A pillar of rock rises out of clear blue waters on the shores of a forest beyond.

Fathom Five National Marine Park, Georgian Bay | Destination Ontario

4 amazing places in Ontario that UNESCO wants you to experience

A pillar of rock rises out of clear blue waters on the shores of a forest beyond.

Fathom Five National Marine Park, Georgian Bay | Destination Ontario

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.

Long Point

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: 

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.

Niagara Escarpment

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.

Frontenac Arch

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:

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 3, 2024

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