Hidden Gems in Ontario That Are Yours to Discover

You haven’t fully experienced Ontario until you’ve checked out these one-of-a-kind attractions and natural wonders.

Hidden Gems In Ontario - Long Sault ParkwayPhoto: St. Lawrence Parks

These Lost Villages Are Quite Literally Hidden Gems in Ontario

Long Sault Parkway, a scenic ribbon of highway between Kingston and Montreal, connects an archipelago of 11 picturesque islands, each with their own beaches, parkland and campgrounds. These islands are all that’s left of the Lost Villages of the St. Lawrence, a handful of Ontario hamlets that were cleared and flooded to create a dam and man-made lake during the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s. When the days are clear and the water level is low, some of the villages’ remnants—churches, houses, stores—are visible in the water from the shoreline; quite literally, hidden gems in Ontario. Morrisburg, Ontario.

Balaclava Ontario Ghost TownPhoto: Ddeyell via Wikimedia Commons

Bust Some Ghosts

The largely abandoned ghost town of Balaclava, accessible just off Highway 41, could pass for the set of Sleepy Hollow. A handful of residents still live there. But they’re outnumbered by eerily antiquated structures, such as an empty blacksmith shop, rickety general store, dam and a 200-year-old sawmill—all best viewed from a safe distance (for both supernatural and structural reasons). Balaclava, Ontario.

Hidden gems in Ontario - Bruce Peninsula GrottoPhoto: John Simpson Photography / Shutterstock.com

Take a Hike

We’re calling it: the Bruce Peninsula Grotto in Georgian Bay is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Ontario. The magical lagoon looks like something off a Caribbean island, with cerulean waters, rocky outcroppings and an underwater tunnel (for viewing only) that’ll leave you feeling like the Little Mermaid. It’s about a 45-minute hike through the just-as-lovely Bruce Peninsula to get to the grotto. Tobermory, Ontario.

Discover the best beaches across Canada.

Carousel bakery at St. Lawrence Market, TorontoPhoto: Carlos Gandiaga / Shutterstock.com

Bring Home the Bacon

Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, David Chang and the late Anthony Bourdain are just some of the celebrity gastro-geeks who’ve sampled the peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery, the most famous stall in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market. It’s hard to find a better lunch downtown for less than $10: a stack of four fat peameal slices smeared with hot mustard and squished into a puffy white bun. Toronto.

Here are 10 classic Canadian foods everyone needs to try at least once.

Little Canada Attraction TorontoPhoto: Instagram.com/littlecanada

3-D Print a Mini-You

Jean-Louis Brenninkmeijer, a Dutch-born Canadaphile, has spent a decade building Little Canada, a gobsmackingly elaborate miniature model of the Great White North. Included at the museum are dollhouse-sized versions of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Mont Sainte-Anne and Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. For a fee, they’ll 3-D print you as a figurine (a process they refer to as “littlization“) that you can place in the mini-destination of your choice. Toronto.

Explore Canada’s most unusual museums.

Road trips from Hamilton - Bell Homestead, BrantfordPhoto: Tourism Brantford

Ring Bell’s Bell

In 1874, Alexander Graham Bell created the world’s first telephone in his father’s Brantford farmhouse; two years later, he made the first long-distance phone call, between his workshop and Paris, Ontario. Now a museum, the Alexander Graham Bell Homestead has been restored to its Bell-era glory, with original furnishings in the library, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms and carriage house workshop, along with models of Bell’s first telephones. Brantford, Ontario.

Looking for more hidden gems in Ontario? Check out the 10 best day trips from Toronto.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada