinations, all under 3 hours of driving.
With teenagers, it’s good to keep them interested and engaged. Besides school, sports, and jobs, the busier they are with fun family activities, the less time they spend glued to screens or other non-sense.
If you are looking for ideas for day trips near London, Ontario with younger kids, here is an article focused on smaller children: BEST FAMILY DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON, ONTARIO
BEST PLACES TO GO NEAR LONDON ONTARIO WITHIN 1 HOUR
Places to visit outside London, Ontario that are less than one driving hour away are ideal. We don’t have to sit in the car for too long, so we can make the most of every minute of the day.
HISTORIC OIL FIELDS IN PETROLIA AND OIL SPRINGS
If you are looking for an interesting place to visit outside London Ontario, I suggest the Historic Oil Fields in Petrolia and Oil Springs. The area around the city of Sarnia is well-known for its oil industry. But did you know that it all started in Enniskillen Township between the villages of Oil Springs and Petrolia? In fact, in 1850, a geologist named Thomas Sterry Hunt discovered oil seeping from swampy gum beds and the area became the very first place where the oil industry started in North America. The boom ended over 100 years ago, but the fields around Oil Springs and Petrolia still produce small quantities of oil.
Thanks to their technical, scientific and historic element, teenagers will find oil fields interesting. I highly recommend you pick one of the the following dates for your visit: July 10, 2021, August 14, 2021, September 25, 2021 and October 9, 2021. On these days, there will be guided tours at 10 am and 3 pm which will hugely enrich your trip with new knowledge.
If you go: You can visit three unique and highly educational places documenting the early history of oil extraction:
- Petrolia Discovery is an open-air museum open on weekends between May and October from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is by donation. During summer season they offer tours on these dates: July 10, 2021, August 14, 2021, September 25, 2021 and October 9, 2021. All tours take place between 10 am and 3 pm.
- Oil Museum of Canada: PLEASE NOTE: THIS ATTRACTION IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS. Normally, it is open between 11 am and 4 pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as well as Thursdays between 11 am and 8:30 pm. Visitors must book their visit time slot by phone (519-834-2840) or online. The tickets cost $5/adult, $4 senior and students, $3 kids 4-12. Family tickets cost $15.
- Fairbank Oil Fields can be visited in two ways. You can do a self-drive tour or go on a 2-km hike around the property. Download the hiking trail map here.
Address: Petrolia Discovery, 4381 Discovery Line, Petrolia, Ontario
Oil Museum of Canada, 2423 Kelly Road, Oil Springs, Ontario
Fairbanks Oil Fields, 2558 Duryee Street, Oil Springs, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 60-70 minutes and approx. 110-120 km
— > Related reading: Best Coffee, Tea & Ice Cream Shops in London, Ontario
Stratford is a well-known theatre city and a great weekend trip destination for other fun things to do. Family with older kids should try out the self-guided and delicious chocolate trail. Yummy! Don’t leave Stratford without stopping by Rheo Thompson Candy Shop in Albert Street. Their Orange and Mint Smoothie chocolate squares are absolutely irresistible. While you hunt for your treats, you are getting to know the town on foot. Watch out for other great finds.
If you need a caffeine boost, check out our favourite coffee shop in Ontario Street – Balzac’s Coffee. We always enjoy a great latte, espresso, and hot chocolate with cakes in this spacious and elegant retro-styled café.
After refreshments, you can enjoy great riverside views and get some pleasant exercise by renting a paddle boat, canoe, or a kayak and spend an hour or so on the Avon River.
Another great stop is the Shakespearean Garden. It’s a beautiful and calm spot by the river with lots of benches, shade and blooming plants. The well-maintained grounds will be a pleasure to walk around.
A fun way to explore Stradford is using an audio guide via your cellphone. You can choose from several themed walking tours such as Justin Bieber Tour, Garden Tour, Art Walk, Insta-Worthy Spots Walk or the above-mentioned Chocolate Trail. More details below.
If you go:
- Chocolate Trail passes are available in the Tourist Information Centre or online here. They cost $30 + tax and you get to choose 6 of your favourite sweets’ shops from over 15 places that sell chocolate goodies.
- Boat or bike rentals from Avon Boat Rentals: In 2021, they are open daily between 9 am and 7 pm from May 1st through to October Thanksgiving weekend. Rental fees: paddle boat – $25/hr, canoe – $27/hr, kayak – $20/hr, bike – $16/hr.
- Shakespearean Gardens: Enter from Huron Street
- Balzac’s: Located at 149 Ontario Street, Stratford, they open daily from 7 am to 6 pm or till 7 pm on Fridays and weekends.
- Audio tours: Choose from a selection of free themed tours here.
Driving time from London, ON: 54 min and 62 km
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Want to go on an epic summer week-long road trip to Quebec with your teenagers? Check out this detailed 7-11-day Gaspe Peninsula Road Trip Itinerary. You can download a free 35-page pdf guide here below:
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SPEND A DAY ON A NEARBY BEACH
During hot summers, spending time near lakes is probably the most refreshing and fun leisure activity for the whole family. Check out the best beaches within one hour from London, ON. They are all rather busy in July and August. Don’t forget your goggles, fins and water toys.
Lake Huron beaches:
- PORT FRANKS
- PINERY PROVINCIAL PARK
- GRAND BEND
- CANATARA BEACH (Sarnia area)
Lake Erie beaches:
- PORT STANLEY
- PORT BRUCE
- PORT BURWELL
–> Also read: LONDON, ONTARIO: 28 BEST TRAILS FOR FAMILY WALKS
OJIBWA SUBMARINE IN PORT BURWELL
Did you know that Londoners have one of the most unique attractions right in their backyard? A Cold War submarine. One of only two full-size submarine museums in the entire Canada.
HMCS OJIBWA is one of 27 Oberon-class submarines made and used during the Cold War. They were top-class during their time. After service, most of them were sold for scrap metal and eight are preserved as museums. Canada has two Oberons you can visit. One is right here in Port Burwell and the other one, called HMCS Onondaga is in Pointe-au-Pere, near Rimouski in Quebec.
Submarines are intriguing. Why not take your teenager to see and learn something new?
Visiting the submarine and Port Burwell will take a half day. A great activity for the second half of the day is a walk around the Springwater Conservation Area. More about the trail can be found here.
If you go: Due to technical information, narrow spaces, and length of tours, only kids over 12 are allowed inside the submarine. Kids between 8 and 12 can take a tour of the outside of the submarine. Some of the submarine tours offered: Submariner Tour (adults and teenagers – $24.75, children 12+ – $14.75) or X-ray Tour (adults and teenagers – $15, seniors – $12, children 8-12 – $10). Prices include taxes.
Address: 3 Pitt Street, Port Burwell, Ontario
Driving time from London, ON: 54 min and 68 km
PINERY PROVINCIAL PARK
A great day out in nature and by the lake. Always perfect and fun. Under one hour from London, ON, you can be kayaking, cycling, BBQing, playing ball games, canoeing, and lazing out on the beach. Hike all ten hiking trails and cruise the 14-km loop cycling trail. Then have a picnic and finish the day sunbathing on one of the seven beaches for humans or two for humans and pups. Don’t forget to check out the special highlights of the park – oak savanna and coastal sand dunes.
Did you know when you buy an annual or seasonal pass this year, it will be valid for the next year as well? Great savings, in my opinion.
Address: 9526 Lakeshore Road, RR#2, Grand Bend, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 50 minutes and 70 km
–> Also read: BEST WINTER ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES IN LONDON ONTARIO
CAMBRIDGE BUTTERFLY CONSERVATORY
Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, ON is another great educational nature-focused attraction ideal for family day trip within southwestern Ontario. You’ll learn a lot about butterflies, moths and other fascinating insects. Besides bugs, the conservatory is home to over 100 different types of tropical plants. Throughout the year, they offer various fun and educational events.
If you go: You must purchase timed tickets online in advance. The tickets are issued for a precise time slot so make sure you arrive on time. They are open from 10 am to 5 pm between Tuesday and Sunday. Mondays are closed. They are also closed during three Christmas days and the first day of the new year. The tickets cost $7.50 for kids 3-12, $17 for adults and teenagers, and $12.50 for seniors over 65. Taxes are extra. You can buy timed tickets on this page.
Address: 2500 Kossuth Road, Cambridge, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 1:05 hr and 106 km
–> Check out this article about VIRTUAL TOUR OF LONDON ONTARIO
BEST DAY TRIPS WITHIN 2 HOURS FROM LONDON
Niagara Falls and the immediate area come to our mind when we think of the Niagara Peninsula. But there is another breathtaking attraction in the shadow of the Falls. Welland Canal, the engineering wonder of the past century. And if you haven’t been there yet, start making plans, it’s a stunning sight.
Welland Canal project has started 200 years ago to facilitate trade in the Great Lakes area. The canal has undergone four major remakes and updates and now it is a part of the greatest continental waterway in the world – the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes Seaway. The seaway connects the Atlantic Ocean with Lake Superior and covers over 3700 km (2300 miles).
Did you know that a ship spends a total of 17 hours in locks if it travels from Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean?
Welland Canal was built to by-pass the Niagara Falls and to lift enormous cargo ships across the Niagara Escarpment. Over 3000 ships can pass through the canal annually.
Did you know that for ships to go from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie or vice versa they must be lifted 99.5 metres (326 feet) up or down the Niagara Escarpment? Ships go through a system of eight locks in the 43-km-long Welland Canal that connects both lakes.
Between April and December, colossal freight ships transit through the canal and you can get extremely close to see it. You have a chance to get so close to a ship in the lock that you can almost have an eye-level conversation with a sailor on the board.
Did you know Welland Canal is empty between January and March? Every year in winter, they empty the canal to check up the structures and do any repairs or regular maintenance.
The best place to get the close-up view of the passing ships from around the world is at the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre at Lock 3. There is a museum, elevated observation platform, indoor viewing lounge as well as picnic area with playground. This is also the best place to see ‘ships climb the mountain’ which means they are moving up the escarpment between the Locks 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Another great spot to admire massive vessels in narrow locks is from the viewing deck of the Lock 7 Viewing Centre in Thorold.
Insider tip: Before you come, check out the ‘Daily Ship Schedules’ to ensure you are at the viewing platform when a ship passes through the locks. You can call the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre directly (905-984-8880), or see the schedule on their FB page or Twitter account. You can also get this information via this Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Vessel Transit Information page.
What else to do along the Welland Canal?
Bring a bike! The Welland Canal Parkway Trail between St. Catharines and Port Colborne is an awesome walking and cycling pathway that traces the canal. It’s 42 km long but you don’t have to bike the whole length. Do as much as you feel. The trail traces the Welland Canal, so you’ll have more opportunities to view passing ships. The trail is rated as easy to intermediate with 95% of it being off-road which is perfect for families with children and beginner cyclists. The terrain is mostly flat, except the hill up the escarpment and another steep spot further down the trail in addition to some bridges. The surface is paved with sandy areas. The trail is well-maintained with good signage, many parking areas, food and water vendors nearby.
If you go:
• St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre at Lock 3: Observation deck is free to use. Located at 1932 Welland Canals Parkway (at Lock 3), St. Catharines, Ontario. Daily between 9 am to 5 pm apart from Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.
• Lock 7 Viewing Centre: Open Daily from May to October. Located at 50 Chapel Street South, Thorold
Driving time from London, ON: 1:50 hours and 188 km
–> You might also like to read: LONDON HARVEST FESTIVAL AND POW WOW
POINT PELEE NATIONAL PARK
OPEN IN 2021.
A day trip to the Point Pelee National Park is simply a must-do. It’s the closest national park to London and it’s also special because it’s the southernmost place (together with the Pelee Island) in Canada. The park has tons of cycling and hiking trails, long beaches, picnic areas, and canoe routes.
If you come here more than once a year, you’ll notice the tip of the land changes its shape and position thanks to the lake currents. Make sure you walk the 1-km Marsh Boardwalk loop trail. Or rent a canoe and paddle around the wildlife-rich ponds. Don’t forget your picnic basket, hiking shoes, canoe/kayak, or a bike.
The park is also a Monarch butterfly sanctuary. Come between late August and mid-October to see them migrate through the park.
If you go: Point Pelee NP is open daily from 6 am to 10 pm. If you live close, it’s convenient to buy an annual pass. Otherwise, the day passes cost $7.90 for adults, $6.90 for seniors, and $16 for a family arriving in one car. Kids and teenagers are free.
Address: 1118 Point Pelee Drive, Leamington, Ontario
Travel time from London, ON: 1:53 hr and 173 km
–> Also read: THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN LONDON ONTARIO DURING SUMMER
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I hope I inspired you to visit some new places you haven’t seen before. I update this article to reflect seasonal updates and changes with new attractions added regularly. Let me know what’s your favourite place 🙂
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