As the second-largest country on Earth – one that stretches from white swathes of arctic tundra to coniferous forests, prairie grasslands, the Rocky Mountains and more – it’s no surprise that Canada is home to the most enviable natural landscapes on the planet.
From the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls to the tranquil beauty of Algonquin Provincial Park, the province is packed full of abounding natural settings within the Great Canadian Wilderness, making it perfect for travellers looking for a holiday that goes big on scale with a good dose of adventure.
Aside from the headline-grabbing Niagara Falls, Algonquin is surely the most iconic nature destination in Ontario, renowned for its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife.
The park is 7,600 square miles and accessible by car via Highway 60, which is open year-round. Once you’re inside, however, it’s just you and the natural landscape, with some of Canada’s most incredible wildlife to accompany you, from moose and bears to vibrant fish swimming in its lakes and rivers and an array of birds – perfect for those looking to get up-close and personal with nature.
For active travellers, hiking or biking is the best way to see stretches of the park in the flesh, with 20 hiking trails, three bike trails and plenty of operators offering guided tours, from a few hours to a few days, plus packages available for stays at one of the park's unique heated yurts. For the biggest thrill seekers, whitewater canoeing through the park’s rivers is some of the most fun you'll have in this slice of Ontario wilderness, with paddle-in campsites available.
But it’s not all about the thrills: with so much space for visitors to explore, the park also brings with it a deep sense of serenity and connection to nature. There’s no situation that makes this more evident than camping out overnight in Algonquin. Even taking aside the views around you before the sun sets, the lack of light pollution means that as darkness sets in, the sky illuminates with a patchwork of stars that’s without doubt one of the most arresting sights in the whole of the province.
Alternatively, if you’d rather spend the night in permanent lodgings, you can book a stay at one of the only three resorts that still remain in the park: the log cabin wilderness resorts of Arowhon Pines, Bartlett Lodge and Killarney Lodge are the perfect way to relax surrounded by fresh blue-water lakes in vast wilderness with all the comforts of home.
Top tip: Just remember, you’ll need a permit to enter for the day or to camp out in the park. If you’re planning a trip, the park is especially popular in the summer, and permits should be purchased well in advance.
Those abounding natural forests are probably one of the first images your mind conjures up when you think about the Great Canadian Wilderness, and Haliburton has them in spades. The broader county of Haliburton Highlands, which borders Algonquin, packs in beautiful, rugged scenery, forest walks, great river canoeing, kayaking and more, and has been a regular destination for Canadian adventure travellers for decades.
For those looking for a little low-impact travel within the county, Haliburton town is also a brilliant destination. No property makes this point more clearly than the Fort Treehouse Co’s recent development The Baltic, a beautifully designed and sustainably built treehouse near the town of Minden Hills. This unique destination marries bold, Nordic-inspired design with a truly incredible backdrop – perfect for a stay that reconnects you with the natural world.
The land of wooden cottages on picturesque lakes has been a favourite of holidaying Ontarian families for generations, from those close to the province’s biggest towns and cities to those further north towards Algonquin. The region of Muskoka is arguably Ontario’s most popular vacation destination, made up of townships and villages including Gravenhurst, Huntsville and Georgian Bay. Every summer residents escape the city to summer by lakeside cottages. The RMS Segwun is an icon of these parts and one of the oldest operating steamships in North America. Its popular Millionaires Row cruise goes past the massive summer homes and mansions of Muskoka’s most well-to-do residents – including a few Hollywood celebrities.
For those planning a trip to Ontario, Muskoka is a haven – a place to take loved ones and relax and unwind in beautiful cottages by one of its hundreds of lakes – but it’s also a destination for lovers of nature, adventure and food, with plenty to keep you entertained for a week or more. There’s plenty of boating and watersports, family attractions and great culture to explore in Muskoka’s charming towns. In the colder months, snowshoeing adventures, sledding and outdoor ice skating are great fun. Put simply, it’s well known to locals for a reason, and with its proximity to Toronto (it’s less than three hours in the car), it’s high time you discovered it yourself, too.
Learn more at destinationontario.com/uk