On our website, we get countless emails from people in the Toronto area who ask us about the highway, mis-guidedly assuming the Trans-Canada goes through Toronto. This mistaken impression was further fed by an inaccurate 1989 National Geographic book on the topic which included a photo of the CN Tower in its Ontario chapter, though it is not visible from any point along the highway (and vice-vera). For them, we provide this backgrounder for Southern Ontarians.
The Trans-Canada in Ontario follows three routes:
he Northern Route which moves from Thunder Bay to Nipigon and arcing northwards through the parovince's mining communities including Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Kirkland Lake, and Cobalt. In Ontario this route returns to the southern part of the province at North Bay (and continues to Toronto, though not as part of the Trans-Canada). In Quebec the highway continues eastward from Kirkland Lake as #117 through the communities of Noranda and Val d'Or before moving south to Montreal.
The Central Route, described earlier, traverses from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste Marie and following the voyageur route through Sudbury, North Bay, Mattawa and Ottawa down to Montreal.
The Southern Route curves south from Sudbury along Highway 69 along the eastern shore of Georgian Bay through Parry Sound to Orillia. It then switches to Highway 12 along the Trent-Severn Waterway to Peterborough, switching again to the #7 which cuts eastward toward Ottawa, where it rejoins the main Trans-Canada route eastward toward Montreal.
The closest the Southern route gets to Toronto is at a point southeast of Lake Simcoe which is 88 km from Toronto's eastern boundary, via Oshawa. Interestingly, highway 7 is also an excellent alternative route with similar driving time.
If you are heading west, toward the Rockies and Vancouver, you will need to get from Toronto to Sudbury, where you can connect to the main Trans-Canada route. From Toronto you take Highway 400 north to Barrie and Orillia (here the #11 continues north to North Bay and beyond) and continues north to Parry Sound to Sudbury. Along the way the 4-lane divided highway a 2-lane (undivided) highway which is designated Highway 69. Highway 69 is being upgraded into a 4-lane divided highway to make it easier for Torontonians and truckers to connect to the rest of the country. The Ontario government is twinning the northern stretches and has now proceeded as far north as the Parry Sound area. As the highway stretches are upgraded they become re-designated as part of Highway 400.
If you want to take a more leisurely route, you can head west from Barrie along route 26 along the southern shore of Georgian Bay and then Route 6 up the Bruce Peninsula, catching the Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. This island is not only the largest island in a freshwater lake in the world, but it also has the largest lake on an island inside a lake in the world, too! From South Baymouth, you head north to Espanola (66 km west of Sudbury) to connect to the Trans-Canada. This detour is also the one recommended by the Canadian cycling association for those bicycling across the country in order to bypass the route favoured by truckers.
Routes between Toronto and the Trans-Canada (provided by our sister web site TransCanadaHighway.com).
Heading east is no big challenge since the 401 was built back in the 1960s. This fast and pretty well straight-as-an-arrow route lets you drive along the northern shore of Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence Seaway, though getting glimpses of either only occasionally.
The 401 is named the Macdonald Cartier Freeway for two great Canadians, one from Ontario and one from Quebec. The highway has service stations are restaurants right on the highway, so you never have to leave the 401 for any reason. As you head east of Tornto you pass through a number of communities hugging Lake Ontario's shoreline, the largest being Oshawa, Trenton, and Belleville, and at the eastern edn of Lake Ontario is Kingston, where the Lake empties into the St Lwarence River and the St Lawrence Seaway. A pit stop in Kingston to see this charming city, and historic Old Fort Henry, is definitely worth the detour.
When you reach Quebec, the route becomes #20 which and continues along the north shore of the St Lawrence to Montreal, and further east to Trois Riviere and Quebec City. In Montreal the #20 and connects with the #40 from Ottawa, which continues along the southern shore of the St. Lawrence as the Trans-Canada Highway.
There is a new #30 southern AutoRoute Toll Bypass around Montreal, opened in late 2012, that connects to Highway 401 from Toronto and Highway 417 from Ottawa, and continues along the south shore to connect to AutoRoute 20 to Quebec City and points east. This bypass has a modest toll, and can save both frustration and time driving through the Island of Montreal, if your are skipping Monttreal on one leg of your Trans-Canada Highway trip.
For those cycling across the country from Toronto, you is illegal to use any for of the 400-series routes. Instead, for example, you should take Highway 2 (the King's Highway) which connects all of the cities and towns along Lake Ontario. This was the road used before the 401, and winds nicely close to the water, with better views of the Lake and the St Lawrence than are provided from the 401. You also drive through the towns, which is handy for food, accommodation and repairs along the way.
Our scope does not permit us to include a "Visiting Toronto" section, especially since the city is not even on the Trans-Canada. The instructions we include here for getting from Toronto to the highway may also be used by others to detour off the Trans-Canada through Toronto.