Lake Ontario, the 14th-largest lake in the world but the smallest of the five Great Lakes, is divided in half by the U.S.-Canadian border. Its shores are home to two popular Canadian destinations: Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Known for its islands, beaches, wildlife, and waterfront trails, this beautiful body of water offers something for everyone.
Most Lake Ontario tours depart from Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Boat tours, which range from dinner cruises to a spin around the Toronto Islands, offer shoreline views and often include the inside perspective of a guide. Helicopter and air taxi tours provide rare birds’-eye views of the lake and its surroundings.
Niagara-on-the-Lake tours frequently depart from Toronto, and often include a visit to Niagara Falls and wine tastings at the region’s legendary vineyards. These tours typically offer convenient round-trip transport from Toronto hotels.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Toronto’s waterfront path is shared by cyclists and pedestrians, so stay alert.
- Boat tours and cruises typically run from May through September, and lifeguards are on duty at Toronto city beaches from June to September.
- Popular swimming spots include Cherry Beach, Hanlan’s Point, and Ward Island.
How to Get There
As Canada’s largest city, Toronto is easily reachable by car, bus, Amtrak, or VIA Rail. Toronto’s lakeshore is accessible using the city’s comprehensive system of metros, buses, and streetcars. Day trips to Niagara-on-the-Lake are also popular, either by car or on tours that typically include round-trip transport from Toronto.
When to Get There
Lake Ontario is best visited in summer, as winter weather prohibits most water-based activities. To enjoy swimming, kayaking, boating, and waterfront sightseeing, visit from May to September.
An Island Escape
Just off the shore of Toronto lies Toronto Island Park, a tranquil escape from the city. The park is comprised of three main islands—Centre Island, Ward’s Island, and Hanlan’s Point—which offer beaches, picnic areas, and plenty of activities, from swimming to stand-up paddle-boarding. The islands are reachable by a 15-minute boat or ferry ride.