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Considered Canada’s hub of dining, sophistication and culture, Ontario boasts the cosmopolitan provincial capital of Toronto, where it’s easy to forget the bears, hinterland and forests of the north. The increasingly hip national capital, Ottawa, is here, too. But outside the major cities of this province sandwiched between Quebec and Manitoba lie national parks teeming with wildlife, the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and Niagara Falls.
The easiest place to pick up car hire in Ontario is at one of the province’s many airports, train stations or city centres, such as Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Union Station Toronto or Ottawa. These locations have depots of leading global suppliers such as Hertz, Budget and National. Make a saving when you compare car hire in advance.
Lester B. Pearson International Airport near Toronto is the key arrivals hub, serving flights to destinations around the globe and to the provincial airports at Ottawa, Kingston, Windsor, London, Sarnia, Hamilton and Thunder Bay. Highways links with the US, Quebec (Trans Canada Highways 20 and 40) and Manitoba (Trans Canada Highway 1). Greyhound buses connect Ontario hubs with major US and Canadian cities. Trains serve much of southern Ontario and connect with the US.
Car rental in Ontario is the most convenient way to explore this large province. However, many parts of the north are inaccessible by car. Steep penalties are in place for those who flout local speed limits. Beware of drivers who overtake on the right, a practice which is prohibited. Winter driving here requires extra care and time to remove snow and ice from the vehicle before setting off. Winter tires may be necessary.
Away from Toronto’s cosmopolitan draws lies the spectacular Niagara Falls to the south and the historical Old Fort William in Thunder Bay to the northwest. If beaches are on the itinerary, try Wasaga, Grand Bend or Sauble in the southwest or Pancake Bay in the north. Wineries dot the so-called Wine Road that leads from the QEW near Niagara on the Lake. Fishing, biking, hiking and even boating are widely available province-wide.
The southwest receives some of Canada’s best summer weather. Here, humid, warm summers which are prone to thunderstorms are abated by chilly, snowy winters. Winters are colder and longer the farther north you go, with the far north experiencing winter temperatures of around -40°C and snow for six months of the year. Come in June or July for the best of the summer weather or in December or January to experience a white Christmas.