Pristine Wilderness and the Welcoming Towns of Northern Ontario

Canada’s most populous province has many accessible natural spaces and road trips are the ideal way to explore wilderness areas and Ontario’s northern towns.

A road trip is a relaxing way of getting to know Ontario beyond Toronto and the urban settlements of the province’s southern extremes.

Ontario is an easy destination to drive in, with multi-lane highways and wide roads in and around Toronto which soon give way to the quieter roads outside of the city. Just 3.5 hours drive from downtown Toronto is Alogonquin Provincial Park, covering 7,653 sq km (2,955 sq miles), the park is larger than Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, and is accessible throughout the year.

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Algonquin Outfitters

Algonquin Provincial Park

Lying at the transition zone between deciduous forests to the south of the Park and coniferous forests to the north, this is a rewarding destination for anyone trying to get a view of the explosion of fall colours in the Autumn, with the regions rich biodiversity also resulting in frequent animal sightings – everything from moose and black bears to white-tailed deer and beavers!

Like much of northern Ontario, Algonquin Provincial Park is dotted with lakes. Canoeing is a pleasant way of experiencing the landscape and nature with rental equipment available with Algonquin Outfitters. Interpretative trails provide insights to various aspects of the region’s heritage with Algonquin Logging Museum conveying stories relating to an industry that has evolved to encompass forestry management.

Heading north in Ontario

From Toronto, heading northward on the Trans Canada Highway brings an opportunity to pause at Gravenhurst and explore the lakes of the beautiful Muskoka region. During autumn, the Muskoka Cranberry Route celebrates local production of the fruit and snowmobiling is a popular way of traversing the landscape in winter.

Just off the highway, Grundy Lake Provincial Park’s beaches are ideal for unwinding after summer swims, with the park open to visitors from 10 May until 15 October. Naturalists lead guided hikes, providing insights into the Precambrian geology of the Canadian Shield and regional history. Marked trails are also available in an area known for outstanding birdwatching, particularly in the spring, with sightings of species including ruffed grouse and pileated woodpeckers frequent.

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Sunset over Lake Nipissing

Further north, French River Provincial Park is named after Canada’s first heritage river, long used by Indigenous people, fur traders, explorers and Voyageurs.

Lakes, gorges and rapids connect a 105km route between Georgian Bay and Lake Nipissing in a wilderness area dotted with campgrounds and lodges.

Northern Ontario’s Sudbury offers a gateway to outdoor adventures. In winter that includes snowshoeing, ice fishing and cross-country skiing.

Summer brings opportunities to cycle, hike and enjoy the nearby Lake Laurentian Conservation Area.

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Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario.

World religions are celebrated at the tranquil Grotto Lady of Lourdes, in the heart of an urban area with a wealth of shopping and nightlife.

North Bay is another hub for outdoor activities with the Duchesnay Falls at their most powerful in the springtime.

Fat biking is a fun way of exploring the countryside in winter and a range of water sports on Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake, both of which have sandy beaches ideal for family days out.

Exhibits at the Canadian Forces Museum of Aerospace Defence tell the story of defending Canada’s sky for more than a century. Timmins, meanwhile, warrants a diversion to view the many murals adorning its walls.

In addition to outdoor activities in the surrounding area, low levels of light pollution make stargazing and northern lights viewing rewarding at Hershey lake Conservation Area.

Additionally, northern Ontario’s Killarney Provincial Park, on the rugged Georgian Bay coast, and Manitoulin Eco Park are both Dark Sky Preserves.

Travelling in northeastern Ontario brings opportunities to experience the hospitality of francophone communities, including Smooth Rock Falls, Kapuskasing and Hearst, before heading southwest to Thunder Bay or back in the direction of Toronto.

With authentic communities, a wealth of outdoor activities and natural landscapes, there’s much to be seen and experienced in northern Ontario.