Plan your Ontario Outdoor Adventure Staycation Now

Looking for a little getaway – even for a day? This guide will help you discover new ways and places to have fun safely in Ontario’s outdoor playground.

International travel is highly discouraged during the era of COVID-19. Instead of going south this winter, most Ontarians will be spending their winter holidays at home and many are already dreaming about their 2022 summer vacations.

three kayak on turquoise waters of Georgian Bay
Ontario offers incredible outdoor adventures year-round. Source: Destination Ontario 

In the thick of social distancing measures, being outside has become one of the few available activities left for escaping the house. Many people have discovered the beauty and health benefits of spending time in the great outdoors in their own backyard.

What is a Staycation?

A staycation is when you stay at home but explore all the fun things in your local area. Typically you only travel within a day trip distance of your home and return home for the night. The goal is to create the feel of a traditional vacation – like avoiding daily routine while staying in your local area.

During this time of COVID-19, it’s important to know and respect the level of public health measures for your region. These measures control what is open and how businesses are operating. Before exploring, be sure to learn about the five levels of public health measures shown below and check what level your local area is at.

  1. Prevent (green)
  2. Protect (yellow)
  3. Restrict (orange)
  4. Control (Red)
  5. Lockdown (Grey)

What Can I Do on my Staycation?

Cross country skiers on a trail in forest on a sunny day
Outdoor activities offer the perfect solution for having fun while social distancing.  

Ontario is the perfect place for an outdoor adventure staycation in all seasons. You can walk, hike, bike, swim, paddle, snowshoe, ski, dogsled and more - all while practicing safe social distancing.

So for those of you looking for a little getaway – even for a day – this guide will help you discover new ways and places to have fun safely in Ontario’s outdoors.

What To Expect When Travelling In Ontario 

The world has changed because of COVID-19 but Ontario’s businesses are doing their best to keep you, your family and their employees safe. Please be kind to them and consider thanking them for being open.

The New Normal 

When traveling in Ontario, you’ll find new rules, additional expectations and a lot more signage to pay attention to. Even though these changes may seem strange at first, they are in place to keep everyone safe. As requirements vary for each region, be sure to know and follow local rules. If you are from a high-risk area, please consider the implications before travelling to a low risk area.  

Here are some common changes you can expect to find.

  • Plan Ahead – As the situation is constantly changing, it’s a good idea to plan ahead before heading out. Check tourism, business and public health unit websites and social media for the region you are in or travelling to. 
  • Masks – The Ontario Government has made it mandatory to wear makes in all indoor public areas and when you can’t keep two metres apart. Learn more.
  • Social Distancing – Businesses are working hard to keep you 2 metres (six feet) apart from others. Please pay attention to signage and respect others by giving them the space they need. Learn more.
  • Sanitation Procedures – Cleaner is always safer. Please use the hand sanitizer or washing stations provided to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Learn more.
  • Protective Barriers – Please stand behind the barriers when interacting with the person serving you.
  • Advance Ticketing and Reservations – Limiting the number of people in any given location allows space for social distancing. Instead of lining up at the door, you will now line-up virtually, get advanced ticketing or have time-slot reservations.
  • Contactless Pay and Menus – Many businesses are no longer accepting cash and instead are asking for you to pay using contactless methods (e.g. tap on credit/debit card or paying ahead online). Many restaurants are asking customers to read their menus virtually on their phone.
  • Contact Tracing – Don’t be alarmed if you are asked to provide your name, phone number or other information prior to being admitted to a local business. This information is being collected so that the business can contact you if another customer within your vicinity tests positive for COVID-19. Learn more about the COVID Alert mobile app.

Shop Local, Stay Local and Explore Local 

Staying home is currently the top recommendation from the Ontario government to reduce your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19, however, if you choose to go out, travel local, travel safe and do your part by following public health advice for Ontario and your region.

Have you ever tried a winter picnic? Source: Destination Ontario 

This is the year to explore new local places and try new local adventures. The regional tourism websites listed below can help you discover local exhilarating outdoor experiences, fabulous food and drink, relaxing places to stay and more.

Before venturing out, get the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 levels and measures, based on public health unit boundaries. Please note the health regions may not correspond to the tourism regions listed below.    

Amazing Outdoor Places To Explore 

There are so many incredible places to explore in Ontario. When you venture into the wilderness, please remember to Leave No Trace and to pack out what you pack in. Be sure to plan ahead and know what you need to bring with you as some facilities and shops may not be open.

Ontario Parks 

Ontario Parks offer incredible outdoor recreation opportunities in all seasons. Most of the usual facilities and services are available to visitors, however, some restrictions may apply.

A man and a woman in winter clothing drinking a cup of hot chocolate
Just bundle up and share some snow adventures. Source: Destination Ontario 

Winter in Ontario Parks provides many fun adventures for visitors. Try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating or tubing. Discover which parks are open for day-use and ones that offer overnight camping in yurts, cabins or tents. Keep updated on all trail conditions with the new Ski Report

COVID Related Travel Tips

Parks Canada 

To make the most of your visit to Parks Canada places in Ontario, plan ahead using the website of specific locations you wish to visit and the travel tips below. Be sure to check the COVID-19 information for each location.

Woman climbing a boulder beside turquoise water.
Bouldering is a popular activity on the Bruce Peninsula. Source: Destination Ontario 

Explore the six National Parks (Bruce Peninsula; Georgian Bay Islands; Point Pelee; Pukaskwa; Rouge National Urban; Thousand Islands), 39 Historic Sites and two Marine Conservation Areas (Fathom Five National Marine Park; Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area).

WINTER: Only three (Point Pelee National Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Rouge National Urban Park) of the six National Parks in Ontario are open during the winter, however they have limited services and facilities.

COVID Related Travel Tips

Conservation Areas in Ontario 

Man climbing up a frozen waterfall.
There's always something fun to do outdoors - find out more. Source: Destination Ontario 

Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities collectively own and operate over 500 Conservation Areas. Nearly 300 Conservation Areas are accessible for you to get outdoors and be active. They provide year-round facilities and recreational opportunities like birding, camping, swimming, hiking, fishing, cycling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and even more extreme sports such as snowboarding, rock climbing and ice climbing. 

COVID Related Travel Tips

Find Your Outdoor Adventure 

When you book an adventure in Ontario, you can rest easy knowing you are in good hands. Our operators are doing everything possible to keep you safe by maintaining the strict protocols required by the Province. In addition, many have obtained a ‘Safe Travels’ stamp, which means they have adopted health and hygiene global standardised protocols. 

Be sure to call or email ahead to ensure there is a space reserved for you and be as self-sufficient as possible as some facilities may not be open.

Winter Outdoor Adventures During COVID-19 

Woman on a dog sled with team of dogs pulling in a forest
Find serenity as you glide through the forest. Source: Destination Ontario 

Snow brings new excitement and romance to some of your favourite destinations. Go snowshoeing or cross country skiing in a winter wonderland, try fat biking on snow-packed trails, carve down a mountain, skate under a million stars or mush a dogsled through a glistening forest. Just getting started? Equipment rentals and lessons are available or supplied for all winter adventures. 

It doesn’t matter what you choose – just get out and experience Ontario this winter.

Girl on snowboard with 4 skiers on slope in background
Carve it up at a Snow Resort. Source: Destination Ontario 

Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding and Tubing Resorts – Discover ski resorts near you and get snow conditions.  Learn more.

Cross Country Ski Resorts & Trails – Discover Nordic ski resorts near you and get snow conditions. Learn more.  Also refer to the Ontario Parks section below for great places to cross-country ski.

Dogsledding Adventures – Choose from one hour to multi-day trips with these excellent dogsledding outfitters across Ontario. They’ll teach you the basics and introduce you to one of the best ways to enjoy a winter day.

Fat Biking -  It’s a hot winter trend to go biking on snow. Check out these 10 fat biking hotspots.

Ice Skating – Experience thrills and serenity on these best Ontario outdoor skating trails.

Winter Getaways for Families – Check out these 21 adventure getaways for families.

Resorts of Ontario – Many Ontario resorts offer packages with a sampling of fun winter adventures – snowshoeing, skiing, dogsledding, downhill skiing and more. Find your perfect winter getaway here.

Northern Ontario Snow Adventures – Discover the perfect place to play in the snow this winter.

Spring, Summer and Fall Outdoor Adventures During COVID-19 

Already dreaming about your next warm weather vacation? Get inspired and start planning your Ontario outdoor adventure holiday now.  

two people paddling a red canoe on a calm lake
Paddling is a fabulous way to escape into the wilderness. 

Paddling – Discover the best paddling rivers, SUP destinations, fly-in canoe trips, world-class kayaking tours, whitewater rafting adventures, backcountry camping adventures and more. Learn more.

Cycling & Mountain Biking – Find the best gravel bike rides, weekend cycling getaways, mountain bike trails, bike parks and road touring routes. Learn more.

Hiking, Camping & More – Get complete guides to hiking some of Ontario most spectacular trails – Killarney, Lake Superior, Pukaskwa and more. Get tips on camping and discover the top 25 camping spots in Ontario. Find the best family vacations. Learn more.

Other Planning Resources 

Go Camping

Stay at a Resort

Explore Ontario’s Trails

Plan Your Outdoor Adventure Staycation 

Ontario is the perfect place for an outdoor adventure staycation in all seasons. You can easily play outside while practicing safe social distancing and following other COVID-19 measures.

So for those of you looking for a little getaway – even for a day – we hope that you’ll experience some new adventures in Ontario’s great outdoors.

About Trish Manning

Trish Manning is an adventure travel writer and the content coordinator for Ontario Outdoor Adventures. She is an avid outdoor person who loves to hike, paddle, SUP, snowshoe, cross-country ski and explore Ontario's great outdoors with her golden retriever, Daisy.

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