80 Fun & Interesting Facts about Ontario, Canada

Ontario is one of Canada’s most significant cultural, historical, and political centres, with 2 out of 5 Canadians hailing from the province.  

Below we’ll explore many things, people, and places that Ontario is famous for, with these general, random, and historical facts about Ontario. Also see these facts about Toronto and facts about Ottawa, two of the province’s main cities!

General Ontario Facts

  • Ontario is one of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada.
  • Ontario is sometimes also classified as Central Canada, along with Québec, given these two provinces’ historical importance in Canada, not to mention their considerable size and population.
  • Ontario is bordered by Manitoba to the west, Hudson Bay and James Bay to the north, Québec to the east, and the US states of Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York to the south.
  • Ontario’s border with the US almost entirely follows waterways, including 4 of the 5 Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario). These are the world’s 1st, 3rd, 10th, and 12th largest freshwater lakes, respectively. (The Caspian Sea is sometimes cited as 1st, but it is a saltwater body).
  • Ontario is also the starting point of the Saint Lawrence River, the largest in Canada by drainage volume, which flows from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic.
  • Ontario occupies 1,076,395 km2 (415,598 mi2), making it the second largest province (after Québec), or 4th largest if Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are considered.
The shore of Lake Superior viewed from the Ontario side of the lake
Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, viewed from Ontario
  • Ontario is similar in size to Egypt. If it were a country, it would be the 28th largest one in the world.    
  • Ontario has a population of 14.9 million, making it the most populous in Canada.
  • 39% of all Canadians live in Ontario.
  • 95% of Ontario’s population live in Southern Ontario, which occupies only 13% of the province’s total land.
  • Ontario has more First Nations people than any other province or territory (around 375,000), but they only make up around 3% of the province’s population. They mainly include Algonquian speakers (Cree, Ojibwa, and more) and Iroquois speakers (Mohawk, Oneida, and more.)
The exterior of the Parliament building in Canada
Canada’s Parliament building in Ottawa
  • The capital city of Canada, Ottawa, is in Ontario. It is in the province’s far east, very close to Montréal in neighbouring Québec. It is the 6th largest city in Canada by population (the figure includes residents of Gatineau on the other side of the Ottawa River in Québec).
  • Toronto, Canada’s largest city by population (2.7 million in the city proper, or 6.9 million in the metropolitan area) is also in Ontario. It sits on the shore of Lake Ontario. Toronto is the capital city of the province of Ontario.
  • The Canadian side of Niagara Falls, including the city which takes its name, is also in Ontario. The waterfall is on the Niagara River between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, opposite the city of Niagara Falls, New York.
View of Niagara Falls from the Canada side.
Niagara Falls from the Ontario side
  • The name Ontario likely comes from the Huron word Ontarí:io, meaning “great lake”, or the Iroquois word skanadario, meaning “beautiful/sparkling water.”
  • Ontario’s flag is England’s Red Ensign, defaced with Ontario’s coat of arms in the fly. The coat of arms features three gold maple leaves on a green background, below St. George’s Cross.
  • The loon is the official bird of Ontario. It appears on the CAD $1 coin, hence the coin’s nickname, the “loonie.”
  • Ontario license plates have the slogan “Yours to Discover”. The Ontario government tried to replace them with “A Place to Grow”, after the unofficial provincial anthem A Place to Stand, a Place to Grow, in 2019-2020, but it didn’t last. The first slogan, from 1973 to 1982, was “Keep it Beautiful.”   
The flag of Ontario
The Ontario flag
  • People from Ontario are called Ontarians.
  • 70% of Ontarians speak English as a first language, while 4.6% of them identify as francophones.
  • Over a quarter of Ontarians are visible minorities.

Random Interesting Facts about Ontario

  • Ontario has 135 cities and other places named after ones in England. These include Cambridge, Oxford, London, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Bath, Windsor, Hamilton, Kingston, Sudbury, and York.
  • Ontario spans two time zones: Central and Eastern. They observe daylight savings time, but there is current discussion about getting rid of the practice.
A very blue river with a small island in middle, the Saint Lawrence River, with New York state in the background
Looking across the Saint Lawrence River to Upstate New York
  • There is only 1 km (0.6 mi) in total of land borders between Ontario and the United States. They can be portaged with a canoe.
  • There are around 250,000 lakes in Ontario, accounting for 20% of the world’s freshwater. Around 15% of the province’s land is covered with water.
  • Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay is the largest lake island in the world, at 2766 km2 (1068 mi2), around half the size of Prince Edward Island.  
Aerial view of a bay on Manitoulin Island on Ontario
Manitoulin Island, the largest lake island in the world
  • There are around 50,00 farms in Ontario, around ¼ of all farms in Canada.
  • Most of Northern Ontario is sparsely populated. It consists of Canadian Shield (a rocky landscape covered in Boreal forest) and swampy lowlands adjacent to Hudson’s Bay.
  • The landscapes of Northern Ontario inspired the Group of Seven, some of the most important painters in Canadian history.
  • There are no mountains in Ontario; the highest point is only 693 m (2274 ft) above sea level.
Rocky Canadian Shield landscape in Ontario
The Canadian Shield of Ontario has inspired many Canadian painters.
  • Georgian Bay Islands, Point Pelee, and Thousand Islands are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd smallest national parks in Canada, at 14, 15, and 24 km2 (5, 6, 9 mi2), respectively.
  • Point Pelee is the southernmost point on mainland Canada. It is a point of land poking into Lake Erie, across from Cleveland, Ohio. It is further south than the northern border of California.
  • Ontario contains 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Rideau Canal (North America’s oldest canal, which becomes a skating rink in winter), and Pimachiowin Aki, which is shared with Manitoba.
  • Ontario has 274 National Historic Sites, more than any other province.
The sandy tip of Point Pelee in Ontario
The tip of Point Pelee National Park
  • Niagara Falls is part of the rocky Niagara Escarpment, which has been formed by erosion over millions of years and is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
  • Ontario received around 13 million international visits in 2019, more than any province, and about 40% of the total visits to Canada.
  • Ontario has the largest economy in Canada, with nearly double the GDP of the second spot, Québec. It is the country’s largest manufacturing and trade hub.
  • Over half of manufacturing shipments from Canada depart from Ontario, with the largest trading partner being Michigan in the US.
Buildings of downtown Toronto at night
Toronto has Canada’s priciest real estate.
  • The Ontario Highway 410, which runs from Windsor, Ontario to the Ontario-Québec border via Toronto, is the busiest highway in North America.
  • Ontario once made over 2 million cars per year, but that number has decreased to around 1.3 million in the last few years.
  • Ontario is Canada’s largest wine producer, making 2/3rd of the country’s wines. Over 90% of Canada’s icewine is made in Ontario.
  • The University of Toronto is considered the best university in Canada, and is consistently ranked as one of the top-10 in the world.
Exterior of an old building at the University of Toronto, covered in vines
The University of Toronto is Ontario’s oldest.
  • Professional sports teams in Ontario include the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa Redblacks, and Toronto Argonauts (CFL), the Toronto Raptors (NBA), and the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB).
  • 7 of Canada’s 23 prime ministers have been born in Ontario, including the current Justin Trudeau.
  • Famous people from Ontario include poet Margaret Atwood, actors Jim Carrey, Dan Akroyd, Mike Meyers, and Jon Candy, actresses Neve Campbell and Rachel McAdams, game show host Alex Trebek, comedians Tom Green and Phil Hartman, hockey commentator Don Cherry, and astronaut Chris Hadfield.
A mosaic of famous people from Ontario
Famous Ontarians Margaret Atwood, Don Cherry, Wayne Gretzky, Justin Trudeau, Jim Carrey, Chris Hadfield (clockwise from top left)
  • Famous athletes born in Ontario include hockey player Wayne Gretzky (who achieved fame in Edmonton), footballer Russ Jackson, baseball pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, basketball player Rick Fox, and swimmer Penny Oleksiak.
  • Some of the most well-known bands and musicians from Ontario are Justin Bieber, Drake, Bryan Adams, Neil Young, The Tragically Hip, Nelly Furtado, Alanis Morissette, Paul Anka, Alexisonfire, Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Avril Lavigne, Gordon Lightfoot, Kim Mitchell, Our Lady Peace, Peaches, Rush, Paul Shaffer, Snow, and Sum 41.
A mosaic of famous musicians from Ontario
Ontario musicians Neil Young, Gord Downie of Tragically Hip, Alanis Morissette, Drake, Justin Bieber, and Avril Lavigne
  • Much (formerly MuchMusic), Canada’s version of MTV, is based in Toronto, Ontario.
  • Famous restaurants and cafés that started in Ontario include East Side Mario’s, Second Cup, St. Louis Bar & Grill, and Pita Pit.
  • The Ontarian hockey player Tim Horton lends his name to Canada’s most famous doughnut chain, Tim Hortons, which started in Hamilton, Ontario.
Tim Horton's coffee and donut and a Beavertail
Tim Horton’s and BeaverTails have become symbols of Canada.
  • Beaver Tails, which have become a quintessential Canadian treat, started in Ottawa, Ontario.

Ontario History Facts

  • Ontario has some of the oldest rocks on Earth, dating to the Precambrian period.
  • First Nations have lived in Ontario for at least 12,000 years, with the main groups before European contact being Algonquian and Iroquois.
A longhouse and teepee of sticks in Ontario
An Iroquois longhouse in Southern Ontario
  • The French explorer Étienne Brûlé was the first to reach southern Ontario in 1610, followed a few years later by Samuel de Champlain, who later founded Québec/New France.
  • Meanwhile, Henry Hudson reached Northern Ontario in the bay now named after him in 1611.
  • French Jesuit settlers allied with the Huron people, while the English allied with the Iroquois, coming into conflict with each other.
  • The French built some of the earliest European settlements in Ontario, including Petite Côte, also called Old Sandwich Town, in the mid to late-1700s.
  • When the Seven Years’ War ended with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the English acquired most of France’s territory in North America, including Ontario.
A arch over the road that says Sandwich Town Established 1797
The oldest European town in Ontario
  • The first English settlements in Ontario were created by Loyalists from the American Revolution, starting in 1782. After that, England started heavily encouraging immigration to the area.
  • In 1791, Canada was split into Lower Canada (Québec) and Upper Canada (Ontario). It was called “Upper” because it was upstream on the Saint Lawrence River.
  • As a colony of England, Canada got swept up in the War of 1812 between the US and England. Several of the war’s battles took place in Upper Canada.
  • The University of Toronto was established in 1827, making it the oldest in Ontario.
  • In 1840, Upper and Lower Canada were unified into the Province of Canada, with its capital at Kington, Ontario (a few years later it moved to Montréal). This was done in part to try to assimilate the French.
An aerial view of the town of Paris in Ontario
Paris, Ontario, established in 1850
  • Immigration from England was strongly encouraged, and within 10 years, the population of English in Canada exceeded that of the French.
  • In the 1850s, a boom in Canada saw the construction of major railways in Ontario.
  • In 1857, the capital of the Province of Canada was moved from Montréal to Ottawa.
  • Ontario’s borders would be expanded in 1876, 1880, 1889, and finally reaching their present extent in 1912.
  • From 1912 to 1927, Ontario enacted Regulation 17, which sought to strictly limit French use in schools in Ontario.
CN Tower and other buildings of downtown Toronto
The CN Tower, built in 1976
  • Ontario suffered under the Great Depression, but prospered in the decades following WWII.
  • The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party led the province from 1943 to 1985, while the NDP had a surprise win in 1990.
  • In 1976, the CN Tower in Toronto was completed. At 553.3 m (1815.3 ft), it was the world’s tallest structure until 2007, when the Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai, UAE.  
  • In 1979, a train derailment in Mississauga caused the largest non-war evacuation in North America until Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • In 2003, over 40 died in Ontario during a SARS outbreak.
  • In 2020 and again in 2021, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called a state of emergency due to COVID-19.