Southwestern Ontario is the geographic area of Ontario extending from the Bruce Peninsula and Lake Huron on the north, the Lake Huron shoreline on the west, the Lake Erie shoreline on the south, and neighbouring the Toronto-Hamilton-Niagara Golden Horseshoe region on the east. Its principal population centres are on the '401 corridor' cities - Windsor and Chatham-Kent, London and St Thomas, Woodstock and Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph, with Sarnia, the western terminus of highway 402; Brantford, on highway 403, and Stratford. Other significant centres are Collingwood and Owen Sound, Goderich, Tillsonburg and Simcoe.
The Rural North
- Bruce County - The wild north. The dramatic Bruce Peninsula with the region'st best hiking
- Grey County - Billy Bishop and Tommy Thompson's home country, mountains, escarpments, waterfalls, skiing
- Dufferin County
- Waterloo Region
- Wellington County - pretty historic towns of Elora, Fergus and Guelph, escarpment landscapes, and ruins of old mills
- Perth County - Stratford theatre festival, history town of St. Mary's
London Between the Lakes
- Huron County - gorgeous beaches, historic lighthouses, Blyth theatre festival
- Middlesex County
- Elgin County
Around Six Nations
Michigan Border Area
- Owen Sound
Visiting "all" of southwestern Ontario is a bit of an insane task: it occupies an area of about 37,000km^2, roughly the size of Belgium or Switzerland, but with a population of only about 2.5 million, which is better compared to Lesotho or Qatar. Its largest city is London, with a population of about 390,000, while its largest urban area is the Waterloo region, with a population of about 540,000.
Traditionally inhabited and exchanged by a variety of aboriginal First Nations, it was later settled by the French, colonized by the English, populated by American "United Empire Loyalists", and urbanized by every wave of immigrants ever to come to Canada. It's Canada's most southern reach, and its manufacturing heartland, pinned between two massive freshwater lakes, and bordering two American industrial giants. In recent history a relatively self-sufficient manufacturing and transportation hub, in the 21st century, the sprawling mega-city of Toronto is increasingly affecting the economies and population dynamics at the furthest reaches of southwestern Ontario.
Ontario's changing economy has struck southwestern Ontario hard. Industrial pollution and regulation, the dissolution of the tobacco industry, followed by the corrosion of the manufacturing sector, has eviscerated rural areas and left cities like Windsor and London with some of Canada's highest unemployment levels. Others, like Waterloo and Guelph, having turned to technology and the arts, emerged unscathed and even vibrant.
Visitors to southwestern Ontario often come as an escape from the urban crush of Toronto and Detroit, but stay for its long beaches, clean parks, efficient highways, interesting towns, and economic opportunities.
London has the only airport in the area with regularly scheduled services to more than one destination, generally flying to Toronto and cities in Western Canada. Waterloo Region Airport flies nonstop to Calgary, while Windsor and Sarnia have services to Toronto. Residents often use Detroit, Buffalo, or Toronto airports for long-haul flights. All of these airports and a few others are regularly affected by route changes, new route developments, and the emergence and loss of small regional airlines.
Southwestern Ontario has just three major controlled-access highways. Highway 401, sometimes claimed to be the world's busiest, begins in Windsor and bisects southwestern Ontario on its way to Toronto and onwards to the Quebec border. The other major highways are the 402, which begins at the Sarnia-Port Huron border and connects to the 401 in London, and the 403, which begins in Woodstock and proceeds through Brantford on its way to Hamilton and Toronto.
By public transport
- Via Rail, Canada's national passenger railway, serves the region on the Windsor-London-Toronto route, and the Sarnia-London-Toronto route.
- Greyhound services to/from Detroit generally stop in Windsor and London on their way to Toronto. Local services usually have Windsor, London, Kitchener, or Toronto as their hubs. Smaller bus companies serve many other routes.
- GO Transit, Toronto's commuter rail service, has a few lines that reach into southwestern Ontario, with an assortment of services terminating in Orangeville, Guelph, Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, or Brantford on their way to/from Toronto and its suburbs.
- Windsor-Quebec corridor
- Windsor-Niagara and southern Ontario are the final stop on the Underground Railroad for those escaping slavery in the United States.
- Point Pelee National Park, 50 km (30 miles) south-east of Windsor, one of Canada's smallest national parks, attracts approximately 300,000 visitors each year.