The province of Ontario is the second largest in Canada, stretching from the U.S. in the south all the way to Hudson Bay in the north. It’s home to some of the country’s most exciting destinations, including big-city attractions in Toronto, as well as must-see spots like the Niagara Falls. There are plenty of lesser-known places that really shouldn’t be missed either. These must-visit destinations include a mix of both, helping to create your own ideal Ontario travel itinerary.
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The most obvious place to visit in Ontario is the iconic Niagara Falls, a destination on just about every travel bucket list. But you can do more than just stand in awe gazing at the cascades – you can take a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view or a boat excursion that will take you so close that you’re drenched by the spray. There’s also Butterfly Conservatory home to some 2,000 butterflies while the Revolving Dining Room at the Skylon Tower offers tasty meals while taking in impressive views of the falls from 775 feet above.
Canada’s largest city is renowned for diverse attractions, known for its shopping, theater and cultural sites, and it also boasts an incredible food scene. Foodies might be overwhelmed with the number of diverse options due to the significant immigrant populations. Entire sections are devoted to different cultures like Little Italy, Koreatown, Little Portugal and Little India. You can also visit a castle, explore the Royal Ontario Museum, spend an afternoon at the zoo, and shop your way through the St. Lawrence Market. You can get a good perspective of the city’s layout by heading to the top of CN Tower, Toronto’s iconic landmark. The tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere offers a spectacular panoramic view from 1,815 feet above.
Algonquin Provincial Park
This beautiful park that covers some 3,000 square miles between the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay is home to thousands of lakes, over 750 miles of streams and rivers, and maple tree-covered hills that are bursting with color in the fall. Wildlife is abundant, including deer, moose, beaver and wolves. Look forward to mountain biking, fishing, paddling, horseback riding, camping and hiking with 19 interpretive trails varying in length and difficulty from short and sweet just over half-mile routes to longer 7-mile+ treks.
Canada’s capital city is a great place to visit for delving into Canada’s most prominent cultural attractions. Take a tour of Parliament Hill and be sure to visit museums like the Canadian Museum of History and the National Gallery. Byward Market is a must-visit, home to a local farmers’ market and artisans with practically an endless number of stands and more than 600 businesses. You’ll find plenty of art studios and galleries to explore nearby as well. And no matter what time of year you’re here, be sure to take a stroll, or ice skate, along the Rideau Canal.
This historic port city is located in the Niagara Peninsula region at the west end of Lake Ontario. It offers a fabulous art, history and culinary scene along with plenty of striking natural beauty. The Waterfall Capital of the World, it hosts 156 waterfalls within the city limits. Spencer Gorge Wilderness Area is home to two of the most impressive, Tew Falls, the tallest in the city, and Webster’s Falls, the largest. Visitors can also tour Dundurn Castle, an 1830s Italianate-style villa led by staff in costume through 40 rooms that are beautifully furnished from the period, as well as a produce garden.
Muskoka, located in the center of the province, is a great place to go for outdoor adventure and picturesque scenery. There are lots of lakes here, ideal for kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing, water-skiing, paddle boarding and taking unforgettable dinner cruises. On land, enjoy thrills at aerial parks, whizzing across zip lines or heading out on the mountain bike and hiking trails. After a day of play, you’ll be able to feed your appetite by taking advantage of the outstanding dining and burgeoning craft beer scene. Muskoka Brewery offers free tours, including samples.
Thunder Bay is a nature lovers’ paradise with stunning mountain scenery and jaw-dropping lake vistas that are often compared to what you’d see in Norway. Considered the gateway to the Great Outdoors in the province, it’s home to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, with its “Sleeping Giant” formation that when seen from the city, looks just like a sleeping giant. The area offers nearly 50 miles of trails for scenic hikes along Lake Superior. Visitors can also check out Fort William Historical Park, a living museum, explore the Thunder Bay Historical Museum and the Brodie Street Art Gallery.
Collingwood is home to Blue Mountain Village, a well-known resort nestled between the foot of the Blue Mountains and the deep blue waters of Georgian Bay. It’s filled with turn-of-the-century architecture and hosts all sorts of events throughout the year, including big-name musical acts. The summer alone brings Jazz on the Mountain at Blue and PedalFest, Salsa at Blue Festival, FAMARAMA and more. When the weather’s warm, you can hike, bike, take heart-pounding zip line rides and Segway tours. In the winter, it’s a powder-seekers dream. And, fueling your exploits is easy in any season with over 50 restaurants found here.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park which sits at the edge of Georgian Bay is a paddler’s paradise. While there is no ocean in Ontario, there’s plenty of bays, lakes and rivers, with some of the most dazzling crystal-clear waters found right here. Jump in and swim through the grotto for the total bucket-list experience. Be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife on land, like black bears, fox and white-tailed deer, as well as the park’s unique flora, including over 40 orchid species.
Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park
Located at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Fathom Five National Marine Park, Flowerpot Island is famous for its natural “flowerpot” rock pillars that serve as a popular scuba diving site. You’ll need to take a boat to get here, with a variety of cruises and glass bottom tour boats available that will bring you past shipwrecks and several lighthouses in addition to the impressive rock formations.