A wooden bridge over a still river surrounded by trees

Algonquin Provincial Park | Destination Ontario

Top parks to visit in Ontario, Canada

A wooden bridge over a still river surrounded by trees

Algonquin Provincial Park | Destination Ontario

The province of Ontario alone is home to almost 10 million hectares of protected parkland which covers approximately 9% of the province’s total landmass. That’s roughly the size of Iceland!

Provincial and National Parks in Ontario

Ontario Parks is a provincial government branch that preserves and maintains over 330 natural and culturally significant parks.  

Each park features unique topography, ecology and history and offers a variety of unforgettable outdoor experiences from camping to hiking, paddling and wildlife viewing.  

Book Ontario Parks day use permits and camping reservations in advance. The learn to camp program provides some handy tips for visitors that are new to camping in Ontario. 

In addition, six of Parks Canada’s 48 national parks are located in Ontario, including one urban park and two marine conservation areas. Visit Parks Canada for the most up-to-date fee information and for reservations

Bucket list Ontario parks

Here are some of the most iconic parks in Ontario, Canada that should be on every nature lover and outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list.  

Algonquin Provincial Park 

Ontario’s original and most iconic provincial park was established in 1893 based on the recommendation of forward-thinking Royal commissioners. They believed the wilderness and wildlife should be protected for future environmental and educational benefits. 

Algonquin covers over 7,500 square kilometres of freshwater lakes, interconnected riverways and mixed deciduous and coniferous forests, including swaths of old-growth hemlock, sugar maple and yellow birch. 

Highlights of the park include: 

  • Hiking trails include over a dozen interpretive trails and a variety of lengths and levels of difficulty, from the one-hour Lookout Trail to the full-day Mizzy Lake Trail. The Whiskey Rapids Trail is a scenic two kilometre loop along the Oxtongue River. The Barron Canyon Trail follows the north rim of the 100-metre-deepon Canyon.  

  • Over 2,000 kilometres of canoe routes and portages provide paddlers with endless water-based adventure. Get a copy of the Algonquin Park Canoe Routes for detailed map directions and access points. Canoe rentals are available from Opeongo Store and Canoe Centre along Highway 60. 

  • Wildlife viewing and nature photography are popular activities as the park is a habitat for hundreds of species of migrating and resident birds, as well as iconic Canadian animals like moose and beaver. 

  • Winter activities include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

  • Car access camping, walk-in campsites and backcountry camping options are available. 

Plan your visit:  

Although the park is open year-round, different facilities and activities are available depending on the season. Summer is the busiest season, followed by fall, which attracts visitors to the dramatic display of fall colour. If you’re coming in the autumn, use the fall colour report to find out when the forest is at peak colour. The best time to visit is during the weekend and avoid public holidays. Get more helpful tips about visiting Algonquin in the fall season.

Make a stop at the Visitor Centre, Museum and Art Gallery for information about the park and to take in an amazing view from the lookout platform. 

Highway 60 runs over 55 kilometres through the park from the west gate near Dwight to the east gate near Whitney. It’s approximately a three hour drive to the east gate from Ottawa and just under four hours drive from Toronto to the west gate. 

Accommodation options:  

In addition to camping, there are three lodges located within the park, Arowhon Pines Resort, Bartlett Lodge and Killarney Lodge.  

Explore Algonquin Park with: 

Voyageur Quest 

Offers cabin-based, day trips, multi-day experiences, including fully equipped and guided canoe trips into Algonquin.  

Algonquin Outfitters 

In addition to providing all the equipment and gear rental you’ll need to set out on a paddling trip, Algonquin Outfitters also offer fully guided and outfitted trips one-day and multi-day trips.  

Algonquin Adventure Tours  

Dwight-based local guided company offering some of the most popular professionally guided tours in Algonquin Park for canoeing, photography, fishing, hiking, birding and more. 

Bruce Peninsula National Park 

Spanning over 150 square kilometres at the tip of the Niagara Escarpment, the Bruce Peninsula acts as a natural shield of stunning rock formations, cliffs and shoreline between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. 

In 1987 the national park was established to protect its unique landscapes which are also recognized as part of the UNESCO Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. 

Highlights of the park include: 

  • The Grotto, a scenic location along the rocky shoreline that features an underwater cave of clear turquoise water. The site is an easy hike from Cyprus Lake Campground. 

  • Other picturesque spots include the cobblestone beach at Indian Head Cove and stunning cliffs at Driftwood Cove. 

  • Bruce Peninsula is home to over 30 different types of rare and unique orchids that bloom each spring. 

  • Enjoy stargazing at night as Bruce Peninsula is a designated Dark Sky Preserve. 

  • Several hiking trails offer a variety of scenery and topography, including Ontario’s oldest and most famous, The Bruce Trail

  • Camping opportunities include serviced sites at Cyprus Lake, backcountry camping and even yurt accommodations. 

Plan your visit:  

Although the park is open year-round, facilities and services are limited during the wither season from early November until the end of April. Summer is its peak season, especially the months of July and August and during long holiday weekends. Guests in the spring or fall will enjoy fewer crowds. 

The park’s Visitor Centre is located in the town of Tobermory and provides information on both the Bruce Peninsula National Park and the nearby Fathom Five National Marine Park

The park entrance is located east on Cyprus Lake Road off Highway 6. Driving from Toronto will take about four hours. 

Accommodation options: 

For places to stay nearby, there are resorts, cottages, hotels and motels in and around the village of Tobermory. 

Explore Bruce Peninsula with:  

Travelling Chicken  

One of the guided tours offered by this Toronto based tour company heads up to Bruce Peninsula with activities offered within the park. 


EcoAdventures is a local guiding company with fun outdoor excursions including snowshoeing or canoeing to the Grotto in Bruce Peninsula. 

Killarney Provincial Park 

Killarney Provincial Park is one of Ontario’s most cherished wilderness parks.  

Located on over 645 square kilometres of rocky northeastern shore of Georgian Bay, the region has captivated visitors for centuries with its sparkling waters, pink granite shoreline, rich forest and white quartzite ridges and peaks of the La Cloche Mountains. 

Killarney landscapes feature often in paintings by several of Canada’s famous Group of Seven artist collective. Members of the group were instrumental in the establishment of the park in 1964 following passionate government petitioning. 

Highlights in the park include: 

  • Killarney is classified as a wilderness park with backcountry hiking, paddling, camping, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Friends of Killarney Park operate an online store that sells maps, guides and books. 

  • Killarney Provincial Park is home to a variety of wildlife including birds, deer, beavers and pine martens. 

  • Canoeing is a hugely popular activity with extensive paddling routes charted throughout the park. Canoes and outfitting equipment can be rented in the park from Killarney Kanoes at the Bell Lake access point. 

  • Experience authentic Canadian wilderness on Killarney’s scenic trails like the Cranberry Bog Trail and the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, which typically takes over a week to complete. The Crack is a steep six kilometre hike up to a ridge overlooking the forest and Georgian Bay coastline. 

  • Another highlight of the area is the excellent dark sky viewing conditions. Stargazers are in for a celestial treat at the astronomical observatory located at the George Lake campground in the park. 

  • A selection of camping opportunities includes sites at George Lake Campground, backcountry sites accessible by hiking or paddling and even comfortable yurts that can accommodate up to six people. 

Plan your visit: 

Killarney Provincial Park is open year-round, and although most campgrounds are open from May to March, some facilities are not available during the off-season months. Summer and fall are the busiest seasons. 

The park entrance is located at 960 Highway 637, Killarney. It’s approximately a five hour drive from Toronto. 

Accommodations options:  

In the town of Killarney, Killarney Mountain Lodge is a local landmark hotel with a variety of accommodation options from lodge rooms to full cabins. The Lodge also features a restaurant, café and lounge and swimming pool and offers boat charters, rentals and fun excursions. 

Explore Killarney with: 

Killarney Outfitters 

From canoe and sea kayak rentals to complete outfitting services, Killarney Outfitters offer everything you need to get started. Get personalized packages with canoe, gear and equipment as well as permits, route planning and delicious meals. 

Sandbanks Provincial Park 

Inviting sunny beaches, surreal sand dune formations and flocks of migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds have drawn beach goers and nature lovers to Sandbanks, long before it was designated as a protected park. 

Sandbanks is located along the shore of Lake Ontario in the southern corner of Prince Edward County. 

The park was established in 1970 as a commitment to protect the sensitive landscape.  

A day trip to Sandbanks is a great addition to a Prince Edward County visit. The picturesque area is brimming with wineries and farms and has established itself as a Canadian culinary hotspot.  

Highlights in the park include: 

  • In the height of summer, the refreshingly cool water lapping up on the warm sandy beach under a clear blue sky makes a day at Sandbanks feel more like a tropical getaway. There are three distinct beaches; Outlet Beach, Dunes Beach and Lakeshore Beach. 

  • Sandbanks is home to the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation. The sand dunes are a result of longshore currents from the lake. The landform stretches up to eight kilometres long with some mounds reaching up to 25 metres high.  

  • The unique location and environmental features of the park make the perfect habitat for hundreds of migrating bird species each spring and fall. 

  • Several trails lead throughout the park through forest and along wetlands and freshwater marshes including Cedar Sands and Woodlands Trail, both great for wildlife viewing and birding. 

  • Over 500 tent and trailer camp sites through the park with amenities close by make it a popular and busy summer vacation destination. 

Plan your visit: 

Sandbanks operates year-round although camping services and other facilities are seasonal. Summer is the busiest season, consider a fall trip if you’re looking for a quieter experience. 

Stop in at the visitor center for park information and pick up trail guides and park souvenirs from the Nature Shoppe onsite. 

The entrance to the park is located at 3004 County Road 12, Picton. The drive from Ottawa is approximately three hours. From Toronto, it takes just under three hours. 

Accommodation options: 

Sandbanks is located close to several popular towns and communities in “The County” with a myriad of great places to stay, from boutique inns like Picton’s Merrill House to serene lake front resorts such as Wander the Resort and Drake Devonshire

Explore Sandbanks with: 

Local tour guides  

Several tour-guiding companies operate in Prince Edward County to visit local wineries, cideries, galleries and farms. Customize one to include a trip to the beach at Sandbanks. 

Point Pelee National Park 

Point Pelee National Park is one of Canada’s most significant parks for several reasons.  

It is the most southernly located park in the country. And despite being one of the smallest national parks, it is the most ecologically diverse park in Canada. Point Pelee lies on a peninsula created by sediment deposited over time along Lake Erie and is home to forests, marshlands, savannah and beaches. 

It was also the first national park to be established solely for conservation in 1918 at the behest of naturalists and hunters. Duck hunting has since been prohibited.  

Highlights include: 

  • Point Pelee is one of the best places in North America for bird watching. The area is a critical rest stop for hundreds of migrating birds each spring and fall. In fact, over 370 species of birds have been reported in the park. It’s also a key migration stop for monarch butterflies heading south in the fall. 

  • Point Pelee is a designated dark sky preserve and hosts a variety of stargazing and night sky viewing events. 

  • Explore the wetlands and marshes by kayak or canoe. Rentals are available at the Pelee Wings at the Boardwalk

  • Eight hiking trails throughout the park cover its diverse scenic landscapes with ample room to stop for nature viewing and bird watching. The Marsh Boardwalk Trail is a one-kilometre inland loop with great lookout spots. The Botham Tree Trail is another short walk through a rare concentration of Carolinian forest. 

  • In addition to camping, 24 oTENTiks are available to rent. These permanent shelters are basically a hybrid between a cabin and tent. 

Plan your visit:  

The park is open year-round with seasonal operating hours.  

Get all the info you need, plus a keepsake or memento at the Visitor Centre and Nature Hook Gift Shop. A second gift shop is located at the Camp Henry Campground office. 

The entrance to Point Pelee is located at 1118 Point Pelee Drive, Leamington. The drive from Toronto is approximately four hours. 

Accommodation options:  

Stay at the historic Seacliffe Inn or the family friendly Best Western Plus Hotel in nearby Leamington or opt for a fun and funky suite a few kilometres further along the coast at the Grove Hotel in Kingsville. 

Explore Point Pelee with: 

Point Pelee Park Shuttle 

Take a round trip shuttle ride to the tip at Point Pelee where you can stand at the southernmost spot in mainland Canada. The seasonal shuttle service is included in the price of admission and can be boarded at the Visitor Centre. Get schedule and operating hours

Bon Echo Provincial Park 

Although Bon Echo Provincial Park is one of the smaller parks in Ontario it is home to unique features that make it one of the most popular. 

Located in southeastern Ontario, Bon Echo is famous for Mazinaw Rock, a massive 100 metre high cliff rising above Mazinaw Lake. Over 250 ancient pictographs adorn the rock face, the largest visible collection in Canada. Painted in red ochre, the images depict various human and animal figures. In 1982, Mazinaw Rock, which is an Indigenous word for “picture” or “writing”, was designated as a National Historic Site. 

The park’s name reflects the acoustic result of sound bouncing off Mazinaw Rock and across the lake. 

Highlights of the park include: 

  • Avid birdwatchers have spotted several bird species in the park including highly prized peregrine falcons nesting along the cliff top. More commonly seen birds of prey include kestrels, hawks and turkey vultures.  

  • The Kishkebus Canoe Route is a popular paddling excursion past the Mazinaw pictographs towards Kishkebus Lake, one of many stillwater lakes in the park. The Abes and Essens Trails are interconnected loops that award hikers with spectacular lake and forest views. Canoes and kayak rentals are available. 

  • The Cliff Top Trail leads to the top of Mazinaw Rock. You’ll need to paddle to the trail head and climb the 1.5 kilometres to another amazing lookout point. 

Plan your visit: 

Bon Echo is a season park, open from mid-May to mid-October. Camping is limited at this park. 

Get information on the park and its history at the Visitor Centre, which is located in Dollywood at the site of the historic Bon Echo Inn

The entrance to the park is located at 16151 Highway 41, Cloyne. It’s a two and a half hour drive from Ottawa and just under four hours drive from Toronto 

Accommodation options: 

A dozen rustic camp cabins are available for rent in Bon Echo Provincial Park. Each cabin sleeps up to five guests and features a kitchenette and basic furniture as well as an outdoor propane barbeque and fire pit. There’s also the option of renting the Cabin on the Hill, a historic log cabin near the Visitor Centre. 

Lake Superior Provincial Park 

Lake Superior Provincial Park hugs the eastern shoreline of the largest of North America’s Great Lakes, Lake Superior in Ontario’s Algoma Region. 

Ancient and majestic, Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake by area and has understandably been described as an inland ocean. 

Spanning over 1550 square kilometres, Lake Superior Provincial Park is one of the largest in Ontario. It features a mix of coniferous and deciduous forest representing the transition between Canadian Shield and boreal forest regions. 

Highlights of the park include: 

  • Wildlife viewing is popular with over 250 bird species reported as well as moose, deer, black bears and wolves. 

  • In addition to eight designated canoe routes across inland lakes and rivers, the park is known for it’s iconic hiking trails. There are almost a dozen maintained trails from moderate to demanding. Sacred rock painting created by Ojibwe people centuries ago are visible on rock outcrops along the popular Agawa Rocks Pictographs Trail. The Coastal Trail traverses 65 kilometres of Lake Superior shoreline, while the Orphan Lake Trail leads to a scenic waterfall. 

  • The Agawa Bay campsite provide easy access to a scenic beach, the perfect spot to take in Lake Superior’s stunning sunsets. Additional campsites are located at Rabbit Blanket Lake. 

Plan your visit:  

Lake Superior Provincial Park operates seasonally and is open from early May to late October.  

The Visitor Centre is located in Agawa Bay Campground and provides information, washroom facilities and a gift shop. 

The southern entrance to the park is located along the Trans-Canada Highway 17 at Agawa Bay and is approximately two hours drive north of Sault Ste. Marie in Northern Ontario. 

Accommodations options: 

Located off the Trans Canada Highway near Wawa, Rock Island Lodge B&B is a cozy spot to make home base as you explore Lake Superior Provincial Park. 

Explore Lake Superior with: 

Naturally Superior Adventures 

This outfitting company provides certified sea kayak guides, instructors and over 25 years of experience on Lake Superior’s waters.  

Travel and booking tips

Because these are some of the most popular park destinations in Canada, you’ll need to plan ahead. Consider travelling outside of the peak summer months of July and August and avoid visiting on weekends or holidays. In the fall, the weather in Ontario cools down from the high summer temperatures, but typically remains comfortable for outdoor activities throughout September and into mid-October. 

New in 2023, Ontario Parks reduced the maximum length of stay from 23 nights to seven or 14 nights for campground sites at select parks during the busiest season (between July 1 and the Saturday of the Labour Day long weekend). 

Book Ontario Park day use permits and camping reservations well in advance in every season. It’s advised to book up to five months in advance, particularly for weekends in July and August. Day use permits can be purchased up to five days in advance of arrival. 

The most convenient, and in many cases the only, way to reach parks in Ontario is by car. The Park Bus schedules seasonal bus services between downtown Toronto and several parks, including Algonquin, Killarney and Bruce Peninsula. 

Last updated: June 20, 2024

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