Lake Ontario, Great Lakes, USA & Canada

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Ontario — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Lake Ontario cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario, one of the world’s five Great Lakes, weaves over state and country borders, delighting Americans, Canadians, and visiting tourists with its deep, clear, clean waters. Proudly home to a staggering 4,700,000 acres (7,340 square miles), Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes, the perfect testament to the sheer size and importance of these great, glacial lakes. Having served as home to many over the years, Lake Ontario is today bordered by Toronto, Hamilton, and Rochester, serving as an aquatic playground to all who visit its shores.

Lake Ontario’s name comes from a Huron word, meaning “great lake,” counterpart to the neighboring Iroquois people’s “Skanadario.” In addition to its Native American names, the colossus has held several others, including “Lac Ontario ou des Iroquois,” “Ondiara,” and “Lac Frontenac.” Such a wide variety of monikers reflects the massive reservoir’s rich history, whose human intervention began with the Iroquois and Huron nations. Etienne Brule, the first modern European to set eyes on the lake, arrived in 1615, though artifacts indicate that he was beaten by the Norse, who arrived long before him. Today, Lake Ontario remembers its rolls in contemporary history, serving in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812.

About 80% of the water coming into Lake Ontario arrives from its western neighbor, Lake Erie, via the Niagara River. Lake Ontario tributaries and precipitation provide the rest. Over 90% of Lake Ontario’s water flows to the St. Lawrence River with the rest being lost to evaporation, often falling in northern New York State as huge winter snowfalls. As the last of the downstream Great Lakes, issues relating to any of the lakes in the Great Lakes system are of major concern both here and as far upstream as Lake Superior. A dam at Kingston, Ontario regulates Lake Ontario water levels for hydroelectric power generation. The lake’s water levels are managed by the International Joint Commission through the Board of Controls.

Though Lake Ontario is the smallest Great Lake by surface area, it is still a giant body of water. As the world’s 14th largest lake, the lake measures approximately 193 miles long and 53 miles wide, affording an astounding 712 miles of navigable, hike-worthy, scenic shoreline. Its 802-foot depth makes Lake Ontario the second deepest Great Lake, appropriately inferior to Lake Superior.

With so much water, it’s no wonder that Lake Ontario is world-renowned for its fantastic fishing opportunities, as anglers make yearly pilgrimages to fish in its waters. Black bass, brown trout, coho salmon, king salmon, lake trout, perch, spring kings, steelhead, and walleye are all area favorites, and avid anglers can choose to head out with a fishing charter, or on their own. For all those who venture onto Lake Ontario’s fish-infested waters, however, a day of exciting fishing and beautiful nature watching await. As your hook dangles beneath the lake’s lightly-rippling surface, drink in deep gulps of fresh New York-Ontario air, appreciate the scenery all around, and watch as boats pass in the distance. Indeed, the deep blue waters and complementary green scenery promise to relax you as much as its record-breaking fish do to get your pulse racing.

If you love the idea of a lazy day on the lake without the fish, boating will suit your tastes to a tee. If you don’t bring your own boat, there are many marinas and boat rental companies around Lake Ontario that can suit your needs and preferences with canoes, kayaks, speed boats, pontoon boats, and even sailboats. With so many miles of shoreline and lake acreage to explore, don’t preoccupy yourself with visiting the entire lake; instead, focus on your own, small slice of aquatic paradise. You’ll investigate quiet coves, race over smooth water, and discover secret spots throughout the day, accompanied by just the sun and scenery. Watch for birds swooping overhead, animals drinking at the shoreline, and brave waterskiers doing tricks and jumping lake wake.

Back on land, you won’t want for things to do. Lake Ontario is surrounded by parks and protected areas, and home to some of the best birding in the region. Around the lake’s huge shoreline, you’ll find tens of thousands of diving ducks, in addition to Atlantic Brant, Black-crowned Night Herons, Caspian Terns, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Common Terns, Double-breasted Cormorants, Dunlin, Greater Scaup, King Eider, Oldsquaw, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-shoulderd hawks, Red-tailed hawks, Ring-billed Gulls, Sharp-shinned hawks, Surf Scoter, and White-winged Scoter, and so many more. Bring your binoculars, birding books, and cameras, because Lake Ontario promises to be one of the best birdwatching experiences you’ve ever had.

Adding to its diverse birding options, Lake Ontario is literally surrounded by biking and hiking trails, state parks, and national parks, which promise to fulfill your every outdoor urge. The multi-use, 485-mile Waterfront Trail, which winds through Ontario’s residential roads, parks, and marinas is an excellent place to start your Lake Ontario journey. Around each bend, you’ll find each view more fascinating, more spectacular than the one before it, and every photo op stop will do double-duty, allowing you to catch your breath and recover from the amazing sights before you.

For the closest local parks, check out the state and provincial offerings for your Lake Ontario location. Amazing nature awaits, like New York’s Chimney Bluffs State Park, home to sculpted, spiraling bluffs that are so spectacular that you won’t believe your eyes. Hiking and biking trails wind their way through almost every Lake Ontario lakefront park, and picnic areas are perfect for a relaxing, waterfront lunch. In winter, many of these state and provincial parks change focus, gearing up for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and all other kinds of snowball fun.

Lake Ontario’s gigantic size and unique natural beauty will make your days here blissful. With large cities bordered by protected areas, this American-Canadian lake is sure to satisfy every pleasure, whether it be the outdoor adventurer in search of an undiscovered scenic overlook, or the trained urbanite, hunting for city bargains. One thing is sure, though: once you give Lake Ontario a chance, you run the risk of never leaving this pristine, beautiful Great Lake.

Things to Do at Lake Ontario

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Provincial Park
  • National Park
  • Playground

Fish Species Found at Lake Ontario

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brown Trout
  • Chinook Salmon
  • Coho Salmon
  • Lake Trout
  • Perch
  • Salmon
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Trout
  • Walleye
divider

Find Places to Stay at Lake Ontario

If you’re considering a Lake Ontario lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Ontario Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Ontario lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.
ALL TRAVEL RESOURCES

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake Ontario Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Water Level Control: International Joint Commission Board of Controls

Surface Area: 4,697,600 acres

Shoreline Length: 712 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 243 feet

Average Depth: 283 feet

Maximum Depth: 802 feet

Water Volume: 1,328,025,600 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 6 years

Lake Area-Population: 2,700,000

Drainage Area: 24,720 sq. miles

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Lake Ontario Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

SHOP NOW
Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

SHOP NOW
Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz

SHOP NOW
VIEW ALL CUSTOM LAKE PRODUCTS

Advertise Your Lake Ontario Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.

divider

Looking for the Lake Ontario Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Lake Ontario Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Lake Ontario article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!