Destination Canada is opening up our horizons by rail, road and boat from coast to coast to coast for jaw-dropping views, meeting welcoming locals and experiencing awe-inspiring encounters around every corner of Canada. First stop: Ontario. Let’s go!
Home to cosmopolitan cities and incredible wilderness, Ontario is a province that has it all. Explore pristine national parks and the Great Lakes, discover the cultural buzz of big city Toronto and the open heart of Canadian capital Ottawa on a trip through Ontario.
Fast and Fun Facts
- How to get there: Air Canada flies direct from Australia to Vancouver, then onwards to Toronto or Ottawa.
- When to go: Ontario is at its best in summer and autumn from June to October.
- How big is it? Ontario is Canada’s most populous province and Toronto is it’s largest city.
- Did you know? Canada is the largest producer of icewine in the world and Ontario is home to the most sought-after, award-winning varietals. There’s even an Icewine Festival.
- Schitt’s Creek fan? The show was filmed in the real-life town of Goodwood, around 45km north of Toronto.
- Did you know? Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world combined with more than 50 per cent of the globe’s natural lakes. Ontario has more than 250,000 lakes including four of the five Great Lakes: Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario.
- Yum fact: Canada produces more than 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup. In Ontario, over a million litres per year is produced!
Speaking of maple syrup, Karryon met local Maple Syrup producer and Ontario local Tom Shaw to hear all about their operations at Shaws Maple Syrup in Orillia (9). It takes approximately 40 gallons of raw tapped sap to produce one gallon of delicious maple syrup. Sweet ey!
Psst. Agents, want a sweet treat for yourself? – make sure you read to the end to find out how you could win one of two famil trips to Canada to experience it for yourself!
Experience Ontario’s Cultural and Natural Wonders
1) Stop, drop and shop in Toronto
If all you know about Toronto is Drake and the Toronto Raptors, you’re in for a treat. Canada’s buzzy big metropolis is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and has a mind-blowing 140 diverse neighbourhoods. Set aside a few days on your itinerary to check out the major attractions and hidden gems.
Start with a trip up the 553m-high CN Tower for an outstanding outlook. Feeling brave? We dare you to try EdgeWalk – the world’s highest hands-free full-circle walk at 116 storeys.
Back on the ground, shoppers will love upscale Bloor-Yorkville or the Toronto Eaton Centre for some retail therapy or head to Dundas Square, a neon-lit intersection likened to NYC’s Times Square.
Thanks to its multicultural roots, Toronto is justifiably famous for its globally inspired dining (it was the first Canadian city to receive a Michelin guide) and its epic bar and nightlife scene with plenty of top spots to drink in the views. It’s also an eventful city with a year-round calendar of events and festivals, such as the Toronto International Film Festival.
2) Scenic Niagara-on-the-Lake & Niagara Falls
Home to the world-famous natural wonder, Niagara Falls, a visit to these majestic and thundering waterfalls is a must on any Ontario itinerary. There’s so many ways to experience Niagara Falls – on a classic boat cruise, via observation decks, by zipline or helicopter and even behind the cascading water!
The historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake aka NOTL is located 20km from Niagara Falls where Niagara River meets Lake Ontario and is full of old-world charm, well-known for its 50-plus wineries, fruit orchards and heritage buildings.
While its most famous varietal is icewine – a dessert wine made from grapes frozen on the vine – the Niagara wine region has everything from historic family-run estates to small-batch boutique operations. You can tour the vineyards by luxury coach, limo, helicopter, bicycle and even by Segway. Not surprisingly, great food is also on the menu here from farmers markets to seasonally inspired restaurants.
3) Wining and dining in Prince Edward County
Also known as ‘The County’ or simply PEC, Prince Edward County (not to be confused with Prince Edward Island) is Ontario’s trendiest holiday spot with popular beaches and a thriving food and wine scene.
PEC is an eclectic location that’s gaining popularity for its picturesque scenery, vibrant gourmet offerings and small-town appeal. It’s a spot for makers and creators where visitors can discover everything from artisan galleries, shops and boutiques to craft breweries, cideries and fromageries. With laidback vibes it offers a variety of eclectic stays for a road-trip pit stop from historic inns to boutique hotels, retro-cool motels and hip B&Bs.
4) Hipster cool Kingston
Located in the middle of Ontario, between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, Kingston is its own kind of cool. Most attractions are accessible by foot from downtown and it’s also the gateway to the scenic 1000 Islands region (5)– yep, the home of the Thousand Island dressing recipe.
That’s Kingston in a nutshell – equal parts historic, hipster and quirky. Take a sightseeing cruise or helicopter to explore the 1,864 islands on the border of New York State and southeastern Ontario. It also shares the UNESCO-listed Rideau Canal with Ottawa.
Alternatively, you can also check out Kingston’s live music and makers scene, and its lively shopping, ranging from Ontario’s oldest public market (originally established in 1801), antique markets to independent boutiques. Wander down hidden alleyways to uncover restaurant patios, bars and cafes.
6) Cultural capital Ottawa
There’s more to Ottawa than Parliament Hill, in fact, the multitude of cultural institutions makes it seem larger than it is. Ottawa shares a border with Quebec (Gatineau is just across the river) and has a unique blend of French and English culture. Of course the Parliament is worth a visit and you can even do lunchtime yoga on the hill in the summer months.
Culture and history take centre stage here in the Canadian capital, which is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rideau Canal, as well as the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History and many more. Stroll the cobblestone courtyards of the ByWard Market, one of Canada’s oldest and largest markets with an eclectic collection of boutiques, food vendors, restaurants and nightlife.
Ottawa is also a great place to enjoy the outdoors within city limits. Canoe or ice-skate on Rideau Canal in season, ride the rapids near the Canadian War Museum or explore the city by bicycle.
7) Ottawa Valley
En route to Algonquin Park, adrenaline seekers, will love whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River – there’s routes for everyone from first-timers and families through to more hardcore adventurers.
8) Get outdoors in Algonquin Provincial Park
Keen on leaf peeping? Algonquin Provincial Park is famous for its fall colours, best viewed from mid-September to mid-October. For a truly secluded escape in pristine wilderness, the Park offers an exclusive adventure with just three lodges or rustic cabin and camping accommodation options. Canada’s oldest provincial park is also easily accessible, located near Toronto and Ottawa.
Ideal for outdoorsy types, you can get up close to nature canoeing on crystal-clear lakes (there’s a whopping 2,000km of routes); spotting wildlife such as bears, moose and wolves on a guided tour (not too close though); trout fishing and stand-up paddleboarding too.
On land, enjoy stargazing minus the light pollution, try cross-country and backcountry skiing, ice-skating by torchlight in winter and simply relaxing by the campfire.
Algonquin also has plentiful signed interpretative trails for hiking, day trips and multi-day backcountry excursions or simply wandering around with a trail guide booklet. Open all year round, hikers can choose their preferred scenery on the interpretative trails from Bat Lake and Beaver Pond to Big Pines and Whiskey Rapids.
Ontario has something for every traveller from adventure to nature, it is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and culture seekers alike. Where will Destination Canada take you next? Stay tuned.
Psst. Travel Advisors! Sign up for the Canada Specialist Program and WIN
Big News! Travel advisors who are registered in the Canada Specialist Program will go in the draw for two upcoming Canada famils in September and October this year.
Join the Canada Specialist Program to learn more about its diverse landscapes and experiences, gain access to exclusive content and valuable tools to help you promote and sell Canada plus network with other agents via the closed CSP Facebook group.
Click here to sign up by the end of July 2023 to be in the running to win a spot on a Canada famil.
Want more Ontario? Head here for more info and inspo.
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