Boating in Ontario

The Complete Guide

Ontario is something of a boater’s paradise. First, there’s the sheer variety of boating—from cabin cruisers and bowriders to walkarounds, sportfishing yachts, centre consoles, flat boats, performance boats, PWCs (Personal Water Craft), yachts, pontoons, sailing, etc.—the list goes on and the opportunities are endless. Then there’s the incredible scenery, the friendly people and wonderful accommodations.

Ontario is home to some 400,000 lakes, rivers and streams. With so many glimmering lakes, rushing rivers and intriguing shorelines to explore, Northern Ontario delivers unparalleled aquatic adventures. Go sailing, water skiing, wakeboarding, tubing or just cruise along a sunny lake. Then relax at one of the many lodges Northern Ontario has to offer.


1 – Southwest Ontario

From cruising along Canatara Park to docking at Port Stanley Beach, visiting Grand Bend or settling in for the evening at Erieau Marina, Ontario’s southwest region is a wonderful place to visit.

2 – Niagara Region

Nestled between the southern shores of Lake Ontario and the northern shores of Lake Erie, the Niagara region is renowned for its richly-developed boating possibilities. Niagara features an extensive system of rivers and lakes that make for great sport fishing and boating.

3 – Hamilton, Halton and Brant

Aside from miles and miles of shoreline along Lake Ontario, one of the highlights of this region is undoubtedly the Grand River watershed, populated by a dazzling array of wildlife. There's approximately 80 different species of fish in this watershed, which represents almost half of all fish species found in Canada. What's more, if all of the creeks, rivers and streams in the Grand River watershed were lined up end-to-end, it would add up to some 20,000 km of shoreline.

While you're in the area, visit the Crawford Lake Conservation Area, or take a boat cruise along one of the area's waterways.

4 – Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington  

About an hour west of Toronto, you can find sun-drenched beaches, canoe along the Grand River, and visit picturesque heritage towns. This is your summer weekend destination. Check out the Laurel Conservation Area or sail the Huron, and partake of the wares at the Seven Shores Market and Cafe.

5 – Greater Toronto Area

The Greater Toronto Area offers a host of excellent boating opportunities. If you're in the downtown core, there's always the Harbourfront Centre, which offers both sailing and powerboating options. The Harbourfront Centres offers the opportunity to join with partners, family and friends to discover the romance of the water and the freedom of boating. While you're there, you can boat on over to the Toronto Islands, which are serviced by public boat moorings and offer a variety of boat rental and yacht club options.

If you're a bit farther away from the city's core, the Toronto region offers some wonderful options for non-motorized boats, including canoeing and paddling.

6 – York, Durham and Hills of Headwaters

The Central Counties of Ontario offer a network of water systems that welcomes those traveling by paddleboat, canoe and kayak. Whether you're looking for tranquil waters or the challenges of a river rapid, this region promises a host of adventures and experiences that you just can't experience from onshore.

Visit Port Perry, where you'll find Lake Scugog, which provides the eastern-most gateway to the renowned Trent-Severn Waterway, a stretch of interconnected lakes and rivers that extend for almost 400 km. Scugog offers a number of marinas and cruise options to add to your experience.

7 – Bruce Grey Simcoe

If you're visiting the Bruce Grey Simcoe region by boat, don't forget to bring along your fishing rods. This area's lakes, rivers and bays offer excellent conditions for a huge variety of fishing. Offering a wide variety of riverbanks, inland lakes and tributaries, fishing in this region provides a great way to reconnect with the great outdoors. No experience is necessary, and all equipment can be rented locally, if need be. 

Don't miss the Saugeen River, referred to by many as "the" place for fly-fishing in this part of the country.

8 – Kawarthas and Northumberland

At this regular stop for boaters cruising Lake Ontario, boaters will find just about any kind of floating transportation in this region. Powerboaters tend to prefer the locks and docks of the Trent Waterway, while sailboats and windsurfers generally stick to the larger lakes. This area is a popular destination for powerboaters, offering hundreds of kilometres of water connected through lakes, rivers and locks.

There are a variety of transient slips where boaters can stock up on supplies, do some shopping and enjoy a fine meal. Port Hope, Cobourg and Brighton offer excellent options, and of course, let's not forget the Trent Severn Waterway.

9 – SouthEastern Ontario

Whether you're new to boating or a seasoned veteran, this is the place to be. In fact, the region is better known by its other moniker, The Great Waterway. And what an apt name it is. Thousands of clear blue lakes connected by cool rivers, from the 1000 Islands to Kingston, Gananoque and the St. Lawrence River – there are so many ways to experience the serenity and adventure of this part of Ontario.

Venture from cruising the 1,000 Islands in a comfortable cabin cruiser or walkaround, and then enjoy the fabulous and refreshing scenery as you go canoeing and kayaking in the Land O'Lakes. Or take in the breathtaking views as you cruise smoothly along with friends, family and/or a romantic partner on one of the area's many relaxing cruises, from Merrickville to Rockport and beyond.

And of course, there's also the Bay of Quinte, if you're into fishing for walleye or pickerel, pike, and bass.

10 – Ottawa and Countryside

The Ottawa region provides a number of excellent choices for boaters. There's eco-friendly boating voyages on the Ottawa River with Au feel de l'eau, which offers transfers between the Rideau Canal locks and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Towards the end of the day, there's also an hour-long sunset cruise that extends towards the Casino du Lac-Leamy.

Of course, the historic Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not to mention North America's oldest continuously operating waterway. Paul's Boat Line offers cruises through parts of downtown Ottawa to Dows Lake, in both English and French. If you're a history buff, consider Capital Cruises, during which the story of Ottawa is told in your choice of language (including English, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean or Spanish). If you'd prefer to mix your visit between land and water, there's always the Lady Dive's Amphibus tour, which provides tours of the city that includes historical information, colourful anecdotes and humorous stories, both entertaining and educational. And for the family, there's Pirate Adventures, where everyone can enjoy an unforgettable experience aboard a pirate ship in the heart of downtown Ottawa along the Rideau Canal (close to Mooney's Bay Beach).

And if it's adventure that you're after, did you know that you can even go whitewater rafting right in the heart of the city? Aside from the Ottawa River near Beachburg, about 90 minutes west of the city, where some of the world's best whitewater can be found, there's also a whitewater option within walking distance of most downtown hotels. The Madawaska Kanu Centre offers one-day whitewater kayaking lessons each summer.

11 – Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley 

Boating is a great launching point for any number of other activities and sports, including fishing, waterskiing, tubing and swimming, and this region is a great place for all of them. Even if you've never boated before, there are many mariners and boat rental outfitters that can help you along your way. The Rideau Heritage Route is one not to miss!

12 – Muskoka, Parry Sound and Algonquin Park

Naturally, this region is world-renowned for its beauty and scenery, it's beautiful lakes and forests and wonderful accommodations. If you're a fan of fishing, paddling or canoeing, this is the summer family destination for you. 

13 – North Ontario Tourism Region

a) Northeastern Ontario

Set off from serviced marinas and explore the tranquil shores of a huge number of lakes and bays, gliding by ancient rocks and windswept pines. Highlights include sailing and boating between Killarney and the North Shore, winding up around Little Current and Spanish. There are marinas in Haileybury, New Liskeard and Quebec that service Lake Temiskaming, and PWC tours available from Mattawa to Temiskaming Shores. You can also go boating along the Abitibi River, or kick back for a while in a houseboat in Temagami.

b) Algoma Country

Lake Huron's North Channel is renowned for being one of the best places to go boating in the world, for cabin cruisers, sailing and yachting. And of course, there's Sault Ste Marie, where you can visit the locks and go pleasure crafting.

c) Sunset Country

Some say that in Sunset Country, there's more water than land. You can spend weeks at a time on a houseboat, never leaving the water, and enjoy fishing and wilderness canoeing.

About Mike Jacobs

Mike is an avid Northern traveller, having spent years traversing its backroads, and visiting its remote lodges and fun cities by car, RV, motorcycle, and boat. There's always something new to discover in the North and Mike never shies away from the next great adventure.

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