Often described as unspoiled, beautiful, and rugged, Northern Ontario is a sparsely populated region that is home to year-round outdoor adventure. Situated north of Lake Huron, Northern Ontario has a land area of 802,000 km² (310,000 mi2) and has nine cities, including Greater Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, and North Bay. Despite making up close to 90 percent of the total land area in Ontario, this region is home to only six percent of the population. This means that enjoying one of many Northern Ontario attractions can often be done without large crowds. 

So, if you are ready to enjoy a tranquil yet exciting outdoor experience in Northern Ontario, there are plenty of options. You can explore some of the earth’s oldest rocks in the Canadian Shield, relax at a sandy beach, hike a trail, or even photograph unique wildlife. In a place where life seems a bit simpler, some of the best experiences are enjoyed by taking in the sights and sounds of the water. With close to 250,000 lakes, the options may seem endless. To help you plan your next Northern Ontario vacation, we’ve put together a list of exciting activities near or on the water — be sure to pack your bathing suit!

Paddle Along Canoe Lake

Canoe Lake is located in Algonquin Provincial Park in the Nipissing District. It is a typical clear, coldwater, Canadian Shield lake. For those looking to get here, the access point is at km 14.1 of Highway 60, where you will see a short road leading to the lakefront. Once here, you will see a ministry office to obtain tripping permits to the park interior and the well-known Portage Store. Sometimes referred to as P‑Store, the shop is well-stocked with canoe rental equipment, guides, advice for your trip, and even a restaurant to satisfy your hunger before or after your journey. 

The lake is a major access point for those looking to enter Algonquin Park by Canoe. When paddling away, enjoy beautiful Northern Ontario scenery, as well as the many cottages on the lakefront. If you enjoy fishing, cast a line in the cool, deep waters of Big Trout Lake. As you glide by, be sure to take photos of the massive bull moose in Grassy Bay. Whether you are headed out to your campsite, on a fishing trip, or simply going for a leisurely paddle, look out for ample wildlife in the area, like, deer, fox, wolves, beavers, loons, and blue herons.

Fish for Brook Trout and More at Lake Nipigon 

Located northeast of Thunder Bay is Lake Nipigon. Measuring up to 1,872 square miles of water, it is the largest inland lake in Ontario and one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Thanks to its size, Lake Nipigon is an attractive fishing destination. Another reason for its popularity is its abundance of brook trout, one of the most sought-after species in Northwest Ontario. The current world record brook trout was caught at Nipigon River in July 1915 by Dr. W.J. Cook. The fish weighed 14.5 pounds, and another of its size has not been caught to this day. 

If you’re looking for a great fishing spot, Lake Nipigon is the place to be. Thanks to conservation efforts, brook trout are abundant here, and they spend most of their time along the lake’s more than 600 miles of shoreline. If you prefer to head further out onto the water, you can cast a line from one of the lake’s many islands. Beyond brook trout, the waters here are also home to other native species, such as whitefish and lake trout. Are you ready to make this exhilarating fishing trip? Your best chances of catching a brook trout are in June and July, with another spurt occurring in late August and early September. Be sure to bring your scale, just in case you catch a brook trout big enough to break the current world record.

Take in the Sights and Sounds of the Rushing Water at Aguasabon Falls

One of the top Northern Ontario tourist attractions is the Aguasabone Falls & Gorge. Located along Highway 17 in the township of Terrace Bay, this breathtaking 100 ft. waterfall cascades into the Aguasabon Gorge. Although the water flows along a 2.6‑billion-year-old rock face, the Aguasabon Falls were formed in the late 1940s. The Aguasabon Hydro Development created the source to generate hydroelectric power for Terrace Bay and the local pulp mill. As a result of the work done to divert water to the generating plant, Hays Lake, located just north of Terrace Bay, enlarged to create the spillway, which is the falls as seen today. The water flow from the Aguasabone Falls continues to produce hydroelectric power for Terrace Bay and the pulp mill. 

Although the Aguasabone Falls serves a functional purpose, the ferocity of the waterfall and the beauty of the landscape are a must-see on a trip to Thunder Bay. The pathway to the falls is both easy to traverse and short in distance, making the trip to the boardwalk lookout suitable for most visitors. Stand by the falls, take in the fresh northern air, the mist from the waterfall, and the powerful sounds of the water cascading into the gorge. For those looking to spend more time here, there are also spots to enjoy a picnic.

Swim, Play and Unwind at Spruce Beach

If you’re looking for relaxing places to go in Northern Ontario, look no further than Spruce Beach. It is in the charming city of Elliot Lake, within the Algoma District, north of Lake Huron, and mid-way between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. Spruce Beach boasts a beautiful, large white sand area that is great for those who want to play, relax, or do a little bit of both. There is also a big rock in the water that visitors can swim to and jump off of. For added peace of mind, lifeguards are on duty from June to August. 

Spruce Beach is a Blue Flag Beach, meaning it has been recognized for being clean, accessible, eco-friendly, and having exceptional water quality.

Take a Lazy Float Down the Beautiful Vermillion River

Northern Ontario is home to some of the best leisure activities that the province has to offer. One of the best opportunities for a relaxing day on the water is to take a leisurely tube float down the Vermillion River. Located near Greater Sudbury, guests will arrive at a specific location indicated by Chillin’N Tubing when booking a ticket on their website. From there, take a short bus ride to the river access point where you will receive your tube. Once the journey begins, be prepared to spend between 2.5 and 4 hours floating, dependent on the wind and water level on the river. In the summer months, the river has a slow-moving current and is usually less than 3 feet deep in most spots. This means there is plenty of opportunities to jump out and get into the water. There are also many beaches to pull over at along the way.

Northeastern Ontario has so much to offer its visitors year-round. Learn about other must-visit attractions in the region and plan your next getaway today. 

Always follow Canada and local health authority COVID-19 guidelines for travelling or visiting attractions. Learn more about current restrictions and travelling within Canada.

Choice Hotels in Northeastern Ontario