An Adventure Traveler’s Guide to Ontario

Kayaking in Georgian Bay
Kayaking in Georgian Bay | © OTMPC

Staff Writer

You don’t have to look very hard to find adventure in Canada, especially in Ontario. Hiking, kayaking or canoeing on a lake or camping by a breathtaking view are the norm here. If you want a truly memorable experience and are willing to go the extra mile for it, then take these simple pleasures to the next level. Keep reading to discover the incredible adventures of a lifetime.

Exploring shipwrecks

A 420 million-year-old dolomite ascends through Lake Huron to form Fathom Five National Park, where ancient rock formations and cliff-edge forests come together to create this ecological site. Below the gleaming lake lie 22 shipwrecks; there are also rare species of orchids and geological formations such as caves, cliffs, and overhangs. Explore this unique freshwater ecosystem by taking a glass bottom boat tour or by scuba diving and snorkeling. Most people spend a day here, hiking the trails, swimming and picnicking, but if you’re looking to get more out of it, set up camp on Flower Pot Island. The easiest way to get to the island is by taking a boat tour fromTobermory.

Fathom Five National Marine Park

Paddling “Shimmering Waters”

Ontario means “Shimmering Waters.” The province lives up to the name with over half a million lakes and rivers and a coastline spanning thousands of kilometers. Water babies can experience a breathtaking adventure by canoeing or kayaking in some of Ontario’s most beautiful areas. There are many different routes and options, depending on your experience level and the type of scenery you’re seeking. Don’t miss Algonquin Provincial Park; spending a few days here is ideal, but even if you only have a short amount of time, a paddle or two is an absolute must. Naturally Superior Adventures offers guided sea-kayak day trips, and if you like a bit of adrenaline, no matter what your level of expertise, Madawaska Kanu Centre offers the chance to do some whitewater paddling.

Algonquin Provincial Park

A boreal adventure

The boreal forest in northern Ontario is the most unharmed boreal forest in the world, covering an area the size of France. For one of the best backcountry experiences, head to Woodland Caribou Provincial Park with Red Lake Outfitters. Their self-guided trips will fulfill your wildest dreams. Accessible only by air, adventure lovers have a chance to immerse themselves deep in the forest, journey The Bloodvein River, seek out wolves, and go on a moose safari.

Exploring Bloodvein River

Whitewater rafting

Thrill-seeking adventurers will love Ottawa River’s whitewater rapids. The Algonquin First Nations called it “The Great River”; flowing out of Lake Temiskaming, it runs over 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) along Ontario’s east border up to St. Lawrence. For the fearless of heart, nothing but the choppy waves and swells of Hell’s Half Mile, Lemming’s Leap and Butcher’s Knife will do. If that isn’t daring enough, then take on the 16-foot (4.8-meter) waterfall at Garvin’s Chute.

There are a few outfitters along Ottawa River to fulfill your rafting needs, including OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River, River Run Rafting and Wilderness Resort or Wilderness Tours Raft and Kayak Resort. You’ll find various sizes of rafts among the outfitters, such as a guided big raft that holds up to 13 people, a Sportraft for six to eight people and a two-person Sportyak for the true daredevils. For some much-needed relaxation after a day of exhilaration, opt-in to stay at a resort where you can indulge in their facilities; there’s no shortage of camping, cabins, cottages or suites on offer.

Whitewater Rafting Ottawa River

Hiking and backpacking

For those that like to head into the great outdoors on foot, choosing any one of Ontario’s unadulterated nature trails will be a rewarding adventure. By trekking the province’s rugged terrain, panoramic cliff sides, coastlines and peninsulas, high ridges and deep valleys, you’ll discover hidden gems and incredible views. For a remarkable hiking experience, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Bruce Trail is the first choice. Stretching from the Niagara Peninsula to the Bruce Peninsula, this is Ontario’s oldest and longest trail.

The various parks have many other hiking trails. Killarney Provincial Park has some great hiking opportunities that shouldn’t be missed, especially the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, a 73-kilometer (44.7-mile) loop that can take up to 10 days to complete. It’s also worth checking out Frontenac Provincial Park and, of course, Algonquin Provincial Park. You also have the option of following Lake Superior’s Coastal Hiking Trail, with scenery that includes hidden coves, Agawa Rock Pictographs, amazing lookout points, and sunken ships. The best way to access all of this incredible nature is via The Parkbus, which offers scheduled bus services between Ottawa and Toronto during the summer and winter.

Lake Superior Trail

Adventure through culture

The Great Spirit Circle Trail on Manitoulin Island has nature-based adventures from an Aboriginal perspective. They offer a number of culture-rich lake and land experiences, from relaxing packages to wilderness eco-adventures and educational interpretive tours. Choose from heritage canoe rides, horseback treks, medicine walks, and hiking. The Sagamok region is home to the “Anishnawbek” (the Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi people), and Manitoulin Island is one of the largest freshwater islands in the world. Whatever you choose to do here, you’ll be in one of the most beautiful and unique parts of Northeastern Ontario.

Guided Hiking

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

In a country that spends most of the year in negative temperatures, cold weather brings its own sense of adventure. Do some research on Resorts of Ontario and discover plenty of places that offer unique experiences that rely on snow for more than just a scenic environment. During the winter, spend your days flying down hills and exploring frosted forests. Many Ontario Provincial Parks stay open during the colder months and have some excellent cross-country and snowshoe trails. Check out the trails at Albion Hills Conservation Area in Caledon, Stokely Creek Lodge in Goulais River, Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre in Midland, Scenic Caves Nature Adventures in The Blue Mountains or Crawford Lake Conservation Area.

Snowshoeing in Sudbury
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