Fresh Waters and Waterways of Ontario

An abundance of lakes, rivers, bays and waterfalls is one of the most compelling features of this fair province. Consequently, Ontario tourists spend as much time having fun on the water as they do on land. Do you yen for yoga on a SUP? We’ve got a lake for that. Want to race on ice skates down a riverway? We’ve got just the place for you. Or, maybe you’d like to take a boat ride under one of the most majestic waterfalls in the world? Yep, Ontario’s got that too.

Here are some of our top favourite Ontario fresh-water destinations:

Georgian Bay

 With its 30,000 islands and over 2000 km of shoreline, Georgian Bay offers visitors four seasons of fun. Awenda – Ontario’s second-largest provincial park – is a beautiful spot for both summer swimming and winter hiking. If you’re looking for something a little more remote, Christian Beach on Beausoleil Island is accessible by boat only and is known for its rugged beauty. Many a visitor has compared Wasaga Beach to Florida, with its long, sandy beaches and colourful boardwalk full of shops selling ice cream, t-shirts and other touristy gear. Or, if it’s bass or lake trout you’re after, the fishing off the coast of Parry Sound is reportedly some of the best to be had in the province. These are but a few of the many destination options Georgian Bay has to offer; for a full list of Georgian Bay beaches, visit (link).

BruceGreySimcoe Tourism

The Rideau Canal

One of the highlights of visiting Ottawa in winter is skating on the Rideau Canal. The natural, frozen skateway is 7.8 km, making it the world’s largest skating rink. Skating season on the canal runs January to mid-March, but it’s most active in February during Winterlude, a 3-week winter festival featuring ice sculptures, entertainers and other fun outdoor winter activities. In summer, the Rideau Canal is popular with canoers and kayakers, and camping is permitted at most lock stations. There is plenty of small-town Ontario charm to be had along the Rideau; Merrickville, Perth and Smith’s Falls are just a few of the sweet little towns you can explore while travelling the canal.

Ottawa & Countryside Tourism

The Ottawa River

Are you an adventurer seeking a little adrenaline boost?  If so, we highly recommend white water rafting on the Ottawa River. The tumultuous rapids of the Ottawa River offer a watery roller coaster thrill ride, with several companies leading rafting tours. Or, if the idea of white water rafting makes you feel a little green around the gills, you could opt for a more serene boat cruise. Cruise packages vary and can include tours of the Rideau Canal, double-decker bus tours of Ottawa or tasting tours through the Byward Market. If your Ottawa visit extends over Canada Day, try and book an evening cruise and take in the fireworks show from the river – it’s spectacular!

Ottawa & Countryside Tourism

Haliburton Highlands

Big Bob, Glamour, Elephant, Kashagawigamog, Hurricane, Fish Tail: these are just a few unique names of some of the 600 lakes you’ll find in the Haliburton Highlands. The Haliburton Highlands, nestled high up in the Canadian Shield, is breathtakingly beautiful. Cottaging in the Highlands tends to be affordable, making it a stiff competitor for the more upscale Muskokas. Whether you’re looking to log in time on your SUP, crave a serene paddle on gentle waters, or feel like zipping around on a personal motorized watercraft, there’s a lake for you in the Haliburton Highlands.  

Haliburton Highlands Tourism

Niagara Falls

There is truly nothing quite like the majesty of Niagara Falls. Formed by ancient glaciers 10,000 years ago, the Falls boasts a vertical drop of more than 50 metres, with more than 168,000 m3 of water falling over its crest every minute. The roar and spectacle of the Falls have drawn tourists for decades. Nearby Clifton Hill boasts umpteen attractions, where you can visit wax celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s, have a terrifyingly terrific time at Frankenstein’s Haunted House or ride a giant Ferris wheel overlooking the Falls. If you’re staying overnight, be sure to ask for a hotel room that faces the water; at night, the Falls is lit up in a show of rotating colourful lights. And, of course, there is the legendary Maid of the Mist boat tour, where you can take in epic views from the bottom of the Falls.

Niagara Tourism

The Muskokas

Ah, Ontario’s summer playland. From May to September, city dwellers make haste to the Muskoka region, known for its dozens of lakes, rocky shores and windswept pines. Swimming, canoeing, sailing, fishing, power boating…whatever your fancy, any kind of fresh-water recreation can be found in the Muskokas. A word to the wise: if you’re thinking of renting a cottage in the Muskokas during summer, book early! Summer rental dates – and in particular, summer weekends – are reserved quickly.

Muskoka Tourism

The Trent-Severn Waterway

The Trent-Severn Waterway represents more than 400 km of canal, stretching between Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay. The canal is dotted by a system of 45 locks that control water levels, allowing boats to navigate through hilly terrain. The Trent-Severn Waterway is popular with paddlers of all kinds. The annual “Lock and Paddle” festival celebration is quite a spectacle as hundreds of canoes and kayaks congregate, filling the hydraulic lift at the Peterborough lock station. Houseboats are another common sight on the Trent-Severn, and make a fun alternative to renting a cottage in summertime. Along the waterway, you’ll find plenty of small, charming towns to explore. Even if you never dip a toe in the water, it’s fun to watch the feat of engineering that is the opening and closing of locks.

Kawartha Northumberland Tourism

There are, of course, many more notable fresh-water destinations throughout the province. With over 250,000 lakes scattered throughout Ontario, you won’t have to wander too far to find fun on the water. 


ToDoOntarioFresh Waters and Waterways of Ontario