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Fall at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Discovering Canada beyond mountains, lakes, and glaciers

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17 May 2016 by Heather Harris

This article originally appeared in Traveller magazine, authored by staff writer Terhi Millar.

While tourists visiting Canada typically gravitate towards the glaciers and lakes of the Rocky Mountains in the west, Ontario is Canada’s most populous province, home to its capital city, its largest city, its greatest lakes and most spectacular waterfalls.

A sensible place to start is Toronto, a large modern metropolis on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. The city is seen as the cultural focus of Anglophone Canada and reflects the increasingly multicultural shape of the country, with many neighbourhoods around the city such as Greektown and Chinatown offering a diverse experience for visitors. Museums, galleries, and eateries abound, plus there’s the enormous CN Tower from which to view the surrounds.

CN Tower in Toronto, Canada
Toronto, with CN Tower in the background

Just south of Toronto is Niagara, a region known for its spectacular falls—not the world’s largest or highest, but indisputably the widest, three separate falls close to one another in Niagara Gorge, whose combined flow rate is the most powerful and voluminous in the world. They are best seen from below by boat on the Niagara River—but make sure to cover up to avoid a drenching by the spray! The region is home to more than 90 vineyards producing table wines and sweet icewine made from grapes frozen while still on the vine (see this post for an introduction to the wines of Inniskillin).

Niagara Falls during Fall
Niagara Falls during Fall

There’s so much more to Niagara than vineyards and falls, so stay at least overnight to make the most of galleries, restaurants, shopping, outdoor activities and other attractions. After returning to Toronto, continue around the northern shore of Lake Ontario to Kingston, an attractive waterfront city, stopping through Peterborough on the way to view the world’s highest hydraulic canal lock. Kingston sits at the start of the St Lawrence River, which flows from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic, and here also lie the Thousand Islands, an archipelago consisting of well over a thousand eyots, many designed as natural reserves, incredibly scenic and understandably popular for boat cruises.

Kingston in Ontario, Canada
Kingston in Ontario

Onwards is Ottawa, Canada’s capital and the home of many important state institutions. After a stay here turn west and make your way to Huntsville, through Algonquin Park, where you can marvel at typically Canadian scenery of granite gorges cut through dense pine forests and glassy lakes hemmed by hills which turn to a tequila sunrise in autumn. Expect more of the same in the lakes of Huntsville.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Next stop is Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world and a peaceful place of hiking trails, also known for its indigenous culture. From here, a ferry to Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula brings more scenic hiking, as well as an opportunity for snorkelling in Fathom Five National Marine Park with amazing views of 22 shipwrecks. Afterwards, return to Toronto.

This article originally appeared in Traveller magazine. For more on the Ontario region, we suggest the following:

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