10 Awe-Inspiring Natural Wonders to Visit in Northern Ontario
Northern Ontario, Canada is home to a vast landscape featuring truly spectacular natural sights, the kind that makes you catch your breath and reach for your camera. (For some man-made wonders in the north, try this top 10 list.) Some of these destinations are easy to reach while others require more of an adventurous journey…but all of them are unforgettable!
Here are 10 beautiful places to add to your Northern Ontario bucket list. How many have you checked off the list?
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Easily reached from the Trans-Canada Highway, this day-use provincial park about 45 minutes east of Thunder Bay features a one-kilometre loop trail and lookout platforms that offer incredible views of Ouimet Canyon. From the trail, the cliffs drop a sheer 100 metres down to the canyon floor, and you can watch eagles and peregrine falcons float across the 150-metre-wide gorge. Want to indulge your daredevil side? Head to the nearby Eagle Canyon Adventures to walk across a similar canyon on Canada’s longest suspension bridge (600 feet/183 metres long and 152 feet/46 metres), a second bridge that’s 300 feet (90 metres) across and 150 feet (46 metres) up, or ride Canada’s longest, fastest and highest zipline, a thrilling 60 seconds at 72 kmh. Both are open spring, summer and fall.
Discover a distinctive landscape and diverse flowers, plants and birds at Manitoulin Island’s alvars. These unusual open limestone stretches feature pavement-like bare, flat rocks with gaps where plants—tiny wildflowers, grasses and mini trees—take root in a delicate ecosystem. Misery Bay Provincial Park is Manitoulin’s only operating day-use provincial park and features a Visitor Centre with educational programs and more than 15 km of hiking trails so you can explore these globally rare alvars and do some birdwatching too.
- Learn everything you need to know about the island's alvars (like, what is an alvar?) with this handy guide.
Stunningly beautiful year-round, Kakabeka Falls is a 30-minute drive west of Thunder Bay and includes a boardwalk and walking trails with scenic lookouts so you can get an excellent view of the province’s second-highest waterfall (that’s why it’s called the Niagara of the North!) from a bunch of easily accessed vantage points, including the bridge that passes right over the Kaministiqua River at the top of the falls. The falls are 40 metres (130 feet) high and pour dramatically over sheer cliffs, revealing 1.6-million-year-old fossils in the rocks. Camp right there at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park or stay in the pleasant small town of Kakabeka Falls.
- Check out more scenic waterfalls to visit in the area.
4. sleeping giant provincial park + The Sea Lion
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park just east of Thunder Bay offers a great look at not just the famous Sleeping Giant rock formation known as Nanabijou but also another local favourite called the Sea Lion. This rock formation is accessed by a moderate 2.4 km hiking trail (via the Kabeyun Trail) and consists of a diabase rock arch just offshore that, once upon a time, looked like a seated lion. The head crumbled decades ago but the arch is still striking in terms of both form and colour against the waters of Lake Superior. The park is of course the site of many other spectacular hiking trails, including the Top of the Giant that takes you to the top of the tallest cliffs in Ontario, with truly amazing views of the east and west coast of the Sibley Peninsula. Learn more about activities in the park here.
- Check out 11 things to do in the town of Silver Islet, near sea lion rock.
5. Topaz Lake
There’s just something magic about clear turquoise water, isn’t there? And, these beauties aren’t confined to the Caribbean or glacier mountain lakes. Topaz Lake in Killarney Provincial Park is known for its breathtaking photo ops whether you’re viewing it on land, in a canoe or kayak, or swimming in its crystal waters. There are a variety of other bluewater lakes in Northern Ontario too…it would be cool to plan a road trip to visit them all!
- For more info visit this guide to bluewater lakes in Ontario.
The Municipality of Greenstone is a wilderness playground, and one of its star attractions are the Pijitawabik Palisades in the Orient Bay area about 30 minutes north of Nipigon. These sheer, 500-foot (152-metre) cliffs offer world-class rock- and ice-climbing opportunities as well as challenging hiking trails. The Palisades hiking trail, about 40 km northeast of Nipigon on Hwy 11, includes the 131-foot (40-metre) Cascade Falls, Brouse Lake, panoramic views and a chance to spot moose and peregrine falcons.
- For more info visit Superior's Country's guide to Greenstone.
This privately-owned site on the northern Bruce Peninsula is home to 10 limestone caves formed thousands of years ago, which you can explore on your own self-guided tour. Take a one-hour hike along the rugged terrain and forested trails that are lined with striking wildflowers and ferns and give lovely views high above Georgian Bay. Open May to September.
- For more info visit Greig's Caves online.
No trip to Wawa is complete without a visit to the Magpie River’s Scenic High Falls, a 75-foot-high, 125-foot-wide waterfall (23 metres high, 38 metres wide) that you can drive to even if you’re in an RV! Just south of Wawa off Hwy 17, this easy-access natural wonder has a scenic viewing platform and picnic shelter for a meal with a view. There’s also a 3-km hiking trail to take you to another waterfall, Silver Falls.
- For more info visit this guide to Scenic Falls.
Lake Superior’s Slate Islands near Terrace Bay offer a true Lake Superior experience. Only accessible by boat (for experienced kayakers or boaters, or by a shuttle), this collection of islands in a non-operating, natural environment provincial park has lots of fascinating natural features. Like what, you ask? How about: woodland caribou, pristine rocky beaches and cliffs, “shatter cones” a.k.a. a conical shape in the rocks formed by a meteorite strike many millions of years ago, some pretty cool fishing opportunities for lake trout and other Superior species, and arctic tundra plants (yes the Arctic is hundreds of kilometres away). Human-made sites include a defunct copper mine, remnants of a timber operation, old-timey abandoned cabins, a lighthouse and examples of Pukaswka Pits, depressions created by Indigenous Peoples up to 10,000 years ago for reasons that are now lost to history.
- Check out these top 12 things to see on the Slate Islands.
Eighteen huge stones are scattered along the shores of Larder Lake, 27 km east of Kirkland Lake. Are they simply erratics, moved by glaciers thousands of years ago, or is this natural wonder more purposeful? Experts have pointed out their alignment matches the rising and setting of the sun during winter and summer solstice, and the site is considered sacred by some of the area’s Indigenous peoples. From there, you can see the striking Cheminis Mountain, also called Mount Chaudron, which has been described as “rising like a mirage in the distance” and is also of spiritual significance to Indigenous communities in the area. At 500 metres above sea level it is one of the highest peaks in the region and is a local go-to for hiking, with a trailhead on the north side that leads you to the 45-minute ascent.
- For more info visit here.
To add a little more wonder to your life, be sure to discover these natural wonders of Northern Ontario. Take pictures, make memories and soak in the big and small details.