Ontario’s official tourism slogan is ‘Yours to Discover’, and this is certainly true! With an area larger than Spain and France combined, it’s difficult to summarize the landscape, climate, and culture into just a few words. So, here are some favorite facts instead.
There are approximately 250,000 lakes in Ontario, including 4 out of 5 of the Great Lakes. At first glance, some of these vast shorelines could easily be confused for tropical seas.
The provincial capital is Toronto (not to be confused with the national capital city of Ottawa.. also in Ontario), the perfect starting point for many of our adventures
Ontario stretches further south than the states of Washington, Montana, North & South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Great wine-growing climate!
Niagara Falls, in Southern Ontario, is the most powerful waterfall in all of North America…and it’s just a bike ride away from over 70 wonderful wineries! Forests cover approximately two thirds of Ontario and can be enjoyed in over 300 provincial and 6 national parks including stunning Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park (a world-famous SCUBA diving destination)
The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath, spanning more than 890km along the UNESCO-designated Niagara Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory.
Manitoulin Island, a short ferry ride from Tobermory on Lake Huron, is the world’s largest freshwater island.
Ontario is big. It shares borders with Manitoba to the west, Quebec to the east, and the states of Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont to the south. More accurately, its shape and borders are formed primarily by water: By the shorelines of 4 massive Great Lakes to the south (Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario); the mighty Saint Lawrence Seaway to the east, Hudson’s Bay to the north, and also by the Ottawa River which forms the southern part of the Quebec/Ontario border.
Toronto is Ontario’s provincial capital, also known as the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). A 4.5hr drive northeast takes you to the national Capital City of Ottawa. Its latitude of 43'70" N equals the south of France, the Danube River, the Mongolia-China border, and northern Oregon in the U.S.A. Its longitude of 79'40" W is shared with Peru, Ecuador, and Panama.
Ontario is the most multicultural province in Canada, with residents from over 200 countries who speak as many as 130 languages.
After English and French, the languages most commonly spoken in Ontario homes are Italian, Cantonese, Chinese, and Punjabi.
Half of Canada’s new immigrants make their home in Ontario, and of that half, approximately 80% reside in the Greater Toronto Area – The result is a cultural melting pot of traditions, religion, arts, festivals, and incredible cuisine.
You could explore the city of Toronto for months and continue to find new, unique neighborhoods each with their own individual character.
Toronto has also become known as ‘Hollywood North’ due to the film production industries and film locations which continue to pop up each year, and it is home of TIFF – the world’s second largest film festival after Cannes.
No one city or region is alike in the large province of Ontario. Many charming small towns dot the province, with personalities influenced by the agricultural nature of their surroundings, and accents coloured by the origin of their inhabitants.
In the Nation’s Capital (Ottawa), you may find yourself surrounded equally by the sounds of French and English language as you walk through the streets of the Byward Market and visit the many museums and parliament buildings. Nationally regarded as a ‘government town’, in recent years the capital has come alive with a growing culinary, arts, and music scene and is being recognized for its unique neighborhoods each with its own personality and flair.
Ontario has a rich history that is preserved in various heritage sites throughout the province. You can watch historical re-enactments and recreations of daily life at places like Fort George, Fort William, Lang Pioneer Village and Black Creek Pioneer Village.
There are several Aboriginal heritage sites documenting the history and culture of Ontario’s First Nations. North America’s largest and longest-running Pow Wow takes place on Manitoulin Island every August, a fascinating display of drums, spiritual dances, chants and vibrant costumes.
Due to Ontario’s size, temperatures may vary tremendously from region to region. The overall climate is considered ‘continental’ with humidity adding to the heat in the summer and ‘wind chill’ adding to the cold in the winter. On average, the coldest month of the year is January and the warmest is July with the shoulder seasons of spring and fall (autumn) being quite comfortable.
Northern Ontario has very long, very cold winters and short summers; however, the southern part of the province enjoys the tempering effect of the Great Lakes. In summer, temperatures can soar above 30 C (86 F), while in winter they can drop to below -13 C (9 F).
Spring brings melting snow, budding flowers, and delicious treats from March to May in the form of fresh maple syrup at the local sugar bush. Orchids grow like weeds on the Bruce Peninsula, orchards of apples trees are blossoming, and tulips decorate the nation’s capital. The cities come alive with food trucks popping up, Bixi bikes hitting the streets, and outdoor patios filling with happy patrons.
Summer (mid-June through September) is in Southern Ontario can be hot and muggy, with temperatures between 18 to 28 degrees Celsius that can feel much warmer with the added humidity. Summer is the time to enjoy fresh strawberries and tomatoes, ‘go to the cottage’, camp in the parks, get onto the trails, and to enjoy the beautiful beaches along the Great Lakes.
Autumn (mid September to November) sweeps in with a burst of colour, aroma and flavour. Ontario is home to Red Maples, Sugar Maples, Japanese and Harlequin Maples – you name the Maple and you will find it here! They are lovely trees in any season, but in fall in Ontario they really show their colours. It is also harvest time, when you can enjoy pumpkins, apples, pears, and enjoy celebrations in Ontario’s wine regions. This is a great time for outdoor activity with crisp, dry air and brilliant blue skies.
Winter (November through March) brings an abundance of snow and plenty of opportunities for ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing, or even dog-sledding. Temperatures is southern Ontario can change dramatically (-20 to -5 C) and without warning within a 24-hour period, so if you’re going out to play, be sure to wrap up warmly: snow pants, down/fibre-filled jackets, boots, hats, mittens and so on.
We recommend visiting Environment Canada’s website for information specific to the region in which you are travelling.