Why is Southern Ontario Special? 9 Cool Reasons (Besides Toronto) 🇨🇦

You read it right! We’re going to look at just the southern portion of Ontario. Welcome to the land of great lakes! (or beautiful waters) Unlike the previous Earth’s Faces in Iceland, Canada has some remarkably large subdivisions called provinces. Since this province is so big, I decided to break it up between north and south. It’s already one of the most iconic parts of Canada, but what (besides Toronto) makes southern Ontario so special? Let’s take a look … sh-hall we?

map of Ontario highlighting the southern region of the province
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Canadian Provinces and Territories, highlighting Ontario in red
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Southern Ontario: Quick Geography

The southern portion of Ontario is a very interesting part of Canada, being the region with the densest population. Several big urban areas are found here, including Toronto (Canada’s biggest city, Ontario’s provincial capital), and Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

It’s a region surrounded by the United States on three sides and is the southernmost part of the country. Most of the region is a type of lowland naturally covered in mixed-wood forests. Being a part of the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence River valley, part of its borders are traced by Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie.

The province is actually named after Lake Ontario, which in turn probably comes from Wyandot or other Iroquoian languages. It means something like “great lake” or “beautiful water,” fitting since Ontario is home to nearly 250 thousand lakes! Some other major ones are Lake Simcoe and Lake St. Clair. Further to the north, you start to hit the boreal shield. Here, the forests are colder and denser, and the terrain gets more hilly. So, what are some special features?

1. Niagara Falls – quaint cities & waterfalls

a colonial style building in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Niagara-on-the-Lake – by Josh Appel

Let’s just forget about Toronto (for now). The next thing that might come to mind when you think of southern Ontario should be beautiful Niagara Falls. These are some of the most famous waterfalls in the world, so I don’t need to explain too much. Besides the gushing rapids themselves, the falls sit right along the actual city of Niagara Falls. This is cool because you can be in the urban area, stroll in the park, be up in a hotel, and see the falls right next door.

frozen Niagara Falls in the winter, Southern Ontario
Niagara Falls in winter – by Elvir K

Comparing to Buffalo, New York, for example, the falls are a lot closer to the city. Still, another special thing about Niagara Falls is its proximity to other unique cities. You have easy access to Buffalo, not to mention the city of Niagara Falls, New York. Inside Ontario, there are some quiet colonial towns with a laidback vibe like St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake. These cities deserve their own exploration with unique styles and even some of their own waterfalls. There’s also the Whirlpool Aero Car which takes you up above the valley to see the rushing waters from above. Just don’t look down for too long.

2. Thousand Islands – islands & history

The Thousand islands, a unique place in southern ontario, canada
Thousand Islands region – By Teresa Mitchell

The Thousand Islands is another very special part of Ontario. Like Niagara, this region is shared with New York state. It’s basically a series of isles and islets, numbering way more than 1,000, that straddle the mighty St. Lawrence River. There are boat tours and island hopping, views of towering bridges, and majestic castles to explore.

It’s a very cool-looking region that amazed me to learn about. Being from California and all, I had no idea about these kinds of places. If you’re coming from Lake Ontario, the historic city of Kingston sits right at the opening of the river. It seems like a great entry point to learn more about the region and take in the vibes of yet another Canadian city.

3. Ottawa – the capital

parliament hill in ottawa, canada's capital
Parliament Hill – by Shubham Sharan

You know I had to include the capital of Canada! I get the sense that not many people outside of Canada know that Ottawa is the capital. It’s not as talked about in the world media, but it’s a very unique city. Being the capital, you can expect some important government buildings and astonishing architecture; look no further than Parliament Hill, towering over the Ottawa River.

the big spider sculpture at the national gallery of canada, ottawa
National Gallery of Canada – by Pascal Bernardon

One really striking building in these parts is the Library of Parliament which is amazingly beautiful. It reminds me of when I learned about the big library in Washington, DC. I mean, I really am surprised at how pretty libraries are in some parts of the world. Okay, so you have great museums like the National Gallery of Canada with its giant spider sculpture and the Canadian Museum of Nature. Important historic buildings are here like the St. Patrick Basilica and the old Laurier House, once home to the prime ministers.

For those just looking to chill, the city is stacked with urban parks, including those along the Rideau riverside. Rideau, by the way, is that river that freezes over in winter where people can go ice skating through the city. Riding around in the snow past beautiful buildings seems like an awesome experience to me. Ottawa is also interesting for being right on the border with Quebec, the predominantly French-speaking part of Canada. There’s lots of culture and lots of fun to be had out here.

4. Interior Parks – nature

fall foliage in algonquin provincial park, southern ontario
Algonquin Provincial Park – by Dylan McLeod

Ontario has tons of provincial and national parks, and some of the prettiest ones are inland. Algonquin Provincial Park is probably the prime example. Acting as a sort of natural divider between northern and southern Ontario, it’s a heavily forested area cut by scenic lakes, rivers, and isles. It’s especially pretty in the autumn when the leaves change colors.

cliffs and lake at bon echo provincial park, ontario
Bon Echo Provincial Park – by Ariana Kaminski

Another standout park is Bon Echo. It holds similar forested hills and dramatic landscapes to Algonquin but shines alone as far as scenic parks go. Further south you have rocky waterways like the Elora Gorge, great for canoeing or splashing in the water. One more important mention is the Bruce Trail. It’s this historic trail now used mostly by hikers to witness some of the awesome Ontario scenery. It goes from Niagara Falls all the way up to our next unique spot in the Bruce Peninsula.

5. Tobermory & Bruce Peninsula – nature & adventure

green rocky shores and blue water at tobermory in the bruce peninsula, ontario
Tobermory, Bruce Peninsula – by Zen zeee

Again, from California guys, I’m sorry. When I first saw footage of Tobermory, I could not believe this place was in Canada. It is a region right along the edge of the larger Bruce Peninsula within the midsection of Lake Huron. The main striking feature here is the blueness of the water cut into by all kinds of rocks, grottoes, and cliffs.

The land is forested and honestly looks like somewhere out of the Caribbean during the summer. It’s a really pretty mixture of acrylic greens and blues, all set aside the massive lake backdrop. Travelers can explore caves, dive in natural pools, and even witness some funky-shaped rocks like the famous Flowerpot. And it’s not just Tobermory at the tip. The entire peninsula is full of pretty and interesting sites. Natural surprises speak loud out here.

6. The Great Lakes – lake shores

marshes and boardwalk in point pelee national park, southern ontario
Point Pelee National Park – By Tango7174

I know, Tobermory is on Lake Huron. I had to give it its own little section. Still, there is so much to see in the other Great Lakes. Sticking with Lake Huron, there’s an area called the Georgian Bay Islands, a series of islands and forests great for exploring nature. Right on the south of Huron is the city of Sarnia. Besides being another city to explore, there are also some nice beaches there to enjoy (at the right time of year, of course).

sunset on lake ontario with new growth trees coming from the water, sandbanks national park, canada
Sandbanks Provincial Park – By Jasonpettit

Lake Erie has a couple of (literal) points of interest like Long Point and Point Pelee. These places hold sandbanks and boardwalks where you can walk across the marshes and observe wildlife. Pelee National Park is actually the southernmost point in Canada, holding a few islands out in Lake Erie. Lake Ontario obviously has lots of cool towns and cities to stop at. A bonus place I want to mention is Sandbanks Provincial Park, a section of the lake dotted by hills of sand and pretty blue waters, plus some tranquil beaches. And speaking of Lake Ontario …

7. Hamilton – city & nature

albion falls in the city of hamilton, ontario
Albion Falls, Hamilton – by Joe deSousa

Southern Ontario has lots of neat cities, but Hamilton stands out in the crowd. Not just the name of a famous play, it’s also one of the larger cities outside the immediate Toronto area with its own special identity. With the enchanting Royal Botanical Gardens and castles like the Dundurn, you don’t need much to appreciate this place. As if those kinds of features weren’t enough, Hamilton has a number of urban waterfalls to boot. Two prominent ones are Tews Falls and Albion Falls, but the city is loaded with natural spaces and parkland. But it’s not the only city worth a mention.

8. Explore Other Cities – more cities & culture

the ambassador bridge and view of windsor, ontario
Ambassador Bridge & Windsor – by N Bandaru

Given that southern Ontario is the most densely populated part of the country, you have to imagine there are some other cities worth their own shout-outs. This part of Canada is home to several of the nation’s very top universities. Take Toronto, Western, McMaster, and Waterloo, to name a couple. Education: check.

Windsor is a cool city kinda known for being a great place to view downtown Detroit. They also have a flashy yet homegrown art scene like the Chimczuck Museum, Art Gallery of Windsor, and the Sculpture Park. Some of these are on a parkway along the Detroit River, right next to the international Ambassador Bridge. And that’s not to mention the city’s extensive street art.

Stratford is famous for its local festival dedicated to theater. It has been one of the biggest Shakespeare festivals in the world. Fittingly, the town is home to the Shakespeare Gardens. Little Dresden is home to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This place is an important historic site for Canadians and Americans, being a station for former slave, Josiah Henson. After escaping from Maryland, he settled near this town where he wrote about the Underground Railroad and supported abolition. That’s worth celebrating!

Of course, you can’t talk about celebrations without mention of the Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo. These two cities come together to form one of the biggest Oktoberfests outside of Germany, adding on to their province’s pride.

9. Culture (And Closing)

My my. Southern Ontario is definitely one of the most important parts of Canada. It’s the region where Canada was essentially born and remains at the center of Canadian industry, entertainment, and economy to this day. It’s a place where American and Canadian identities meet since they’re so close together. In the cities, diversity runs wild and influences from around the globe morph together in this one section of the map.

Canada’s history is embedded into this part of Ontario and is, in many ways, the cradle of the nation’s English-Canadian identity. After all, many of the other provinces were populated by people who were leaving Ontario. This region is home to many of the Canadians that the world knows by way of entertainment, and is the political center of the nation as well. Borrowing bits and pieces from all over, southern Ontario is a unique place all by itself.

You can find more posts about the world’s special places in the Earth’s Face section.

**I hope you all enjoyed learning about this special place in Canada. I know some of my readers are from Canada, so please share what you know about southern Ontario. Are you from there? Let me know if there’s anything you would change or add in this post. And, as always, keep that adventurous learning spirit! Peace to you.

Canada on the Map: Straight Facts

A vertical triband design (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the center.
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We’re starting off a new section here in CultSurf just to give you all a bit of variety. We’ve been discussing culture, society, music, and movies from around the globe (mostly the USA, sorry, I’m a little biased). Some of you might be interested in learning more about the in-depth characteristics of English-speaking countries. We won’t focus too much on culture here, but more on geography and a few other things. I was really inspired by Geography Now on YouTube and I enjoy their channel, so I’ll share their video with the corresponding countries if they’ve made it already. They make videos about all the world’s countries from A-Z, so it might take a while for them to reach Zimbabwe, for example.

What does an American know about Canada?

So obviously I won’t be writing about myself or Americans that know a lot about Canada. I’m speaking about what I knew about the country before I started learning geography, and what my fellow citizens may or may not know already.

Happy Canadian here – Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • We know about some cities like Toronto and Vancouver, probably Montréal. Some of us like the name Newfoundland and joke at how hard it can be to pronounce.
  • We know it’s freezing up there. We’ve seen those pictures of polar bears walking through town.
  • Moose, caribou, Northern Lights, and the Arctic is somewhere up there.
  • We have to cross it to get to Alaska.
  • Funny accents, eh? And syrup, lots of bacon and syrup.

The Provinces & Cities (and Territories)

As we see on our lovely map, Canada has 10 subdivisions called provinces, plus another 3 called territories.

A map of Canada showing its 10 provinces and 3 territories
The easiest map I could find on Wikipedia

Central Canada has the two biggest provinces, Ontario and Quebec. This is also where you find the two biggest cities, Toronto and Montréal. It’s known as central Canada even though it’s not directly in the middle of the country. That’s because historically these were the main places to be settled by the British and French as the colony known as Canada. Later they spread out and acquired more land. These places have the most people and are the biggest economic and cultural influencers in the country. They’re also massive, reaching from the Great Lakes all the way up to the northern tundra!

The smallest provinces are in the general Atlantic Maritimes region, which are Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. These areas were among the last to really join Canada as a united country. They had lots of immigration from Scotland and Ireland, and have a much stronger sea culture than the rest of the country. They’re sort of like the New England of Canada. They were also the main places that welcomed British Loyalist soldiers during and after the American War for Independence.

Then there’s out West. This area can be thought of generally as the Great Plains and mountains of Canada. Here we have Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, though B.C. can also be thought of as the West Coast province. These were lands acquired after Central Canada was already set up, and are known for big open spaces, farming and agriculture, and lots of mountain stuff. There is major business and cultural influence coming from this part of Canada too, especially since Calgary and Vancouver are major global centers.

And then there were the Territories; Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut. These, generally speaking, are three massive landmasses (haha) way up in the tundra and arctic of North America. They are very, very, very scarcely populated and mostly got attention during the gold rush years, especially in Yukon. Otherwise there’s lots of ice and natural beauty, but I’m pretty sure they’re the least known region of the country overall.

Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal – By Diego Delso

A little about the cities, you have Toronto, Ontario, the biggest in the country, that is known as one of the most, if not the most, ethnically diverse cities in the world. I think about half the city is non-white, if not more, and even the white population is pretty diverse there. The capital, Ottawa, is in Ontario as well. A lot of the world-famous artists from Canada come from this lower area of Ontario, like Justin Bieber, Drake, The Weekend, and so on. Niagara Falls is the home of those same falls, and Mississauga has some cool spacey architecture.

Montréal is the 2nd biggest mostly French-speaking city in the world and is also extremely diverse, as is the rest of Canada. Québec is a very traditional European-looking city, especially in the old town. Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John’s, Newfoundland are important port cities and historic centers. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and the biggest city in the world for how far north it is. Calgary is also a very big city and cultural center. Some other major cities worth your research are Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, and St. John.

What are They?

So we know Canada has provinces, not states. The provinces actually are quite similar to states in how they are run, and many freedoms that the United States are allowed, so too are the Canadian provinces. Provinces, in general, tend to come from more Empirical powers (like the United Kingdom was) and so this name stems from historical association. The United States were also at once independent states that united, while Canada’s provinces have mostly been under the rule of Britain except for a few exceptions.

Canada stayed loyal and sympathetic to Britain for much longer than the U.S. which could explain many things about their cultural identity. Otherwise, the territories are similar to territories of any country. Even though they are huge, they have tiny populations. This makes it so that their representation is a little less relevant on the national scale, and so they do in fact have less representation.

Canada the year the British colonies united – By Unknown author

And the Commonwealth?

Like with province, there’s no universal definition of what a commonwealth really is. Puerto Rico and Guam, for example, are commonwealths of the U.S. Still, the British Commonwealth states have a lot more autonomy and are all considered their own sovereign states with some more or less cordial ties to Britain. The Monarch really only has a say in cases of a complete national or political emergency really, but otherwise Canadians are Canadians and not Brits. Although as I said before, they do and did keep stronger ties with Britain (and France, for that matter) over the years than the U.S. did.

Canada’s English-Speaking. What About Québec?

Good question. Canada traditionally had two main European colonizers: the English/British and the French. You’ll actually see this in a lot of English-speaking countries, where France took the colony from Britain or Britain took it from France and so there is a lot of mixed historical identity. Think of Louisiana, St. Lucia, or Cameroon. Geographically, Canada’s French-speaking population stuck mostly to one general area, giving this group a more distinct identity. People from Québec have long had mixed feelings about Canada, some wanting to separate into their own independent place while others just want more autonomy (not to mention those who don’t really care either way). Speaking English, French, or Punjabi, they’re all Canadians in the end.

Generally, there is pride in the history of French Canada, the part of Canada where the country got its name from. English and French are both official languages in the nation, but French is a lot stronger in Québec province, along with a few pockets of places in the neighboring provinces. You also get St. Pierre and Miquelon, which is an overseas territory of France (something like French Guiana, although it’s a full-on department of France) that borders Newfoundland and is fully French.

Talk More About Diversity

Canada is really one of the most diverse countries there is, and this is due to its historic reputation as an open arm for immigrants. The Asian (East and South) population and impact on Canadian culture is huge. German and Scandinavian identity is big in some regions, not to mention the largest communities of Icelandic and Ukrainian descendants outside those countries live in Canada. The country has also welcomed many from other Commonwealth states and former colonies, such as Caribbeans and Guyanese, Africans, Indians, and Pakistanis. The most influential though, hands down, have been the British and French.

Canada’s a diverse place – Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash

Most Canadians live within a few hundred miles from the U.S. border which also impacts the culture. Northern Americans and most Canadians have a fluid cultural and societal mixture that influences one and the other. This is especially true of migration, business, and the arts. Lots of Canadians have American ancestry and vice-versa. And of course, the first occupants of the continent have had a huge impact on the country. In Canada, they are generally referred to as First Nations, and they themselves are as diverse and influential as the later foreigners that would create modern Canada. They generally are considered two main groups, the traditional people most of us think of as Native or indigenous Americans, and the Inuits, a set of people with a bit different ancestry.

Let’s End with Some Actual Geography!

Canada has a land area of over 3.5 million square miles, making it the second biggest country in the world after Russia. It has a population of about 38 million, less than countries like South Korea, Spain, and Uganda, which are way smaller. I mean, compare them on a map. The Maritimes are mostly chilly and rainy with oceanic climates and many pretty islands. The northern continuation of the Appalachian Mountain system goes up here, and way up North in Labrador to Nunavut you get the Arctic Cordillera range of tall, jagged, arctic mountains.

Thefalls.jpg
Kakabeka Falls in Ontario – By Hgsyro

The south of Central Canada borders the U.S. by way of the super-important St. Lawrence River system, as well as the Great Lakes. This area is very hospitable and is where the biggest urban areas are concentrated. You also get big waterfalls and some dense forests on up to Hudson Bay which supports a kind of wet plain. It usually freezes over and so this is a major crossing ground for Arctic animals like polar bears. The middle of the country has an outstanding number of lakes, and the north is especially stocked with some of the biggest forests and highest amount of lakes on planet Earth.

Going back down, you get a general plains and prairies region that goes on till you hit some mountains. These are essentially the Canadian extension of the Rockies, and they go up all the way to the Yukon and even into Alaska. You have a fertile yet somewhat dry valley between those and the coastal mountains and rainy forests which also extend into Alaska. Above all that stuff is basically a large stretch of lakes, cold plains, forests, and taiga (basically a tundra with some scattered trees). Tundra covers most of that very northern part of the country where it steadily transitions into polar landscapes. This is especially true of the massive islands of Nunavut which reach all the way up to the North Pole (and Santa! Oh wait, he’s Scandinavian)

That’s all, you curious geography lovers! I hope you enjoyed mapping out this huge and special country called Canada. As promised, here is the Geography Now video. Please comment if you like Canada. If you are from there (howdy neighbor) comment if you want to teach us more about your fabulous home! Thanks, and we’ll be talking soon.

If you liked this, you might also like to read about the U.S. geography with Aren’t all the U.S. states and cities basically the same? – Regional diversity in the USA. Tell me what you think, and enjoy 😉

Other fun facts about Canada: https://www.canadianaffair.com/blog/how-big-is-canada/

“i like the devil” [Purity Ring] – lyrics for English students

A vertical triband design (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the center.

Video and more explanation below–>

Mother laid her elbows on the bed _ Whispering the wishes to the threads

  • Whispering wishes” gives the sensation of praying, especially with her elbows on the bed, like the traditional form of praying on one’s bedside. “The threads” can refer to the bedsheets, but more figuratively may refer to the Fates in Greek mythology. They were a group of goddesses that decided the fate of people by weaving and cutting their “life” threads.

Weaving in the weight of all our dread _ Wiping up the stains of our regret

  • “Weaving” here refers to the threads from before. You can also “weave through” something, as in to bend your way through a tough situation or difficult information. “Wiping up” gives the idea that she’s cleaning up her past difficulties and regrets.

Heal her hands by kneading up the bread _ Cleaning off her fingers as she wept

  • Kneading is the process of stretching and molding dough before you make bread. Dough is soft and so has a healing sensation to the hands. It also refers to a woman who had past difficulties and tries to heal by doing something traditionally for women, like making food. “Cleaning off her fingers” is washing off those past mistakes, along with the sticky dough.

Lurk within her gleaming silhouette _ Then seal in our wonder to ferment

  • Below her pretty outer image is a kind of danger or ugliness. We use “lurk” to talk about something dangerous or ominous, like a monster, that is hiding somewhere. Ferment is the process which allows dough to grow, cheese and butter to harden, and so on. We also use ferment to show how something bad, ugly or evil can rot and grow over time within a person. It sounds like this woman tries to hide her past inside this image of what a good woman should be, but her problems are slowly growing and causing her damage from within.

I, like the devil, can fly _ And I read her sweet mind last night, and _ I, like God, can fly _ And I held a candle over her fright

  • Referring to herself as the devil and God references how women have historically been perceived both as something perfect and saintly, as well as something evil and wicked. Reading thoughts and using candles have a mystic or religious feeling too. Partly, she’s saying that she, like all people, have the capacity to be good and bad, or we all have a little bit of God and the devil in us. It’s also a reference to an old way of speaking that’s not really used anymore. “Run like the devil,” and “Talk like the devil.” It’s like saying someone runs, talks, or flies really fast. Megan doesn’t mean it in this way, but she’s playing with the meanings of words.

What is happiness but a word? _ Spoken from on high for what it’s worth

  • She’s questioning what it means to be truly happy, and refers to how happiness is often dictated to women, or people in general, from another source. Usually, it’s someone in power, “from on high.”

Flown beneath the wings of little birds _ But I have felt the wind crawl where we’re cursed

  • Happiness can be found in simple things like watching birds fly. Also there’s a sense that messages from those in power come to us from small messengers, like with carrier pigeons that used to deliver things. She has felt happiness or joy in situations or places that are looked down upon or not accepted by certain people.

Find us in the folded parts she pressed _ Lying in positions like we’ve slept

  • “Folded parts she pressed” gives the idea that her curse as a woman comes from her “hidden parts,” whether physical or emotional. It also sounds like folding clothes, so the curse may come from simply being a woman, a mother, etc. Positions like we’ve slept reminds me of the fetal position, like how babies sleep. It might refer to an actual fetus or baby being a source of happiness, or life in general. It can also be another reference to womanhood or motherhood being a joy and a curse. The theme of a baby also fits in with the album’s title, WOMB.

Find us in the hallows of her chest _ Lying in positions, like we’ve slept

  • “In the hallows of her chest” refers to the heart, and love overall. Hallows also makes it sound more holy or saintly. Repeating “lying in positions” is again a reference to babies, motherhood, etc. Happiness can then be found in the heart, love, and womanhood. Again, there’s a sense that all of this is a curse and a blessing at the same time.

I, like the devil, can fly _ And I read her sweet mind last night, and _ I, like God, can fly _ And I held a candle over her fright _ I, like the devil, can fly

  • I also want to point out that the title is intentionally misleading. “I like the devil” sounds like she will talk about how she likes or worships the devil. However, we clearly see that she uses this phrasing to compare herself (her actions, intentions) to the devil, and later, to God.

A better and more in-depth look at the lyrics. Please read to learn more: https://medium.com/an-injustice/i-like-the-devil-purity-rings-prayer-for-a-balanced-perspective-on-feminism-and-womanhood-1d0833d41d4f

Watch it here: