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Southern Ontario is the portion of the Canadianmarker province of Ontariomarker lying south of the French River and Algonquin Parkmarker. Depending on the inclusion of the Parry Soundmarker and Muskoka districts, its surface area would cover between 14-15% of the province. It is the southernmost region of Canada.

Southern Ontario contrasts very greatly from Northern Ontario. The region has a much larger population, different climate, and much different culture than its Northern counterpart. Northern Ontario and Southern Ontario can almost be viewed as two different provinces due their many dissimilarities. Southern Ontario can also be broken into smaller subregions, such as Eastern Ontario, Central Ontario, Southwestern Ontario, and the Golden Horseshoe (which includes the Greater Toronto Area).


Southern Ontario can be distinguished from Northern Ontario because it is far more densely populated and contains the majority of the province's cities, major roads, and institutions. Southern Ontario contains 94 per cent, or 12.1 million, of Ontario's total population of 12.9 million people, while the north, in contrast, contains more natural resources and remote wilderness. Although it has no saltwater coastline, it has an abundance of fresh water coastline on three of the Great Lakesmarker (Huronmarker, Eriemarker and Ontariomarker) and smaller inland lakes, notably Lake Simcoemarker and Lake St. Clair (part of the Great Lakes system). It is a major vineyard region and producer of Canadian wines.

While Southern Ontario has been a part of the province of Ontario since its establishment, having previously formed the colony of Upper Canada, a large portion of the north did not become part of Ontario until 1912, 45 years after Ontario entered Confederation and the idea of a dissolution is discussed from time to time, mostly in the North.


Southern Ontario is home to over 12 million people, compared to fewer than 800,000 in the North. This is due to many factors including the more arable land in the south, its more moderate climate, well-used transportation (water, land and air) routes, proximity to populated areas of the Northeastern and Midwestern United Statesmarker, as well as a long history of early settlers, and colonialism.

Southern Ontario was first colonized by the British and the French. After the area was established, other European immigrants arrived as well, and later many immigrants from other parts of the world. The region still has many Native Indian communities as well, with combined populations of over 200,000.

The region is one of the top destinations for immigrants worldwide. Some of the most well-known cities of Southern Ontario are Barriemarker, Guelphmarker, Hamiltonmarker, Kingstonmarker, Kitchenermarker, Londonmarker, Peterboroughmarker, St. Catharinesmarker-Niagara, Waterloomarker, and Windsormarker, and largest among them, Torontomarker and Ottawamarker.

The area has a large manufacturing sector. Since the mid 2000s, Ontario produces more vehicles per year than the state of Michiganmarker. Southern Ontario is part of the Rust Belt. Factory closings are still taking their toll on the region's cities. The Province's two largest cities Torontomarker and Ottawamarker, however, are very service oriented, although Toronto still has a strong industrial presence. Torontomarker is the site of all of the major Canadian banks and its heart the financial sector including the Toronto Stock Exchange, while Ottawamarker, the capital of Canadamarker is more heavily dependant on the public sector.

Some parts of Southern Ontario are heavily entwined with bordering cities in New Yorkmarker and Michiganmarker both in terms of industry and people. The focus areas are the Niagara Region, Sarniamarker and Detroit-Windsor. Many people work and live on opposite sides of the border. The NEXUS program is increasing in popularilty amongst bordering communities. Other areas with heavy trade traffic with Southern Ontario include Montrealmarker and much of Quebecmarker, parts of northern Ohiomarker and western Pennsylvaniamarker.


Southern Ontario is well known for its attractions and tourism. It is one of the most visited areas in the world. Some of the most popular tourist attractions are the CN Towermarker, Parliament Hillmarker, Niagara Fallsmarker, National Gallery of Canadamarker, Canada's Wonderlandmarker, CNEmarker, Canadian War Museummarker, Toronto Zoomarker, Hockey Hall of Famemarker, Royal Canadian Mint, Marinelandmarker, The Rideau Canalmarker, and the Royal Ontario Museummarker.

Niagara Fallsmarker is the 6th most visited attraction by domestic and international tourists in the world, with over 14 million tourists each year. Torontomarker is the 7th most visited city by international tourists in the world with over 6.6 million visitors per year. Ottawamarker is the most visited city in Canada by domestic tourists, hosting over 6.9 million Canadian visitors per year.

Southern Ontario is home to several professional sports teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Toronto FC, and three teams in the Canadian Football League. The region also hosts the Canadian Open and Canadian Open .
Niagara Falls, ON.
The area is home to many internationally renowned festivals and events including Toronto International Film Festivalmarker, Winterlude, Caribana, Bluesfestmarker, Pride Week, Kitchener Oktoberfest, Havelock Jamboree, Toronto Indymarker, Sarnia Bayfest, Canada Day in Ottawamarker, International Freedom Festival in Windsormarker, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and Virgin Festival.

Several large legal gambling establishments have been built throughout the Province with Caesars Windsormarker and Fallsview Casinomarker being the two flagship casinos in the Province. In addition to casinos Ontario has many legal horse racing facilities with slot machines. Racetrack slots are located throughout the Province. All gaming in the Province is overseen by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation , and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

Southern Ontario has many beautiful natural attractions as well. Wasaga Beachmarker, Grand Bendmarker, and Sandbanks, are amongst the nicest beaches on the Great Lakesmarker. The Niagara Escarpment offers hiking, skiing, and hundreds of waterfalls including Niagara Fallsmarker. The Ottawa River has world class white water rafting which attracts rafters and kayakers from all over the globe. The region has some of North America's nicest parks. Ontario Parks governs all Provincial Parks, and Parks Canada governs all National Parks in the province.


Southern Ontario is home to both Canada's largest city and its capital city. Torontomarker is the capital of Ontariomarker, as well as Canada's largest, and North America's fifth largest city. It has a population of 2,503,281, and a metropolitan population of over 5.5 million as of 2009. Ottawamarker is Canada's fourth largest city and capital city. It is home to most federal government departments and the Parliament of Canadamarker. It has a population of 812,129, and a metropolitan population of over 1.4 million.

Southern Ontario communities have eight telephone area codes, 226, 289, 416marker, 519, 613, 647marker, 705, and 905, and 343 (2010).

Southern Ontario's Largest CMA's

Statistics Canada's measure of a "metro area", the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), roughly bundles together population figures from the core municipality with those from "commuter" municipalities. Note : A city's Metropolitan area may actually be larger than its CMA. For example many consider Oshawamarker part of the Greater Toronto Area, however it is considered its own CMA.
Southern Ontario Cities ( Not all CMA's listed ) 2006 2001
Toronto CMA 5,113,149 4,682,897
Ottawamarker CMA 1,130,761 1,067,800
Hamiltonmarker CMA 692,911 662,401
Londonmarker CMA 457,720 435,600
Kitchenermarker CMA 451,235 414,284
St. CatharinesmarkerNiagaramarker CMA 390,317 377,009
Oshawamarker CMA 330,594 296,298
Windsormarker CMA 323,342 307,877
Barriemarker CMA 177,061 148,480
Kingstonmarker CMA 152,358 146,838
Guelphmarker CMA 127,009 117,344
Brantfordmarker CMA 124,607 118,086
Peterboroughmarker CMA 116,570 110,876


Historically, Southern Ontario has been defined from its northern counterpart by counties. Southern Ontario has 38 census divisions, which at one point in time were all counties. Unlike the counties of the south, Northern Ontario has districts. Therefore the boundary between Southern and Northern Ontario has historically been the county and district division. Over time some of the larger counties in Ontario have become single tier governments and abandoned the "county" title. Below is a list of all counties, single-tier municipalities, and regional municipalities in the area, and their population at the 2006 census.

  • Muskoka and Parry Sound Districts are commonly regarded as a transitional region between Southern and Northern Ontario and may be considered part of either Southern Ontario or Northern Ontario in different contexts.

Higher learning

Southern Ontario has always been an international destination for higher learning. It houses numerous internationally acclaimed public universities and colleges amongst its 13 universities and 20 colleges. It is also home to numerous private post-secondary institutions.


Southern Ontario has a vast automotive transportation system involving many freeways. The freeway system in Southern Ontario is referred to as the King's highways system, or the 400 series highways. This indicates that they are at least 4 lanes wide and have interchanges. The major freeways in Southern Ontario are 400, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407 , 409, 410, 416, 417, 420, 427, Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner Expressway, Queen Elizabeth Way, Queensway, Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway, Red Hill Valley Parkway, Conestoga Parkway, and the E. C. Row Expressway. A few other major highways which have not been granted freeway, or expressway status are the Ottawa River Parkway, W.R. Allen, Capital Airport Parkway, Hanlon Parkway, 115, 174, Hwy. 6, Hwy. 7, and Hwy. 8

Highway 401 which runs the entire length of Southern Ontario is North America's widest and busiest freeway. At its widest point the 401 in Torontomarker is 18 lanes wide. It is also one of the busiest freeways in the world. In 2007 highway 401 was renamed the Highway of Heroes in honour of Canadian Forces personnel killed during the War in Afghanistan. [59951] Highway 416 was named Veterans Memorial Highway in 1990 to honor Canadian veterans of all wars.

Freeways in Southern Ontario are digitally monitored by the MTO using the COMPASS-Freeway Traffic Management System

Southern Ontario has some of the busiest land borders in North America including the Ambassador Bridgemarker, Detroit–Windsor Tunnelmarker, Peace Bridgemarker, Rainbow Bridgemarker, Thousand Islands Bridgemarker, Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridgemarker, Lewiston-Queenston Bridgemarker, and the Blue Water Bridgemarker.

The Region has a long history of marine transportation. Hundreds of millions of tonnes of cargo travel along the Great Lakesmarker, and Saint Lawrence Seaway each year. The Welland Canalmarker is a vital part of the Great Lakes Waterway allowing ships to avoid Niagara Fallsmarker. The St. Clair Rivermarker and Detroit River are also well travelled rivers between Lake Huron and Lake Erie in the Windsormarker, Sarniamarker area. Southern Ontario also has thousands of other fresh water lakes and rivers, as well as the Trent-Severn Waterway and Rideau Canalmarker.

Another mode of transportation throughout Southern Ontario is train. The region is serviced mainly by Via Rail. The Greater Toronto area also has a vast commuter train system called the GO Train.

Southern Ontario has several major international airports including the busiest airport in the Country Toronto Pearson International Airportmarker, as well as Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airportmarker, John C.marker Munro Hamilton International Airportmarker, London International Airportmarker, and Region of Waterloo International Airportmarker. Many Southern Ontarians living close to the Michiganmarker or New York Statemarker borders use either Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airportmarker, or Buffalo Niagara International Airportmarker as their local airport.


Southern Ontario has a humid continental climate (Koppen Dfa to Dfb) with four distinct seasons. The average highs in July for the region range between 25°C (77 °F) to 28 °C (82 °F). The average high in January ranges from -6 °C (21 °F) to -1 °C (30 °F). The highest recorded temperature in Southern Ontario was 45 °C (113 °F) and 52 °C (125 °F) with the humidex. During cold snaps, winter temperatures on occasion drop below -30 °C (-22 °F) in central and eastern parts of Southern Ontario, while in the southwest and Niagara region temperatures infrequently dip below -20 °C (-4 °F).

Harsh weather is not uncommon in the region, in the early summer months Southern Ontario is sometimes victim to tornadoes but far more often, straight line wind damage, hail and localized flooding from severe thunderstorms. Although the majority of tornadoes rarely cause excessive damage, the region is on the periphery of Tornado Alley and tornadoes touchdown every few decades causing widespread damage. Southern Ontario also gets hurricane remnants, floods, ice storms, hail, and blizzards.

Small earthquakes occur in the region. The largest recorded in the region was 5.6 on the Richter scale around the Cornwallmarker area.

The fall foliage in the region is second to none. Many tourists visit the area in the autumn months to look at the bright vibrant colours.

Southern Ontario has a very unique climate to the rest of the country. It is the only area of Canada that has Carolinian forest. Many trees, plants, and wildlife in Southern Ontario are not found anywhere else in Canada. Some rare trees to Canada in this region include the tulip tree and the Cucumber tree. The Carolinian forests of Southern Ontario have in large part been destroyed by development sprawl. Very few areas of Carolinian forest remain in this region.

The region has the most fresh water beaches in the Nation. Due to the relatively warm summer months and the white sand the major beaches in the region are visited by millions of tourists every summer. The most popular beaches are Wasaga Beachmarker, Grand Bendmarker, and Sandbanks.


Southern Ontario has a long rich history. It was home to many battleground sites of the War of 1812, a major destination for escaping slaves using the underground railroad, and a major bootlegging area during the prohibition era. (Second home to Al Capone)

Over the years the region has been home to many notable residents including numerous NHL players, actors, musicians, artists, inventors, and other notable people. Here is a short list of notable residents who were born in Southern Ontario.

See also


  • Chapman, L.J. and Putnam, D.F. The Physiography of Southern Ontario. 3rd ed. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 1984. (Ontario Geological Survey. Special volume 2) ISBN 0-7743-9422-6.
Chasing Canada, Ontario eclipses Michigan in auto production.


  1. Craig S. Campbell, "Rust Belt," in The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia, eds. Richard Sisson, Christian Zacher, and Andrew Cayton, Indiana University Press, 2007, p. 78.

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