The Great Lakes have long been a fascination and a favorite for tourists and travelers from around the world. The lakes have something for everyone, from surrounding waterfront attractions to on-the-water adventures and activities. It’s no surprise that the expanse of freshwater lakes is visited and enjoyed by locals and sightseers.

Lake Ontario may be the smallest of the Great Lakes — measuring only 7,340 square miles, but its appeal is just as strong as its four sister lakes for all the reasons mentioned above.

That said, there are likely a few fun facts about Lake Ontario that might surprise you. Here are three things you never knew about Lake Ontario.

Lake Ontario is Home to Thousands of Islands

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People don’t often think of islands and archipelagos when they picture the Great Lakes, but these remote bodies of land are part of the attraction. In fact, the Great Lakes have more islands than you’d think — somewhere around 35,000!

Both inhabited and uninhabited islands (large and small) dot the surface of Lake Ontario between Ontario and New York, but most of them are located on the eastern and north-eastern shores.

More than a thousand people call Lake Ontario’s largest island, Wolfe Island, home, and travelers can visit by ferry from either Canada or the United States.

Once on the island, in addition to traditional Lake Ontario activities, sightseers can:

  • Spot snowy owls
  • Golf at the golf course
  • Ride the bicycle trails
  • Explore a corn maze

Wolfe Island is part of Lake Ontario’s island cluster archipelago known as Thousand Islands. Thousand Islands includes more than 1,800 separate islands, most of which can be visited or viewed relatively easily. These islands range from small rock outcrops and single-occupancy islands to some as large as 40 square miles.

Ontario, Canada was Named After Lake Ontario

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You would expect Lake Ontario to be named after the province of Ontario, Canada and not the other way around, but that’s the case.

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the province of Ontario, Canada likely got its name from Huron and Iroquois words meaning “lake” (“Ontare” “Oniatare”) and “good” or “beautiful” (“io”), with “handsome lake” being another interpretation. This means the word “Ontario” was in reference to the nearby lake, which is how the province got its name — from the lake and not vice versa.

Ontario, Canada is the nation’s most populated territory and is a big tourism draw year-round.  Visitors can hunt, ski, or fish in the winter and enjoy freshwater recreation in the summer.

Fun fact: Lake Ontario is also the namesake for a much more distant landmark. “Ontario Locus” is a lake on one of Saturn’s moons that’s named after Lake Ontario.

Babe Ruth May Have Hit His First Homerun into Lake Ontario

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That’s right. The Great Bambino, legend of baseball, supposedly hit his first home run into the waters of Lake Ontario. Babe Ruth’s first home run can be traced back to Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island in 1914.

Today, Hanlan’s Point is renowned for its nude beach. But Hanlan’s Point of today is much different than the Hanlan’s Point of the early 1900s, which has been called the Coney Island of Canada.

Back then, there was a ballpark right on the water. Home to the Toronto Maple Leafs (the minor league baseball team, not the NHL team), Hanlan’s Point was where, on September 5, 1914, while playing for the Providence Grays, a young George Herman Ruth hit his first home run. The myth is that the ball cleared the right field wall and sank into the waters of Lake Ontario.

There’s debate over whether or not the ball actually made it into the water, whether it was thrown back or whether it was lost. The myth is strong enough to drive tourists and baseball fans to the shores of Hanlan’s Point.

Lake Ontario continues to be a popular tourist draw, whether you believe a bit of baseball history or are island hopping on holiday. There’s plenty to enjoy and learn about — from sites of old shipwrecks to giant goldfish — so plan your trip well and take the time to explore it all!