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Wow – Ontario. My home. No better destination to write about than where you plant your roots I say. The province of Ontario is the most densely populated of all ten provinces and three territories of Canada. Although most of the people live in Toronto, the province does bring the lion’s share of the economic strength to the country. But beyond Toronto, one of the most incredible and multicultural cities in the world, Ontario has some pretty incredible sights, cuisine, experiences, and communities that are just as deserving of a visit. As a large province there are plenty of places to visit in Ontario, here are the must-see highlights for anyone wanting to venture outside of Toronto.
So, this is a no-brainer. One of the most popular places to visit in Ontario is Niagara Falls, the newly crowned 10th natural wonder of the world is definitely a must-see landmark in Ontario. The falls alone are incredible any time of the year, but the summer has much more to offer in form of activities and experiences. Why not hop aboard the new Hornblower cruise to get up close and personal with the fall’s fury? Or maybe swoop down the new zip line? On the more daring side? The Helicopter flights give travelers that ultimate aerial view of both the Canadian and American falls, as well as a great look at the massive line on the rainbow bridge.
Hungry? Drive 30 mins to Niagara-on-the-Lake and join a foodie tour. Stop at a variety of spots and tastes wines from local vineyards. Wine tasting and spas are also a big deal here in Niagara-on-the-Lake. In fact, painter Trisha Romance was said to have stopped infrequently for a peaceful spot to complete some of her beautiful works.
So the UK isn’t the only place with a beautiful town of Stratford – so does Ontario! And we have swans, an Avon river, an homage to the Bard, and a show festival that happens from April-December showcasing some of the best plays that thespians would seriously drool over. After the show, jump in the car and follow the chocolate trail from some truly indulgent and delicious sweets including truffles, fudge, pastries, and more or head to Ingersoll to the unofficial home of cheese and agriculture.
Approximately 2 hours North of Toronto sits this beautiful close community of Midland Ontario. Known as the gateway to the 30,000 Islands, Midland is the start of one of the largest archipelagos in the world. Originally founded by the Jesuits, Midland through the decades has shaped into a historic hot spot offering numerous experiences for visitors. Take a stroll through the main streets and complete the mural trail. Marvel at 30 incredible mural paintings all depicting an important event or company in Midland’s history. Take the Miss Midland cruise on Georgian Bay and begin to count from 1-30,000 on your trip around the islands. Stop in at Dino’s Diner for a massive deli sandwich and wash it down with an organic free trade coffee at Grounded. Unwind at Little Lake park before cozying up by the fire in your bed and breakfast. If you have more than one day, consider also the escape room experiences at Castle Village and taking in the First Nations history at St Marie Among the Hurons.
Northern Ontario Road Trip
Rent a car and head North on the Trans-Canada Highway North of Toronto stopping to see some of the best places to visit in Ontario along the way. First up is Sudbury where you can grab that selfie in front of the Big Nickel – the symbol for the largest mining facility in North America. If you have time take a tour of the mine and stop in at Science North – one of the most dynamic and interactive Science exhibits in the world.
Next, head 4 hours north to Sault Ste. Marie and check out the airplane museum before hopping aboard the Agawa Canyon Tour train. If you only have to do one thing during your Northern Ontario exploration, this should be it. See untouched natural beauty of the Algoma region by rail. Enjoy commentary, comfortable seats, onboard café, and a some of the most beautiful natural wonders. A stop in the middle of the canyon allows you to venture on a mini hike to the top of waterfalls and cliffs before enjoying a picnic lunch. The best time to go on the Agawa Canyon Tour train is in the autumn to check out the unbelievable natural fall foliage colour change! You have a sea of orange, red, and gold waiting for you.
If you are able to head up beyond Sault Ste. Marie, you will be entering the gorgeous region surrounded by the Canadian Shield on the shores of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. Stop in at Lake Superior Provincial Park and hike through to get a glimpse at the ancient petroglyphs on the side of the rocks. It is tricky to get to them, but the brave won’t have a problem!
Continue on your way north toward Thunder Bay. Along the way, you will pass through Wawa. Stop here for that quintessential photo beside the giant Canada Goose statue! He was just replaced a couple of years ago so your photo will have a nice-looking goose over the weathered one from the days past.
A few hours later, you will reach White River – home of Winnie the Pooh. Stop here and grab a photo beside his statue before heading to Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay is a gorgeous part of the province. Cliffs, waterfalls rope bridges, and more await in one of the most northern areas of the province.
Are you starting or ending your adventure through Ontario in Toronto? Check out what to do in the city here.
One of my favorite areas of the province, the Bruce Peninsula brings some of the most incredible scenery and clear waters of all North America. In fact, Tobermory has nicknamed the scuba capital of Canada with the surge of interest to get amidst the remains of the three shipwrecks along the shores. The water is so shallow that you can see the boats from the top decks of the scenic cruises bringing travelers to the exact wreckage spots.
After taking in the history here of these fallen ships (don’t worry nobody died in these), you must take a boat to Flowerpot island and check out the weird and interesting natural statues formed over time through erosion and the ages. Three remain standing for travelers to see for themselves. This island has few facilities so it is up to you to bring your own food and supplies.
After enjoying the cruise on Lake Huron to Flower Pot Island, hop aboard the Chi Cheemaun dinner cruise for some delicious food and education on the efforts in place to conserve and save the night skies from light pollution. The ship stops at Manitoulin Island, the largest of the freshwater islands on the lakes. It is definitely worth a visit if you have 2-3 days to check it out. Learn about the first nations culture, join a cultural pow wow and relax at one of the beautiful BNBs.
This is a popular spot in the province no matter what time of year! Many flock to Collingwood as it is the closest they will get to a mountain in Ontario for skiing and other winter activities. Blue Mountain is a year-round resort community with fun-filled activities for both the active and those who wish to relax. Enjoy everything from skiing, skating, snowboarding, shopping, spas, restaurants, yoga, and more.
If you head here in the fall, check out the apple pie trail. Grab some amazing apple pastries, preserves, and unique beauty products.
One of the largest parks in North America, Algonquin Park is a must for nature lovers and anyone exploring Ontario. Check out one of the many lakes, rent a yurt and go camping, or look out for moose! Check this gorgeous park out in the fall and see the most amazing foliage color changes.
Another of the best places to visit in Ontario, if possible, is Point Pelee and heading out by ferry to Pelee Island. The most southern part of Ontario and Canada, Pelee Island is home to numerous native birds, exclusive wine vineyards, and the monarch butterfly migration. Plan your trip right, and you will witness an incredible natural phenomenon of thousands of monarch butterflies flying south.
Prince Edward County
This incredible region of the province has been put on the world’s best foodie destinations alongside such notable cities as Paris, Bangkok, and Rome. Another area known for its vineyards, check out the wines, breweries and distilleries bringing some of the best beverages to market. While in town check out the amazing Agrarian bistro in Picton before hopping on the 1000 Islands cruise on the St Lawrence River. While aboard you will cross briefly into the USA where you can grab a gander at Boldt Castle before learning the exclusive recipe for 1000 Island salad dressing which originated here.
Lastly, you must visit the nation’s capital of Ottawa 6 hours from Toronto. Here take a free tour of parliament before learning about the many important people who shaped Canada to where it is today. Walk by the war memorial, touch the gold brick at the Canadian Mint, and put on the skates (if in winter) to take a stroll down the Rideau Canal. Do some local shopping at the Byward Market while munching on a Beaver Tail. In the evening head to the Lord Elgin hotel for a delicious meal. I highly recommend the butternut squash ravioli. If time allows, drive across the bridge into Gatineau Quebec and take a stab at the slots in the Lac Leamy Casino.
This is literally a starting point for all things in Ontario. Our province has everything from the above destinations to donkey and water buffalo sanctuaries, cheese and agriculture museums, ice fishing excursions, and welcoming Amish communities. We have galleries in all cities commemorating the achievements of Canadians and beyond, and beaches to gaze out on the freshwater lakes. Ontario truly is Yours to Discover.
If you’re heading to Ontario, make sure to book some activities for your trip!
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Janine is an active traveler, editor, and writer. She grew up in Toronto and has made it a mission to discover all the hidden gems her province has to offer. She has traveled to 40 countries, loves uncovering untold stories, and has yet to find a cupcake she doesn’t like. She has appeared on various media outlets, is a published author, loves a good latte, and would live at Disney World if that was possible.