Must-See Ontario Roadside Attractions For Your Roadtrip

A view of St Andrew Presbyterian Church in Kingston, Ontario
A view of St Andrew Presbyterian Church in Kingston, Ontario | Unsplash | Pascal Bernardon
Alix Hall

If there’s a second thing Ontario road trippers know and love, it’s giant roadside attractions. Although it’s easy to underestimate the vast space of land that is Ontario, avoid rookie road trip mistakes and plan plenty of stops along the way. From a giant photo mosaic to an enormous Canada goose, there are plenty of colossal sights to see. In no particular order, here are the stops you must make while exploring the province.

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World’s Largest Photo Mosaic | Port Carling, Ontario

This 111 x 45-foot photo mosaic provides a stunning welcome to Port Carling and serves as both public art and a public archive. The mosaic project began in 2004 and consists of 9,028 pictures. Each photo is a snapshot in the lives of Port Carling residents during the village’s first century, from 1860-1960. Put together, the mosaic creates an image of the RMS Sagamo passing through the Port Carling locks c1922. The mural, which was supported by the Township of Muskoka Lakes, received a built heritage award from the Muskoka Heritage Foundation in 2007. Fans of the 2008 film One Week will recognize the wall: it’s one of the stops that Joshua Jackson’s character makes after a Tim Horton’s cup urged him to ‘go west, young man.’

The Big Apple | Colborne, Ontario

The Big Apple may seem like a massive tourist trap – and perhaps it is – but it’s a tourist trap that’s well worth the stop. Situated along the Highway of Heroes, you can see the world’s largest apple from the 401. Stop and take a photo; occupy stir-crazy kids with games including a train, mini putt and bocce ball (all complimentary); grab lunch; stock up on goods and souvenirs at the country store; and pick up a pie to take home (of course). You can also see all the pie magic in action, thanks to massive windows providing a glimpse into the kitchen.

The Big Nickel | Sudbury, Ontario

No trip to Sudbury is complete without checking out The Big Nickel, an exact reproduction of the 1951 Canadian coin. Built in 1964, the nickel symbolizes Sudbury’s mining heritage and the city’s contributions to the Canadian economy through nickel production. Chemistry buffs will be pleased to know that the 1951 five-cent coin was minted as a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the isolation and naming of the element Nickel. Science! The ‘heads’ side features King George VI, while the ‘tails’ is a stylized nickel refinery. The monument weighs in at nearly 13,000 kilograms and is approximately 64,607,747 times the size of a real Canadian nickel.

Red Canoe | Toronto, Ontario

Tom Thomson’s Canoe by Douglas Coupland

Nestled within Toronto’s Canoe Landing Park, a privately funded urban park in downtown Toronto, you’ll find ‘Red Canoe’ by Douglas Coupland. The park, which opened in 2009, was created in collaboration with the city, architects, and artists. In addition to Coupland’s canoe, visitors will find large fishing bobbers, a sculptural beaver dam, a pair of ‘iceberg benches’ and the heart-shaped stone artwork, which was cast from a stone collected by Terry Fox’s brother at the end of his journey. The Canoe, visible from the Gardiner Expressway, is large enough to hang out in – landlubbers, rejoice.

‘Willie Emerging’ Wiarton Willie Statue | Wiarton, Ontario

The living weather-forecasting groundhog Wiarton Willie gets most of his glory every February 2nd on Groundhog Day, where the presence or absence of his shadow predicts whether we’ll have six more weeks of winter, or not. Luckily, visitors can check out the ‘Willie Emerging’ statue in Wiarton’s Bluewater Park any day of the year. Unveiled on February 3, 1996, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Willie’s predictions, the statue’s construction is impressive – carved from a single piece of dolomite limestone, the completed statue weighs about 4.5 tonnes. Robinson intentionally left the statue roughly carved so the stone’s crystals would resemble the albino groundhog.

Canadian Goose | Wawa, Ontario

It’s not a Canadian road trip without a Canadian goose sighting. This Canada Goose, situated over the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 101, dates back to 1960. The last section of the Trans-Canada Highway was finally completed, linking Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie and Western Canada. Wawa residents were appreciative of the new roadway, but business folks weren’t too pleased the highway passed the community’s downtown core. What’s the best way to draw people to your town? With a giant Canada goose, naturally. The steel monument is a nod to Wawa and its large iron ore mine, and with Wawa meaning ‘Wild Goose or Land of the Big Goose’ in Ojibway, what better way to welcome visitors than with Canada’s largest goose? You’ll find it at the junction of Highway 17 and 101, right beside Wawa’s Tourist Information Centre.

Jumbo the Elephant | St. Thomas, Ontario

Dumbo and railroad lore enthusiasts will want to drop by the city of St. Thomas to take a peek at their Jumbo the Elephant statue. Jumbo, ‘The King of Elephants’, was the star of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth,’ the Barnum & Bailey Circus show. On September 15, 1885, Jumbo was performing in St. Thomas, a busy railway junction, when he was struck by an approaching steam train and tragically killed. On the 100th anniversary of Jumbo’s death, in 1985, St. Thomas erected a 38-tonne statue as a tribute.

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