The Canadian Province of Ontario is huge! It’s the size of a small country and to see it all takes months. (even years!) Luckily, we’ve toured a lot of our home province and have rounded up the most iconic places to visit in Ontario.
This list will help you plan your visit and hopefully it will introduce you to a few places you’ve never heard of before!
It wasn’t easy choosing, we definitely left out many iconic places. So be sure to leave a comment with your choices if we didn’t include them.
Best Places to Visit In Ontario
Facts About Ontario
Table of Contents
Ontario houses four of the five Great Lakes: Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. It is home to the Niagara Escarpment a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and Niagara Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world.
Ontario is larger than Ukraine, France, and Spain. Three of Europe’s largest countries! It is home to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, and Canada’s largest and most exciting city – Toronto. When visiting Canada, a trip to Ontario is a must and these are all of the best places to visit in the province!
- Read more facts at – Fun Facts About Canada That Will Make Smarter
Unique Places in Ontario
There are so many places to visit in Ontario, it’s difficult to know where to begin. So we thought we’d start of this epic list with the more unique experiences and ideas. But don’t worry, as you go along, there are places in and close to Toronto and other urban centres. No matter where you are in Ontario, I am sure there is a place to visit near you!
1. The Grotto
We have always known about how special Tobermory was. Its shipwrecks have attracted us to its icy waters since 2000 when we started scuba diving. But we never really looked into its draw to photographers until it caught the eye of Instagrammers.
We used to have this beautiful coast on the Bruce Peninsula all to ourselves. Today, you need to make a reservation to see the turquoise waters shimmering in a cave. But with tourism now restricted due to COVID, perhaps it is the time to see it again without the crowds!
2. Flowerpot Island
While you are in the neighbourhood, Flowerpot Island is another iconic place in Ontario. Located in the Fathom Five National Marine Park of Tobermory, a place we frequented while diving at the turn of the century (that sounds so weird to say, but it was 20 years ago!) The pillars and caves of Flowerpot Island attract hikers, daytrippers and boat tours to see the interesting formations.
3. Wiarton Willy
Located in the waterfront town of Wiarton, Wiarton Willy is Canada’s answer to Punxsutawney Phil. Each February crowds gather around this groundhog’s home as he predicts whether it will be an early or late spring depending if he sees his shadow or not. Willy has the rest of the year off, and visitors can pop by his dwelling to say hello! Read more at the Grey Bruce Superloop
4. White River
Blink and you’ll miss it, but White River is famous for Winnie the Pooh. Even though it is small, White River is one of the most iconic places to visit in Canada for a historical reference. Way back in 1914, a hunter shot a bear cub’s mother and brought the cub back to town to keep as a pet.
A soldier going through White River by train bought the bear cub for $20 and brought it to Europe with him. When his regiment was shipped off to France to fight, the soldier gave the bear to a zoo in England and that is where the bear lived out its life. Writer A.A. Milne frequented the zoo and his son Christopher Robin liked the bear giving it the nickname Pooh. “Thus Winnie the Pooh was born in White River.”
The Diefenbunker is definitely one of the quirkiest museum in Ontario. This underground museum was built during the Cold War for Canada’s top dogs to take cover in case of a nuclear attack.
Located strategically outside of Ottawa, it was meant to withstand a nuclear bomb. It’s like stepping back into a time capsule as you tour old computer rooms, creepy living quarters and even medical rooms.
Touring the Deifenbunker makes you realize that you wouldn’t want to be the one called upon to live in here after an attack. I’d take my chances outside.
6. Cheltenham Badlands
Dave and I stumbled upon this weird phenomenon while cycling outside Toronto in Caledon years ago. Nobody was around and we never knew it existed before then.
Today, it’s popular for photographers. It is a piece of land that looks like the Badlands of Alberta or South Dakota. Terrible environmental practices were the result of exposing this red piece of shale creating a lunar-like landscape.
- Read more: 25 Day Trips from Toronto to Escape the City
7. The Big Nickel in Sudbury
Canada loves roadside attractions. There’s the Big Apple in Colborne as you drive east on the 401 towards Montreal or Ottawa, there’s the Big Paddle in BC, and the Canada Goose of Wawa.
But my favourite is the Big Nickel in Sudbury. Located at the Dynamic Earth Science Museum (which is a lot of fun) the Big Nickel was built in 1964 to pay homage to the mining industry of the area.
There are so many amazing places in Ontario and a lot of times it is difficult to get out of the cities when you are a tourist. So we thought we’d focus on a few urban landmarks that are located in popular Ontario cities. First time visitors to Ontario shouldn’t miss these sites.
8. Niagara Falls
It may seem like the obvious choice, but for first-time visitors to Ontario, this is the ultimate place to visit in the province! Having been to Victoria, Iguazu, Gulfoss and other major waterfalls around the world Niagara Falls really does stack up against the best of them!
What makes Niagara Falls so unique is the fact that a city is built around it. There are so many amazing Niagara attractions, you can spend a week taking advantage of all the adventures and scenery.
9. Niagara on the Lake
While visiting Niagara Falls, be sure to head down the road and explore Ontario’s wine region of Niagara on the Lake. Its historic downtown is a lovely weekend getaway from Toronto.
- The Best Things to do in Niagara Falls
- Romantic Places to Visit in Ontario
- Toronto to Niagara Falls by Bus
10. Ottawa Parliament Buildings
Canada’s Parliament Buildings are a top draw to visitors of Ottawa. Located on Parliament Hill, these striking Gothic buildings have dominated Ottawa’s waterfront since 1859. They are a national historic site in Canada and you can tour the buildings, walk around the grounds, and even sit in on a parliament meeting to spy on the Prime Minister!
10. The CN Tower
You can’t miss visiting the CN Tower when in Toronto. It is one of Canada’s top attractions! The CN Tower once held the distinction of the world’s tallest structure. Today it is the third highest tower after the Tokyo Skytree in Japan and the Canton Tower in China.
While it offers some of the best views of Toronto it also has one of the best adventures in Toronto! Get your adrenaline pumping with the Edgewalk. You’ll cling to the outside of the structure in the world’s highest external walk on a building. Even my dad did the Edgewalk in his 70s, so you can do it too!
11. Stratford Festival
Stratford is a beautiful town two hours from Toronto located on the Avon River. It feels like a slice of old England with the Avon and Festival Theatres being the main draw in town showcasing the works of Shakespeare. While the theatre attracts crowds and actors from around the world, it is also a very picturesque town in Ontario to visit.
12. Casa Loma
Another interesting landmark to visit is Casa Loma in Toronto. Casa Loma is Ontario’s castle complete with hidden passageways, stables and a beautiful garden. Sir Henry Pallett began construction in 1911. But thanks to The Great Depression, World War I and financial difficulties he lost the castle in 1923.
It has been used as everything from a hotel, to a nightclub, and was even abandoned for awhile. Today you can tour the castle, enjoy fine dining and high tea and there are several regular events happening.
Lake Superior is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Ontario. For most, it is also one of the more unexplored places in Ontario due to it being so far north. Getting there is a bit of a drive, but once you are up on the North Shore of this magnificent Great Lake you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime!
13. Terry Fox Memorial
Terry Fox is a national hero of Canada. In 1980, he started a journey running across Canada after losing a leg to cancer. Sadly his cancer came back during his run and he had to stop partway through in the town of Thunder Bay located on the Trans Canada highway.
He was 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) into his run and a memorial was erected in his honour at the location he had to cut his journey short. His memory lives on and each year, there is a charity run in his name that takes place across the country raising money for cancer research. When you visit Thunder Bay, it wouldn’t be complete without stopping at this moving memorial.
- Enjoy the Best of the Lake Superior Circle Tour
14. Agawa Rocks Petroglyphs
The drive along the TransCanada Highway between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay is certainly the most beautiful drive in Ontario. While you are on that road, there is a stop that many people miss along the route. The ancient Agawa Rock Petroglyphs were painted by the Ojibway People centuries ago. You have to walk out onto an outcrop while holding onto rope to see them and it is worth the adventure!
15. Slate Islands
Speaking of wildlife encounters, the Slate Islands are one of the top places to visit in Ontario for a unique wildlife experience. There is a herd of woodland caribou that inhabit the island.
Located 13km in the middle of Lake Superior, the Slate Islands are their own little ecosystem of plants and animals. A weeklong camping trip is definitely a must!
16. Sault Ste Marie
It’s time to visit a cool northern town, Sault Ste Marie. Known as “The Soo,” Sault Ste Marie is home to the Canadian BiPlane Heritage Museum and one of the best places in the world for fly fishing, according to Ernest Hemingway himself, the Saint Mary’s River.
We went fly fishing here and it was awesome. Fly fishers from around the world put on their waders and spend hours catching and releasing bass and steelhead.
The name alone makes Wawa worth visiting. But this little town on the north shore of Lake Superior packs a punch.
First you must stop to say hello to the Wawa Goose. The Wawa Goose was built in the 1930s to attract visitors bypassing Wawa on the drive along the TransCanada Highway. This massive Goose is one of the most photographed landmarks in North America. (according to the Algoma County Tourism Board anyway. )
19. Pukaskwa National Park
It is one of Canada’s greatest hikes. If you are looking for a challenge in a remote region of Ontario, this is the place to go. The trip starts with an exciting boat ride on Lake Superior that takes you to the start of the trail. It is then a 5-7 day long hike back along the gorgeous Canadian Shield shoreline and through breathtaking boreal forests.
Georgian Bay and Bruce Peninsula
A great place to explore Ontario in the summer is to head up to Lake Huron. Some of the most beautiful and iconic places to visit in Ontario are located in the Bruce Peninsula National Park – A long peninsula that juts into Lake Huron dividing it from Georgian Bay. You could spend all summer up here and never see it all! Trust me, we’ve tried!
19. Manitoulin Island
It’s the largest freshwater island in the world. Located on Lake Huron, this 2766 km2 (1167 square miles) has some of Ontario’s most iconic landmarks like Bridal Veil Falls, the Benjamin Islands and, the high lookout outcrop of the Cup and Saucer Trail.
Be sure to take part in one or all Great Spirit Circle Trail tours. Aboriginal Tourism offers the best First Nation’s experiences in Canada like the voice of the drum, smudging ceremonies, traditional dancing, cooking, and canoeing! Get to know the traditions and ways of the Anishinabe People who live on Manitoulin. Read all the things to do on Manitoulin Island
20. Thirty Thousand Islands
The World’s Largest Freshwater archipelago spans along the Eastern Shore of Lake Huron in Georgian Bay. Canada’s famous band of artists “The Group of Seven” made this part of Ontario a major focus of their works of art that can be viewed in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
You can take boat tours through this area, and there is some excellent shipwreck diving here as well. It’s one of Ontario’s premiere cottage country locations.
21. Blue Mountain Resort
Ontario isn’t exactly known for its ski culture, but Blue Mountain Resort does host World Cup ski and snowboard events! Blue Mountain near Collingwoods is an excellent weekend getaway for skiing in the winter and hiking, mountain biking, and watersports in the summer.
The village is an amazing place to hang out with fine dining, fudge and ice cream shops and plenty of shopping. There are so many things to do around Blue Mountain Resort like the Scandinavian Spa, the Scenic Caves, cycling routes, and in the winter it is the best place in Ontario to ski and snowboard. Read more about Blue Mountain Here.
22. Scenic Caves
Collingwood’s Scenic Caves are beautiful and to see them you get to cross Ontario’s longest suspension bridge. Located on the Niagara Escarpment, this labyrinth of 17 caves and formations located 70 feet below the surface of this UNESCO World Heritage Bio Reserve.
Make a day of it and do the Scenic Caves Eco Adventure Tour where you will walk along Ontario’s Longest Suspension Bridge offering beautiful panoramic views of Georgian Bay before going into a maze of high ropes and walkways followed by two awesome ziplines!
If you look at a map of Ontario, you’ll see a mass of green space that encompasses the Algonquin Provincial Park and Haliburton Forest. These are some of the more rugged places to visit in Ontario and if you love camping, wildlife and outdoors, it’s the place to go!
23. Wolf Centre
When Dave and I first discovered this, we couldn’t believe we had something so special right here in Ontario. Haliburton Forest is amazing enough to visit, but you really must go to see the pack of wild wolves that roam the land. You can watch them from behind a glass wall that keeps human contact to a minimum.
24. Algonquin Provincial Park
We’ve had a lot of wildlife encounters around the world, and taking a canoe and camping trip to Algonquin Park while looking for moose is right up there as one of the best! Booking a trip with a professional outfitter like Voyageur Quest or Algonquin Outfitters is a great way to find wildlife and have the most fun!
Ontario offers some epic water adventures. With more than 250,000 lakes, rivers and streams, Ontario is blessed with fresh and clean water that is ready and waiting to be explored. We can’t possibly cover them all. And there are several spots that are worthy of a mention, but then this post would go on and on and on.
But these are the most epic water experiences for people visiting Canada and those wanting to explore their own backyard.
25. Ottawa River
The Ottawa River is one of the most legendary places to visit in Ontario. The rapids on this river are so high, it attracts professional whitewater kayakers and rafters from around the world.
The mighty Ottawa River takes you through class III to V rapids on a trip you’ll never forget. Be sure to book a two to three night getaway at one of the resorts on the river to truly appreciate all the Ottawa River has to offer.
26. Missinaibi River
The Mssinaibi River is one of the most iconic canoe routes in Canada. This was once an important canoe route for First Nations and it was also an important route for fur traders. It is as rugged as it gets and canoeing or kayaking this river requires experience.
We trekked the Missinaibi in the winter and if we didn’t have our guides from Lure of the North, we definitely would have perished in the cold. I have no idea how the early settlers, First Nations, and fur traders survived up here, but it is glorious today!
27. Saint Lawrence River
There is a stretch of the Saint Lawrence River that everyone traveling Ontario should visit. From Kingston to Brockville, there are plenty of things to see and do. Snaking along the border of Canada and the United States, the Saint Lawrence River is one of North America’s most important waterways.
While touring the Saint Lawrence, visit the picturesque town of Brockville. It is home to one of the most instagram worthy stops in Ontario at Canada’s oldest railway tunnel. We loved drift diving the shipwrecks that litter the floor of the Saint Lawrence.
But if you want to stay above water, be sure to take a boat cruise through the 1000 islands. Thousand Islands National Park is a beautiful stretch of the river with islands and communities spanning 50 km.
28. Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is impressive to visit winter or summer. The best places to see the Rideau Canal are in Ottawa or Kingston Ontario. But there are some small towns in Ontario like Smith Falls, Perth and Merrickville to view them as well.
Built in 1832, the Locks were designed as a supply route in case of a war with the United States. Today it attracts boaters and tourists who marvel at the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the oldest continuosly operated canal in North America.
See the Rideau Canal in Winter at: Winterlude in Ottawa
29. Elora Quarry
The Elora Gorge is famous for the Elora Quarry that has been used as a location in many a Hollywood movie. Most recently in the movie “It.” Remember when the Loser’s Club jumped off the cliff? The 15 meter jump is popular with tourists. A 2km long section of the The Grand River runs through the Elora Gorge where limestone cliffs reach 22 meters into the air.
Beaches and Waterfalls
Ontario may be cold eight months of the year, but we really do love our beaches.
And besides, waterfalls can be beautiful when frozen too!
These are a few interesting back and water locations in Ontario that you should check out.
30. Wasaga Beach
If you head two hours north of Toronto, you’ll discover the longest freshwater beach in the world! Wasaga Beach is Ontario’s premier beach town with an astounding 14km of sandy beach to walk along the shores of Lake Huron.
31. Sauble Beach
If you love beaches, Sauble Beach is the second longest freshwater beach in the world at 11km long. What we love about Sauble Beach is that the water is shallow. The are sandbars out from shore keeping the water shallow and warm.
32. Scarborough Bluffs
Less than an hour from downtown Toronto are the stunning Scarborough Bluffs towering over Lake Ontario. Spanning 14 km and reaching 90 meters into the air, the Scarborough Bluffs are an outdoor lover’s dream. But be careful, every summer there are rescues along its trails as hikers fall over the steep cliffs.
33. Hamilton Waterfalls Falls
Who knew Ontario had so many beautiful waterfalls? Just outside of Toronto in the Hamilton area of the Niagara Escarpment, there are several scenic waterfalls that are awesome to visit.
You can spend a day or weekend checking them all out! There are 100 waterfalls to explore in the area. Webster Falls is probably our favourite, but there are so many waterfalls in the area because of the Niagara Escarpment. Read The Best Things to do in Hamilton, Ontario
- A few of the best Hamilton waterfalls:
- Albion Falls
- Balls Falls
- Devil’s Punchbowl
- Tew Falls
- Tourism Hamilton has a good list here.
34. Toronto Islands
Located a short ferry ride from Toronto are the tranquil Toronto Islands. It’s a little escape from the city where you can rent bicycles, go for a picnic or hang out on the beach. There’s even a nude beach if you dare!
I grew up on Lake Erie. My family boated the waters and I spent many a weekend waterskiing out to Pottahawk Island. To this day, my neices and nephews still go out to Pottahawk on Lake Erie for the annual “Pottahawk Pissup.” (how Canadian is that?) Here are a few hot spots for the average visitor to see on Lake Erie.
35. Port Dover
Located on Lake Erie, Port Dover is a popular day trip from Toronto. Grab a foot long hot dog at The Arbor and walk the streets to do some shopping. There’s a great sandy beach here too.
Port Dover has gained fame over the years from the thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts that flock to the beach on Friday the 13th.
36. Long Point
Long Point Provincial Park is a designated world biosphere reserve thanks to it being one of the largest areas for birds migrating in North America.
This narrow 40km long sand spit juts out so far into Lake Erie, that once you round the bend of Long Point, you are nearly half way to Erie Pennsylvania. Enjoy this Niagara Road Trip: One of the best places to drive in Ontario
- Read More Ontario Travel
- 19 Most Epic Things to do in Ontario
- 25 of the Best Places to Camp in Ontario, Canada
- 59 Things to do in Toronto – A Guide to the Top Attractions
- Things to do in Niagara Falls – What to do, Where to Eat & Where to Stay
- 33 Things to do in Ottawa – A Complete Guide to the City
- Top 11 Things to Do on Manitoulin Island
And that ladies and gentlemen are the best places to visit in Ontario. According to Dave and Deb. We are exploring more of Ontario this summer and are taking advantage of having to stay put for a bit. When you are forced to check out your own backyard, you find some of the most exciting hidden gems.
What hidden gems have you found this summer?
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