12 February 2015 by Patrick Griffin
Ontario is brimming with diverse experiences, offering vibrant cities and enchanting small towns. Be awed by the natural wonder of the Niagara Falls, savour local vintages and cuisine, and adventure in the province's pristine land of forests, lakes and rivers.
What makes Ontario unique is the close proximity between its urban areas and the great outdoors. Toronto is under three-hours drive from the stunning Algonquin Provincial Park, 90 minutes from the awe-inspiring Niagara Region, and two from Northumberland.
The largest of Canada's ten provinces, and home to nearly 40 per cent of Canada's entire population, Ontario is divided into two regions, northern and southern Ontario. The great majority of the population lives in the south, which is where the capital Ottawa and Toronto are located.
With its thousands of lakes, stunning provincial parks, dramatic landscapes and cosmopolitan cities, Ontario is a fantastic and eclectic summer destination. Enjoy kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping and self-drives in the expansive landscape of northern Ontario, making sure to enjoy some backcountry camping in Algonquin's maple hills and rocky ridges.
Alternatively, revel in the fascinating history and culture of aboriginal and pioneers in Middlesex in southwestern Ontario, or enjoy some cutting edge culture in the province's cosmopolitan cities of Toronto and Ottawa.
There are three main regions in northern Ontario - the northwest, northeast and Salut Ste. Marie Algoma. The northwest is a destination for those seeking excitement. It's perfect for world-class hunting and fishing, the bustling city of Thunder Bay, and it has a rich aboriginal history.
The main areas in the northwest are Thunder Bay and Sunset Country. Thunder Bay is a city located on the banks of Thunder Bay at the head of Lake Superior, and has a fascinating fur trade history. Check out the Sleeping Giant, a natural rock peninsula that forms Thunder Bay and is home to rich wildlife, a boreal forest and incredible views.
There's also Fort William Historical Park, and Eagle Canyon Suspension Bridge, that's 600 ft across and 152 ft above the canyon. Don't miss the Kakabeka Falls - a magnificent water plunge. In Sunset Country, enjoy fishing, backcountry hiking and paddling. Also hunt for big game like bear or moose.
Northeastern Ontario is a playground of pristine lakes and rivers, ancient pine forest and gleaming crimson skies. Enjoy the outdoor or urban features of the expansive region. For the summer, explore Manitoulin Island, the world's largest freshwater island, and Killarney Provincial Park that's renowned as a paddler's paradise.
The Sault Ste. Marie - Algoma is bordered by two of Canada's great lakes: Superior and Huron. It's surrounded by epic views and superb touring routes, and offers fantastic fishing, incredible canoeing, kayaking and hiking.
When in the Algoma Country, don't miss the Ride Lake Superior, an epic motorcycle trip around the world's largest lake. Sault Ste. Marie is northern Ontario's third largest city, which has great dining and shopping.
Explorers' Edge is home to some of Ontario's most iconic travel destinations, as well as vast expanses of stunning natural landscapes. It's excellent for outdoor adventure, golf, culinary and artisan culture, meaning there's something for everyone across the region. Algonquin Park, Almaguin Highlands, Muskoka and Parry Sound are just three of the regions amazing destinations.
In the summer, Muskoka is a top-class destination for golf, stunning scenery and excellent local brews. The National Geographic Traveller recognizes Muskoka as one of the 20 Best of the World Must see places and the best summer trip.
The area is just two hours by car from Toronto, and is a true wilderness destination. The 2,500-square-mile area includes 8,699 miles of shoreline, 17 historic towns and villages, and innumerable waterfalls and lakes that are framed by the peaks of Algonquin Provincial Park to the east and the isles of the Georgian Bay Islands National Park to the west.
The Parry Sound & Area offers 30,000 islands and seven provincial parks as well as one of Canada's UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The area offers stunning opportunities for summer hiking, including the Park-to-Park trail that runs from Killbear to Algonquin Park.
Algonquin Park offers the ultimate in Canadian wilderness, with summer activities including hiking, paddling and dog sledding. Try backcountry camping, an experience the park's vast landscape of maple hills, rocky ridges, spruce bogs and thousands of lakes, ponds and streams.
Almaguin is a region of expansive natural beauty that's ideal for fishing - you can catch walleye, pike, perch and in some places, lake trout. There are also a range of friendly towns and the Almaguin Highlands Golf and Country Club that's a top golf spot.
Central and Eastern Ontario
This area lies between Georgian Bay and the eastern end of Lake Ontario. In the summer, it's excellent for hiking, cycling, fishing, golfing and bird watching.
Visit Northumberland County for excellent driving routes, and to enjoy some fantastic unique experiences. Check out the Northumberland Outdoor adventure map for some top outdoor activities, including boating, swimming and scuba, and geocaching - an adventure game that combines hiking with treasure hunting. Visit Petroglyphs Provincial Park for the largest known concentration of aboriginal rock carvings on the continent.
In the east, Ottawa blends French and English, and is Ontario's capital city. Don't miss the gothic-style Parliament Buildings, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the Canadian War Museum - both considered cultural and architectural wonders. Also cruise along the Rideau Canal, a spectacular focal point of the city and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Southwestern Ontario is steeped in history, culture and charm and is a mecca for fine dining, wine, arts and culture and the outdoors. If you're after a summer nature hit, discover Windsor Essex Pelee Island, Sarnia-Lambton and Middlesex.
Middlesex offers some excellent aboriginal and pioneer history, agricultural-tourism golf and rural charm: why not take a heritage trail and find out about original pioneer settlements, and the once prosperous oil industry. Chatham Kent offers fantastic bird watching in a rare Carolinian habitat.
There's also the Hurin, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington area. Visit Perth for nature trails, bike routes, local crafts and handiwork as well as unique architecture. Visit Stratford for Canada's premier arts town, with beautifully preserved Victorian streets.
The Golden Horseshoe of Ontario curves around Lake Ontario and the New York state border with the USA.
In the Golden Horseshoe, don't miss Toronto - a beautiful and cosmopolitan city. It's got iconic architecture such as the CN Tower and the Edgewalk, museums and galleries like the Bata Shoe Museum and plenty of live theatre, performing arts and professional sports.
Don't miss the Niagara Region, including the Niagara Falls - they're only 90 minutes from Toronto - three large waterfalls on the Niagara River that are one of the most thrilling sights in the world. Niagara Falls is also a city that bordered the USA and twists along the Niagara River.
Niagara-On-The-Lake is a top destination for vineyards, and has over 90 distinctive wineries and restaurants featuring regional cuisine. Don't forget to sample local vintages, including the delicious ice-wine.