“Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn…” Village People word association aside; chances are you’ve summered at a motor inn growing up. Motels began to bloom in the mid 1920s along with the progression of car travel. They’re easy to identify: those one- or two-storey buildings with end to end walkways doubling as porches, which look onto a courtyard (maybe a pool if you’re lucky) or parking lot. As highway construction expanded into across the continent in the 1940s and 1950s, so did the number of motels.
It’s easy to get excited about overnighting at the fancy inns and resorts across Ontario, but there are some definite stop-worthy roadside and off-the-beaten-path motor inns for lodging and lounging purposes. We’re not talking about the no-tell motel type. These spots are genuinely fun and unique places that will make for a great summer road trip.
Your stay: 14 rooms at this cozy place in the Madawaska Valley, all said to have a great view of Kamaniskeg Lake (which has a public beach). The attached restaurant has a nice patio and great food, also waterside views while you eat and plan out your day. Arrived by boat? You’re permitted to disembark, dock and dine. Tons of nearby attractions too.
Letting guests lodge and relax for nearly 75 years. This 14-room motel is located right off Highway 11. It’s affordable accommodation close to hiking, Mikisew Provincial Park, and off-road cycling. Bring marshmallows: multiple campfire spots at the hotel as well as BBQ grills if you want to make your own meal al fresco.
If you like Caddys and kitsch, The Cadillac’s retro chic will appeal to you, right in Niagara Falls’ tourism district, meaning a short walk to attractions like Bird Kingdom, Skylon Tower, Journey Behind the Falls—all the tourist checkpoints.
Just off the 1000 Island Parkway, here’s a 14-room waterside motel that’s mere kilometers from Gananoque. The motel shares the shoreline with gorgeous homes, farms, floating homes, boat docks and marinas. The parking lot has room for boats and trailers and a free to use boat ramp.
The Port of Goderich is home to beaches, boardwalks and can be described as one pretty town—spectacular sunsets included. Recently renovated rooms, an indoor pool and fitness centre, and within walking distance to a few restaurants, or hop in the car for a short drive to historic sites and cultural venues.
Here’s road trip to remember, the opportunity to stay somewhere that made Conde Nast’s 2020 Hot List, which described it as “A fun, frisky lakeside addition that feels like home.” This 12-room property is definitely colourful, fresh and you’ll find lots do see and do nearby. Prince Edward County is home to wineries, craft breweries, beaches and farm stands.
Hosts Brad and Tricia Smith have 10 rooms to offer, plus complimentary firewood for the fire pits, propane gas BBQs and a picnic area, a play area for kids. Those who know, Muskoka’s never short on things to do during any season.
This newish motel (opened in 2016) has 26 rooms, and even a four-bedroom cottage. The motel is within walking distance to the heart of Tobermory and its harbour, which has lots of restaurants, shops and superb views. What else is nearby: Flowerpot Island, boat tours and ferries if you fancy an excursion.
Right alongside Highway 11, this two-storey motel was built in 1966 and is close to lots of attractions. The Cobalt Mining Museum, trails, and W.J.B. Greenwood Provincial Park are a short drive away. The parking lot is frequently festooned with boat trailers.
Rooms have been revamped, and across the street you can bury your feet in the sand of Providence Bay beach. While the pace on Manitoulin Island is generally relaxed, you can also take in a nice mix of arts and culture, leisurely stuff like golf and horseback riding, boardwalks, trails and beautiful lookout points.
A unique all-in-one mix here: the van Gerven family offers the only marina, motel, restaurant on the water in Sauble Beach. Five minute’s walk away is stretches of sandy beaches. Known for its tasty breakfasts and great service, they also offer boat rentals (by the hour) and of course, comfy rooms.
Here you’ll find 14 rooms surrounded by what feels more like resort grounds. A bigger family would appreciate the loft efficiency unit, which has a full kitchen. There’s a full-size heated pool, private hot tubs (outside the lower level rooms) and BBQs available for memorable S’mores and meal making. Nearby: lots of nature escapes, butter tarts (!), and more.
A mo’ modern motel that feels ridiculously luxurious. It’s a lakefront property set on two acres, has a 70’ gunite pool and boasts Prince Edward County’s largest waterfront deck and bar, where you can see, sip, and bee seen. Wine and beer lovers know that PEC is known for wineries, plus antiquing, beaches, farms and more.
“It was in Bobcaygeon…” where you’ll find this picturesque ten-room motel. It’s right downtown and has perfect views of the Swing Bridge and canal. It’s also local to shopping, places to eat, trails, historic sites and beaches.
Newly opened as of July 1, this property has 13 rooms and looks like it’s out of the freshly printed pages of an Ikea catalogue. Outside there’s a large patio for your social fix, an herb garden, bocce ball court and fire pit. Take one of the cruiser bikes for a rip into town. You might also want to explore the Apple Pie Trail. Did we mention Penny’s Oyster Bar?
If you’re in for some nostalgia, this vintage spot has been open since 1910: a traditional Muskoka experience. Efficiency rooms with partial kitchens for the budget-conscious, a heated outdoor pool, and BBQ area. The property overlooks Gull Lake and is close to the historic RMS Segwun steamship at Gravenhurst Wharf.
In 2016, two best friends decided (over wine, of course) to take over a “dingy hotel” in PEC, once known as the Sportsman Motel and turn it into a true destination. Since then they opened a second motel in Sauble Beach. Each motel property aims to complete your vacation vibes and has a classy finish that’s definitely on point. (You can see how the property went from a morose motel to a must-stay-at stunner on Motel Makeover, the new six-part mini-series on Netflix.) Be sure to sip coffee or cocktails at the onsite indoor/outdoor lobby bar in PEC, or poolside in Sauble.
Somewhere Inn Calabogie is a new roadside motel nestled in the Ottawa Valley. It’s a dog-friendly spot that’s “purposefully analog” (a.k.a. no TVs or iPads in sight) with access to hiking trails, lakes, dirt biking trails, ATV trails, and ski hills. There’s also several breweries and cafés nearby, but you won’t even have to go far—the motel’s lobby doubles as a bottle shop.
Part B&B and part motel, it’s a family-run home away from home that’s a short distance from Waubuno Beach and the West Parry Sound District Museum. Ask the owners and they’ll make possible itinerary suggestions to fill your day.
More road-trip ideas: