Rocks and Water: 7 of the Best Places to Climb and Swim in Ontario

A landscape view of the coast of Lake Superior. Evergreen trees on light coloured rock are in the foreground, with the blue-green water in the background. In this distance Bathtub Island can be seen. Text overtop of the photo says: "Geoscience Today. Rocks and Water: 8 of the best places to climb and swim in Ontario"

Want to enjoy the last few weeks of summer? Check out these gorgeous locations around Ontario for scenic swims, natural rock slides, turquoise water, limestone cliffs, old quarries, and more! Take our fun quiz to see where you should go to enjoy the natural landscape this summer.

A flowchart with questions that when answered lead to different places to swim in Ontario

Learn a bit more about each of the locations:

St. Mary’s Quarry:

​​St. Mary’s Quarry is a great place to swim on a hot day, but if you’re looking for more of an adventure, this old quarry also has cliff jumping, stand up paddle boarding, a volleyball court, and a massive waterpark. St. Mary’s was a limestone Quarry that closed in 1920 and has since been converted to an adventurous swimming hole.

Elora Quarry, Elora:

This old limestone quarry is surrounded by impressive cliffs with a large sandy beach and turquoise water. Although it can get pretty busy here on weekends, there’s a rock outcrop you can swim to if you’re having trouble finding a spot to sunbathe. While you’re in Elora, check out the nearby Elora Gorge, formed from the same limestone and dolomite that makes up the quarry. If you look closely at the cliffs, you might see some fossils hidden in the sedimentary rocks! These fossils are 350-450 million years old, from a time when Ontario was covered in a warm shallow sea.

A panorama photo of the Elora Quarry. In the foreground there is a cliff with limestone rocks, then blue water, and on the opposite shore a beach with many people sitting and swimming.
Elora Quarry. Photo reproduced with permission from the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.
Large limestone cliffs surrounding blue water at the Elora Quarry
Elora Quarry. Photo reproduced with permission from the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.

Lake Kelso, Kelso Conservation Area:

Lake Kelso is actually a manmade lake built for flood control of Sixteen Mile Creek. The calm and clear water makes it the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Relax on the sandy beach or go for a walk along the boardwalk. If you don’t have your own boat, Kelso Conservation area also rents canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and paddle boats. 

Paradise Lagoon, near Wanapitei Provincial Park:

Paradise Lagoon is a bit of a hike to get to, but the gorgeous blue water makes it so worth it. The lagoon is just outside of Wanapitei Provincial Park in Sudbury. The light blue water is surrounded by impressive quartzite and granite cliffs. The red quartzite that makes up this area as well as nearby Killarney Provincial Park creates a beautiful contrast with the emerald evergreen forest.

White water flows over red rocks in a waterfall with many different sections. The water flows into a dark pool and there is a green forest in the background.
Photo used with permission from Back Roads Bill Steer. View the original here.
A man stands in the distance on top of a large red and grey rock outcrop. Along the bottom of the outcrop a waterfall flows over the rocks and into a pool at the bottom. There is an evergreen forest in the background.
Photo used with permission from Back Roads Bill Steer. View the original here.

Algonquin High Falls, Algonquin Provincial Park:

Algonquin Provincial Park boasts many natural wonders, but one of my personal favourites is the natural water slide on the Barren River. Here you can slide down the smooth rocks under a foot or so of water into the swimming hole at the bottom. These granite rocks have been polished smooth by the continuous flow of water over time. To get to the falls you have to hike the High Falls Trail 4.5km to the chute. If you want to extend your stay, Algonquin Provincial Park has camping, canoeing, backpacking, hiking, and more. 

Bathtub Island, Lake Superior Provincial Park:

Have you ever seen a natural infinity pool? Lake Superior Provincial Park has one! This pool on Bathtub island looks like something you’d see in the tropics. To get there you can walk a short distance from Highway 17, or hike the Coastal Trail to the shore. After that you have to wade through the water (or take a small boat) to the island to find the natural pool in the rocks. The water is shallow and warmed by the sun, making it the perfect place to relax for an afternoon. If you want to extend your stay, Lake Superior Provincial Park has great campsites you can book.

A landscape view of the coast of Lake Superior. Evergreen trees on light coloured rock are in the foreground, with the blue-green water in the background. In this distance Bathtub Island can be seen.
Bathtub Island in the distance. Photo © George D Bailey. View the original here.
A shallow pool over light-coloured rock. Deeper blue water is past the rocks in the background.
Bathtub Island. Photo © George D Bailey. View the original here.

Crooked Slide Park:

A wooden structure with water flowing over the top creating a waterfall

The biggest draw to Crooked Slide Park is the reconstruction of an original log chute used by loggers in the early 1900s! Take a step back into Canadian History as you learn about logging and the use of log chutes to avoid log jams. Although a bit remote, the small waterfall and shallow water makes for a picturesque scene that is well worth the drive.


Woman smiling at the camera wearing a light blue sweater and short blonde hair

Veronica Klassen is the Manager of the Foundation’s blog – Beneath Your Feet: A Geoscience Blog. She studied Arts and Science at McMaster University with a minor in Earth Science and has a masters in Science Communication from Laurentian University. She is passionate about making science accessible and engaging to the public.

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