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Anyone who has explored Toronto’s lakefront district should be familiar with Front Street. This is the original east-west road along Lake Ontario as it existed when the British settled the area. Although the modern shoreline has grown by 800 metres, Front Street offers a neat look at where the original shoreline of Lake Ontario once was. Today, Front Street is home to some of Toronto’s top attractions, like the CN Tower and Union Station. As part of the city’s huge waterfront development plan, Front Street is a short walk from countless recreational paths, parks, public squares and natural areas. Traffic flows smoothly here, making it easy for visitors with a car rental to move along the lake and into the outskirts of the city.
Who to Book With
Front Street is a key thoroughfare in Toronto, so several major car hire chains have opened offices along the street. Some of them, like Thrifty, have branches right at Union Station train depot, while others are located next to key commercial spots like Simcoe Place. Toronto is one city that never seems to slow down so it’s a good idea to book a rental online as early as possible.
Best Time to Go
Toronto is a genuine four-season city, and most residents argue that autumn is its finest moment. Between September and early November, this place is nearly perfect, but just around the corner is the cold, snowy Canadian winter, which is made somewhat brighter by a slew of festivals. Summer is also a busy festival season, but the weather tends to be hot and humid. Good deals on rentals for shoulder season travel can often be found online but you need to book early.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting your car rental, the following documents are usually required:
- An International Driving Permit or a UK driver’s licence
- A second piece of photo identification, such as a passport
- The credit card that was used for the online booking
- A printed out copy of the rental booking confirmation
Toronto is pretty spread out so a car can prove useful, even when driving within the city limits. Visitors have plenty of obstacles in the downtown core around Front Street, like streetcars, pedestrians, cyclists and road construction. Parking on the streets downtown is elusive and the meter police are quick to hand out tickets for tardiness. Stick with the expensive, but prolific, parking lots that are better for long stays.
Our Guide to Canada contains more detailed driving information.
Toronto has an efficient and clean network of streetcars, buses, subways and light rail trains that service the entire metropolitan area. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) handles the whole integrated system, with cost-effective day passes for unlimited travel available for £6 per adult. It is totally feasible to get around Toronto without a car, but having your own set of wheels is far more convenient for excursions into the nature-studded countryside surrounding the city.
Toronto’s subway and light rail trains are part of the same system, so it’s easy to transfer from one form to the other with the same ticket. A single trip costs £2, or you can buy a set of five ride tokens for £8. Three subway lines cover a lot of underground in all directions from the city centre to the lakefront on Front Street. The light rail line extends this coverage from downtown to the Harbourfront district, intersecting the subway at Front Street’s Union Station. The city’s beautiful 1927 Union Station is also where long-distance trains arrive from both Canada and America.
The streetcars are one of the most unique aspects of Toronto’s public transportation network. They move along the city’s major downtown thoroughfares like Queen Street and Bathurst, and are worth a ride even if it’s just for fun. Your streetcar fare can be transferred to the subway or light rail. Toronto’s GO Transit buses have an extensive web of routes but are mainly geared towards locals commuting to work. Fares are the same for all public transport, but you must have the exact change if you don’t purchase tokens ahead of time.
It’s rarely hard to find a taxi trolling the streets of downtown Toronto, but fares here are among the most expensive in North America. It costs £2.50 to get into a cab, then £0.50 for every 1,000 feet of travel thereafter. Taxis typically queue up in front of the big hotels or can be hailed on the street. All of the local companies like Crown Taxi can also be called for a quick pick up at any time of day or night.
Complementing the wonderful ethnic patchwork of Toronto’s neighbourhoods is a countryside filled with natural wonders and nifty little rural towns. The great Niagara Falls are just a short drive away, while northern Ontario offers countless charming little lake towns where locals keep summer cottages. From summer through autumn, the driving around Toronto is superb.
Niagara Falls – These thundering waterfalls that straddle the border of America and Canada are a wonder of our planet. In just over an hour you can drive from Toronto to the quaint town of Niagara on the Lake, do some vineyard hopping or stop at one of the many awe-inspiring vantage points of the falls themselves.
Muskoka – This rolling forested area covers most of Ontario north of Toronto. It’s where many people keep a summer lake cottage on the many thousands of little bodies of water in the region. The southern edge of Muskoka can be reached by relaxing country roads in just over an hour, ensuring plenty of daytrip driving loops and small town stopovers.
Mennonite Country – Head to the west of Toronto and the landscape quickly turns into rolling rural farmland with the lively university town of Waterloo at its core. The driving in this southwestern corner of Ontario is Canada at its finest, with Lake Huron beach towns for summer fun and dozens of unique Mennonite hamlets showcasing handmade crafts and food.