, Ontario is Canada’s most populous province with nearly 40% of the country’s population within its borders. Home to fantastic cities like Toronto and Ottawa as well as must-see attractions like Niagara Falls, Ontario’s fame is well deserved. For those preparing for their flights to Toronto, check out our must-see guide for the lesser-known experiences the province has to offer.
This iconic waterfall has become a Canadian emblem and as the most powerful waterfall in North America (by flow rate) it is a spectacle to see! There are lots of ways to truly experience this incredible natural wonder by both boat and air. Book the Hornblower Niagara Cruise to get close and personal to the falls on the water. If you want to take in the full vista, look into a helicopter ride to appreciate the full majesty of the falls.
The CN Tower
The CN Tower has dominated Toronto’s skyline since 1975 and is a familiar sight in the city. The CN Tower held the title of the World’s Tallest Freestanding Structure for 34 years as well as being proclaimed one of the seven wonders of the modern world back in 1995. There is a fantastic restaurant in the sphere of the CN Tower that offers 360-degree views while also offering fantastic food. Alternatively, enjoy the Tower Experience or Edge Walk for incredible views of the city.
Parliament Hill – Ottawa
These striking gothic revival buildings have become an international symbol of Ottawa and are home to the Senate, House of Commons and Library of Parliament. There are free daily tours and guided tours for those interested in the architecture and history at the heart of the capital city. Find out about how to enjoy your time in Ottawa in our blog post.
The city of Kingston has layers of Canadian history and was important in the conception of the country as well as the province. It is known as the city of limestone due to the many buildings made of this material, leading to some impressive architecture. Thanks to its tactical location, it also became a military hub.
Kingston was named the first capital of the United Province of Canada in 1841, though this only lasted three years. The city has over 1,200 buildings that have been listed as heritage. Among them are Fort Henry, which was built during the war of 1812, and the City Hall.
In Bon Echo Provincial Park, Mazinaw Rock stands 100m high and is covered in over 260 indigenous pictographs, the largest number of visible pictographs anywhere in Canada. It stands on the edge of Mazinaw Lake and contributes to the name of the Provincial Park, as during thunderstorms and fireworks displays, the sheer face is responsible for a resounding echo.
Canoe or kayak on Mazinaw Lake to see the full extent of the pictographs and spend the day on the beautiful beaches that Bon Echo has to offer.
Casa Loma was built by Sir Henry Pellat in 1911 to realise the perfect marriage of Europe’s romantic architecture to modern convenience. It was also a tribute to the wealth Sir Henry had accumulated in his life thus far. Casa Loma took three years and $3.5 million to build and it was filled with incredible artwork from both Canada and around the world. Sir Henry used Casa Loma to entertain business associates and host philanthropic events.
All good things come to an end and Casa Loma’s heyday was over with the turn of Sir Henry Pellat’s financial fortunes. The great residence cost a lot to maintain and along with poor business decisions, the Pellat family fell into debt and had to sell off many possessions, including Casa Loma in 1924.
Summer Outdoor Activities
Haliburton Sculpture Forest
Tucked away in the village of Haliburton, halfway between Ottawa and Toronto, is the Haliburton Sculpture Forest. Opened in 2001, this unusual outdoor collection of artworks by both Canadian and international artists’ works in close collaboration with the Haliburton School of the Arts.
The sculpture forest is both a teaching tool and a destination for tourists to have a quiet moment of reflection. Some sculptures like ‘Dreaming Stones’ take their inspiration from Canada’s history and First Nations people whereas others are inspired by nature.
Bruce Peninsula National Park has a couple of big attractions, namely the Grotto and Indian Head Cove. Bruce Peninsula National Park describes the beautiful Grotto:
“The Grotto is a large sea cave carved into the limestone shoreline along Georgian Bay. Inside the Grotto, there is a pool of water with an underwater passage to the exterior of the cliff face. It is possible to climb down into the cave’s large opening, however, it should be noted that the shoreline is very rugged and rocks can be very slippery when wet.”
The main attraction is not just the rock formation, but the beautiful water clarity and colour. Unfortunately, it is no longer considered a hidden gem of Ontario and can get busy in the summer months. Visit in spring or autumn for the quieter periods and if you intend to go in the summer, ensure you have a parking pass.
One of the more unusual venues on this list is an ongoing project by a teacher in Northern Ontario. The sculptures and castle itself are all inspired by ancient Britons thanks to the heritage of Peter Camani, the owner of this quirky property. We spoke to Peter about the origins of Midlothian Castle and the Screaming Heads:
“The castle and the Screaming Heads are an ongoing project by me to convert open fields in Northern Ontario into a large art piece. The screaming monoliths that decorate the land are made from concrete, not stone but somewhat resemble the circles of stones in England and Scotland. I am from England and have British citizenship. My heritage has definitely influenced my work. Atlas Obscura, a book released last year, lists the work as one of 600 of the most unusual places in the world and one of only six listed in Ontario.
“Because of the climate I cannot work all year but I am limited to the summer months only. All year, and even while I am working, I do allow onlookers to enter the property at no charge to wander the fields and travel through the sixteen-foot-high heads. Thousands do. The property is over three hundred acres and includes Midlothian Castle, 84 monoliths, ponds, forests and trails. Throughout the year the backdrop changes from season to season, bright green in the summer, reds in the fall and snow-covered in the winter. The Harvest Festival, a techno festival, is held here every September and disc golf is played here throughout the year.”
Guild Park and Gardens
The Guild Park and Gardens cover 88 acres of Toronto and consists of forest, shoreline and open parkland. The unique aspect of the park is the collection of fragments and sculptures that have been collected from more than 50 downtown Toronto buildings that were demolished in the 20th century.
This makes it the perfect trip for any architecture buff as there are examples of many different styles all in one place. The Greek Theatre is assembled from remnants of the Bank of Toronto Building while Art Deco pieces of the Toronto Star building have been formed into the pyramid pictured above.
Cross country skiing in Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is about a quarter of the size of Belgium and is worth visiting all year round. However, if you want to try your hand at cross-country skiing, it is the perfect stop. Miles of stunning woodland, over 2,000 lakes and hundreds of trails all ensure a fun day out in this pristine wilderness. Some trails are groomed which makes them great for beginners and you can rent equipment just outside the park limits.
Skating on the Rideau Canal
There can be nothing more Canadian than skating down the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. The section passing through the centre of the city becomes the world’s largest and second longest skating rink. The iced-over canal also hosts the Winterlude Festival every winter.
The opening times of the canal are dependent on the ice quality and therefore the weather, so it has to remain cold for the season for a few months of skating. Check out our guide to skating on this famous waterway here.
Attractions for foodies
Craft breweries have been cropping up all over Canada as brewers strive towards the perfect pint. However, as Canada’s oldest independently owned microbrewery, Wellington Brewers are the experts. Having celebrated their 30th birthday in 2015, they have refined their process and product, getting it out into local bars and restaurants as well as canning on site.
Enjoy a guided tour of the microbrewery in Guelph for a behind-the-scenes look at their process and talk to the knowledgeable and passionate staff about their products.
Niagara on the Lake Vineyards
Canadian wines have recently made it on to the world stage in terms of quality, and of the various wine regions of Canada, Niagara on the Lake is the most famous. After stopping to see the infamous falls, head over to the picturesque town of Niagara on the Lake. Among the quaint shops and delicatessens, bars sell local wines.
Alternatively, go to the source and tour some of the vineyards famous for ice wine among other produce. The Deluxe Niagara Winery Tour takes visitors around premier vineyards, allowing them to sample some of the best wines the region has to offer.