Amazing (and Random) Vintage Ontario Tourism Ads That Will Definitely Make You Want to Travel This Summer

17 fun favourites from Ontario's advertising past.
A vintage 1950's illustrated tourism ad featuring a smiling family in a convertible driving next to a large blue lake and birch trees. The shores of the lake are forested, and there is a cabin on the edge, and sailboats on the water. The text reads "Ontario, Canada's family variety vacationland!"

We love vintage ads—the graphic design, the taglines, the amazing imagery and nostalgia vibes. A lot of interesting ads have been produced over the years promoting Ontario's many charms that are bold, beautiful, fun and sometimes even a little weird. Here are some incredible ads for Ontario communities we'd like to share with you.

1. Last One In's a Loser—Ontario Travel

A black and white illustrated tourism ad from 1953, featuring a smiling woman in a black and white strapless bathing suit running with a splash into knee deep water, with her arms thrown above her head, eyes closed and hair flowing around her head as she runs. The title text begins "Last one in's a loser..." and continues into a short paragraph encouraging tourists to come to Ontario. There is a cutout coupon on the bottom inviting readers to fill it out and mail back to Ontario Travel to get a free guide.

A classic. This fine lady's peer pressure has got us sold. A large part of the Ontario government’s tourism marketing strategy throughout the 1940s and 50s was directed at families and individuals who were looking to holiday on one of the province's many, many lakes.

2. Bungalow Camps in Ontario— Canadian Pacific Railway

a vintage illustrated poster using vibrant yellows, reds and blues featuring 2 men in a canoe, one pulling a large splashing fish out of the river around them as he raises his bending fishing pole above his head. The river bank in the distance is covered in conifer forest and there are red-roofed cabins on the shore. The text reads "Bungalow Camps in Ontario" and "Canadian Pacific Railway".

The Canadian Pacific Railway commissioned a number of especially striking promotional posters throughout the 1940s and 50s by some very talented artists. This one beckons visitors to fish in the beautiful French River

3. Our Vacation in Ontario—Ontario Ministry of Travel 1954

The front page of a brightly coloured vintage comic book designed to encourage kids and families to visit Ontario. The title reads "Our Vacation in Ontario" and features illustrations of the faces of two smiling youngsters and their parents in a row, and an illustration of Niagara Falls and a boat below them. A paragraph of text introduces the family, and how Johnny, the boy and narrator of the comic, will walk the reader through the wonderful family vacation opportunities in Ontario.

This one's actually the cover of an entire comic book exploring the family vacation opportunities that you and your family could be having, just like Johnny here. Realistic illustrations in that classy 50s style walk kids through the wonders of Ontario, one stop at a time. 

4. Did You...Put Your Campfire Out?— Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

A vintage poster illustration in black and yellow with red text, featuring a dark line graphic of forest and a man with a calm but serious look pouring a pot of water onto a campfire. The text reads "did you...put your camp fire out?" and there is a logo from the province of Ontario and Ministry of Resources in the upper left corner.

Always looking out for people and parks, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources drafted this fella to be a face for their fire safety campaign mid-century.  It's bold and eye-catching, and he looks both friendly and serious enough that we don't want to mess with him. 

5. Lake Superior Route—Ontario Postcard circa 1965

a vintage illustration advertising the Lake Superior Route in Ontario, featuring an artist's map of the route decorated with small picutres of Mounties, hunters, anglers, forest, and other Canadian hallmarks and landmarks along the trail.

Touring around Lake Superior has captivated vacationers for decades, with good reason. However, prior to 1912, Northern Ontario lacked connecting roads. The construction of the Trans-Canada Highway opened a line for car traffic through Ontario that finally allowed tourists to fully travel this beautiful area, but it took decades to complete. Over the 1950s, the highway along Superior's North Shore was developed in segments, but construction proved difficult due to the rugged, rocky landscape. Wawa didn't have viable roads through the area until that segment of Highway 17 was built in 1960! This vintage postcard memento highlighted the landmarks of the Lake Superior Route after its completion (note that adorable Wawa Goose on the right).

6. Ontario Angling 1959 Travel Brochure—Ontario Department of Travel and Publicity

a vintage brochure labelled 1959 that reads "Ontario Angling" and features simple, stylized graphics of fishing tackle, a rod, net, knife and fishing basket, all in black, white and orange.

Bold, funky yet classy, this fold-out pamphlet from 1959 put out by the province of Ontario outlines the fishery regulations for world-class fishing in its 33 "Ontario Vacationlands".

7. Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires—Department of Lands and Forests Ontario

A vintage fire prevention poster put out by the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. It is a realistic illustration featuring a dramatic black background with hints of an orange forest fire glowing behind a man in the foreground, looking heroically but seriously into the distance as he hugs a small baby deer to his chest, taking it away from the fire. Yellow text above reads "Only you can prevent forest fires".

There are a few versions of this poster out there, with variations in the title text. It harkens back to pre-1972, when the Department of Lands and Forests became the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Regardless of the exact print date, we have never been so inspired to make sure our coals are cold (sorry, Smokey).

8. Friendly, Familiar, Foreign and Near—Ontario Department of Tourism and Information

A vintage tourism ad which reads "Friendly, Familiar, Foreign and Near", "Ontario", followed by a paragraph describing "Ontario, a land like yours, yet intriguingly 'foreign'". It describes Ontario's wild, its world-class Shakespearean theatre, its antique shopping, and uncrowded parks and features pictures of each, as well as an antique wooden chair.

A different approach—appealing to the theatre and antique lovers out there, lovers of nature as well as the urbane, and those who appreciate really nice chairs.

9. Ontario, Canada's Vacation Province for Hunting and Fishing, 1947—Ontario Department of Travel and Publicity

a vintage tourism ad featuring a black and white photograph of two men standing on a rocky river bank fishing into a river, which is colourized with light green. One man holds a fishing rod and seems to be pulling in a catch while his friend readies the net. White text reads "Ontario: Canada's Vacation Province, for your victory vacation, for hunting and fishing".

By the 1930s, three out of every four Americans visiting Canada chose Ontario for their vacation, so it followed that by the 40s and 50s, the government sought to market to Americans who wanted an outdoor vacation. This advertising was geared toward families looking for a lakeside getaway as well as individuals who wanted to hunt and fish in Ontario’s forests and streams. Newspapers and magazines throughout the United States began promoting Ontario as “the Lakeland Playground of America".

10. Ontario, Canada's Vacation Province Welcomes You, 1947—Ontario Department of Travel and Publicity

A vintage tourism ad featuring a black and white photograph of two women in 1940's bathing suits and hairstyles, smiling and waving as they hold a beachball and beach float. The background is colourized in light green and shows a lake, forest and sky spotted with fluffy clouds. White and green text reads "Ontario, Canada's Vacation Province, for your victory vacation". Written on the page in pencil is the date "1947".

 

11. Ontario's Lakelands—Canadian National Railways

A colourful illustration of a high view if a golf course in front of a long blue lake stretching off to the horizon, edged by green forest and a small lakeside town. There is a sailboat on the lake and a purple flower in the close foreground. At the bottom it reads "Ontario's Lakelands, Canadian Pacific Railway".

One of several beautifully illustrated ads released by CN, enticing visitors to get a better view of Ontario's gorgeous lakes by choosing to travel by train

12 & 13. Ontario: Canada's Vacation Province All Year—Ontario Department of Travel and Publicity

a vintage ad featuring colourful illustration of a smiling man holding a camera, with bright blue sky, rolling hills and a woman and child wearing summer clothing standing windswept in the background, looking off into the distance as the child points. An oversized white wooden sign says "Ontario", and at the bottom of the page blue text reads "Canada's Vacation Province, all year".

Some things never change. Ontario, in the 1950s just as today, promoted the bounty of vacation opportunities available to visitors, no matter the season. 

an illustrated vintage ad in a bright primary colour palette featuring a man, woman, small boy and girl smiling and walking chest held high in the same long, exaggerated graceful steps. They are carrying beach items; an inflatable yellow dinghy, a checkered beach umbrella, towels, toys and a picnic basket. The blue and white text reads "Ontario, Canada's Vacation Province, all year".

 

14. There's Every Kind of Wonderful Vacation in Ontario!—Ontario Travel

A vintage black and white magazine ad featuring a realistic illustration of a smiling woman in a shirt and blazer and a line graphic of the Ontario tourism regions. The title text reads "There's every kind of wonderful vacation in Ontario!" and continues into a paragraph written in the voice of Denise McDonald, the travel agent in the illustration, inviting you to visit beautiful Ontario and to fill out the coupon on the page to mail back to Ontario Travel for a free guide.

A friendly face of Ontario Travel inviting you to find your ideal vacation. This is an example of the print ads placed in publications in the 1950s, complete with a mail-order coupon for ordering a free travel guide

15. Ontario: Canada's Family Variety Vacationland!—Ontario Department of Travel and Publicity

A vintage 1950's illustrated tourism ad featuring a smiling family in a convertible driving next to a large blue lake and birch trees. The shores of the lake are forested, and there is a cabin on the edge, and sailboats on the water. The text reads "Ontario, Canada's family variety vacationland!"

Since the bulk of Canadian and American tourists arrived by car, the government appealed to them through both images and maps. They showed roads and highways as well as available accommodations for road-trippers and their families, promoting Ontario as an easily accessible wilderness that was also family-friendly. 

16. Calling All Sportsmen to Ontario—Ontario Travel and Publicity Bureau

a vintage tourism ad using realistic comic-style illustrations in red black and grey tones, showing deer hunters in 5 panels. The title text reads "Calling all Sportsmen to Ontario", next to a drawing of a hunter holding a gun and blowing a cone-shaped deer call. A deer behind him has its head raised. Below there is a paragraph describing the excellent hunting and fishing in Ontario. At the bottom of the page there is a coupon to fill out and mail to Ontario Travel for a free guidebook.

Ontario has a long legacy of being an incredible destination for hunters from all over the world—an attribute that's been well-promoted over the years using various mediums. 

17. Ontario: Yours to Discover—Ontario Ministry of Industry and Tourism

The only natural way to end this would be with this series of gems: promotional videos by Ontario Tourism aired between 1978 and 1992, with a catchy jingle (too catchy?) to take with you.  Ontario is yours to discover! Enjoy!

About Stacy Rosadiuk

Stacy is an editor for Northern Ontario Travel. She grew up where the wild things are and loves helping people to find their own favourite places. 

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