11 Ways To Explore Northern Ontario For The Ultimate Canadian Adventure
See a different side of the true north that you're used to.
We live in a province where adventure isn't just waiting for you, it's calling you out. Whether you're turning around a corner with a skyscraper, a tree, a waterfall, or a stunning lakeside view, you're sure to stumble upon some kind of adventure.
But let's get real, we know that adventure is out there, but with so many options how do you figure out which road to go down? Sure Frost would have probably argued for the path less traveled, and maybe the backstreet boys want it that way, but where do you go in a province as massive as ours? We're larger than France and Spain combined, more than 4 times the size of the UK, more than 15 times the size of Ireland, giving us a grand total of approximately 1,076,395 square km to explore. Woah.
Fear not adventurous souls. Summer travels not enough for you? Maybe you just need something else to do now that patio season is coming to a close. Maybe it's been a lifelong dream to see Polar Bears, the Northern Lights, and some jaw-dropping views that will make Drake's seem petty. Or maybe you've never even tried to venture to Northern Ontario and are realizing, "hey, we got a huge f*cking province, wonder what's up there?".
The reality is, we don't have to spend a fortune to see something life changing. We're beyond lucky to be in Ontario, why would we just sit on our couch?! Get out there and go take the adventure of a lifetime with some of these unreal hidden gems in one of the most unexplored and underrated parts of our beautiful country. OH CANADA YOU SO BEAUTIFUL (just giving you something to say when these adventures inevitably render you speechless, don't worry).
1. Live out your fantasy on the Polar Bear Express
There's a passenger train traveling from Moonsonee to Cochrane that isn't simply a convenient transportation method but a journey. The name itself just sets the journey up to be an adventure, The Polar Bear Express?! Is this a movie? Lucky for us it's real life and it's all for us up in Northern Ontario. Though it's a place you may not venture often, with this day trip, you'll get 12 hours plus of the time you missed in this beauty! With snack cars and a large domed passenger cart to enhance your views, this is the ultimate relaxing adventure that will allow you to still see our beautiful province. Heads up, there is no wifi on the train, another chance to really take in the scenery.
2. Take in the views of the Ouimet Canyon
For some reason, people from Toronto seem to really love our views (it's like a world famous rapper referenced them or something), but sometimes when you see the same ones every day you no longer appreciate the beauty of them. Try something new, that is hardly a measly replacement, and head to Thunder Bay's Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park. There you'll be able to take in 2km worth of beautiful canyon extension that also is home to wildflowers that you would otherwise only be able to find in the Arctic. That's wild for you.
BONUS: Because you're already in Dorion, why not hit up Canada's longest suspension bridge and longest zip line right over Eagle Canyon.
Check out Eagle Canyon Adventures for more info!
3. See the inspiration behind The Group of Seven's famous paintings at Neys Provincial Park
On the north shore of Lake Superior, you'll find not only 13,300 acres of stunning forestry but also the inspiration for Group of Seven member Lawren Harris's famous Pic island painting. Whether you are an art lover, nature lover, or just want to embrace a Canadian legend, this is the spot for you.
4. Rent a private log cabin in Algonquin
Turn your next adventure into a scene straight from little house on the prairie, except this house is actually a luxury lakeside log cabin that comes with a personal chef and a stunning interior design. The perks about this adventure are you won't only get to see the nature but fully embrace it. There is no electricity or telephones at the lodge, which means you truly get to take in all nature has to offer. A guide is all yours to show you the beauty of the park as well, from snowshoeing to dog sledding this is a twist on the squad weekend you won't forget.
Check out Voyager Quest for rates and availability!
5. Relax and take in the views on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train
Okay, we'll say more, but it's hard to try and put the beauty of this Harry Potter-like train ride into words. This one-day wilderness ride will take you 183km north of Sault Ste. Marie and through the forests, rivers, and rocks of the beautiful Canadian Shield. Worried about not getting enough time to see the Agawa Canyon? Don't worry, the train stops for an hour and a half to walk around the stunning trails of the canyon. To make the ride even better they sell local beer aboard the train and you can bring your own food on the train to enjoy.
Insider tip: We've heard you get more lake views if you sit on the right side of the train!
6. Catch the breathtaking Northern Lights at Manitoulin Island
Obviously, there are many places to see the Northern Lights, but only some vantage points will leave you as speechless as the way that the views from Manitoulin Island will. Head to Gordon's Park to get your private wilderness campsite, tipi-tenting, or bunkies to escape the urban chaos for a little bit. Because if you are going to see the northern lights, why not see them from the Park that is a Royal Astronomical Society of Canada? A designated Dark Sky Preserve AND one of the TOP places around the world for stargazers to come together.
Check out Gordon's Park for all the info you need!
7. Go on the Red Rock Eagle Photo Safari on the Nipigon River
Squeeze in a last minute October adventure by heading to the Nipigon River/Red Rock in Thunder bay to see the majestic bald eagle in all its glory. And for the 9/10 people that aren't master eagle trackers, we'd suggest going with Nipigon River Adventures to go with a small group and knowledgeable guide that help you have a real adventure. I mean really, have you ever seen a bald eagle? It's electric and terrifying all at the same time, but one's thing for sure- you'll have some kick ass photos to go with your memories that are sure to last way longer than a trip to the zoo. Book soon! The last outing is end of October, or check out their winter options!
More info here!
8. Go Glamping in one of our beautiful Provincial Parks
Since glamping has graced the world with its ridiculous name and unreal comfy aesthetic, it has just stepped up its game. With glamping world recognized as a legitimate travel accommodation, the options have grown from minimal to limitless. It's even been brought to the beauty of our own provincial parks. From Algonquin to Bon Echo, there are a ton of Yurts available for accommodating all your adventures. But what to do in a stunning scenic park during the cold months? LITERALLY ANYTHING! Embrace the cold and explore the different features of our unique parks. At Windy Lake there are over 15km of groomed ski trails, Silent Lake had over 40km of cross-country ski trails, Mcgregor Point has a 400m skating oval, and Killarney has 33km of groomed trail. SOOOO we'd say you're going to have a lot of options.
Check out the Yurts and other accommodations here!
9. Transport yourself the stunning 1000 Islands in Gananoque
Once patrolled by Pirates? 1,864 Islands? Castles?! That's right we didn't even have to leave the province to bring you your fairytale. Right along the St. Lawerence River Gananoque is just one part of the network of the 1000 Islands that spans from Canada to the US. However, it's quality over quantity. Gananoque has some unbelievable options to kickstart any adventure, from its world-renowned fishery, golf courses, the 1000 Islands Playhouse, Boldt Castle, and of course the famous St. Lawerence river boat cruises.
Check out all the info here!
10. Spend the night in a former jailhouse at the haunted HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel
No one exactly dreams about spending the night in prison, but you just may in this case. That's because it's not still the functioning Carleton County Gaol, but an exciting hostel that is guaranteed to give you a great stay and an even better conversation starter. Perks include free wifi, a complimentary breakfast and of course the luxury of actually being able to decide your own check out date. This is also supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in all of Canada, which just adds another layer to the adventure.
Check out more info here!
11. See the beauty of Shabaqua via Horseback with Whispered Dreams Ranch
What sounds more romantic than trotting through the natural wonders of Shabaqua,Thunder Bay via horseback?! Oh ya, that's right, NOTHING! Whispered Dreams Ranch offers you trail rides for those who want a little taste of the cowboy life for a couple hours! Try out something drastically different and make your daily commute a little more magical.
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