Uncover Ontario’s diversity, from the hustle and bustle of Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s tranquility, Ottawa’s history, and the serene retreats of cottage country.
Ontario, a province nestled in the heart of Canada, beckons travelers with its diverse offerings, blending urban sophistication and serene natural beauty.
Describing Ontario as massive is an understatement. This Canadian province, which borders four of North America’s five Great Lakes, outdoes even the combined size of France and Spain. It boasts a wide range of attractions, from natural wonders like the northern lights and Niagara Falls to a plethora of wineries (with the Niagara region alone boasting 80 vineyards) and over a thousand waterways and canoe routes.
From the vibrant city life of Toronto to the quiet charms of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the historical allure of Ottawa, and the peaceful retreat of cottage country, our guide will take you on a journey through the heart of Ontario, revealing the unique allure of each destination.
Our Ontarian adventure begins in Toronto, a metropolis renowned for its seamless blend of urban vibrancy and natural splendor. As Canada’s most populous and diverse city, Toronto offers an extensive array of activities. Whether you seek to explore the city’s numerous museums, enjoy the natural beauty of its parks, or savor the diverse cuisines representing Toronto’s 250-plus ethnic groups, there’s something to fill every itinerary.
Trinity Bellwoods Park, a 36-acre urban park nestled between West Queen West and Dundas Street West, serves as an ideal introduction to Toronto’s natural beauty. Here, you can escape the fast pace of the city and relax , whether you’re enjoying a leisurely picnic or a stroll through its serene landscapes.
Step into a bygone era with a visit to Casa Loma, a 98-room château turned museum, showcasing elegance and history in one splendid location. This unconventional castle built by Canadian businessman Sir Henry Mill Pellatt in 1914, is now a popular filming location. Notably featured as Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngers in X-Men, Casa Loma offers a self-guided tour that reveals its secret passageways, gardens, and even an underground pool.
St. Lawrence Market is renowned as one of Toronto’s top markets, where locals shop for fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and more. While the primary building dates back to 1902, it incorporates a part of the Old City Hall from 1845. Additionally, The Market Kitchen provides a unique cooking school and event space, allowing you to participate in culinary classes and hands-on dinners.
No visit to Toronto is complete without ascending the iconic CN Tower, which offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the city. Daredevils can even partake in the adrenaline-pumping EdgeWalk experience, where harnessed visitors are strapped to the outside of the tower and walk the edge. At 1,815 feet in height, the tower also boasts a restaurant with the world’s highest wine cellar.
Nearby (at street level), the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is the city’s premier museum. The ROM encompasses a wide range of subjects, from natural and cultural history to fine arts and design. The museum, originally founded in 1912, showcases a stunning structure known as the “Michael Lee-Chin Crystal” by starchitect Daniel Libeskind.
Toronto’s renowned culinary scene beckons with exquisite options. Canoe Restaurant introduces you to Canadian flavours, while Sotto Sotto brings Italian cuisine to life. For a unique dining experience, Dreyfus combines French bistro charm with a Montreal house party vibe. All three are listed as some of Canada’s top 100 restaurants.
When it’s time to rest, Toronto offers accommodations to suit every preference. The Four Seasons Toronto, located in the chic Yorkville neighbourhood, offers discreet luxury, a stunning spa, and impressive service. Toronto is actually the hometown of the iconic Four Seasons brand, and this location was rebuilt in 2012 to replace the original 1960s building.
Another standout property is The St. Regis Toronto, where the redesigned lobby and lounge, new 31st-floor restaurant, refreshed suites, and signature St. Regis services enhance the overall experience.
Leaving Toronto behind, our journey takes us to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a tranquil haven known for its wines, arts, and serene ambiance.
Over 80 wineries, both small boutiques and expansive estates, characterize the town, each offering a unique experience. Travelers can savour world-class wines, enjoy gourmet dining, and partake in private food and wine-tasting excursions.
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s thriving arts scene takes center stage with the Shaw Festival Theatre, known for its exceptional theatrical performances. Art galleries like the Angie Strauss Gallery and Romance Collection Gallery offer further cultural exploration.
The town’s historic district, adorned with boutique shops and Victorian architecture, provides a charming backdrop for leisurely strolls.
For dining, Treadwell offers an exceptional farm-to-table experience. The restaurant sources ingredients like wild mushrooms, heirloom beets, and pork belly from artisan producers in the region. The wine list showcases quality-focused producers, making it a favourite choice for enjoying fresh and creative local fare.
For accommodations, consider The Olde Angel Inn, which was established in 1789 and rebuilt after the War of 1812, it stands as the oldest operating inn in Ontario. This English-style establishment is known for its historical significance and is a favourite gathering spot for locals.
The historic Prince of Wales hotel, located just steps from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s best boutiques, theaters, and restaurants, boasts ornate architectural details, unique art and decor in each Victorian-style guest room, and modern comforts.
Pillar and Post Inn & Spa, a five-star hotel housed in a 19th-century building, blends country elegance with modern amenities. Guest rooms feature rustic decor, seating areas, and select accommodations offer spa baths and fireplaces. The hotel’s extensive offerings include 100 Fountain Spa, daily resort activities, and shuttle service within Old Town.
A short drive away lies the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls, a natural wonder that captivates visitors from around the world. You can admire the falls from the Canadian or American side, by taking a boat ride, or even by venturing behind the falls. Visiting during the off-peak season offers the advantage of fewer crowds and more comfortable temperatures.
Our journey continues to Ottawa, the capital of Canada, where history, culture, and natural beauty converge.
The Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers unique experiences in every season. During warmer months, you can stroll or cycle along scenic pathways or enjoy an eco-friendly cruise. In the winter, the frozen canal transforms into the world’s largest skating rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway, providing an exceptional and free skating experience.
Ottawa is home to seven of Canada’s nine national museums, making it a treasure trove of historical and cultural riches. From totem poles and Indigenous art to dinosaur fossils and Canadian military history, these museums offer diverse exhibits. Keep an eye out for special exhibitions featuring international contributions.
The majestic Ottawa River, one of the city’s most photographed sites, provides breathtaking sunset views year-round. Cross the bridges linking Ottawa to Gatineau, Quebec, or explore the multi-use pathways along each riverbank, leading to city beaches and balanced rock sculptures. The river offers opportunities for sightseeing cruises and various water activities.
Parliament Hill, Canada’s iconic site, sits nearby on a scenic perch overlooking the Ottawa River. Explore the Centre Block, House of Commons, and The Senate to gain insight into Canada’s political history and architecture.
For dining, consider North & Navy, located in downtown Ottawa, which offers Italian-inspired indulgence. The restaurant boasts an elegant atmosphere and authentic Italian flavours with a modern twist.
For a comfortable stay, Ottawa offers a wide range of accommodations, ensuring you have a cozy and relaxing base to explore the capital. Fairmont Château Laurier, named after Canada’s seventh prime minister, has graced Ottawa’s skyline since 1912. The hotel, with its elegant corridors and grand ballrooms, remains an iconic landmark and a wonderful option.
Ontario is renowned for its vibrant cottage culture, attracting thousands of Canadians seeking respite in the tree-lined landscapes and rugged wilderness that define the country.
Muskoka, often referred to as “cottage country,” is a beloved getaway. With about 1,600 lakes, it’s a place to unwind and enjoy outdoor adventures like boating, fishing, and hiking.
Cottage rentals in Muskoka come in various styles, from rustic charm to luxurious retreats. The region’s rich cultural heritage and vibrant communities add extra charm to the cottage experience.
When staying in Cottage Country, you can find accommodations through popular platforms like Airbnb and dedicated cottage rental companies.
Nearby towns such as Bala and Gravenhurst are close by and have a great selection of restaurants, museums, and quaint retail shops for you to explore.
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.