There are many more reasons to travel Ontario than just to see its famous cities. This beautiful, diverse, and immense province is home to iconic landscapes (think brilliant fall forests, windswept pine trees, and sparkling lakes)—as well as seldom-seen wonders.
From small communities to provincial parks to wilderness areas, there are plenty of options no matter what level of amenities you're looking for. Read on for 25 amazing places to cross off your bucket list.
Sand Beach, Pancake Bay Provincial Park
One of Lake Superior’s most popular beaches for swimming and camping, the idyllic sands at Pancake Bay Provincial Park stretch for more than 3 km beside azure-blue waters. The park lies along the historic paddling route of the Voyageurs—company men of the 19th-century fur trade who paddled 36-foot birch-bark canoes around the lake. Pancake Bay’s inviting, shallow beach was a favoured stopping-over locale for these hearty paddlers, who may have dined here on their staple fare: galettes (fry-bread, similar to pancakes).
Boreal Forest, Esker Lakes Provincial Park
Canada’s Boreal Forest represents 25% of the planet’s remaining intact forest, and 50 million hectares are found in Ontario—a sprawling green patchwork of swamps, bogs, meadows, hardwood and coniferous forest, and the rivers and lakes that tie them all together. See it up close from the trails and ancient kettle lakes of Esker Lakes Provincial Park.
Thunderhouse Falls, Missinaibi Provincial Park
If the mighty Missinaibi River isn't on your paddling bucket list, it should be. This designated Canadian Heritage River features some 500 km of outstanding canoeing, history, challenging whitewater, and breathtaking scenery—like this image of magical Thunderhouse Gorge in Missinaibi Provincial Park.
Pic Island Overlook, Neys Provincial Park
See the austere landscapes that inspired Canada’s most famous outdoor painters, the Group of Seven. Rugged Neys Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Superior was one of the Group’s favourite sketching and painting locations during the 1920s. The Pic Island Overlook Trail climbs to a lonely gazebo overlooking the lake and island, a view immortalized by artist Lawren Harris.
Powder Skiing, Algoma Country
Reactions to photos of skiing the deep powder and backcountry slopes north of Sault Ste. Marie are pretty universal: “Hard to believe that’s Ontario!” The mountainous geography and proximity to Lake Superior combine to endow this region with nearly 4 m of the fluffy stuff annually. Base yourself at Bellevue Valley Lodge and make turns on over 2,000 acres and 700 vertical ft of untracked, powder bliss—right out the back door.
Sunrise, Bruce Peninsula National Park
Hike or paddle the coast of Bruce Peninsula National Park to find hidden alcoves and arches—perfect for a private sunrise viewing! Over time, the limestone escarpment here has been eroded into spectacular cliffs, coves, and caves by the relentless power of Lake Huron.
Robertson Cliffs, Sault Ste. Marie
Just north of the city of Sault Ste. Marie, in Ontario’s sky-scraping Algoma Country, an easy 5-km loop tops out on the Robertson Cliffs for jaw-dropping Lake Superior views. Autumn is an especially rewarding time to make the hike, when the province’s most northerly sugar maple forests turn flame-red.
La Cloche Silhouette Trail, Killarney Provincial Park
The iconic landscape of Killarney Provincial Park includes the rose granite of the Georgian Bay coast, the white quartzite ridges of the La Cloche Mountains, and over 50 crystalline, aqua-blue lakes. Prized by canoe trippers, the park is also a favourite of hikers and backpackers thanks to the outstanding, 80-km La Cloche Silhouette circuit.
Lighthouse No. 10, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area
The vast Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is one of the largest protected areas of freshwater in the world, and one of only four such reserves in all of Canada. Lighthouses are some of the scant fragments of history that can be found in this sprawling wilderness. Groups such as the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior maintain and restore these lights, as well as develop amenities for visitors to the islands.
French River Provincial Park, Georgian Bay
The French River is one of the finest historic canoe routes in all of Canada—travelled by indigenous peoples, French explorers, fur traders and Voyageurs. Tumbling over the timeworn granite of the Precambrian Shield, the river enters Georgian Bay at the spectacular French River Delta.
Windswept Pine, Killbear Provincial Park
Georgian Bay’s famously listing and lopsided pine trees are shaped by the prevailing winds that blow out of the west, across the bay’s open waters. In Killbear Provincial Park, hikers and mountain bikers enjoy both the beautiful trees and the flowing granite trails. Oh, and did we mention the amazing swimming, camping, and cliff jumping?
Coastal Trail, Pukaskwa National Park
Don’t be fooled by the Caribbean colours of the water in Pukaskwa National Park—the world’s largest freshwater lake is cold! But after a strenuous day backpacking the park’s famously difficult, 60-km Coastal Trail, a refreshing dip at a remote beach is a great way to numb aching muscles.
Starry Night, Algonquin Provincial Park
Head for the dark skies of an Ontario provincial park or reserve for terrific stargazing. Find the clearest skies on a crisp winter night, above the blank canvas of a frozen lake or snowy perch. Algonquin Park makes it easy, with heated yurts available for rent during winter months.
Reflections, Massasauga Provincial Park
Best explored by boat, the Massasauga protects a breathtaking 13,000 hectares of eastern Georgian Bay coast and the 30,000 Islands. This 200-km-long chain of polished pink granite islands extends from Port Severn to the French River, and comprises the world’s largest freshwater archipelago.
Floatplane, Woodland Caribou Provincial Park
Think you have to travel to the territories for the ultimate, fly-in Canadian wilderness canoe adventure? Think again. Northwestern Ontario’s floatplane-accessible canoe country is infinite, uncrowded and breathtakingly beautiful. Red Lake Outfitters, Goldseekers Outfitting, and experienced bush pilots make it possible for just about anyone to explore Woodland Caribou Provincial Park’s thousands of kilometres of canoe routes. Find more outfitters and air service providers here.
Wildlife Tour, Timmins
You don’t have to book a flight to Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks to get up close with bison, elk, moose, and more. Cedar Meadows Resort & Spa, located near Timmins, Ontario, offers incredibly intimate wildlife tours on 175 acres overlooking the Mattagami River. The tractor-drawn wagon rides are especially popular with kids and families.
Tobermory, Fathom Five National Marine Park
On the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Lake Huron, the quaint village of Tobermory is a renowned summer snorkeling and scuba diving hotspot—just be prepared for cold water! Along with striking underwater geology and exceptional visibility, there are nearly two-dozen historic shipwrecks in these waters. Two of the most accessible—a 19th-century schooner and steamer—are found in 10-20 feet of water in Big Tub Harbour and can be viewed by snorkeling, paddling or boat cruise.
Obabika Lake & River, Temagami
The Temagami region is a landscape of superlatives, boasting some 4,700 km of canoe routes (that’s three times as many miles as Algonquin Park) and one of the oldest (around 350 years) and largest white pine forests in Canada. Reach the old growth forest trails via a loop that combines Obabika Lake and Obabika River Provincial Park. Find great tips for planning a backcountry Temagami adventure here.
Fall Colours, Muskoka
Shorter days and longer, cool nights bring about Ontario’s famous annual leaf change each autumn. The Muskoka region offers some of the very best fall colour viewing. Take a driving tour or book a scenic flight with a local operator for an unforgettable view of one of nature’s most spectacular shows.
Ice Skating, Hardy Lake Provincial Park
Finding “wild” ice to skate on isn’t hard in Ontario—myriad lakes and ponds mean there are literally thousands of potential targets. But easy road access—like that available at Hardy Lake Provincial Park—increases skaters’ chances of finding perfectly glassy conditions like these.
Northern Lights, Lake Superior Provincial Park & Dark Sky Preserve
Ontario’s eight Dark-Sky Preserves, designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, guarantee the darkest skies for aurora gazing. Aurora Borealis—or northern lights—appears when solar particles interact with the Earth’s atmosphere. Viewing is best between 11 pm and 2 am, with fall and winter offering peak displays.
Top of the Giant, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Hikers who make this 22-km round trip in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park are rewarded with vertigo-inducing views of Lake Superior and the 900-ft cliffs that give “Giant” its characteristic shape. Read more about the challenging Top of the Giant trail here.
Surf the Greats, Lake Superior
On the north shore of Lake Superior, the town of Terrace Bay is home to beautiful beaches, epic waves, and an unlikely community of hearty freshwater surfers. Swell spilling onto these shores can form overhead barrels and long soul surfs every bit as legendary as Canada’s saltwater coasts.
Feeling inspired? Get out of the city and start exploring outdoor Ontario to find more bucket list destinations!