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Southwestern Ontario

Introducing Southwestern Ontario

Arcing around Lake Ontario is a heavily populated industrialized zone encompassing a number of the GTA's 'satellite' cities. Highway 403 will get you to Hamilton and Brantford, but most will take the 401 for Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and beyond: it's an impenetrable concrete artery linking Toronto to the US border at Windsor, and the Québec border to the east. The stretch through Toronto is regarded as one of the busiest and widest freeways in the world. Those who venture off it can uncover a heritage of aboriginal and colonial settlement, well-preserved architechture, tree-lined boulevards, healthy rivers and verdant pastures. Don't be discouraged by the feeling that Toronto never ends – press on to the delightful villages of Elora, Fergus and the unique Mennonite settlement of St Jacobs and you will be rewarded.

Guelph, Waterloo and London are thriving university centers, each with their own appeal – first appearances can be deceptive; dig deeper than what lies immediately beyond the highway. Get off the 401 at Kitchener for Stratford (-upon-Avon), birthplace of the 'Beebs' and yet a remarkably cultured country town, and home to the penultimate festival of Shakespearean theater outside the other Stratford-upon-Avon.

From here, you can head northwest until the farmlands dissolve into the sandy shores of Lake Huron, or drop down to London and get back on the 401, following the dead-flat fields of gold – wheat, corn and everything-growing regions where you'll cheer for even the most modest of hills – until you reach the north shore of Lake Erie and quirky Pelee Island, Canada's southernmost point. The end of the road is in Windsor at the Detroit/USA border: both were once automotive giants, now they wrestle with the winds of change.