Roadside attractions, five unusual places to avoid by car

About This Series: With COVID-19 restrictions easing over the past few months, Wheels wants you to be prepared to explore, but only when it’s safe. This series of day trips and longer journeys highlights the great experiences you can have in the province and across Canada, and shows you why this country is “ours to discover”.

Maybe you’ve climbed the CN Tower, visited roaring Niagara Falls, or hiked through Algonquin Park, but spotted a UFO, a giant elephant, or a Big Apple while exploring the province? If you want to check out lesser-known attractions, Ontario’s small towns offer an array of wacky and quirky monoliths that will make a fun stop on your next road trip. If you’re passing by, here are five roadside attractions worth stopping to see up close.

Wawa goose

The Canada goose may be a common sight in parks and waterways across the country, but the Wawa goose – standing 28 feet tall – is unique to the community of Wawa in Algoma Country. In 1960, the last section of the highway. 17 in Ontario was completed, but it bypassed downtown Wawa, so a local entrepreneur came up with the idea of ​​creating a local attraction. Wawa means “wild goose” or “great goose country” in Ojibwe. The Wawa Goose came to life with plaster and chicken wire (which was replaced with steel in 1963). In 2017, the city unveiled an all-new Wawa Goose for Canada’s 150th anniversary.

To succeed: You’ll easily spot the Wawa Goose (no binoculars required) at the highway intersection. 17 and highway. 101, at the entrance to the town of Wawa (about 250 kilometers from Sault Ste. Marie). To get there from Toronto, take the highway. 400 north to where it merges with the freeway. 69. In Sudbury, turn west on the highway. 17 and continue to Wawa. You’ll want to make this attraction part of a longer trip, as the drive to Wawa is about 10 hours from Toronto.

Moonbeam UFO

There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on how this remote northern Ontario community travels along the highway. 11 bears his name. Legend has it that pioneers saw “moonbeams” falling from the night sky (probably the Northern Lights). Later, in the 1960s, there were several allegations of alien sightings and crop circles in the area. So the town of Moonbeam decided to embrace its history and erect a giant flying saucer at the town’s entrance (with a friendly alien at the visitor’s center). Fun Fact: Moonbeam is referenced in the Tragically Hip song “Fly.”

To succeed: The town is located near Kapuskasing on Highway 11. Just look for the flying saucer off the highway. From Toronto, you follow the highway. 400 north to where it joins the freeway. 11 and continue from there. The trip takes about eight and a half hours.

Jumbo the elephant was a male African bush elephant born in 1860 in Sudan who was exhibited in Paris and London zoos. So why does a small town in Ontario have a life-size monument to this pachyderm? Jumbo became the star of PT Barnum’s biggest show on Earth, standing 12 feet tall and weighing seven tons. In 1885, the traveling circus was in St. Thomas, when Jumbo was struck and killed by a Grand Trunk locomotive. In 1985, 100 years later, a life-size statue was erected in the city to commemorate the centenary of Jumbo’s death.

To succeed: St. Thomas is a two-hour drive southwest of Toronto. Exit the highway. 401 West on Route 4 (Sunset Drive). In town, turn left onto Talbot Street, where it’s hard to miss the 12ft elephant.

To discover

Colborne’s Big Apple

If you’re driving between Toronto and Kingston, keep your eyes peeled for a giant red apple – complete with a smiling cartoon face. Colborne happens to be one of the largest apple growing regions in Ontario. His Big Apple, affectionately known as Mr. Applehead, is a popular roadside attraction built in 1987. The idea was conceived by Australian immigrant George Boycott, who in turn was inspired by the Big Pineapple, a similar roadside attraction in Australia. You can even step inside Mr. Applehead and climb to the rooftop observation deck; there is also a restaurant, a pie factory, a mini golf course and an amusement park. While you’re there, it’s worth sampling a slice of apple pie or picking up a few cans of 401 Cider (made by 401 Brewery).

Getting there: Colborne is in Northumberland County, halfway between Toronto and Kingston and an hour and a half drive from the Greater Toronto Area. Take the highway. Take 401 east and look for exit 497. You can’t miss Mr. Applehead.

To discover

The Campbellford Toonie

A unique Canadian currency, the two dollar coin has its own monument. Standing 8.2 meters high and 5.5 meters in diameter, it stands in Old Mill Park along the banks of the River Trent in Campbellford. Besides its scenic location, the Toonie was erected in 2001 to honor local naturalist artist Brent Townsend, who was responsible for designing the iconic polar bear image stamped on the coin. Fun fact: After running a Name Our Polar Bear contest, the Royal Canadian Mint named the US dollar symbol “Churchill”.

To succeed: You’ll find the giant dollar in this waterfront community halfway between Toronto and Ottawa. From Toronto, take the highway. 401 East to Hwy. 30 and follow it north to Campbellford. The trip takes about two hours.

To discover

For the reader

The “Road Trip Radio” podcast explores each of Canada’s provinces and territories with interviews, comedy and adventure stories. In “Rest Stop,” podcast host Anna Holmquist explores the history of various American roadside attractions – from giant milk bottles to the world’s largest peanut. And “Route 66 Road Trips with Roger Taylor” takes you on one of the most famous highways in the world, with its small-town charm, restaurants and roadside attractions.

COVID-19 need to know

Note that the government-mandated proof of vaccination rule is in effect. Check provincial guidelines before traveling (


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