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Exploring Ontario

Geography & Climate

Ontario is Canada’s second largest province. It covers more than one million square kilometres. Ontario is 65 per cent forests and 20 per cent water. The highest point is Ishpatina Peak (693 metres), along the Ishpatina Ridge in the Timiskaming area. The longest east-west distance is 1,690 kilometres and the longest north-south distance is 1,730 kilometres.

French explorer Jacques Cartier travelled up the St. Lawrence River in 1534

When French explorer Jacques Cartier travelled up the St. Lawrence River in 1534, he asked the Huron-Iroquois what they called their land. They answered “kanata,” which means village. But Cartier wrote “Canada” on his map for all the land.

The Four Seasons

People living in Sault Ste. Marie, in northern Ontario, usually expect cold winters – and enjoy winter sports like tobogganing, skating and skiing. But at Christmas time in 1994, with temperatures around 8 deg C, residents were wearing bathing suits, basking on lawn chairs and washing their cars. Weather in Ontario can be unpredictable, and at times extreme, but the climate generally is described as continental. Find out more about Ontario’s seasons and specific regions.

The brutal ice storm that hit eastern Ontario in 1998 directly affected more people than any previous weather event in Canadian history. One million residents were left without electricity, mostly in Quebec. Read more about the ice storm and Canada’s top ten weather stories ranked by the most recent year.

Great Lakes and Rivers

Timmins is North America’s largest city by area. The city limits of this north-eastern gold mining centre, on the Mattagami River, take in 500 lakes, including 22 deep, spring-fed kettle lakes in Kettle Lakes Provincial Park. Ontario has about a quarter of a million lakes and countless rivers and streams. Together, they hold about one-third of the world’s fresh water.

Mountains and Forests

The largest and tallest Eastern White Pine, in Haliburton County, stands 148 feet (45.1 m) in height and 67.7 in (172 cm) in diameter, according to The Honour Roll of Ontario Trees. The Eastern White Pine was declared the official tree of Ontario in 1984. Sixty-five per cent of Ontario is classified as forested land, totalling almost 70 million hectares and two per cent of the world’s forests. You can take a Walk in the Clouds at the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve.

Cities and Towns

The Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, west of Toronto, began as a make-work project during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The city of Burlington was created on lands awarded in 1798 to Joseph Brant, the great Mohawk Chief, as a reward for his services during the American Revolutionary War. Find more information and discover community profiles in our section about Ontario’s cities and towns.

Ontario’s Famous People

James Cameron, the Oscar-winning movie director of such films as Titanic and The Terminator, was born in the town of Kapuskasing, in northern Ontario, on August 16, 1954, and raised in the village of Chippawa, now a part of the City of Niagara Falls.

Provincial Parks

Ontario’s longest hiking trail is the Bruce Trail. It is 850 kilometres long. It starts at the Niagara Peninsula and ends at the top of the Bruce Peninsula. The province’s oldest provincial park is Algonquin, established in 1893. Algonquin contains more than 7,500 square kilometres of forests, lakes and rivers. Visit the Wildlife Research Centre to discover the many kinds of plant and animal life.

Explore Ontario: Be a Tourist in Your New Home

In 1997, Stratford was named "Prettiest Town in the World" as the winner of the international Nations in Bloom contest. The settlement of Stratford was named in 1832 by Thomas Mercer Jones, a Canada Company director. Jones also renamed the creek, which had been known as Little Thames, as the Avon River. Today Stratford is renowned for the annual Shakespeare Festival.


This is the logo for fun facts

What’s sweet and sugary and comes from a tree? Hint: In Canada, you’ll cover your pancakes with it. Check your answer!

Ontario Welcomes You

As a newcomer to Ontario, you may have many questions. The Province of Ontario has many services and programs to help you find the answers, information and support you need to succeed.

Just for Fun!

Niagara Falls is one of Canada’s most famous landmarks. The Canadian falls are 54 metres high and horseshoe-shaped. Part of the huge volume of water in the Niagara River has been diverted from the falls; it enters an underground tunnel leading to a hydroelectric plant.