Four of Ontario’s most significant landscapes have been awarded the prestigious designation of World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and are part of Canada’s Amazing Places project.
In case you’re wondering, UNESCO recognizes World Biosphere Reserves as protected natural spaces that contain unique land and water ecosystems, maintain a sustainable balance between the environment and humans, protect at-risk species, contain important Indigenous and heritage sites, and focus on eco-education. These distinct ecologies are rare, with less than 700 recognized worldwide.
Lace up, gear up and get ready to explore Ontario’s Amazing Places by foot, pedal and paddle.
GEORGIAN BAY (AKA 30,000 ISLANDS)
The largest freshwater archipelago in the world, this biosphere reserve is comprised of a cluster of islands, bays and inlets that extend over 13,000 square kilometres along the eastern Georgian Bay shoreline. The unique topography supports forest and wetlands and boasts out-of-this world scenery.
Do: Cross the suspension bridge over the French River with awesome views of the rock-walled gorge below. Hike through old growth pine forests to Wemtagoosh Falls and paddle traditional routes of Indigenous people in Point Grondine Park.
Stay: For the ultimate nature retreat, reserve one of the secluded waterfront cabins at Christian Beach in Georgian Bay Islands National Park.
This diverse landscape of woodlands, sand dunes, bluffs, marshes, meadows and beaches is shaped around a giant sand spit deposit that extends 40 kilometres into Lake Erie, the largest formation of its kind in the Great Lakes. The area is teeming with flora and fauna, including over 350 species of birds, making it a globally significant migratory birding area.
Do: Hike or bike through undisturbed marshlands in Big Creek National Wildlife Area. Enjoy sublime views from a 166-metre long bridge on the Black Bridge Waterford Heritage Trail. Zipline through the Carolinian forest with Long Point Eco Adventures.
Stay: Long Point Eco Adventures is home to a variety of glamping options, from rustic camping pods to luxury wilderness suites complete with an outdoor shower so you can suds up under the stars.
Stretching over 700 kilometres from Queenston, in the Niagara Region, to Tobermory, on the southern shores of the Georgian Bay, this spectacular limestone ribbon of forest, wilderness, cliffs and wetlands has the most topographic variability in southern Ontario, ranging over 430 metres in elevation.
Do: Descend into ancient caves and follow the rocky ridges of the escarpment along the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest hiking path. Rock climbers are drawn to the challenging climbs and rewarding views at Mount Nemo and Rattlesnake Point in Milton, Old Baldy Conservation Area in Grey County and Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula.
Stay: Located near Caledon Village, the Insta-worthy gamping sites at Alabaster Acres Farm allow you to get in touch with nature without sacrificing the creature comforts of home.
Referred to as the ‘backbone of the mother’ by the Indigenous people of the area, the Frontenac Arch biosphere represents the ancient granite bridge connecting the Canadian Shield in the north to the Adirondack Mountains in the south, extending roughly 2,700 square kilometres through southeastern Ontario, and includes the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands.
Do: Step back in time, experience 19th century military life at Fort Henry, or go deep into the rocky earth along the Silver Queen Mine Trail. Check out the view from Spy Rock, the 1000 Islands Tower or Mink Lake Lookout in Frontenac Provincial Park.
Stay: Be one of the first to experience the recent modern-Victorian renovation at the Rosemount Inn and Spa, a heritage boutique hotel in Kingston.