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What Influencers Won't Tell You About These 8 Popular Getaway Spots In Ontario

Expectation vs. reality right?

Ottawa Staff Writer
Someone posing at the grotto in Tobermory. Right: Crowds of tourists at the Grotto.

Someone posing at the grotto in Tobermory. Right: Crowds of tourists at the Grotto.

Ontario is jam-packed with picturesque views and tourist destinations, many of which are super hyped up online. But there are things you should know before you visit these road trip spots to avoid disappointment.

We've likely all been there; you see a photo on Instagram or a tourism website and plan a visit to a beautiful destination with an expectation in mind. Once you arrive though, you're stuck in a situation that's less than ideal.

To prevent from happening, we've rounded up eight popular spots to visit in Ontario to share what social media influencers won't tell you about them.

Niagara Falls

Address: Niagara Falls, ON

These majestic waterfalls are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ontario, but how you choose to see the falls can make or break your visit.

Whether you choose the Niagara City Cruise or Journey Behind the Falls, be prepared to wait in line. Multiple negative reviews online report long wait times, even if you book your tickets in advance.

If you don't mind that, prepare to get soaked. The boat tour brings you up close and personal with the massive waterfall so you'll be wet head to toe, feeling damp for the rest of the day. Not to mention all of the crowds during tourist season.

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The Grotto, Tobermory 

Address: Bruce Trail, Tobermory, ON

The Grotto is a popular destination in Tobermory to enjoy blue water views that look like you're in the Caribbean. But your visit — especially if you go during the busy summer months — may look slightly different than those photos on Instagram.

The first thing to note is that a parking reservation is required and typically has to be booked well in advance to visit on a specific day, especially on weekends. If you are able to secure a time slot, just take note the flat rocks can get pretty crowded. According to multiple online reviews, these crowds sometimes lead to litter, too.

Also, the water is freezing so if you were thinking the picture-perfect blue waters would make for an easy swim, you had better prepare yourself for a polar dip instead.

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Elora Quarry

Address: 319 Wellington County Rd. 18, Elora, ON

This turquoise water quarry looks like an idyllic spot to float around on a sunny day but there's a chance you won't get the relaxing day you planned. Upon arrival, there is a parking and entrance fee per person and depending on your expectations, you might not get your money's worth.

The beach area is fairly small and on busy days looks completely crowded with people. Also, several online reviews indicate that you may feel like you're being watched by security.

If you prepare for the crowds, prices and security presence just hope that you don't need to use the washroom while you're there. Gross, dirty, dark, and a lack of soap are all words used to describe the onsite facilities in online reviews. You'll want to bring hand sanitizer, to say the least.

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Albion Falls

Address: 885 Mountain Brow Blvd., Hamilton, ON

Hamilton is known as the city of waterfalls and has tons of beautiful cascades to visit including Albion Falls. This waterfall looks beautiful in Instagram photos with people posing at the base of the falls against a backdrop of rushing water.

These photos are either outdated or illegal though, as access to the base of the falls is now closed. The only way to get a glimpse of this water feature is from distant viewing platforms through a fence. It's also just off of a busy road. Security patrols the area so if you plan on testing your luck by hopping the fence, think again. Oh and surrounding nature trails exclude the falls.

It seems like the best idea is to check the specific website for waterfalls you plan to visit and see if you can actually hike down to the bottom or not.

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Sauble Beach

Address: Sauble Beach, ON

This long stretch of sand is one of the longest freshwater beaches in Canada but if you're spending the afternoon here make sure you don't have a BBQ with you. Bylaw officers patrol the area on busy days and parking is already fairly pricey at $30 a day.

Smoking, alcohol, dogs and tents are also not allowed on the beach so be prepared on your next visit to avoid a fine.

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Sandbanks Provincial Park

Address: 3004 County Rd. 12, Picton, ON

This Ontario park is known for its stunning sandy beaches but what you may not know is that you need to make reservations online before you visit. Many online reviews report that it was unclear not only how to make said reservation but that it is required. You'll also likely be waiting in line for a while when you arrive.

This is a popular camping spot too, but make sure to bring hand sanitizer and low expectations because the washrooms can reportedly get pretty bad.

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Casa Loma

Address: 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, ON

This magical castle in Toronto is a fairytale stop for sure, but you may want to prepare yourself if you're attending a garden symphony there. A bunch of online reviews claim that tickets are oversold for these events and that seating is first-come first-served, so you may not even get a seat at all.

You'll want to get there very early if you plan on sitting during the symphony or you might end up in another room entirely watching the performance from a TV screen. Some reviewers lamented the cost of general admission, which is $40 per person for the adult fare.

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Parliament Hill

Address: Wellington St., Ottawa, ON

A stop at Canada's parliament building is a must if you're a visitor to Ottawa but you'll want to manage your expectations if you want an Instagram-worthy photo. Construction has been going on for years and won't be completed any time soon so you can expect boards, fences, and cranes in your pictures.


The centre block is closed during the restoration project as well and is not accessible during tours. This includes the library so if that was the room you were most looking forward to on your booked tour, you may want to hold off until the renovations are completed.

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Before you get going, check our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

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