Last updated: 07:06 AM ET, Thu January 26 2023
Downtown Toronto, Ontario facing West along Front street. Long exposure at dusk. (Steven_Kriemadis / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


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Beautiful colorful fall leaves and trees surrounding a silky smooth waterfall. Located in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. (intuilapse / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Beautiful colorful fall leaves and trees surrounding a silky smooth waterfall. Located in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. (intuilapse / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

It is commonly believed that the name Ontario derives from an Iroquoian word meaning “shimmering” or “glittering lake.” Others say Ontario is a Huron (Wyandot) word meaning “great lake.” In this case, both etymologies aptly describe Canada’s most-populous province. Bordered by Lake Ontario, after which the province is named, and Lake Erie to the southeast; Lake Huron to the south; Lake Superior to the southwest; the Hudson Bay to the north; and almost countless smaller inland lakes, water is rife within the province. Niagara Falls dominates as Ontario’s premiere water feature, but there is plenty of other aquatic adventure to be had by the intrepid traveler. Nearly 5,000 miles of interlocking canoe trail wait to be navigated in the area of Lake Temagami, waterfalls abound in Hamilton, walleye wait for fishermen and around the Bruce Peninsula, divers will find a cache of coves and shipwrecks to explore.

But Ontario is much more than just water. Nineteenth century history is preserved in the province alongside all things modern Canadian. Port Hope‘s downtown boasts the best preserved 19th century streetscape in Ontariom while Toronto’s Distillery District is a gold mine of preserved and restored Victorian architecture. The trendy vibe of the latter makes it a destination within Toronto and as fine an example of the progressive Canadian present as a preservation of the Canadian past.

The relics of Aboriginal histories and the pride of the tribes at present are finely displayed, and truly respected, at Petroglyphs Provincial Park in central Ontario and the Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve on Manitoulin Island off Lake Huron.

For military history buffs, Ontario is the go-to Canadian province for the United Empire Loyalist and War of 1812 landmarks speckling the southern parts of the province. Fort St. Joseph is a National Historic Site and around Ottawa, the modern-day Canadian capital, and Toronto (bi-centenarians may remember the pillaging and burning of the Town of York on the site), historic battlefields and monuments can be stumbled upon.

Victorian and cosmopolitan charm abounds in Ontario but can be overshadowed by pictorial and natural beauty. Canada’s influential Group of Seven artists were inspired by the lush and multifarious Ontarian landscapes. Ontario has farmland, miles and miles of freshwater beach and sand-dunes, vineyards (producing maybe the world’s finest ice wines), forests, and of course lakes. Due to that wealth of natural beauty, Ontario is also home to a plenty of exciting wildlife. Bird watching is superb on Pelee Island, Canada’s southernmost point. Moose, caribou, bears, wolves other northern wildlife are relatively abundant at the enormous Chapleau Crown Game Preserve and the Algonquin Provincial Park, where anyone can feel ferociously feral howling to the wolves and hearing their reply.

Multiple international airports in southern Ontario make air travel into the province convenient though limited outside of the larger cities. The same can be said for rail travel, though a scenic train ride through northern Ontario is a treat worth indulging in. Driving around Ontario is not a bad option, but the roads can get bit treacherous during the winter months. During the summers, however, drives on the St. Clair parkway or through the north are beautiful and your best bet for getting out far enough see a beluga whale, and maybe, while they are still around, a polar bear.

During the summer months, the whole of Ontario’s landscapes and cityscapes are fine places to be. The summers in southern Ontario are hot and humid though rarely overwhelmingly uncomfortable. In the north, summers are cool and sometimes see sudden, dramatic temperature changes in all seasons. Common to all parts of Ontario are short summers. Shorter in the north certainly, but even the longest Ontario summers quickly give way to winter snows.