Love diverse adventures in the wilderness, exciting activities and the natural world? Then the best Ontario adventures may be the answer. Ontario, in eastern/central Canada, is blessed with such a multitude of natural resources and adventure sports that it’s a top choice for activity holidays in Canada.
Canada is well known as a country of contrasts, but when considering adventure holidays Ontario is not normally top of the list of provinces to visit. But as this article will show it is full of exciting physical challenges, vastly contrasting experiences, and stunning natural resources.
By having real temperature shifts, from heavy winter snowfalls to hot sunny summers, the best Ontario adventures provide varied activity holidays in Canada year round. Chuck in the cities of Toronto and the Canadian capital of Ottawa and it’s a seriously underrated holiday destination.
I have been lucky to visit Ontario twice. As a kid my family took me there for a month long holiday visiting friends they’d met on the hippie trail in the 70s. I returned in my mid twenties for a month at the end of a ski season in Whistler. I have been planning to return ever since….
Although I have explored more of Ontario than most of my fellow Brits, I have barely scratched the surface of what there is to do. So I have combined my personal experience, with a lot of research and chatting with the friends of the family in Ontario, to pull together 25 of the best Ontario adventures.
Ontario is four times the size of the United Kingdom with just a fifth of the population, so it is fair to say there is plenty of untouched wilderness. There are many well known hiking trails, but also opportunity for exploration. I was taken to a magical spot known to locals as H lake, which required beating a path while carrying a canoe.
But for more well trodden – but still rarely busy – trails there are 800 kms of paths from the Niagara Escarpment connecting with the infamous Bruce Trail. In fact, all around the province you’ll find routes, tracks and walks devised for every fitness level. From an an afternoon amble, to multi day treks there is something for everyone.
In spring and autumn try walks through the Grand Valley Trail – this route reaches 275 km south from the Bruce Trail to Rock Point Provincial Park. Or take on sections of the Waterfront Trail, which follow the banks of the St Lawrence River and the shores of Lake Ontario.
There are so many routes for cycling in Ontario the government has brought in a special ‘Bike Train’. It’s not a train just for bikes, but helps get riders and other outdoor enthusiasts out into the wilderness enjoying the best Ontario adventures.
There are many long distance trails to enjoy in Ontario during activity holidays in Canada. For example, Huntsville which features trails around inland lakes and through dense forests. There are also more remote trails such as those along the 100 km Powassan Circle Route.
For downhill and bike park fans, Blue Mountain is a great spot in the summer as is the nearby Three Stages which are both about two hours north of Toronto. Within the Toronto area The Don is one of the favourite local bike parks, and in the winter check out Joyride for indoor riding.
While the Bike Train has plenty of stops to guide you, Ontario is ripe for exploration – so take the bike out and find your own way. Riding in Ontario you’ll pass as many family groups enjoying paved trails as hardcore downhill riders on gnarly trails.
A quick look at a map of Ontario and you can see this is a province of waterways. So it’s no surprise that canoeing is one of the best Ontario adventures. There are thousands of lakes, islands on which you can pitch camp, and over 1,600 kms of mapped canoeing routes.
Using these you can get into the heart of Ontario’s national parks. Algonquin is a favourite, as is Lake Superior and Georgian Bay. You can either take a tent and find a place to pitch camp, or explore from a luxury lodge and enjoy all the comforts at the end of each day.
For the uninitiated the difference between kayaking and canoeing are to do with how you sit, the type of paddle and whether the boat is enclosed – read canoe vs kayak to find out more. Whichever you choose, the experience is very similar – wildlife, secluded bays and exploring unreachable wilderness.
Choose from trips around the Mink Islands, or explore the outlets of the Sandbanks Provincial Park on Lake Ontario nearer the border with New York State. After a day on the water, you’ll catch a sunset over Toronto to your west, and enjoy a meal cooked under the stars.
For experienced paddlers a sea kayaking expedition in Hudson Bay would be one of the most adventurous activity holidays in Canada. You could explore the coast of the Polar Bear Provincial Park, kayak around icebergs and view a multitude of wildlife and learn about the native Inuit.
With 1,200km of Ottawa River to raft, there’s really no need to look elsewhere for the best Ontario adventures. White-water rafting in Ontario is proof that the adventurous opportunities that fill the province can be safe and enjoyable for everyone regardless of age and experience.
Despite the river’s vast length, most rafting happens in a section of just 12km. Thanks to this, you’ll have guides that know this fast and furious white water like the back of their hands. The waters of Ontario’s second-largest waterway crash and drive through its ravines and passes: Hold tight!
If you thought great scuba diving was reserved only for the Caribbean, then think again! The Thousand Islands region offers unsurpassed opportunities, pin-sharp clarity and temperatures that will please. As will the array of wrecks and the spread of underwater life you’ll find.
Ontario has everything, from shore dives on Lake Ontario to real deep water adventures. Dives around Kingston vary from 26ft, way down to 100ft. The state has plenty of diving schools, so beginners will feel as welcome as the seasoned pros.
And if you are not up for full immersion grab a snorkel and mask and view from the surface. The mostly calm and clear waters are full of fish and the shoreline often had interesting underwater topography to explore.
Whether you prefer to be towed behind a boat or a cable there are wakeboarding and water skiing options aplenty in Ontario. With so many lakes and waterways you’ll always be able to find somewhere that is protected from the wind with glassy smooth waters.
If you like to ride cable with features to practice tricks, then What Wake Park just north of Bala is a good choice as is Timmins Wake Park in central Ontario. Rail Yard, Spray Lake and Ranch Wake Park are all within easy reach of Toronto during activity holidays in Canada.
The 700 km long Niagara escarpment is a limestone ridge crossing southern Ontario that is blessed with multiple climbing spots. Offering everything from challenging trad routes of the Milton area to great bouldering at Niagara Glen and exposed sport climbing with hanging belays at Lion’s Head – Ontario’s first 5.14a.
There are well over a thousand registered climbing areas within Ontario with crags suitable from complete beginner through to expert. They are dotted all over the region from the far south to the north and east to west so climbing is one of the best Ontario adventures wherever you are staying on your activity holidays in Canada.
Covering two-thirds of the province Ontarian forests are legendary. In the south you’ll find deciduous trees, in central and north-western sectors you’ll discover the forests are mixed, with different kinds of maples and pines. Further north they make way for coniferous forests.
Canopy walking takes you high into the treetops revealing the scale of these natural wonders. The longest canopy walk is to be found in the Haliburton Forest, with sections that are 70ft high delivering views only usually enjoyed by the resident wildlife.
If you don’t have a head for heights rest assured that all the routes are all secured and well tested. If canoeing and kayaking is the best way to reach some of the national parks, canopy walking provides the most unique view during activity holidays in Canada.
With 12 drop zones in Ontario, activity holidays in Canada would not be complete without having a go at the daddy of all adventure sports – skydiving. Most of the dropzones are near Toronto offering great views over the lakes and towards the city.
A top option is Niagara skydive, here you can do a tandem jump with the waterfall in the background. You can even indoor skydive in Niagara at the wind tunnel, this gives you the opportunity to experience the feeling of freefall without the need to get in a plane – great fun but the views are not as good.
Opposite Toronto, on the border with the US, is the Niagara Falls. Ask people to name one waterfall and it’s usually this one they pick! The good news is that the Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side are the most powerful, and from Canada you get the best view.
The water flows from the Niagara River and pours uninterrupted over the drop. On the US side the waterfall is less dramatic, as the river has slowed upstream when it passed Goat Island.
There are three falls to see and to get the best view you need to take to the air. Passing over all three you’ll see why the Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful: its brink (the edge over which the water pours) is twice as long and delivers 600,000 gallons per second to the river below
Where there is water there are boats. Whether you like yours with a sail attached or a powerful motor there is bound to be an option that floats your boat. The Harbourfront Centre in Toronto is a good place to start if you want to get out on the water with great views of the city.
There are sailing schools on Lake Superior, Georgian Bay, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and Lake Eire all of which are fun to explore. But for an adventurous boating safari head north to Hudson Bay, teaming with wildlife and icebergs it is a unique experience, giving you an insight into the indigenous inuit and this fragile ecosystem.
With the south of Ontario bordering the Great Lakes of North America some of largest freshwater lakes in the world can be your kiting playground. Regardless of wind direction there is always a beach within an hour or two drive of almost anywhere in Ontario with perfect cross shore winds.
There are kite and windsurf centres all over the state, a good place to start is Toronto where there are clubs offering lessons and gear hire along its shore with Lake Ontario. Learning to kitesurf or windsurf on the warm summer waters is without doubt one of the best Ontario adventures!
Moving seamlessly into winter activity holidays in Canada, once the lakes have frozen over you can use your kitesurfing skills to snowkite. Not just an activity for frozen lakes but any snow covered ground, this is a great way to explore Ontario in the winter.
The Toronto Kite Club is the only IKO certified company offering snowkiting lessons in Ontario. They tend to snowkite on Lake Simcoe, Bass Lake, and Lake Ontario. If you already know how to snowkite then the world – or in this case Ontario – really is your oyster.
Ontario has 34,000 km of dedicated tracks for the snowmobile adventurer. And thanks to guaranteed snowfall, this is one sport that’s always going to satisfy. With such a vast landmass to cover, a snowmobile is the best way to get around and a shoe-in in the best Ontario adventures.
And it’s so much more than transport: it’s a whole lot of fun! Northern Ontario is dotted with smaller towns and areas little seen by regular tourists. Wrapped up, and guided by people who know this spectacular region you’ll get to explore the interior while the less adventurous stick to the cities.
From day-trips to week-long adventures, snowmobiling also takes you closer to the lives and natural environments of the Indian tribes of Ontario.
Whether you’re an experienced climber looking for your next challenge, or a non-climber looking to try something new, ice climbing during the winter is easily one of the best Ontario adventures and is a great addition to winter activity holidays in Canada.
Batchawana Bay and Montreal Harbour offer are favourite spots found at the southern end of Lake Superior. Also in southern Ontario there is ice climbing at Kushog Lake, Elora and Bracebridge, both of which are easily reached from Toronto and are a great place to try ice climbing for the first time.
But the best ice climbing in Ontario can be found in the north, here you’ll find world renowned conditions around Red Rock, Marathon, Thunder Bay and Orient Bay on Lake Nipigon. There are dozens of ice-clad routes up to heights of 130 m (400 ft.). This far north the waterfalls can stay frozen and climbable until late spring.
No list of the best Ontario adventures would be complete without including skiing and snowboarding. Although the ski resorts in Ontario are not as famous as those in British Columbia and Alberta, they are still well worth visiting during winter activity holidays in Canada.
There are over 30 different places you can downhill ski within Ontario, and although many are just one of two lift hills, there are a few decent sized ski areas. The largest is Blue Mountain, around two hours north of Toronto, which has 720 ft vertical, 36 trails and over 250 acres of skiable terrain.
So there you have it, 25 of the best Ontario adventures. If this does not have you planning activity holidays in Canada then check your pulse! Be sure to take a look at our adventure holidays discounts in Canada as you could save yourself a fortune.