Southwestern Ontario is Canada’s southernmost region, sharing a latitude and similar temperature with central Italy and northern California. Its milder climate means extended growing and harvest seasons - with deep agricultural roots, this area boasts a wide array of farm-to-table restaurants and farmers’ markets, as well as wineries, craft breweries, cideries and distilleries.
Flanked by Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron shorelines, the region is also defined by freshwater beaches and famed sunsets that attract everyone from family sunseekers to water sports enthusiasts.
Whether you’re drawn by an appetite for great food and drink or for outdoor fun, you’ll be treated to both here.
To learn more about all there is to see and do in Southwestern Ontario, scroll down or visit the region's tourism website.
Where is Southwestern Ontario?
The region of Southwestern Ontario extends from the Detroit and Windsor border crossing and Pelee Island in the south, up along the east shore of Lake St. Clair and the southern shore of Lake Huron to Grand Bend and east towards Woodstock. To its south, it follows the shoreline of Lake Erie from the Detroit River east past the mouth of Grand River at Port Maitland.
Places to Visit in Southwestern Ontario
Key cities in Southwestern Ontario include Windsor, Sarnia and London.
Sharing the border with Detroit, Windsor was once referred to as Whiskytown for its infamous rum running during America’s prohibition era. As one of the first mainstream gambling venues outside of Las Vegas, Windsor paved the way for Detroit’s gambling industry. Windsor is referred to as the 'Pizza Capital of Canada', and locals are fiercely passionate about the Windsor-style pizza with shredded pepperoni, canned mushrooms, local Galati mozzarella and layering cheese before toppings.
Coined ‘The Forest City’ for its plush parks and pathways, London is known for its heritage architecture, flourishing local culture and green spaces. Follow the boardwalks at Westminster Ponds or hike the Thames Valley Trail along the Thames River. In winter, practice your spins on the outdoor skating rink in Victoria Park. Old East Village is a trendy neighbourhood with the perfect combination of cultural attractions, like the historic Aeolian Hall and restored facades and a vibrant, creative, locally-focused atmosphere.
Sarnia is the largest city on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, and it’s located at the mouth of the St. Clair River in Lambton County. During the summer months, families and sunseekers gravitate to Canatara Beach. Conveniently located steps from downtown, there’s a bevvy of kid approved fun beyond surf and sun.
Things to Do in Southwestern Ontario
Farming, grape growing and food and drink production is a mainstay across Southwest Ontario, from the vineyards of Pelee and Essex County, the distilleries in and around Windsor to the farms, flavours and foodie trails of Oxford, Norfolk and Haldimand Counties. Home to the ‘dairy capital of Canada’, cheese lovers are invited to taste their way along the Oxford County Cheese Trail.
Some of Ontario’s finest wineries are located in the Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island viticultural area. In fact, Canada’s first commercial winery was established on Pelee Island in 1866.
Southwestern Ontario also boasts a rich whisky-making history with Windsor’s Hiram Walker and Sons Ltd. Distillery built in 1858, makers of Canadian Club whisky. Since then, new and emerging wineries, breweries and distilleries have become local go-tos in communities across the region.
With a seemingly endless shoreline, beach life, fishing and water sports are a huge attraction in Southwest Ontario. Explore the sand dunes at Pinery Provincial Park, soak up the sun at Long Point Provincial Park splash in the waves at Port Stanley Beach or sit in the shade of the palm trees at Port Dover Beach. Several of Southwestern Ontario’s beaches have earned Blue Flag status for strict adherence to water quality and safety measures. As well, many feature accessibility mats for wheelchairs and strollers on the beach.
Charter a fishing boat for trophy walleye on Lake Erie, the warmest and most productive of the Great Lakes. Lake Huron’s deep waters are home to Chinook and coho salmon.
Avid birdwatchers flock to key birding spots like Point Pelee National Park to witness hundreds of bird species and monarch butterflies on their migratory journeys.
Follow one of 15 Barn Quilt Trails in Southwestern Ontario, unique self-guided touring routes that celebrate the area’s rural culture and agricultural heritage.
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