The Complete Guide to the Best Canoe & Kayak Trips in Ontario

Find inspiration for your next trip, paddling and camping advice to help you put it together, and detailed guides for popular locations.

Home to thousands of lakes, hundreds of kilometres of rivers and, of course, four ocean-like Great Lakes, Ontario was made to be paddled. In fact, “Ontario” comes from the Iroquois word “kanadario,” which roughly translates to “sparkling water.” That tells you pretty much all you need to know about the landscape of this beautiful province.

Some choose to explore its lakes and rivers as the Indigenous peoples and voyageurs did, taking quiet and confident strokes aboard a canoe, while others prefer the playfulness and independence of a kayak. Either will transport you through the stunning wilderness the province has to offer, or even urban settings that transform your understanding of a familiar place as you view it from a new perspective.

There are many reasons to go canoeing or kayaking, beyond the incredible landscapes you’ll see. Photographers will appreciate the chance to see some of the province’s aloof wildlife such as moose and black bear, or even caribou and lynx. Those who are looking to incorporate more physical activity into their lives will be happy to know paddling is great exercise, engaging core and back muscles (and of course legs on those portages!) and getting the heart pumping for a great cardiovascular workout. You’ll also enjoy the mental and physical benefits associated with spending time in nature, including improved mood, immune system, sleep and more.

So whether you’re a new kayaker looking to get your paddle blades wet or an experienced canoeist looking for your next expedition, you’ll find what you’re looking for among the articles below.

Person in whitewater kayak doing a flip

Whatever type of kayaking you're interested in doing, there's a place in Ontario where you can learn. Source: Destination Ontario

Get Inspired

Every great paddling trip starts with a spark of inspiration. Sometimes an image or a video will kindle that flame you need to plan your next adventure, or at the very least add it to your ever-growing bucket list. Other times it’s hearing about the benefits of paddling or the unique aspects of Ontario that give us the itch to pack up the car and head for the put-in. Find all the encouragement you’ll need to plan a canoe or kayak trip in Ontario in the articles below.

Learn How to Paddle, Camp & More

There’s always more to learn. Whether you’ve never paddled a canoe before or are an experienced paddler who wants to take their kids backcountry camping for the first time, you’ll find the resource that’ll help you make the leap into unknown waters below.

People in canoes with CN Tower in the distance
You don't have to disappear into the wilderness to go canoeing. Source: Destination Ontario

Get Involved

Paddling isn’t just about accessing seclusion in the wilderness—there’s a community aspect to canoeing and kayaking in Ontario that’s easy to be part of if you wish. Join a club to meet fellow paddlers and attend fun, organized outings. Sign up for a race to put your skills to the test. Enroll in a weekend clinic to improve your strokes or learn something new. There’s always something going on in the world of paddling in Ontario.

Get Out There

Whether you’re looking to spend an afternoon on the water or a week in the backcountry, the guides and resources below will help you pick out a destination and get organized for your adventure of choice. Already know where you want to go? Check out this guide to Canoe & Kayak Rentals in Ontario to find the outfitter closest to your destination.

General Trips

These roundups of paddling locations will show you the best options for whatever type of trip you’re looking to do—whether that’s a day or fly-in canoe trip, a lake or river paddle, a luxurious place to base your stay or a remote campsite few know about, and more.

Two people in a canoe near shore
Dip your paddle in the serene waters of one of Haliburton Forest's lakes. Source: Destination Ontario

Trips For American Visitors

It’s easy for those living just across the border to experience Ontario’s paddling scene. The articles below highlight some of the canoe and kayak destinations that are most accessible to Americans, so they can share in the natural beauty of the province too.

Trips In Different Regions of Ontario

Picking your trip location is all the easier when you know how far from home you’re willing to go. Or maybe there’s a particular part of the province you’ve yet to explore, and you’re wondering which waterway best showcases the area’s charm and suits your skillset. See all of our specific trip guides for provincial parks, rivers and wilderness areas, and resources from local tourism agencies and outfitters below.

NORTHERN ONTARIO

Travel north of Algonquin and into the boreal forests of Northern Ontario on your next canoe or kayak adventure. Find the general roundups for this area’s paddling opportunities here, or read on for specific breakdowns of this region of the province.

Northwest Ontario

Home to communities like Kenora, Thunder Bay and Red Lake, and wilderness areas like Wabakimi Provincial Park, Quetico Provincial Park and Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, the northwest portion of the province is the perfect mix of true wilderness and amenity-laden, outdoorsy towns to stopover or base your stay in. Visit Sunset Country and Superior Country’s websites to learn more and browse the resources below.

Jackfish

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

Kayakers on clear Lake Superior
Explore the beautiful waters of Lake Superior from the little town of Rossport. Source: Destination Ontario

Quetico Provincial Park

Slate Islands

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Sault Ste. Marie - Algoma

Explore the eastern coast of the mighty Lake Superior, the rivers that feed into it and smaller inland lakes in this region of the province. Travel up the coast from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa, and set your eyes on destinations like Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park. The biggest attraction is of course the Great Lake itself, providing plenty of fun and challenges to sea kayakers. Visit Algoma Country’s website to learn more and browse the resources below.

Fushimi Lake Provincial Park

Lake Superior Provincial Park

Neys Provincial Park

Pukaskwa National Park

St. Joseph Island

Northeastern Ontario

From Sudbury to Timmins to the far-away Moosonee, Northeastern Ontario constitutes a large swath of the province that is brimming with on-water adventures. Here you’ll find world-class paddling in the likes of Temagami, the Mississagi River and Killarney, among others. Visit Northeastern Ontario’s website to learn more and browse the resources below.

Biscotasi Lake Provincial Park

Esker Lakes Provincial Park

French River Provincial Park

People canoeing beside a waterfall
The Agawa River is full of many incredible sights. Source: Destination Ontario

Halfway Lake Provincial Park

Killarney Provincial Park

Mattawa River

Missinaibi Provincial Park

Mississagi Provincial Park

Moose River

Solace Provincial Park

Spanish River Provincial Park

Sturgeon River Provincial Park

Temagami

Tidewater Provincial Park

Wakami Lake Provincial Park

People in sea kayaks on Georgian Bay
Expansive Georgian Bay on Lake Huron is a great place for a sea kayak trip. Source: Destination Ontario

SOUTHERN ONTARIO

Southern Ontario might be home to 94% of the province’s population, but that doesn’t mean it’s empty of paddling opportunities. You’ll find veritable backcountry experiences and, of course, urban excursions aplenty in the regions below.

South Eastern Ontario

Journey along the 401 from Belleville to Kingston to Cornwall for easy access to lots of great places to paddle your canoe or kayak. You’ll find a variety of lakes in the County of Frontenac alone and can even journey up to Ottawa by way of a series of locks, the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal if you’re feeling adventurous. Visit South Eastern Ontario’s website to learn more and browse the resources below.

Charleston Lake Provincial Park

Frontenac Provincial Park

Makobe-Grays River Provincial Park

Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley

This area of the province spans south of Algonquin to the towns of Dorset, Moore Falls, Ivanhoe and Smiths Falls, and east of the park to Deux-Rivières, Deep River and Arnprior along the border with Quebec. Nestled within this area are hundreds of small towns and many more lakes and rivers, including those of fame such as the Madawaska, the Ottawa and the Petawawa. Visit Haliburton Highlands and Ottawa Valley’s websites to learn more and browse the resources below.

Bon Echo Provincial Park

Murphys Point Provincial Park

Kawarthas Northumberland

What you need to know about this portion of Southern Ontario is contained in the name it’s often referred to by: Kawartha Lakes. The Trent-Severn Waterway runs through this area—a popular path for leisurely motorboat rides, but equally enjoyable from the seat of a canoe or kayak. While exploring the area, make stops in the small towns of Brighton to the south, Kirkfield to the west, Kinmount to the north, Trent Hills to the east and, of course, Peterborough right in the middle. Visit Kawarthas Northumberland’s websites to learn more and browse the resources below.

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

People paddling a canoe
Book a stay at the Lodge at Pine Cove to experience luxurious accommodations and easy access to day trips on the French River. Source: Destination Ontario
Algonquin Park, Almaguin Highlands, Muskoka & Parry Sound

Yes, this is the area that includes the world-renowned Algonquin Provincial Park. It’s also home to the province’s posh cottage country, Muskoka, where you’ll find not just lavish properties but lovely backcountry experiences. Towns to be explored include South River, Gravenhurst and Huntsville. Visit Friends of Algonquin Park, Almaguin Highlands and Parry Sound’s websites to learn more and browse the resources below.

Algonquin Provincial Park

Georgian Bay

Grundy Lake Provincial Park

Magnetawan River

Restoule Provincial Park

The Massasauga Provincial Park

Greater Toronto Area

Take in the city skyline from the waters of Lake Ontario or seek out nature where it resides within the city limits on the Humber and Credit rivers. You won’t escape from civilization, but you may find moments of solitude interspersed in the liveliness of paddling through urban scapes. Visit See Toronto Now’s website to learn more and browse the resources below.

Person at front of canoe watching float plane take off.
Canoe trip in true wilderness at Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Source: Destination Ontario

Read Stories

Trip guides are helpful, but sometimes you want to read a first-person account of a trip to really picture yourself there. These canoeing and kayaking stories are sure to transport you to the seat of a boat—can you already feel the rock of the water beneath you and the sun warming the back of your neck? If not, you soon will.

Grab a paddle

There's something about the rhythm of paddle strokes that is soothing to the soul. Whether furiously paddling to navigate roiling rapids or leisurely taking strokes across a flatwater lake, canoeing and kayaking provides a connection with water that few other activities can replicate. Paddling naturally inspires adventure, even if you are usually not the adventurous type. You'll soon be wondering what's around the riverbend and what the lake on the other side of that portage looks like. Next you'll be packing your boat full of overnight supplies so you can spend multiple days discovering just how far your paddle strokes can take you and to what beautiful places. Now is the time. Grab a paddle and get out on the lakes and rivers of Ontario.

About Marissa Evans

Marissa is the digital editor at Rapid Media, the media company behind Paddling Magazine and Kayak Angler Magazine. In summer, you'll find her canoe tripping, hiking, adventure racing and probably making a pit stop at Kawartha Dairy for ice cream. In winter, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, skating and, without question, still eating ice cream. 

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