Ontario Southern Route (#7, #12, and #400), Trans-Canada Highway 🍁
What to See and Do on Ontario’s Southern Route
This route passest three popular waterways: the Rideau Canal, The Trent-Sewvern Waterway, and Georgian Bay. Highway 7 west of Ottawa passes by the richly historic Rideau Lakes and then just south of the Halliburton Highlands and Kawartha Lakes. The Trent-Severn has stunningly engineered locks as it drops to the rugged glacier-scoured Georgian Bay coastline.
Ontario’s Southern Route Overview
The Trans Canada Highway has a Southern Route through Ontario, that comes close to (but never touches) Toronto, and reconnects tot he main route of the Trans-Canada Highway at Ottawain the east and Sudbury in the north. The southern route follows Highway 7 between Peterboroughand Ottawa, Highway 12 from Peterboroughto just west of Lindsay (now part of the municipality of Kawartha Lakes), and then swtiches to Highway 12 north through Beaverton to Orilliaand then Coldwater. At that point it joins Highway 400 to Parry Sound (Highway 400 connects southward to-from Toronto and York Region). The stretch between Coldwater and Parry Sound runs between the thusands of scenic islands in Georgian Bay and the glacier-scoured lakes of the Muskoka Region. From Parry Sound the route continues north up to Sudbury, though the province of Ontario is working to twin the Parry Sound – Sudburysegment of Highway 69, at which point, it will be re-designated Highway 400 the whole way from Toronto to Sudbury.
Cottage Country and Lakes
This Southern Route takes the Trans-Canada close to Toronto (but NOT to or through Toronto). It starts at Ottawa, takes the #7 west through the Rideau Lakes cottage country and by the Rideau Canal around Perth. Continue west through rugged Canadian Shield country dotted with small lakes, and then you approach the Kawartha Lakes around Peterboroughand Lindsaywhich lie on the lower Trent-Severn Waterway as it sclimbs up to Lake Simcoe. The Southern Route then heads northwest on Highway 12 to Beaverton, and runs along the eastern Lake Simcoe portion of the Trent-Severn Canal route into Orillia.
Rugged Georgian Bay & Muskoka
From there, head along Highway 12 (which continues connecting to Highway 400 north from Coldwateron the shore of Georgian Bay, with a host of resort communities (Wasaga Beach, Collingwood on the southen shore of the Bay, and Midland, Penetanguishene, and Port Severn. The Southern Route then runs past the Muskoka Lakes tourist area to the highway’s east and the Island Country of Georgian Bay to the highway’s west. Highway 400 passes Parry Sound, crosses the French River (the unofficial boundary between northern and southern Ontario) before reaching Sudbury. This Southern Route of the Trans-Canada is 676 kilometres long.
Making the Southern Route a Stand-Alone Vacation
As much as Google Maps says “it can be driven in 8 hours”, in reality for a vacationer, this detour can be a week of sightseeing. Start in Ottawa
Day 7:Sudburyarea (there is a Group of Seven Tour to see the area’s most-painted scenery)
From there, you can loop back along the Main Trans-Canada Route along Highway #17 (Sudbury-Mattawa and Mattawa-Ottawa) back to Ottawa, where a visitor can spend from 2 to 5 days just taking in the city’s history, culture, national museums, local museums, waterways, and recreation paths.