13 Best Places to Canoe & Kayak Near Buffalo and Rochester

Kayak the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, then dip your paddle along the storied canoe routes of Algonquin Park.

For paddlers from the Buffalo and Rochester regions, Ontario’s world-class canoeing and kayaking are just a few hours’ drive away. Three areas stand out for their easy accessibility and outstanding scenery: 1) Georgian Bay’s island-studded coastal waters; 2) the countless pine-fringed lakes of Muskoka, Algonquin and the Almaguin Highlands; and 3) the famed rivers of Northeastern Ontario.

Georgian Bay

Three hours north of Buffalo, the communities of Parry Sound and the Township of Georgian Bay serve as convenient gateways to the sparkling waters of the Bay. This wild and lightly populated region is home to the 30,000 Islands, as well as a stunning national park only accessible by boat.

Woman paddling kayak between large rocks on Georgian Bay
Paddle among Georgian Bay’s pink and orange granite islands. Photo: Virginia Marshall

Coastal Touring

Experienced kayakers who are comfortable paddling on open waters could spend a lifetime exploring the tens of thousands of rocky islands and hidden, clearwater passages in the UNESCO-designated Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. Just starting out? Ontario Sea Kayak Centre offers guided day-trips in the Biosphere, departing from locations near Parry Sound.

In a sheltered, southeastern nook of Georgian Bay, beautiful Georgian Bay Islands National Park is accessible only by park shuttle boat or your own watercraft. The largest of the park’s 63 islands—Beausoleil Island—offers backcountry camping, waterfront cabins, trails, sandy beaches, and sublime smooth-rock swimming. Head north into the park’s outlying pink-granite islands for solitude and wild camping.

Canoe Routes

Stretching along the filigreed Georgian Bay coast from Parry Sound south to the Moon River, the Massasauga Provincial Park encompasses hundreds of windswept islands and peaceful inland lakes. Plentiful backcountry campsites and moderate portages allow for a variety of easy weekend routes. The park is a popular escape for Toronto-area paddlers; plan to make reservations for campsites up to five months in advance for summer long weekends.

People paddling canoe away from moose standing in the water
Moose are plentiful in Algonquin. Photo: Ontario Tourism / Rob Stimpson

Muskoka, Algonquin Park & Almaguin Highlands

Encompassing world-famous Algonquin Park and the opulent cottage lakes of Muskoka, this diverse region of Ontario is also home to forgotten rivers and well-kept secrets like the rolling hill country of the Almaguin Highlands. Go just a little further north, and discover the dense forests and heritage rivers of Loring-Restoule—you’ll most likely have them all to yourself.

Canoe Routes

Just 4.5 hours from Buffalo, Algonquin Provincial Park offers canoeing enthusiasts a canoe route network of more than 2,100 km (1,300 miles), encompassing thousands of lakes, rivers, and backcountry campsites. The park offers 29 access points, with the most popular found along the Highway 60 corridor. Pick up a copy of the Canoe Routes of Algonquin Park map and ask park staff for assistance with trip planning.

Get off the beaten path at charming Restoule Provincial Park, where weekend warriors can make scenic paddling day-trips from the park campground. The park also serves as a starting point for a seldom-travelled 72-km (45-mile), four- to six-day circuit on the Restoule River, Upper French River, and Lake Nipissing.

Two people paddling red canoe on a lake
Wahwashkesh Lake welcomes paddlers on the Magnetawan River canoe route. Photo: Virginia Marshall

River Trips

The country’s first designated Canadian Heritage River is also this region’s finest canoeing river—paddle the entire French River Canoe Route from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay (110 km/68 miles), or choose from shorter circuits combining interconnected lakes, channels and rapids. Expect scenic gorges, tumbling whitewater, and serene camping.

The outstanding Magnetawan River offers something for everyone. Multiple, easy access points allow for rewarding day-trip possibilities. Paddlers with more time can enjoy the classic four- to five-day loop (80 km/50 miles) from Harris or Wahwashkesh lakes—a mostly flatwater route suitable for novice canoe trippers. For the ultimate whitewater adventure, tackle the Lower Magnetawan River in spring or early summer—five days of thrilling class I to III rapids and stunning campsites.

Read more about the Lower Magnetawan River trip highlights here.

Looking for a fully outfitted trip? Black Feather offers guided trips on the French, Lower Magnetawan, and Upper Magnetawan rivers.

Northeastern Ontario

Five to six hours north of Buffalo, the paddling possibilities include some of Northeastern Ontario’s wildest and most beautiful landscapes. Destinations so iconic, just a single word resonates with canoeing enthusiasts: Killarney… Temagami… Mattawa. This is the country for which the canoe was designed.

Tent pitched on rocks next to water
Wild camping off the coast of Killarney. Photo: Virginia Marshall

Coastal Touring

The less-travelled north shore of Georgian Bay is superb for coastal kayaking. Explore the rocky islands and hidden channels of the French River delta, departing from Hartley Bay or paddling down the Key River from Highway 69.

Read more about the route, access points, and highlights on Killarney Outfitters’ page.

Further west, Killarney Provincial Park provides access to the incredible outer coast of Philip Edward Island. Paddle out from the park’s Chikanishing Creek launch to reach the island, which is skirted by hundreds of smaller islands and wild, smooth-rock campsites with unforgettable sunsets. Navigating these maze-like waters is recommended for experienced trippers only.

Killarney Outfitters offers rentals and route advice. Read more about the route here.

Canoe paddle being dipped in the water next to red canoe
Killarney combo—sapphire lakes and sparkling white cliffs. Photo: Virginia Marshall

Canoe Routes

Deep, crystal-clear lakes nestled between the ancient, white quartzite mountains of the La Cloche range make Killarney Provincial Park a canoeist’s dream. Camp at George Lake Campground or make a weeklong tour of the backcountry choosing from 183 campsites on over 50 lakes. Ask park staff about their canoeing map detailing 11 of the more popular routes.

You could spend a lifetime exploring the interconnected parks, waterways and ancient portages of the Temagami region—and many ardent canoeists do. The sheer size of Temagami—16,000 sq km (9,940 square miles) with 4,700 km (2,920 miles) of canoe routes—means you’ll need some advice on how to get started.

Find Temagami highlights, trip planning resources, and local outfitters here.

View from back of canoe paddling towards waterfall.
The Mattawa River follows a 600-million-year-old fault line through the Canadian Shield, visible at Paresseux Falls. Photo: @eric.mcgill

River Trips

Steeped in the history of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and early European explorers, the Mattawa River is a natural link between the Ottawa River and Lake Nipissing, as well as a classic Ontario canoe route. Paddling the entire 58-km (36-mile) route from Trout Lake near North Bay to the town of Mattawa is a three- to four-day trip with nine to 14 short portages, depending on water levels. Experienced whitewater paddlers may choose to run some of the rapids, adding to the excitement level. Shorter trips (one or two days) are also possible, taking out at scenic Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. Read more about the Mattawa’s natural and cultural heritage here.

Need more ideas? Discover other great rivers and routes in Northeastern Ontario here.

About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

Recommended Articles

Ontario’s Blue-Water Lakes

So blue you won’t believe your eyes.

Paddling Laws

This is what you need to know about safety on the water in Ontario.

SUPreme Adventure

Best paddleboarding destinations for beginners.

It's Time for a Paddle

Canoe and kayak rentals that are perfect for your next paddling adventure.

Sun and Sand

Soak it up at the best Lake Huron beaches

Easy River Tripping

The French River will delight canoeists of all ages.

Temagami Canoe Trip Guide

Expert advice for paddling in paradise.

Find Wilderness South of Algonquin

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

Best Lazy Rivers in Ontario

Relax and let the current take you away.

Ultimate Paddling Day Trips

11 can’t-miss provincial parks for paddlers.

Best Lakes for Paddling

Explore Ontario’s pristine waters.

Explore Ontario by Paddleboard

Find SUP rentals near you and get out on the water.

Best Canoe Maps in Ontario

Find out where to get the best digital and hard-copy versions.

Ontario’s Moose Hotspots

Your best chance of seeing a moose is by paddle.

Top 10 Easy Canoe Trips

Go guided and learn canoe and camping skills in Northern Ontario.

Philip Edward Island Camping Guide

The inside scoop on this Georgian Bay gem.

Go With the Flow

14 river tubing & rafting adventures in Ontario

Kayak & Canoe Sudbury

9 incredible paddling destinations near the City of Lakes.

Temagami Canoe Trip Routes

6 top trip options.

Killarney Canoe Trips

Learn how to plan a backcountry canoe trip in this provincial park.