4 amazing places in Ontario that UNESCO wants you to experience
UNESCO recognizes World Biosphere Reserves as protected natural spaces that:
contain unique land and water ecosystems
maintain a sustainable balance between the environment and humans
protect at-risk species
contain important Indigenous and heritage sites
focus on eco-education
These distinct ecologies are rare, with just over 700 recognized worldwide.
Lace up, gear up and get ready to explore Ontario’s amazing places by foot, pedal and paddle.
Ecotourism destinations in Ontario
Georgian Bay (aka 30,000 Islands)
The largest freshwater archipelago in the world, this biosphere reserve is made up of a cluster of islands, bays and inlets that extend over 13,000 square kilometres along the eastern Georgian Bay shoreline. The unique topography supports forest and wetlands and boasts out-of-this world scenery.
Things to do:
cross the suspension bridge over the French River, with awesome views of the rock-walled gorge below
hike through old-growth pine forests to Wemtagoosh Falls
paddle traditional routes of Indigenous Peoples in Point Grondine Park
Where to stay: For the ultimate nature retreat, reserve one of the secluded waterfront cabins at Christian Beach in Georgian Bay Islands National Park.
This diverse landscape of woodlands, sand dunes, bluffs, marshes, meadows and beaches is shaped around a giant sand spit deposit that extends 40 kilometres into Lake Erie, the largest formation of its kind in the Great Lakes.
The area is teeming with flora and fauna, including over 350 species of birds, making it a globally significant migratory birding area.
Things to do:
hike or bike through undisturbed marshlands in Big Creek National Wildlife Area
enjoy sublime views from a 166-metre-long bridge on the Black Bridge Waterford Heritage Trail
- zipline through the Carolinian forest with Long Point Eco Adventures
Where to stay: Long Point Eco Adventures is home to a variety of glamping options, from rustic camping pods to luxury wilderness suites complete with an outdoor shower so you can suds up under the stars.
Stretching over 700 kilometres from Queenston, in the Niagara Region, to Tobermory, on the southern shores of Georgian Bay, this spectacular limestone ribbon of forest, wilderness, cliffs and wetlands has the most topographic variability in Southern Ontario, reaching over 430 metres in elevation.
Things to do:
descend into ancient caves and follow the rocky ridges of the escarpment along the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest hiking path
rock climbers are drawn to the challenging climbs and rewarding views at Mount Nemo and Rattlesnake Point in Milton, Old Baldy Conservation Area in Grey County and Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula
Where to stay: Located near Caledon Village, the Insta-worthy glamping sites at Alabaster Acres Farm allow you to get in touch with nature without sacrificing the comforts of home.
Referred to as the "backbone of the mother" by the Indigenous Peoples of the area, the Frontenac Arch biosphere represents the ancient granite bridge connecting the Canadian Shield in the north to the Adirondack Mountains in the south. It extends roughly 2,700 square kilometres through Southeastern Ontario and includes the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands.
Things to do:
step back in time and experience 19th-century military life at Fort Henry
go deep into the rocky earth along the Silver Queen Mine Trail
check out the view from Spy Rock, the 1000 Islands Tower or Mink Lake Lookout in Frontenac Provincial Park
Where to stay: Experience the remodeled Victorian Rosemount Inn and Spa, a heritage boutique hotel. The limestone manor at The Rosemount Inn has been located in the historic Old Stones district of downtown Kingston since 1850, and it’s the perfect blend of old and new. You’ll find historic craftsmanship alongside modern comforts and amenities.
About UNESCO Biosphere Reserves
UNESCO, as we mentioned above, stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and UNESCO’s mission is to “contribute to the building of a culture of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.”
Although UNESCO is generally thought of as a champion of socio-economic efforts, ecotourism and land protection are also extremely important.
UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves are learning areas for sustainable development. They span many ecological, social and economic situations. There are over 700 biosphere reserves in over 100 countries, and Ontario is proud to protect the four described above.
Last updated: January 5, 2023