Who says cruises are reserved for tropical locales? With the abundance of freshwater lakes in Ontario (some large enough to feel like the ocean), a boat cruise through cottage country is the ultimate weekend activity. From historic steamships to rugged, remote island stops, these boat cruises have something for everyone, whether you want a casual activity or a multi-day adventure.
One of the most famous attractions in this region, the Thousand Islands waterway has long been a destination for cottagers and boaters. Depending on what you’re looking for, there are various cruise options with different companies, including a popular one that leaves from Gananoque. Some tours include experiences like dinner cruises or luxury overnight stays. Not only is the area naturally beautiful with its many remote islands, but there are also unique attractions like Boldt Castle you can experience from the water.
Parry Sound is home to ample natural beauty, a lot of which can only be accessed by boat—a cruise is a must for this area. The most popular boat cruise company, Island Queen (linked above), offers different options, from a relaxing two-hour cruise on one of the larger vessels to an adventurous guided tour on a remote island accessed with a smaller ‘Islander’ vessel.
Manitoulin Island is a region best seen by boat. There are a couple of well-known tour companies in the area, namely North Channel Cruises (linked above), with experiences like sunset, dinner, or specialized cruises. There’s also the Wasse-Giizhik group, which tours folks through traditional Anishnaabek canoe routes and incorporates Indigenous culture and history, as well as expert fishing tours.
When we put out a call for Cottage Life readers to tell us about their favourite boat cruises, there was quite the chorus for Blue Heron Cruises. It’s for a good reason—this popular destination is famous for its Caribbean-blue waters, so what better way to visit? With Blue Heron, you get great views of Flower Pot island, where there’s an option to be dropped off for a hike and visit, or you can do a non-stop tour, taking in the best of the Bruce Peninsula.
Though the vessels are smaller at Highland Boat Tours, they provide a more intimate, custom experience, with the option to design your own tour. Enjoy historic sights on a short tour of the ‘five-lake chain,’ or work with the company for a specialized cruise—sunset, daytime, ‘fall colours,’ or something special like a birthday or anniversary. Highland Boat Tours has also partnered with the local Haliburton Highlands Museum for a tour known as the ‘Lost Haliburton’ cruise, which goes deeper into local history.
Hop aboard a historic Muskoka steamship for a unique experience in this area. The RMS Segwun is a 130-year-old steamship and just being on the vessel itself is an experience. You can do a tour anywhere from one to four hours, with some including lunch, dinner, or even high tea. Since many lakes around Muskoka are private, this is a great way to see the beauty of the area that’s open to the public.