The short answer to the question “is Northern Ontario worth visiting?” Yes absolutely! Keep reading to learn what to know before visiting Northern Ontario.

Once you learn more about all the amazing attractions in Northern Ontario, you will not hesitate to plan your next Canadian vacation here. I truly think that this is one of the most underrated areas in Canada to visit.

When people think of Canada, Toronto or Vancouver are some of the first places that come to mind. However, if you want to experience real nature in Ontario, the north has far more untouched wilderness compared to southern Ontario. Some may not be up to the long trek-up. But those who have made the journey know it is absolutely worth the long drive!

After taking several road trips myself along the Great Lakes, I am honestly able to answer the question “Is Northern Ontario visiting?”

 Clear blue lake with a line of pine trees that reflects into the water. Scenery like this is why Northern Ontario is worth visiting.

Is Northern Ontario Worth Visiting? Read This Before You Go

Table of Contents

Is Northern Ontario Worth Visiting?

The Best Transportation For Visiting Northern Ontario

  • Travelling Northern Ontario By Car
  • Travelling Northern Ontario By Boat
  • Travelling Northern Ontario By Train

What Is The Best Time To Visit Northern Ontario

  • Visiting Northern Ontario In The Fall
  • Visiting Northern Ontario In The Winter
  • Visiting Northern Ontario In The Summer

The Best Places To Visit In Northern Ontario

  • The Best Cities To Visit In Northern Ontario
  • The Best Small Towns To Visit In Northern Ontario

The Best Outdoor Adventures In Northern Ontario

  • Fishing In Northwestern Ontario
  • Northern Ontario Provincial Parks Hiking
An view looking down at green islands with pine trees with crystal blue water.

Is Northern Ontario Worth Visiting?

The region of Northern Ontario is Ontario’s most remote area. The region is massive. The district of Thunder Bay alone takes more than 6 hours to drive across from east to west!

Bordered by Manitoba on the west; to the north lie the shores of Hudson Bay; on the south, the states of Minnesota and Michigan and Northern Quebec lie to the East.

As I mentioned, this is one of the most underrated travel destinations in Canada. From waterfalls to hiking trails, and adorable small towns with amazing outdoor experiences. There is so much to do on your visit. A great place to start is learning more about the best attractions northern Ontario has to offer. You’ll have an amazing time!

There are four main components that will affect your travel to Northern Ontario: transportation, when to travel, the outdoor adventures, and the best places to visit. These are all important factors to consider when deciding is Northern Ontario is worth visiting?

The long answer to the question is Northern Ontario worth visiting? Yes absolutely, but you will need to know a few things before you go! Remember that this is just my experience!

A wide river at sunset on a ridge. The silhouette of trees and rolling hills.

The Best Transportation For Visiting Northern Ontario

Since Northern Ontario is a remote region in Canada, you can expect distances to be long in-between destinations due to Canada’s size.

This region extends into the sub-arctic so many places are only accessible by flying in. You should also come prepared by expecting lots of time spent in a vehicle. However, don’t worry the views you will have from the car are one of a kind.

If you are visiting Northern Ontario in the summer one of the best ways to enjoy the region is by renting a cottage on the lake. You have found the perfect Northern Ontario cottage rentals, but now how do you get there?

Unfortunately, there are no rideshares in Northern Ontario like Uber or Lyft in this region so it is recommended to have a car if you wish to enjoy all the nature here to its fullest. Perhaps you wish you experience Ontario lakes with clear blue water, then travelling Northern Ontario by boat may be what you are looking for. The last type of travel we will cover in this region is venturing by train.

Travelling Northern Ontario By Car

Hands down, the best way to experience Northern Ontario is by car. You can rent a car in any of the major cities. For example, renting a car in Sudbury and driving to Thunder bay. This route will show you exactly why Northern Ontario is worth visiting.

If you choose to make the drive, there are two routes you can choose between. The southern route along the Great Lakes, or the northern route through several different biomes including the sub-arctic. Travelling by car is probably the best way to experience all of the sites because many of the best attractions in Northern Ontario are roadside off of the Trans Canada Highway 17.

The southern route is considered one of the most beautiful road trips in Canada. You will have hours of driving alongside the biggest freshwater lake in the world. The clear, blue sparkly water of Lake Superior is a wonder to behold. There are many beautiful stops along Lake Superior that will easily answer the question is Northern Ontario worth visiting.

The northern route will take you through some of the most remote parts of Ontario. You will pass through some of the best small towns to visit in Northern Ontario! Some of these places are undiscovered hidden gems in Ontario that many never travel to because of their remoteness. Highway 11 in Ontario is mostly flat and a really straight and easy drive. The views are vast and the wilderness plentiful!

Both routes allow you to stop at Ontario Provincial Parks in Northern Ontario. There is some of the best camping in Ontario in Northern Ontario provincial parks. If you are looking for backcountry camping in Northern Ontario taking the northern route is a great choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for camping on the beach in Ontario, the southern route is a great choice.

No matter which route you choose you will not be disappointed as you can experience all the north has to offer. With beautiful nature, great hiking, and friendly local culture your trip to Canada is not complete without travelling here.

Travelling Northern Ontario By Boat

If you are looking for unique travel experiences in Ontario then you should try taking a journey boating on the great lakes or through river basins. There are three great options to experience lakes in Northern Ontario! Firstly, commercial options. Secondly, transport by ferry.

Did you know there are cruise ships in Ontario? One of the most underrated ways to travel through the lakes and rivers in Northern Ontario is by booking a stay on a boat! There are several options such as a 5-night cruise through the Kawartha Lakes or booking fantastic houseboats in The 1000 islands!

One of the most scent routes in Ontario requires you to travel by ferry! The drive across between southern and Northern Ontario which connects by ferry Manitoulin Island from Tobermory Ontario. The ferry in Tobermory is approximately a three hour ride. It is one of the only ways to travel the Great Lakes by water.

Keep in mind that Northern Ontario boat travel is seasonal. These options are for travelling the Great Lakes during the spring and summer only. One of the reasons why this region is worth visiting is all of the northern attractions in Ontario that you would otherwise miss!

Travelling Northern Ontario By Train

Is Northern Ontario worth visiting by train? Since Northern Ontario is a remote region in Canada there is limited train travel in Northern Ontario. However, some great Northern Ontario travel destinations are still accessible by rail.

Using Canada’s VIA Rail network you can travel to Sudbury, White River, North Bay and Sioux Lookout. For these locations it is best to depart from Union Station in Toronto. Unlike train rides in Southern Ontario there are very few stops along the way, the train runs smoothly.

One of the most underrated destinations is Ontario’s far north. One of the best ways to travel to the Hudson Bay region is by train. Ontario Northland runs a train route called the Polar Express! Running between Cochrane ON, and Moosonee ON. This truly unique train ride though Ontario’s most remote parts will leave you in awe!

A personal recommendation is to business class on your train ride in Northern Ontario. This is because the journey can be quite long! You will also want to secure yourself a window seat so you do not miss any of the sites along the way!

Beaches are one of the reasons why Northern Ontario is with visiting.This is a white sandy beach with pine trees and clear water.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Northern Ontario?

Northern Ontario is one of the best four season destinations in Canada. You can visit all year round but each season has something unique to offer travellers!

Visiting Northern Ontario in the fall is best if you are looking for beautiful views and outdoor adventures. While the summer offers the chance to be by the many lakes, swimming and having the best cottage vibes. Finally, visiting Northern Ontario in winter is a great choice if you like to ski or snowboard, it is an amazing Canadian getaway!

Why I don’t reccomend visiting this destination in spring? The spring season in this region is extremely short. When the snow begins to melt it is temperatures can be unpredictable causing lots of flooding. However, if you do choose to make a trip here in the spring, waterfalls in Northern Ontario are amazing after the snow has melted!

Visiting Northern Ontario In The Fall

One of the best places to see fall leaves in Canada is Northern Ontario! There are so many lakes and rivers in Northern Ontario that provide the perfect backdrop for the red, yellow and orange changing leaves.

I suggest visiting the end of september before the evenings get too chilly. If you are looking for things to do in Northern Ontario in October, then there are many pumpkin paches and local farms to visit as well. Definelty pack a light jacket if you are planning to visit this time of year!

One of the most beautiful road trips in Ontario is driving through the bruce pennunsuila during autumn. If you are looking for things to do in northwestern ontario in fall, then heading to lake of the woods is amazing at this time of year. Driving along the north shore is beautiful at any time of year but the great lakes are in my opinion the most stunning in the fall!

Visiting Northern Ontario In The Summer

If you are wondering about things to do in Northern Ontario in summer, you will not be disappointed as there are many outdoor experiences to keep you entertained.

I reccomend booking a cottage on a lake when visiting northern ontario in summer! You can choose a cottage, or a camp on a small lake. Or choose one of the quaint little beach towns on the great lakes. The shores of Lake Superior and Lake Huron are exceptional spot for back country camping in Northern Ontario as well. Just remember to set up your tent on high ground!

Another amazing way to experience all the attractions in Northern Ontario is by camping. Choosing a campsite in one of northern ontario provinvial parks will giveyou access to great hiking trails, swimming, and the chance to be completetly surrounded by nature.

If you are looking for an underrated travel destination this Summer, Northern Ontario is a perfect choice.

Visiting Northern Ontario In The Winter

Northern Ontario winters can be harsh but the Norwester and Laurentian Mountain ranges provide some of the best skiing in Ontario! There are several skiing destinations in Northern Ontario that you should know about if you are travelling to this region this winter!

Weather you like to ski or snowboard, you will be on the slopes here all day! Many ski national, and global winter games competitions are held in Ontario’s North. Cross country skiing in northern ontario is also considered world class, there are hundreds of kilometres of trails through the back country and boreal forest!

If you are looking for ski resorts in Thunder Bay you have two options to hit the slopes: Loch Lomond and Moount Baldy. Sault Ste. Marie is home to the highest ski hills in Ontario. Visit stonily Creek Lodge One of the greatest ski resorts in North America.

It is also important to dress warmly if you are visiting Northern Ontario in winter. The coldest month in Northern Ontario is January when temperatures can reach -40 degrees celsius for consecutive days! Make sure to bundle up and pack enough warm layers and jackets! Unfortunately weather in northern Ontario can be quite unpredictable during the winter, be prepared for large snowfalls and icy road conditions.

It is not recommended to drive in Northern Ontario in the winter if you are not well equipped to drive in what can be brutal weather conditions. Remain cautious, especially when driving on the North Shore in winter.

The ice shores of a lake in winter during sunset. The water and the sky are pink, orange and purple.

The Best Places To Visit In Northern Ontario

If you are looking for the best cities to visit in Northern Ontario, then I suggest checking out, either Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, or Sudbury. While on the other hand if you are hoping to visit small towns in Northern Ontario you will have an amazing time exporing the wildnerness! Any destination in this region will show you why Northern Ontario is worth visiting!

If you do think Northern Ontario is worth visiting than the most important thing to keep in mind when travelling to this region is distance. Many who visit Northern Ontario do not realize that destinations can be considerably far apart.

You cannot expect to drive from Toronto in Southern Ontario to Kenora, in Northwestern Ontario in one day! Make sure you give yourself enough time on your visit to stop and see the attractions of Northern Ontario along the way!

The Best Cities To Visit In Northern Ontario

The four largest cities in Northern Ontario order of population are Greater Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay Ontario. If you began your trip by car in North Bay it would take you approximately 12.5 hours to drive to Thunder Bay.

Each of the cities has something differnt to offer. If you are looking for things to do in Northern Ontario for families Sudbury is a great choice. There are two science centres with hands on experiences that kids will love! Thunder Bay, is an amazing destination for food, art and culture. Just outside the city is Fort William Historical Park, one of the largest sites of its kind in North America.

Sault Ste. Marie is one of the most affordable destinations in Ontario. You can stay on the waterfront overlooking the shores of Michigan or take a trip across the border while your in town! Finally, North Bay is one of the best places to visit in Northern Ontario because it is quiet while at the same time being full of life! Lake Nippissing is one of the biggest lakes in Ontario that you do not want to forget about!

The Best Small Towns To Visit In Northern Ontario

Northern Ontario is divided into two regions. Northwestern Ontario, and Northeastern Ontario both have amazing small towns to visit. The largest cities are further south while Ontario’s best small town hidden gems are in the north.

One of the best small towns to visit in Northwestern Ontario is Kenora. The Lake Of The Woods region and Ontario’s Sunset Country is known for being a place to experience the best of the outdoors. The true norths cottage country is an amazing summer destination. There are so many things to do in Kenora for families as well!

One of the best places to visit in Northeastern Ontario is Cochrane Ontario. This is the entrance to Canada’s Arctic. You can learn so much about the region by visiting here. The journey here can be long but is always worth it as you can visit one of Ontario’s most remote destinations.

There are quaint small towns, that are perfect for a rustic outdoor wilderness experience. This region has some of the best fishing in Canada. There are thousands of lakes for you to explore. Once you get a taste of a true north you will not want to leave!

Is Northern Ontario worth visiting? This image is taken from a cliff side overlooking the green city below.

The Best Outdoor Adventures in Northern Ontario

Outdoor activities in Northern Ontario prove why it is worth visiting. There is no shortage of experiences that make this Canada’s best outdoor playground.

If you are looking for amazing fishing check out Northwestern Ontario. The best hiking in Northern Ontario can be found in the large provincial parks and conservation areas. Finally this is one of the best spots in Ontario for learning more about indigenous culture through experiencing it on the land.

Fishing In Northwestern Ontario

If you are hoping to experience the best fishing in Ontario you must head to the North. Lake Of The Woods region has some of the best freshwater fishing in Canada. There are thousands of lakes in the area you can explore that have amazing fishing.

Never casted a line before? Learn how to fish in Northwestern Ontario. This region is perfect for a first time angler because there are tonnes of local fishing guides that you can hire. The guides know all the best fishing spots in Northern Ontario that will ensure you get a bite!

This region has terrific bass, walleye, catfish, perch and more that you can catch. There are also fishing resorts in Northern Ontario that are a great place for an outdoor adventure.

Northern Ontario Provincial Parks Hiking

As I mentioned earlier the best ways to travel in Northern Ontario are by car, boat, or train but what about travelling on foot. There are hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails in Ontarios north. The mountainous terrain is perfect for challenging hikes. There are many day long hikes that will take to the edge of the Great Lakes!

There are over 175 provincial parks in Northern Ontario. One of the best provincial parks for hiking in Northern Ontario is Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park.

You could also visit a national park in Northern Ontario. Puskawawa national park is an amazing outdoor adventure. There are also so many conservation areas, that have great hiking trails as well.

Remember to be respectful to the natural environment. As these destinations are less frequented than others in the country they are extremely clean. Locals would love for you to make sure you leave the area as you found it!

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