If you love progressive urban communities teeming with contemporary designers, fantastic architecture, creative chefs, and live music, then The Distillery Historic District in Toronto is where you want to be. For the history seekers, you could map out a fascinating exploration of Canada’s formation from Toronto to Ottawa with charming university towns like Kingston, or step back in time in the Upper Canada village of Morrisburg. If you are looking for a restful vacation try touring The Great Waterway, stopping along the St. Lawrance River, Ontario’s major trading post route, or take a tour of the 1000 islands on an informative cruise.
From tours at Parliament Hill, to cross country skiing, backcountry ATVing, catching a lightning storm in Thunder Bay or fishing on the Great Lakes, Ontario is a beautiful province to explore.
Places to Visit in Ontario
- Niagara Falls
- Thunder Bay
- Sault Ste. Marie
Unique Things to See and Do in Ontario
- Shop along Canada’s Rodeo Drive, Bloor St. West
- Tour the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa
- Visit the historic Queen’s University in Kingston
- Feel the winds flowing up from Niagara Falls
- Skate along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa
- Check out a geographic anomaly: Potholes of Rockwood
- Look out over Toronto from the CN Tower’s SkyPod observation deck
- Eat a Beavertail! No, not a real one. This one is better: pastry, cinnamon, sugar, or better yet, try it with maple syrup
Outdoor Activities in Ontario
Ontario is a vast province, covering over one million square kilometres, bigger than France and Spain combined! That means when travelling here you either need a well thought out itinerary, plans on flying between a few locations, a love scenic drives, or better yet, lots of time spend here. Even the landscape varies quite a bit, from the rockiness of the Canadian Shield to the productive farmlands in the south, or to the low-level grasslands in the north, there are some amazing geographical landscapes to see. And what better way to do it than to explore some fun outdoor activities.
The number of outdoor activities in Ontario matches the abundance of land; there are so many to choose from.
With over a thousand lakes, hundreds of connecting waterways, and a long history of pioneering those waterways, getting out into a boat is a great way to see Ontario. With so many lakes to choose from you can try jet-skiing, canoeing, wake boarding, or waterskiing. Paddling is a great way to see Algonquin Provincial Park. You can even follow some historical waterways by canoe or kayak. For the adventurous travellers, try rafting the Ottawa river. There are many tour companies that take groups out into the rapids for those seeking a few thrills!
Camping is another favourite for travellers. Getting out in wild nature can be adventure and Ontario has an abundance of forests and pure wilderness so brush up on your camping skills – it’s lifesaving here! Bon Echo Provincial Park has alternatives for all levels of campers; you can pitch a tent or rent a trailer or a cottage – perfect for anyone’s camping needs.
If you’re looking for a little more of an adventure, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park offers an overnight hike and 80km of hiking trails. Ontario doesn’t have super high mountains for hiking, but don’t be deceived, there are plenty of trails to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty.
There’s a plentitude of luxury hotels in Toronto and Ottawa, but the countryside boasts some fantastic accommodations in even the smallest of towns. The quaint Bed & Breakfast’s offer travellers a homey stay with plush amenities. For those who love historical architecture, take the opportunity to stay in many of the countryside’s Victorian B&B’s – it’s like you’ve stepped back in time. You can find them in Midland, Huntsville, Orilla, and farther east in Westport, or to the south in Niagara; honestly, they dot all along the major routes.
Did you know…?
Ontario has its own 37 hectares of shale formations, similar to the Cheltenham Badlands in Drumheller, Alberta.
Did you ALSO know…?
That Toronto has the largest population of Italians outside of Italy.
Getting Around Ontario
Ontario is a huge province to travel through and many people from other parts of the world misgauge the magnitude of this province, so in very Canadian terms we will start off with a helpful tip! Canadians will tell you how far a place is by telling you how long it will take to get there. They use time rather than distance. This is because the terrain can change dramatically and driving through 300km of windy mountain roads could take 4 to 5 hours versus going 300km on flat lands which may only take 3 hours (going the speed limit, that is!).
Flying into Ontario chances are you’ll come through either Pearson International Airport in Toronto or the MacDonald Cartier International Airport in Ottawa.
Renting a car is by far the best option if you’re planning to spend a few weeks travelling around the province. Especially if you want to spend time outdoors exploring the many lakes Ontario has to offer. Travelling further up north, past Sault Ste. Marie is where the land really starts to open up. You could even take the Trans Canada Highway all the way over to Thunder Bay, located in northwest region of Ontario.
The lower regions along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are the most populated centres where train and bus services run regularly. This is where you’ll find Niagara Falls, Toronto, Kingston, and Ottawa. The train ride from Ottawa to Toronto offers a great scenic route, especially if you’re uncomfortable battling the Greater Toronto traffic.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Ontario
The easiest answer for most travellers is to travel there when the weather is warm and Ontario is in full colour, the fall. In September, the changing leaves are spectacular to see, but the weather is still crisp. You’ll need layers for the winds. Come October, if you’re travelling up north or going over to Ottawa, the weather is starting the change to colder days and even colder nights. Ottawa is the coldest city in Canada, and although it seems flat, the arctic winds funnel down through valley dropping the temperatures considerably.
If you’re renting a car and planning on driving through the countryside the spring and summer months are fun, with quaint towns offering fantastic markets and ice creams shops and so many lakes to choose from. But beware – Ontario’s bugs are serious business. Travel with bug spray, especially if you plan on camping anywhere.
During the winter time, Toronto is a great city with Christmas lights and winter festivals. The only caveat here is that flights can be delayed with snow storms. Winters are cold so bring your mittens!
Ready to plan your visit to Ontario? Check out these popular guides and trips.