Getting out into the wilderness is what Canada is all about, and Ontario is one of the best places to uncover its incredible landscapes. The perfect balance of urban and nature, it’s not only one of the country’s most culturally diverse regions, it’s also home to over 250,000 lakes and several fabulous national parks. Many are located within a short drive of the province’s major cities, but there’s plenty of nearby accommodation options for those wanting to extend their stay and experience these areas of natural beauty to their fullest.
Encompassing over 60 square miles (156 square kilometers), Bruce Peninsula National Park is a favorite among thrill-seekers looking for adventure. Go scrambling along the Georgian Bay shoreline, swim at Singing Sands Beach, try your hand at mountain climbing or hike its many trails, where you can see fossils dating back over 400 million years and unique geological structures including The Grotto, a secret cave containing a pool of crystal-blue water. Visit the Parks Canada Visitor Centre to plan your visit, book tours and admire the fantastic landscape from the viewing tower.
Just a few hours from Ontario’s major cities, a group of islands speckle the St Lawrence River. Thousand Islands was the first national park east of The Rockies, known for its hidden bays and rare wildlife, including white-tailed deer and great blue herons. Take a guided paddling tour to learn more about the area’s history and geography, or rent a boat and explore in your own time. The park is also a popular fishing destination, with pike, yellow perch and largemouth bass among the species found in its streams.
Discover unique southern flora and fauna and wildlife including beavers and muskrats in one of Canada’s most biodiverse regions and its second smallest national park, Point Pelee. The Woodland Nature Trail is a particularly delightful spot to visit during springtime, when you can stroll along bridges under the canopy of large trees coming into bud. Book a freighter canoe excursion and paddle the wetlands comprising much of the park, or hire a bike and cycle its winding trails. Visitors can also camp, hike, swim and birdwatch during their stay.
Located a 30-minute drive from the lush and leafy Muskoka Region, Georgian Bay Islands National Park is a great place to visit any time of year, but especially during the fall when you can witness its striking foliage colors. Consisting of 63 small islands, this park has an extensive history, and is formerly the home of native tribes. Arrowheads and cave drawings found here have been traced back over 7,000 years. Other highlights include the hiking trails around Beausoleil Island and swimming in Lake Huron’s sparkling waters.
Part of the Thunder Bay District, this is Ontario’s only wilderness national park, known for its pink-and-slate granite shores. Those up for the challenge can tackle the 37-mile (60-kilometer) hiking trail, which climbs the steep Lake Superior coastline and treks through rugged boreal forests — many containing black bears. Relaxation and idyllic views await at Hattie Cove, a lovely picnicking spot. You can also join park interpreters to learn more about the culture of the Anishinaabe First Nations tribe and experience some of the traditional activities still practiced today.
See Toronto’s largest remaining marshes and wetlands at Rouge National Urban Park. Hire a canoe and see them up close at your own pace, or head out on a guided excursion, where you can learn more about the area’s culture and human history. The park has some of Canada’s oldest known Indigenous sites — some dating back over 10,000 years. It’s also home to some of the last remaining working farms in the Toronto area and the city’s only campground.