So you want to visit Ontario, eh?
Even people who live in Ontario can have trouble appreciating the sheer size of this province. Ontario is Canada’s second largest province (Quebec is the largest), covering more than one million square kilometers, and hence there is a vast diversity of cultures, cities and towns, and an abundance of things to see and do from A as in Arts to Z as in Zany and just about everything in between. Ontario is an exciting place to visit for tourists and locals alike, year round.
But first some things that perhaps you did not know …
The name Ontario comes from an Iroquoian word, loosely translated as “beautiful” or “sparkling” water or lake.
Artifacts and archaeological excavations show habitation of what is today Ontario dating back at least 7,000 years.
Many distinct First Nation cultures such as the Iroquois, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Algonquin, Cree and Ojibwa people flourished here.
The longest street in the world is in Ontario. Yonge Street begins at Lake Ontario, and continues north through central and northern Ontario to the Ontario / Minnesota border, a distance of some 1896 kilometres.
Provincial claims to fames
Guy Lombardo (1902-1977) leader of the big-band era The Royal Canadian’s and known for his rendition of Auld Lang Syne (which is still played on New Years Eve) was born in London, Ontario.
The world famous robotic manipulator affectionately known as the Canadarm, used aboard the space shuttle, and its bigger brother the Canadarm 2, an integral part of the International Space Station, were designed and manufactured at Spar Aerospace, based in Brampton Ontario.
The Blackberry Smartphone was developed at Research In Motion in Waterloo, Ontario.
Ontario is as diverse in landscape and scenery as it is in experiences and adventure. Each region of the province offers unique discoveries and activities year-round. Ontario’s urban centres provide visitors from across the world first-class entertainment; the vast north boasts remote freshwater fishing and national parks and historic waterways, scenic lakes and rushing white-water action, and the Province’s smaller towns are often just simply charming.
Given the vast land mass of the Province, Ontario is often described regionally, and each region is very different, offering visitors endless opportunities to see, do a variety of activities to satisfy one’s inquisitive and natural curiosities and interests.
Situated between two Great Lakes, Southwestern Ontario is often described as culturally and naturally diverse. It is also mainland Canada most southern point. The region is renowned as a birding spot and during the late summer you can witness the migration of thousands of monarch butterflies.
This region boasts the longest golfing season in the province and great year-round fishing opportunities.
London and Windsor, both large cities in the region, provide visitors a cosmopolitan cityscape well-known for unusual festivals; performing and visual arts and sporting events.
You can also trace the Underground Railroad and visit sites dedicated to the brave men and women who dared escape slavery and helped shape this inspirational chapter in Canada’s history.
And while you are here, you you will not want to miss Point Pelee National Park of Canada, Long Point Provincial Park, Rondeau Provincial Park and Wheatley Provincial Park, all of which are key destinations to experience birding and watching seasonal butterfly migrations.
Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Wine Country
Niagara Falls, one of the most powerful waterfalls in North America, and also one of the most popular destinations in North America, continues to attract visitors from around the world. In These voluminous waterfalls are situated on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario and forms the international border between the Province of Ontario and the U.S. State of New York.
The awesome sight of both The Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls have been backdrops for countless movies, photos of newlyweds (Niagara falls in known as great place to be married) and family pics of Ontario residents who take their visiting relatives to witness one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
In fact, the region of Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake attract both visitors from Ontario, New York state and indeed from around the world for many and varied reasons.
Aside from “The Falls” as Niagara Falls is known locally, nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for, or because of, Shaw Festival Theater and wine.
From Niagara Falls, a pleasant drive along the Niagara Parkway will end at Niagara-on-the-Lake, which features every year several plays during the Shaw Festival. And the area around NOTL is, or has become, renowned for the many world-class and award-winning wineries that provide visitors hours and hours of tours and tastes …
Each area offers visitors attractions aplenty, seasonal, golf courses galore and classic culinary cuisines. And oh, did we mention the scenery?
Greater Toronto Area
What can be said about Toronto? As it turns out … plenty! Toronto is the capital of Ontario, a cosmopolitan city that boasts a population of 2 million plus residents, is the business and banking centre of the country and offers visitors just about everything one would expect of a major international city.
As well, Toronto is known as being ethnically diverse (There are some 140 languages spoken here), an international crossroads where people from all over the world come either to live or to visit, and as such the city has become an incredible fusion of traditions, passions and ways of looking at life from the perspectives of over 100 cultures. Diverse neighbourhoods flourish and fashion, entertainment, the arts, food and architecture thrive.
Toronto is also very well represented by the arts, cultural, entertainment and sports elements that make up a world-class city. Many of the city’s galleries and museums are either the largest of or world-acclaimed …
Bruce Peninsula, Southern Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe
Defined by the shores of the regions’ many lakes, outdoor enthusiasts will be delighted by the national and provincial parks (one of which is a marine park with superb diving opportunities) and the hiking, biking, year-round fishing, skiing trails, snowshoeing and unique adventure activities that the region can offer.
Historic sites, aboriginal heritage villages, museums and galleries make up the areas’ interesting stories of the regions’ history.
South Eastern Ontario
In and around the South Eastern region of Ontario, one can delve into the long-ago days of the Loyalists in faithfully preserved towns and villages that dot the region. One can also boat and cruise along the wondrous St Lawrence River and explaore any number of the Thousand Islands along the way.
Especially alluring are the citys of Kingston and Ganonaque. Thousands of visitors tour Fort Henry in Kingston. You can also visit the Rideau Canal, UNESCO World Heritage site.
A beautiful island adventure, Prince Edward County is a mecca for artists, nature lovers and anyone looking for an unusual region of the Province. The County offers live theatre, artists’ studios and galleries, regional cuisine and a flourishing wine constituency. Over 34 wineries have been established in the past ten years in Prince Edward County.
Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is a destination for Canadians and out-of-the-country visitors alike. Ottawa is Ontario’s second largest city and as the capital, is a showcase of national sites and monuments and the country’s most impressive line-up of national museums. The city is coloured green with an abundance of natural setting of rivers, waterways, parks and pathways.
As well, the city’s pleasant countryside offers natural beauty and an abundance of quaint towns and shops. Gien Ottawa’s proximity to Gatineau, the flour of Quebec is just ten minutes away across the river.
If you’re appreciate the great outdoors Ottawa’s Countryside is brimming with activities that appeal year-round. You can white-water raft and kayak on the Ottawa River, cycle to your heart’s content, or ski along of kilometres of groomed cross country trails and ski resorts.
Less than three hours from Toronto and Ottawa, the Haliburton Highlands, which is also often referred to as “A Natural Work of Art”, is nestled amongst the rugged landscape of the Canadian Shield. The region is home to hundreds of lakes, and borders Algonquin Provincial Park to the northeast. In the spring, summer and fall, visitors flock to Haliburton to enjoy boating, swimming, canoeing and fishing. The winter brings its sweet seasonal and special charm, with breathtaking scenery, and some of the best winter sports anywhere.
There are quaint towns and villages to visit and an arts community that vibrant and often pays tribute to the regions history.
Muskoka and Algonquin Park
Located just two hours north of Toronto, Muskoka has been a vacation area of choice in Ontario for well over 100 years. Vibrant natural beauty abounds, set within a mosaic of pristine lakes surrounded by rocky shorelines and majestic forests. This is where you’ll find some of Canada’s most beautiful lakes, including the “big three”; Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph, as well as Lake of Bays, Fairy, Mary, Peninsula, and dozens more.
Several thriving urban centers provide excellent shopping and entertainment and first class resorts, artisans shops and visitor attractions complement the rustic landscape. Very popular with residents of Toronto and visitors from the United States, the Muskokas provide some of Ontario’s wildest and most beautiful freshwater landscapes. The Muskokas are often called Ontario’s outdoor year-round playground. Folks have been visiting towns such as Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst since the cradle.
Algonquin Park is a traditional and often annual pilgrimage for campers, canoeists, backpackers and nature-lovers of every description and is a canoe-trippers’ dream and an outdoors enthusiast’s haven with its crystal-clear lakes and carefully-maintained trails.
The ultimate true Canadiana wilderness experience, and also Canada’s oldest provincial park, Algonquin Park
Is practically beloved for it’s more than 7,500 square kilometres of wilderness. Algonquin Park’s best-kept secret is the gift of winter, when one can dog sled, cross-country ski, snowshoe, walk trails and even camp. The park also offers some of the finest brook and lake trout fishing in the world. Glaciers that retreated 11,000 years ago left behind deep coldwater lakes carved into hard granite – an ideal environment for these slow-growing fish.
Not too far from and yet close to nature. Northern Ontario is immense, and attractive to visitors who appreciate towering old growth Boreal forests, lush wetlands, coastal vistas, thundering white water, cascading falls and landscapes beyond compare. You will be sharing these wide-open spaces with the wildlife of the region: deer, eagles, moose and bear and all manner of smaller creatures that habitat the areas. And yet, Northern Ontario offers visitors urban and cosmopolitan attractions and fine dining, contemporary and classic theatre, state-of-the-art museums showcasing the region’s rich history and aboriginal heritage, and family-friendly attractions.
Manitoulin Island is one of Ontario’s most beautiful gems and the largest fresh water island in the world. Manitoulin Island houses 108 lakes and some of the lakes have small islands on them, Lake Mindemoya is home to Treasure Island, the world’s largest island in a lake, in an island in a lake. Having a hard time picturing it? Then take a trip to Manitoulin, it’s only a ferry ride away. Located on the island, Wikwemikong remains the only unceded Indian Reserve in Canada.
Two of Northern Ontario’s largest urban centres, North Bay, Sudbury and are located here. North Bay is a popular year-round destination flanked by two large lakes and featuring a ski hill right in the city. Sudbury is home to the Giant Nickel and, as the third-largest French speaking population outside Quebec, has a vibrant Francophone culture to share.
You may also want to consider visiting Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie (Folks in Ontario refer to the city as the Sault or the Soo).
There’s a reason more and more avid outdoor enthusiasts choose to start and end their outdoor experience in Thunder Bay. Quite simply, it’s Nature.
Located on the shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake and nestled among Canada’s Boreal forests and Canadian Shield, the city provides outdoor enthusiasts with a multitude of outdoor adventure options.
Here you will find the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (Yes … that really is the name of the park), which is one of Canada’s great natural wonders, the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, Quetico Park and tens of thousands of angling lakes and thousands of kilometres of wilderness trails.
You can also utilize the resources of Thunder Bay as the gateway the great outdoors just a little further afield – floatplanes regularly fly hunters, fisherfolk and campers to the wildernesses of Ontario to stay in remote lodges and experience wildlife up close and personal.
Sault Ste. Marie is one of the oldest settlements in North America. For at least 2,000 years, people such as Jesuit Missionaries, explorers, voyageurs, artists, soldiers and traders have populated areas beside the rapids of the St. Marys River such as Jesuit Missionaries, explorers, voyageurs, artists, soldiers, and traders. With a mission established by French Jesuits in 1668 in the name of Louis XIV of France, fur trading posts began, and the Soo became one of the oldest European settlements in Canada.
Sault Ste. Marie has to be one of the most year-round, outdoor-activity diverse regions in the Province.
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