From Toronto to Belleville, here are some things to do on Highway 2
What began as footpaths worn into the landscape by Indigenous people, then expanded upon by settlers, Highway 2 — the King’s Highway, Old Highway 2 — runs continuously from Windsor to Montreal, and even beyond to Halifax with a few interruptions. Until Highway 401 was completed in 1968, this two-lane thoroughfare was the only direct route across Southern Ontario.
Hugging the shore of Lake Ontario for much of its length, with the occasional jog north or south, the 520-kilometre-long road cuts through countryside, small towns and big cities, offering both a glimpse into the past and a few modern pleasures, too. Where the highway passes through the centre of a town, it will usually bear a different name, different in almost every town and city: Dundas, King, Kingston, Lake Shore, so it’s possible to get confused. Thank goodness for the Highway 2 reassurance shields posted every few kilometres.
In the east end of Toronto, it’s Kingston Road that turns into Highway 2, and it’s in Ajax that things start to feel a little different; a little less like Toronto. It’s a leisurely drive affording the sort of bucolic scenery guaranteed to illicit heavy sighs and plenty of reasons to pull over, for a snack, some photography, a little shopping, an adventure, maybe even a sleepover. Keep an eye out for signs at the side of the road promising “fresh eggs,” “flowers” and “antiques.”
All along the route are kitschy motels, relics of a time when a family holiday meant a drive from Toronto to Scarborough, Pickering or Ajax for a week near the beach, and Highway 2 was the only way to get there. Some still welcome travellers, some are now housing for migrant agricultural workers and some have simply been abandoned — dilapidated, graffitied and boarded up, they’re being reclaimed by nature.
Read on for the most fun you can have between Toronto and Belleville on the Old King’s Highway.
Giddy-up to Picov’s Horseman Center
This sprawling, leather-bound horse-a-palooza is the first sign you’ve reached escape velocity. Yes, real equestrians and cowboys shop here, but you can too, for cowboy boots and hats, bolo ties, chaps, those Texas-size belt buckles and other country-fied duds. Should you pick up a sexy little riding crop for no reason whatsoever, that’s up to you.