Lists are the bane of travel publishing. As I see it, an attempt to categorize and delineate any travel experience always seems to fall short. It also misses the whole essence of travel and exploration, which (in my opinion) is the unfurling of the known world and then watching with awe at the unknown happen in front of us by the second. It’s the surprise that makes travel so addictive.
And yet for all my words, here I am, punctuating my Ontario experience with a big fat list of all my favorite things in Ontario. Forgive me already.
I’ve normally refrained from making lists because honestly, travel isn’t grocery shopping. I say, travel should just happen–the good, the bad and the in-between. So why the exception here and now? Because I did so much in the great province of Ontario and I want to relish some of my favorite things from the trip.
And so, after all that long-winded disclaimer, I present you the following random list of solid recommendations based on my own personal experience. Please bear in mind that the following favorites are based on nothing other than my own tastes and opinions, which are very personal, so please don’t take it personally.
Andrew’s List of #ONTARIO Favorites:
- Airline: Porter Airlines
- Airport: Toronto Island YTZ. If only all airports were this efficient, pleasant, clean and convenient.
- Passenger train: VIA RAIL, Windsor to Hamilton
- Tourist train: Agawa Canyon Tour (Algoma Country Railway)
- Scenic drives:
- Ottawa Valley to Algonquin Provincial Park on Highway 60. Perhaps not the most grandiose of Ontario’s landscapes, but purely poetic.
- Lake Superior Shoreline, from Nipigon east to Rossport. Big spruce forests and lots of altitude for 180° views of the world’s largest freshwater lake. Simply magnificent.
- Manitoulin Island. You can’t go wrong in this part of Ontario. Like driving through a painting.
- Luxury hotel: Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa
- Hotel room: Tower Room at The Gladstone Hotel in West Queen West, Toronto
- Bed & Breakfast: Osler House, Dundas
- Bed: White Fox Inn, Thunder Bay. Seriously, this was the best bed of the whole trip. I slept beautifully.
- Cottage: Killarney Lodge, Algonquin Provincial Park
- Resort: The Rosseau (J.W. Marriott)
- Campground: Bronte Creek Provincial Park
EATING & DRINKING
- Restaurant: Quatrefoil, Dundas
- Bar: Prospector Steakhouse, Thunder Bay
- Pancakes: Hoito Finnish pancakes, Finlandia Club, Thunder Bay
- Pastry/Coffeeshop: Nadege, Toronto
- Butter Tarts: Tip Top Lodge, Atikokan
- Wine: Lailey Vineyard, Niagara-on-the-Lake
- Pizza: Mrs. B’s, Sault Ste. Marie
- Schnitzel: Salzburger-Hof, Batchawana Bay
- Burger: Big Bear Hotel, Hawk’s Junction
- Cheese: Cape Vessey, Fifth Town, Prince Edward County
- Drink: Virgin Caesar on the rocks, extra spicy, heavily garnished.
- Weirdest: Maple Bacon Clam Lasagna (better than it sounds)
- Food: ByWard Market, Ottawa
- Clothes: Expedition Shop, Ottawa
- Vintage: White Elephant, Hamilton
- Tourist trap: Agawa Indian Crafts, Pancake Bay
- Souvenir: Make-your-own-drum, Great Spirit Circle Trail, Manitoulin Island
- Swimming: Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Provincial Park & Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Lake Superior
- Kayaking: Rock Island Lodge, Lake Superior
- Fishing: Tip Top Lodge, Atikokan
- Museum: Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Hamilton
- For kids: Science North, Sudbury
- Worth the splurge: Helicopter ride over Niagara Falls
- Wildlife viewing: Errington’s Wilderness Lodge
- Nightspot: Karaoke at The Shanghai (Ottawa) with fabulous host China Doll
- Guided tour: Hollinger Gold Mine, Timmins
Favorite Small Towns
- Nat Geo Expeditions
(I couldn’t choose just one, so I’m going with the following five):
- Nipigon (Population 1,800) Epic northern landscapes, small-town quiet; earnest summer flower gardens.
- Renfrew (Population 8,000) About as picturesque town as you could imagine in the heart of the Ottawa Valley.
- Bracebridge (Population 15,000) Old-fashioned brick-front stores and everything that makes Muskoka pleasant.
- Cochrane (Population 5,500) True northern Ontario town, starting point of the Polar Bear Express, and hometown to Canadian doughnut hero Tim Horton.
- Wawa (Population ) Home to the world-famous Wawa geese (there are 3 of the sculptures).
- Niagara-on-the-Lake (the entire town)
- Grain elevators, Marine Bay Park, Thunder Bay
- National Gallery of Art, Ottawa
- Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, Brantford
- Nikita (Errington’s Wilderness Lodge) A mutt to melt your heart. Kept me company in the far north and guarded my bedside until dawn.