For most, 2021 is shaping up to be a really great year to explore what’s in your own backyard. The Province of Ontario has so much to offer, which makes it hard to narrow down the list of things to see and do, and so to help, I put together a shortlist of my top 5 Ontario travel destinations to consider in 2021.
Tl;dr: Manitoulin Island, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Pickle Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park, Niagara Falls.
1. Manitoulin Island
In my opinion, Manitoulin Island is one of the most underrated destinations in all of Ontario. I visited Manitoulin Island last year and fell in love with the place almost instantly. Surrounded by Lake Huron, dotted with a number of lakes, and covered by dense forests, the natural beauty of this place is just stunning. I recommend taking the time to hike the Cup & Saucer Trail, which offers a number of lookouts over the island, and navigates a northern section of the Niagara Escarpment.
Aside from the natural beauty, Manitoulin Island is home to around 14,000 people, a good portion of whom belong to the many thriving Indigenous communities on the island. This means if you’re looking to learn more about Indigenous history and culture, Manitoulin Island is the place to be.
To get here, you can take the ferry across from Tobermory, or drive along the north shore of Georgian Bay, west of Sudbury. If you’re doing the latter, I recommend staying at Chutes Provincial Park to break up the trip.
2. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park offers some of the most iconic views in the entire province. Located an hour outside Thunder Bay, along the north shore of Lake Superior, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is one of those destinations I think the majority of Ontarians never get around to seeing, mainly due to its sheer distance from the southern portion of the province.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park offers over 100 kilometres of hiking trails, car-camping, excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, and of course a number of stunning lookouts and views you just can’t find anywhere else. If you’re willing to make the almost 15-hour drive from Toronto, you won’t be disappointed with what you find here.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
(Photo Source: Ontario Parks on Flickr)
3. Pickle Lake
Pickle Lake is my one obligatory oddball destination on this list, and somewhere most people probably haven’t heard of. It’s also one of those places that’s more about the journey to get there, than the destination itself.
See, Pickle Lake is… kind of in the middle of nowhere. It has a population of less than 400 people, and is a staggering 22-hour drive, and 2,000 kilometres away from Toronto. So why would I include this as one of the top 5 destinations in 2021? Well as it turns out, Pickle Lake lies at the end of the northernmost point of the Ontario provincial highway system.
I might be alone on this one, but I just can’t help but think how cool it would be to say that you’ve driven to the most northern drivable point in Ontario. You might want to think about bringing an extra jerry can though.
4. Algonquin Provincial Park
Alright, back to reality with this one.
Algonquin Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in Canada, and one of the largest in the province as well, covering a staggering 7,600 squared kilometres. The best part? It’s only a 3-hour drive from Toronto; great for those looking to escape for the day or weekend.
Algonquin Park offers activities for everyone, and for all ages. Car camping, backcountry camping, hiking, fishing, guided tours, historical sites, and more. If you’re looking for it, chances are Algonquin Park offers it, which no doubt contributes to it being one of the most visited and popular provincial parks in Ontario, year after year.
If you’re interested in learning more about what Algonquin Park has to offer, make sure to check out some of my Algonquin guides here.
5. Niagara Falls
Now, I know what you’re thinking with this one: “Niagara Falls? Wow, how original…”
But hear me out, when’s the last time you actually went to Niagara Falls? Those of us who are within driving distance of Niagara Falls tend to take for granted just how lucky we are to live so close to one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in the world, something people travel from all over the world to come see. Most of the people I’ve met in my life have been to Niagara Falls at least once, but can’t remember when they went, or who they went with last. Just because you’ve been there before, doesn’t mean it’s not worth going again, especially when it comes to Niagara Falls. It could even make for a good Tim’s Run destination!
I mean, it sure beats sitting on the couch, right?
What locations would you add to this list? Where are you looking forward to visiting the most this year? Let me know in the comments below!
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