Where are the Best Lakes in Ontario for Paddling?

Discover the deepest, cleanest, clearest and best swimming lakes.

How many lakes are in Ontario? I’m not sure who counted them but the standard answer is 250,000. With around 20% of the world’s fresh water, it’s no wonder Ontario is touted as the best canoeing destination in the world.

Red canoe on a calm lake

Discover the Canadian Canoe Culture in Ontario. Photo: Destination Ontario

Historically, the canoe, Canada’s well-known craft and national symbol, was a staple of transportation and civilization. Today, it is used for recreational enjoyment and as a means of exploring the best lakes in Ontario. The paddling experience has expanded beyond the canoe to include kayaking, rafting and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).

What are the Best Lakes in Ontario for Paddling?

At a glance, this seems like a pretty simple question. The first answer that comes to mind is the lakes of Killarney Provincial Park. They are absolutely stunning with their turquoise waters surrounded by white quartzite hills. But what about Lake Superior with its jaw-dropping scenery and the sparkling lakes in Northern Ontario?

It’s just not easy to choose the best lakes in Ontario for paddling — it depends on what you are looking for. Parks Canada and Ontario Parks provide some of the best paddling and backcountry tripping opportunities.

Use the information below to find the perfect lake for your paddling trip.

Deepest lakes in Ontario 

It’s no surprise the Great Lakes are the deepest lakes in Ontario. They are some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. If you have seen photos of turquoise lakes in Ontario, most likely you are looking at the waters of a Great Lake. The Great Lakes Guide has lots of information about each of the lakes and what to do in the Great Lakes region.

BEST PADDLING ON LAKE SUPERIOR 

Lake Superior, the deepest (406 m/483 ft), coldest, cleanest, least developed and most pristine of the Great Lakes, is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. It’s immense, wild, rugged and powerful. Here are some of the best places to paddle its turquoise waters.

Three kayakers paddling in turquoise waters along a remote rocky shoreline

Lake Superior is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Photo: Destination Ontario

LAKE SUPERIOR NATIONAL MARINE CONSERVATION AREA 

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, one of the world’s largest protected freshwater areas, runs from Sleeping Giant Provincial Park to just east of Terrace Bay. Paddlers can explore this rugged, wilderness coast on a guided sea kayak trip or a unique Voyageur Canoe trip with Naturally Superior Adventures. 

Voyageur canoe, with paddles up, in small bay on Lake Superior.

Explore this wild coast in a Voyageur Canoe. Photo: Naturally Superior Adventures

PUKASKWA NATIONAL PARK 

Pukaskwa National Park’s 135-km Coastal Paddling Route features pristine backcountry campsites, beautiful sandy beaches and stunning views. Explore this quintessential Canadian wilderness paddling route on a guided sea kayak or Voyageur Canoe trip.

Group of kayaks pulled up on a sandy beach with tent at sunset

Take a world-class sea kayak trip on Superior. Photo: Destination Ontario

LAKE SUPERIOR PROVINCIAL PARK 

Lake Superior Provincial Park’s coastline features spectacular scenery, varying from sheer cliffs to white-sand beaches. The coast is extremely rugged and wild. Explore from the pictographs at Sinclair Cove to the Michipicoten Bay.

BEST PADDLING ON LAKE ONTARIO 

Lake Ontario, with a maximum depth of 244 m/800 ft, is the smallest of the Great Lakes but has the most people living in its watershed. It’s home to many ecologically significant ecosystems that sustain wildlife, birdlife and more. Here are some of the best places to explore with your canoe, kayak or SUP in Toronto. 

Three standup paddleboarders paddling towards Toronto

Explore the Toronto harbour and beyond. Photo: Destination Ontario

TORONTO HARBOURFRONT 

Toronto Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre is the most popular paddling centre in Toronto for canoeing, kayaking, voyageur canoe tours and stand-up paddleboarding.

Red canoe in sheltered bay on Centre Island with CN Tower in background

Discover the beauty of Toronto Islands. Photo: Destination Ontario

TORONTO ISLANDS 

The Toronto Islands are a great destination to escape the busy city. Paddle the natural habitat for aquatic life, fish and birds. Rent a canoe or kayak from The Boathouse or Toronto Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre.

BEST PADDLING ON LAKE HURON 

Lake Huron, with a maximum depth of 229 m/750 ft, is one of the most unique lakes on Earth. It’s renowned for its turquoise waters, rocky shoreline, unique geological features, beaches, sand dunes and islands. It’s a favourite destination for sea kayakers.

Three kayakers paddling through a sheltered bay surrounded by smooth rock.

Discover the magic of Georgian Bay. Photo: Destination Ontario

GEORGIAN BAY 

Georgian Bay, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, offers some of the best sea kayak touring in the world. Explore the 30,000 islands around Parry Sound, Key Harbour and Killarney through a variety of trips and adventure providers.

Three children roasting marshmellows over a campfire in front of a small cabin

Stay in comfort in a rustic cabin on Beausoleil Island. Photo: Destination Ontario

GEORGIAN BAY ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK 

Georgian Bay Islands National Park is a boat-access nature preserve that’s a paddler’s paradise. Camp or cabin glamp on Beausoleil Island and explore its beautiful shoreline.

Two kayakers paddling in front of flowerpot island

A visit to Flowerpot Island is a must-do adventure. Photo: Destination Ontario

TOBERMORY 

Explore the beauty of Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Paddle alongside unique ancient rock formations or over the numerous shipwrecks, the remains of which can easily be seen through the crystal-clear, turquoise waters. Get outfitted at Thorncrest Outfitters in Tobermory.

BEST PADDLING ON LAKE ERIE 

Lake Erie is the most southerly and biologically diverse of all the Great Lakes. At its deepest point, it is 64 metres deep; however, it is the shallowest of the lakes, with an average depth of 19 m, which makes it the warmest and a favourite for summer recreation and migrating birds. Here are some of the best parks to explore.

Photo of a Long Point Biosphere sign

Explore the Long Point UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Photo: Destination Ontario

LONG POINT PROVINCIAL PARK 

Long Point Provincial Park provides lots of opportunities for paddling the warm waters of Lake Erie. The sheltered marsh of Long Point Bay is a great place to see birds and wildlife. It’s part of the Long Point Biosphere Reserve, an area of global ecological significance. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at Cronmiller’s At the Bridge.

Two people with binoculars standing on narrow sand point

Explore the "Tip". Photo: Destination Ontario

POINT PELEE NATIONAL PARK 

Point Pelee National Park is Canada’s smallest but most ecologically diverse national park, home to over 390 bird species. Paddling around the “Tip,” the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland, is a fun adventure. Birdwatchers love to explore the marshes, teeming with birds especially during migration months.

Cleanest lakes in Ontario 

Northern Ontario lakes are some of the cleanest waters in the province as they have extremely low human impact. There is little to no pollution, garbage or phosphorus run-off from residences, industry, golf courses and other types of human development.

The Ontario Parks that offer backcountry paddling experiences are filled with lakes so pristine and so clean, you can enjoy swimming and eating their fish with no worries. Here are just a few of the northern Ontario Parks that offer exceptional beauty without many people.

Man in a canoe paddling beside a rock face with pictographs

Learn about the ancient wisdom of the Indigenous people. Photo: Destination Ontario

WOODLAND CARIBOU PROVINCIAL PARK 

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is a paddler’s paradise with almost 2,000 km of maintained canoe routes on a variety of rivers and lakes. With fewer than 1,000 paddlers per season, you’ll be sure to enjoy solitude and incredibly clean waters. Trip planning is essential for this remote park. 

Two women paddling a blue canoe on a lake

Protect our lakes by using "leave no-trace" principles. Photo: Ontario Parks

HALFWAY LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK 

Halfway Lake Provincial Park provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities on its easy canoe routes through a series of small lakes. Rent canoes at the Park Store.

Small island on a northern lake

Imagine an island to yourself. Photo: Ontario Parks

FUSHIMI LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK 

Fushimi Lake Provincial Park offers exceptional backcountry canoe campsites on a clean, clear lake surrounded by the boreal forest. Enjoy visiting summer songbirds and lots of wildlife viewing.  

Clearest lakes in Ontario 

Blue-water lakes, the ones paddlers dream about, contain low concentrations of algae and other substances so they are very clear. The deep blue or turquoise colour is a testament to the pristine character of the water and low human impact in the surrounding watershed. They are some of the most beautiful lakes in Ontario as well as some of the most popular lakes in Ontario.

Here are some amazing paddling destinations with lakes so clear you can see to the bottom and water so turquoise you’ll feel like you are in the tropics.

View of a turquoise lake and white mountain landscape

So stunning you’ll return again and again. Photo: Destination Ontario

KILLARNEY PROVINCIAL PARK 

Killarney Provincial Park, primarily a wilderness park, is famous for its over 50 crystal-clear, turquoise lakes, bright-white quartzite peaks and incredible sunsets. It has some of the most beautiful lakes in Ontario, so stunning that The Group of Seven lobbied to make it a park. Get outfitted by Killarney Outfitters, Killarney Kanoes, Widgawa Lodge & Outfitters or Charleton Lake Camp.

A kayak travelling over a submerged shipwreck

Explore the shipwrecks near Tobermory. Photo: Destination Ontario

FATHOM FIVE NATIONAL MARINE PARK 

Fathom Five National Marine Park, off the tip of the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron, is a  popular destination for snorkelling and scuba diving. Along with striking geology, exceptional visibility and turquoise waters, there are nearly two-dozen shipwrecks. For a unique experience, paddle over the two most accessible, found in 5 m to 7 m of water in Big Tub Harbour. Camp and tour Flowerpot Island. Get out paddling with Thorncrest Outfitters in Tobermory.

Sunset over a beautiful calm lake

The lakes in Northwest Ontario are so clean and clear. Photo: Destination Ontario

BLUE LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK 

Blue Lake Provincial Park, near Kenora, is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and long sandy beach. As its name suggests, it is one of the best blue-water lakes in Ontario. Paddle for the day or try a longer 97-km loop adventure. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the park.

Best swimming lakes in Ontario 

There is nothing like the feeling of freedom you get from a refreshing dip in the clean waters of Ontario’s lakes. Swimming is definitely one of the best rewards after a long day of paddling or gruelling portaging. Although these are not the warmest lakes in Ontario, they are some of the best spots to take the plunge on your paddling adventure.

Woman jumping off rock into the water

Real fun, real easy. Photo: Destination Ontario

KILLBEAR PROVINCIAL PARK 

Killbear Provincial Park has over 12 km of rugged shoreline and three islands to explore on beautiful Georgian Bay, plus there are dozens of other islands within a short paddle of the park. Just pull your canoe or kayak up on one of the many sandy beaches or rocky shorelines for an amazing swimming experience. Visit White Squall Outdoor Store or learn to kayak with Ontario Sea Kayak Centre in nearby Parry Sound. 

Man jumping off rock cliff into lake with several other swimmers

Ready, set, jump. Photo: Destination Ontario

QUETICO PROVINCIAL PARK 

Quetico Provincial Park is an iconic wilderness park known for its rugged beauty, towering rock cliffs, majestic waterfalls and hundreds of beautiful lakes. Be prepared for rugged portages on its backcountry canoe routes. At the end of the day, you’ll be happy to “go take a jump in a lake.” There is lots of outfitting expertise on hand, including at Quetico OutfittersCanadian Quetico Outfitters, Canoe Canada Outfitters, Voyageur Wilderness and Branch’s Seine River Lodge.

Woman and young girl sitting on an empty sand beach with red canoe in foreground

Enjoy the sun, sand and "freshwater sea". Photo: Destination Ontario

NEYS PROVINCIAL PARK 

Neys Provincial Park offers a true, pristine Great Lakes swimming experience. Situated on the wild northern shores of Lake Superior, its gorgeous 2-km beach is situated along Ashburton Bay and is made of soft, fine sand with fairly shallow water. While Lake Superior is notoriously cold, these waters are shallow enough that you can enjoy a warmer, more refreshing swim! Novice and experienced paddlers can cruise along the pristine shoreline. Canoe rentals are available in the park. Kayak rentals and guided trips on Lake Superior are available at Naturally Superior Adventures.

North Bay

Located between two incredibly beautiful lakes, North Bay is a great destination for paddlers to base themselves. To the west is massive Lake Nipissing, the third-largest lake that’s entirely within Ontario. With countless islands and inlets to explore, Lake Nipissing is a paddling paradise. And, thanks to its shallow depth, it’s also a great place to swim. It doesn’t take long for summer temperatures to heat up the lake water, and there are many sandbars you can paddle out to and enjoy a leisurely dip.

Trout Lake to the east is substantially smaller, making it a better choice for paddlers on windy days. The two lakes offer 43 beaches total—sandy oases that make for great launch points. Paddle along the shoreline and see how many you can visit in one day. Look to Natural Experience, Shockwaves and Boathouse Rental Co. for rentals, instruction and guided trips.

Hidden lakes in Ontario 

If you’ve googled “hidden lakes in Ontario,” you’re probably looking for a quiet, isolated, remote, secluded or secret place to explore. In Northern Ontario, you’ll have no trouble finding wilderness paddling routes where you’ll not see another person for days.

One of the best and easiest ways to truly get away from it all is with a fly-in canoe trip. Load up and get dropped off deep in the wilderness. Pick your park and plan your hidden lake adventure now.

Woman on beach with a canoe and gear looking at a floatplane taking off in the distance

Find your hidden lake in the Temagami region. Photo: Destination Ontario

LADY EVELYN-SMOOTHWATER PROVINCIAL PARK 

Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park, with its 2,400 km interconnected canoeing network, is in the heart of the Temagami region. Lakeland Airways can fly you into almost any of the hundreds of secret lakes in the region. Get geared up with Temagami Outfitting Company or Smoothwater Outfitters or fly-in and stay at Cabin Falls Ecolodge.

Group of canoe paddling on a wide northern river

Paddle deep into the northern wilderness. Photo: Destination Ontario

MISSINAIBI PROVINCIAL PARK 

Missinaibi Provincial Park is 500 km long and encompasses the Missinaibi River and many large lakes and scenic waterfalls. MHO Adventures offers several fly-in canoe trips to explore this remote area. 

Aerial image of long sandy spit of land with large dock on beautiful lake

Fly-in for a lodge-based wilderness adventure or backcountry canoe trip. Photo: Destination Ontario

WABAKIMI PROVINCIAL PARK 

Wabakimi Provincial Park is an incredibly beautiful wilderness park with more than 2,000 km of lake and river routes. There are no roads within the park so visitors must arrive by train, plane or canoe. Explore the boreal forest with a fly-in canoe adventure with Wilderness North, Wabakimi Canoe Outfitters, Mattice Lake Outfitters or Thunderhook Fly-ins.    

Plan your Trip Now 

As you can see, it’s not easy to choose the best lakes in Ontario for paddling, but with over 250,000 options you’re sure to find the perfect one for your paddling adventure.

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.

Recommended Articles

Ontario’s Blue-Water Lakes

So blue you won’t believe your eyes.

Ontario’s Moose Hotspots

Your best chance of seeing a moose is by paddle.

Philip Edward Island Camping Guide

The inside scoop on this Georgian Bay gem.

Best Family Canoe Trips

7 overnight canoe trips kids will love.

The Missing Link of "the Great Trail"

Find out how it was completed.

Paddling Laws

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

Go Ahead, Be a Joiner

Find a Facebook Paddling Club that's right for you.

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.

Easy River Tripping

The French River will delight canoeists of all ages.

Temagami Canoe Trip Routes

6 top trip options.

Ultimate Paddling Day Trips

11 can’t-miss provincial parks for paddlers.

Best Sites on the French River

Where to stay on your canoe trip.

Sun and Sand

Soak it up at the best Lake Huron beaches

Top 10 Easy Canoe Trips

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

Missinaibi River Canoe Trip

Learn how to plan a canoe trip down this famed wilderness river.

Hike-in or Paddle-in campsites only

Frontenac Provincial Park

Find Wilderness South of Algonquin

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

Explore Kenora by Kayak & Canoe

7 perfect places to get on the water near Lake of the Woods.

Backcountry Camping on Georgian Bay

The Massasauga Provincial Park