Ontario is a large province with nearly 40% of Canada’s entire population and 4th in line for the largest land area (Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Quebec have larger areas). Ontario is known for a lot of things including being home to the nation’s capital city, its vast natural landscape, and iconic attractions like the CN Tower or Niagara Falls.
Ontario is a great province to live in and, being so large, there are so many different options for where you can live! A lot of people love living near water and, luckily, Ontario has a few locations where this is possible. Ontario borders the US to the South, divided by the Great Lakes. To the North, Ontario is border by Hudson Bay, a large body of salt water that is considered part of the Arctic Ocean. There are also many other lakes and rivers that people may live near.
Let’s look through each of these different regions to determine the best place to live near water in Ontario.
The most obvious choice of where to live near water in Ontario is the Great Lakes. These lakes are a series of five large freshwater lakes that are interconnected. They connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River. Four of the Lakes—Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario—are located along the USA-Canada border and are shared by both countries. The last one, Michigan is fully in the USA.
This means that Ontario residents have access to four of the largest lakes in the world. The Great Lakes are also very important to the province, as they provide drinking water as well as recreational advantages. There is an extensive Great Lakes protection strategy in place to keep them clean and healthy.
There are many cities and communities surrounding the Great Lakes, including the largest city in Ontario—Toronto. It’s estimated that about 8.5 million Canadians live in the Great Lakes basin, mostly concentrated in cities like Toronto, Kingston, Hamilton, and Thunder Bay.
There are also smaller communities around the Great Lakes that have tiny year-round populations that swell over the summer months with an influx of tourists. Some of the popular beach towns are Sauble Beach, Wasaga Beach, Port Dover, Grand Bend, and Southampton, among many others. These towns offer a more quiet and slow-paced life compared to busy cities like Toronto.
Hudson Bay is an “inland” sea—technically part of the Arctic Ocean, but unique in that it is nearly fully engulfed within Canada’s landmass. It is very large at 830km across the bay and 1,350km from north to south. Hudson Bay’s border includes sections of Nunavut, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
Because of the remote location and cold climate, there are very few communities of people who live along Hudson Bay. The communities who do live there are primarily Inuit, indigenous peoples of Canada. There are approximately 11,000 Inuit who live along the coast of Hudson Bay.
Other Ontario Lakes and Rivers
Besides the Great Lakes, there are many other smaller lakes in the province. Some other large lakes that have cities and towns near them include:
- Lake of the Woods: This lake has over 14,500 islands throughout it, so it’s a beautiful place to relax and do outdoor recreation. The nearby down is Kenora, which is primarily a tourist gateway to explore the lake, with long-term residents as well.
- Rainy Lake: This lake straddles the USA-Canada border and is a beautiful, untouched lake to enjoy. It is located near the town of Fort Frances.
- Lake Simcoe: This lake is located just an hour from Toronto and is populated with the cities of Barrie, Orillia, and Beaverton.
- Lake Muskoka: This large lake is where many people will go to escape the city in the summer. The main town on Lake Muskoka is Gravenhurst.
These are just some of the lakes in Ontario, and there are many more! Besides lakes, there are also rivers that people live near. The Saint Lawrence River is the largest river that flows from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. It flows beside the cities of Gananoque and Brockville, among others.
There is over 100,000km of rivers in Ontario, so there are a lot of different regions to choose to live near the water. Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, is also located alongside a river, the Ottawa River. This is one of the larger cities in the province and is home to the Parliament buildings. The Ottawa River is used for a lot of recreation such as skating on it during the winter months.
As we have seen, there are a lot of options for living near the water in Ontario. Although technically possible, Hudson Bay is unlikely to be attractive to most people looking to live near water as it is too remote and cold. That leaves the many lakes and rivers in the province.
If you are interested in living in a dense urban center, but still want to be near the water, then Toronto, Mississauga, or Hamilton is a good option. These are large cities located on the shores of Lake Ontario. If you want to live in a smaller community or suburb, there are many options also located on Lake Ontario such as Oshawa, Belleville, or Kingston.
If you want to live near water in Ontario but prefer a more laid-back lifestyle, choose one of the smaller towns on the lakes. Some good options are Port Dover (Lake Erie), Sauble Beach (Lake Huron), or Wasaga Beach (Lake Huron).
If you want to live near a river, there are also many options. The best option is likely to choose Ottawa, a large city and the capital of Canada, which is located right on the Ottawa River. There are also communities along the Saint Lawrence River like Brockville and Gananoque.
With about one-fifth of the world’s fresh water in its 250,000 lakes, Ontario has tonnes of great options for where to live. Ultimately, there are so many great places to live near the water in Ontario, it just depends on what you like!