Ontario: The Outdoors

Today’s post was written by Rob Melau. Bio: Rob decided to study Tourism Management to combine his professional career with his passion for travel. He has lived in England, France, and is already on the lookout for his next adventure somewhere in Asia or South America.

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Ontario is a land of superlatives. The world’s longest beach along a freshwater lake (14km, Wasaga Beach), the world’s largest wildlife preserve (Chapleau Crown Game Preserve), the longest road in the world (Yonge Street, 1,896km) and the world’s largest freshwater island (Manitoulin Island, coastline of 1,600km) are just a handful of its stunning features. Ontario is covered with a myriad of lakes (an estimated 250,000) and rivers. It’s therefore little surprise that the Iroquois fittingly dubbed their territory ‘land of shimmering water’.

A massive playground for all nature lovers, and the perfect spot to escape the drab monotony of everyday life, the rugged beauty of Ontario’s eclectic landscapes caters for all tastes and activities. In my mind, the thundering Niagara Falls represents the ideal starting point for any Ontario outdoor adventure. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls are more than 50 metres high and 800 metres wide and a truly jaw-dropping sight. Every minute there’s enough water flowing over the Falls to fill 62 huge swimming pools! I would highly recommend joining a ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat ride to experience the Niagara Falls up close. Being engulfed by the roar of the Falls and feeling the soothing water spray on your skin is a one-of-a-kind experience! By the way, the ‘Journey behind the Falls’ tour which leads you behind the waterfall through a system of tunnels was a bit of a let-down and not wallet-friendly either. In order to get more kick out of your visit you could obviously emulate John Munday and other like-minded daredevils who went over the Falls in a barrel, however, the journey might cost you dearly… and I’m not talking about the horrendous fines you can land for that undertaking!

Not far from the Niagara Falls is Toronto, a cosmopolitan city that certainly ranks in the same league as Chicago, San Francisco, and other North American touristic hotspots. It’s a trendy and funky town that boasts numerous cultural attractions and events, but despite the size has never lost its rural character. The ‘Beltline Trail’, for instance, is a picturesque country walking trail along the route of a 19th century commuter railway and lies at the heart of the city. Toronto represents a dynamic and vibrant mosaic of more than 100 different cultures that are ever-present all over town, be it in Little Italy, Greektown, Chinatown or Queen Street Village. When it comes down to sight-seeing I can recommend the Toronto City Pass which is a reasonably priced package that allows you to visit some of the major attractions (don’t miss out on the iconic CN Tower and the unparalleled views from its revolving restaurant). You should also swing by the historic St. Lawrence Market and join one of Bruce Bell’s legendary market tours. He’s a very knowledgeable, entertaining guy, and can teach you an awful lot about Toronto’s past … the free food samples certainly added to my experience.

Ontario is a paradise for any outdoor fiend who’s yearning for wide open spaces, solitude and magnificent scenery. Rocky ridges, an endless number of lakes and rivers, expansive forests and stunning freshwater sand dunes (at Sandbanks Provincial Park in between Toronto and Kingston) provide a great backdrop for memorable and liberating experiences. The best way to explore Ontario’s maze of lakes and rivers is by kayak or canoe … or simply by hopping on a floatplane to get a different perspective on things, if you have enough dosh in your pockets that is! One of the state’s highlights is Killarney Provincial Park which boasts mountainous terrain with pine ridges and crystal clear sapphire lakes. It’s ideal for kayaking, hiking and camping and just a stone’s throw away from Toronto … well by Canadian standards that is, don’t get me wrong! One of the locals I met on my travels took us to Fox Island, a day trip by boat from Killarney. It’s still one of Ontario’s many hidden gems and located in largely uncharted territory. Only a handful of locals roam the area and even less wind up in Frazer Bay where an impressive rock formation labelled ‘Indian Head’ is shaped like the face of an indigenous Canadian … definitely worth a peek! Also, once you’re back in Killarney make sure you swing by Herbert’s Fisheries just by the harbour to treat yourself to their fish and chips … you can often watch the local fishermen deliver and fillet the fish while you’re waiting, it doesn’t get better than this!

Just opposite Killarney Provincial Park is Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. It is home to a sizeable number of native Canadians which represent about one third of the local population. The island is the perfect spot to experience the indigenous people’s culture and history first hand, for instance as part of the so-called Great Spirit Circle Trail which encompasses eight First Nation communities. My suggestion is that you make the most of this cultural immersion while, at the same time, taking in the diverse and untouched landscape which offers nearly unlimited outdoor adventure options. One aspect that also adds to the low-key experience is that there are no major hotel chains on Manitoulin Island … instead there’s an array of cosy cottages, motels and B&Bs to choose from which definitely gives the island a more personal touch!

On my way back to Toronto I also swung by Flowerpot Island to sneak a peek at the notorious flowerpot rocks which lend their name to the island. The rock formations draw huge crowds from all over the world which means that at times this place can be quite overrun with tourists. If you want to get away from the hurly-burly and fancy a bit of solitude you should check out the ship wrecks just off the coast which makes for thrilling dives in crystal-clear and beautiful turquoise waters. .

 

One Response to “Ontario: The Outdoors”

  1. Rhona says:

    Yes, I am a Ontarian (born and bred) and I can attest to all that was said. I am shocked at some of the info though as living here is certainly different than visiting as a tourist. And, Toronto is amazing!

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