Stellar Spots for Stargazing in Ontario

Grab your binoculars and hit the road in search of cosmic views. From secluded campsites to observation domes, the province is home to an array of astronomically astounding destinations.

Amid all the instant gratification that comes from the majority of today’s entertainment, there are still clear alternatives that give us a sense of holistic satisfaction. There’s no real comparison to the feeling of accomplishment we relish after completing a gruelling hike, or the memories of quiet mornings spent crossing lakes not yet touched by the day.

Choosing to get outside and experience the world around us is an incredibly effective way to stay active, feel good and maintain a healthy psyche. Much like conversation seems to flow effortlessly around a crackling fire, staring up at the stars creates an immeasurably positive effect on our mood.

Stargazing has been linked to benefits like increased attention span, spikes in creativity and improved sleep patterns, but most of all it fills us with wonder, curiosity and awe at its beauty.

Below you’ll find some of the best places for stargazing in Ontario.

starry night skies and northern lights over a lake at Quetico
You might see more than just millions of stars while in Quetico. Source: Rachel Epstein // @rachsepst

Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico Provincial Park’s rugged landscape and pristine lakes make it a must-visit destination for canoe trippers. And as an International Dark Sky Preserve, it’s one of the best places to lie down on a slab of Canadian Shield on a backcountry campsite and stargaze in the summertime.

But we’ll let you in on a secret—the stargazing here is even better in the winter. This is true generally speaking across the Northern Hemisphere, as cold air has less moisture in it, allowing you to see the night sky more clearly. As well, the positioning of the Earth is such that in the wintertime we’re no longer facing the centre of the Milky Way and are instead pointed toward a smaller arm and deep space. The center of the Milky Way is so bright it actually makes it difficult to view individual stars, whereas in the winter we view a sky full of fewer stars, which makes them more visible.

All you need to know is that when you gaze up at a winter sky from Quetico, you’re in for a treat.

  • Bundle up and strap on your snowshoes and hike the Pines Trail to the sandy beaches of Pickerel Lake. The wide-open area will provide you with a great view of the night sky.
  • During the day, snowshoe or cross-country ski the Camp 111 Trail, a 4.7-kilometre route that runs along the remnants of former logging roads, and connects to the French Falls Trail.
  • Enjoy the 15 kilometres of groomed ski trails in the Park’s Dawson Trail Campground.
  • Ice fish for trout on French Lake. Make sure to adhere to the current provincial guidelines and regulations.
  • Book a backcountry campsite or cabin.
  • Visit Walt’s Dry Goods in nearby Atikokan to gear up.
a lakeside tree in front of the milky way at night
Find you a piece of sky in Killarney on a clear night and you’re in for a treat. Source: Dean Heliotis // @deanheliotis

Killarney Provincial Park

Standing atop a granite ridge to take in a spectacular panoramic view of the mountainous landscape surrounding you is all in a day’s work when visiting Killarney Provincial Park. Known for its unique topography, extensive canoe routes and world-class hiking, the Park is 645 square kilometres of pure Ontario wilderness playground. But if you think the views are beautiful in the daytime, just wait until the sun goes down.

In 2018, Killarney gained the designation of Provincial Dark Sky Preserve, highlighting the incredible lack of light pollution—and therefore prime stargazing opportunities—within the Park. The Park is also home to an observatory containing a 16-inch telescope and runs public viewing events throughout the summer and fall.

  • Backpack the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, an 80-kilometre loop through the Park’s backcountry that takes about seven to 10 days to complete and will allow you to sleep beneath the stars in peaceful campsites each night.
  • Reserve a backcountry site on O.S.A. Lake and paddle into one of Killarney’s most beautiful bodies of water. The lake is only reachable by canoe or kayak, making it a secluded stargazing dream. After a day of paddling and portaging, set up your camp, grab your binoculars and wait out on the rocks for the sun to set. You will not be disappointed.
  • Book a frontcountry site at George Lake and attend the Park’s programming at the observatory. Typically there is a sign at the main office indicating when programming is to take place.
  • Need to rent equipment to make your adventures happen? Visit Killarney Outfitters or Killarney Kanoes.
the milky way at manitoulin eco park
Experience incredible darkness at Manitoulin Eco Park. Source: Akhil Thomas // @_burned_in_effigy

Manitoulin Eco Park

If you want to experience the best stargazing destinations in Ontario, you need to embrace seclusion. That means journeying away from the city lights and finding a cozy place to hunker down.

It is difficult to find a better secluded location for stargazing than Manitoulin Eco Park, Canada’s first Royal Astronomical Society of Canada designated commercial Dark Sky Preserve. You can stay right in the preserve and take advantage of a communal area in an open field with 360-degree views of the sky.

  • Head to the island during the fall or winter to stay in Manitoulin Eco Park’s winterized Stargazing Cabin. Stoke the cabin’s woodstove before bundling up and heading out to view a sky so clear you won’t believe your eyes.
  • During the day, hike or snowshoe the famous Cup and Saucer Trail to access one of the island’s best views of Lake Huron.
  • Book a campsite or one of the roofed accommodations at Manitoulin Eco Park during the summer and fall to attend one of their stargazing events such as Night Hikes and Astronomy Nights.
  • In August, take a stargazing cruise on the MS Chi-Cheemaun to get unobscured views of the night sky from the open waters of Georgian Bay.

Lake Superior Provincial Park

Algoma Country is famous for its incredibly clear views of the night sky. Thanks to its sparse population and distance from major city centres, areas like Lake Superior Provincial Park remain unpolluted by lights, allowing for excellent stargazing opportunities.

After years of taking light measurements and tireless efforts made to reduce the Park’s light pollution, Lake Superior Provincial Park was designated a Dark Sky Preserve in 2019. The best places to stargaze within the Park are from beaches or backcountry campsites. Don’t forget to give your eyes time to adjust!

Front Row Access to Ontario’s Best Night Skies

Wherever you choose to explore, half the fun of stargazing is the journey. Plan a stargazing trip to one of these Ontario destinations to create memories, take in the scenery and reap the rewards of staring up at the night sky.

About Marshall Veroni

Marshall Veroni is a poet, songwriter and outdoor enthusiast who has spent most of his free time travelling Canada in one way or another. With a background in creative writing, he is dedicated to immersing himself in small-town Ontario to cover outdoor adventures, music, the arts, food and travel. 

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