Where to Cross the Border into the USA from Ontario

Thinking of hopping across the border for shopping, dining, or sightseeing? Crossing the border can be a breeze, especially with the right intel. But with so many options, choosing where to cross the border into the USA from Ontario can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. I’ve crossed dozens of times, and I’ve got the 411 for you on where the best crossings are.

The Rainbow Bridge
Photo credit: Depositphotos

So, you’re planning a trip south of the border from Ontario into the good ol’ USA? Great choice! Whether it’s for a weekend getaway, a road trip adventure, or just to satisfy that craving for some American cuisine, crossing the border can be an exciting experience. But before you rev up that engine or pack your bags, let’s talk about the best places to make that crossing.

Niagara Falls or Bust? The Buzzing Border Crossings

Let’s start with the crown jewel: Niagara Falls. If you’re planning a weekend getaway to witness the majestic falls, you have two main options:

The Rainbow Bridge (Niagara Falls, Ontario – Niagara Falls, New York)

The Rainbow Bridge offers stunning views of the falls while whisking you between the two countries. It’s a popular choice for pedestrians, with dedicated walkways and customs areas. Pro tip: Be prepared for crowds, especially during peak season. There are also often fewer lanes open so it can be slow.

The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (Niagara Falls, Ontario – Niagara Falls, New York)

The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge
Photo credit: Depositphotos

The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge caters specifically to NEXUS, FAST, or SENTRI pass holders. These programs expedite border crossings, making it ideal if you’re a frequent traveler or crave a quicker experience.
Pro tip: If you’re going to be crossing often, apply for a NEXUS card. There’s hardly ever any wait for NEXUS pass holders at any crossing.

Crossing by Car: Your Gateway to Great Lakes Adventures

Heading out on a road trip with your car packed? Here are some fantastic options for you:

The Peace Bridge (Fort Erie, Ontario – Buffalo, New York)

Buffalo border crossing
Photo credit: Jenn Allen

Located in Fort Erie, Ontario, the Peace Bridge connects directly to Buffalo, New York. It’s a popular choice for travelers heading to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport or those looking to explore all that Buffalo has to offer.

The Queenston Lewiston Bridge (Queenston, Ontario – Lewiston, New York)

The Queenston Lewiston Bridge spans the Niagara River Gorge and connects Queenston, Ontario, to Lewiston, New York. It’s known for its relatively short wait times, making it a convenient choice for commuters and travelers alike.

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel (Windsor, Ontario – Detroit, Michigan)

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel
Photo credit: Depositphotos

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is a historic tunnel, nicknamed “The Friendly Passage,” and is a popular choice for those venturing into Michigan. The wait times can vary, so check online resources for live updates before you head out.

The Ambassador Bridge (Windsor, Ontario – Detroit, Michigan)

For breathtaking views of the Detroit skyline, consider the Ambassador Bridge. It’s another major passage for vehicles, so be prepared for potential delays, especially during peak hours.

The Blue Water Bridge (Sarnia, Ontario – Port Huron, Michigan)

The Blue Water Bridge offers a scenic crossing over the St. Clair River, connecting Ontario to Michigan’s “Thumb” region. It’s often a less congested option compared to the Detroit crossings.

The Thousand Islands Bridge (Thousand Islands, Ontario – Clayton, New York)

The Thousand Islands Bridge takes you into the heart of the Thousand Islands National Park, a beautiful archipelago on the US-Canada border. It’s a perfect choice for nature lovers and those exploring upstate New York.

Beyond the Bridges: Ferries and More Unusual Crossings

Wolfe Island Ferry
Photo credit: Depositphotos

For a unique border-crossing experience, consider these options:


Several ferry services operate across the Great Lakes, connecting Ontario to various US ports. For instance, the Wolfe Island Ferry takes you from Cape Vincent, New York, to Wolfe Island in Ontario, offering a relaxing cruise with beautiful scenery.

Unstaffed crossings

Believe it or not, there are a few unmanned crossings along the Ontario-US border, primarily for local traffic. However, these crossings have limitations on what you can bring across and may require advanced registration. It’s best to check with Canadian and US border authorities for the specifics.

Making Your Choice: Consider These Factors

Now that you have a taste of the border crossing options, here are some key factors to consider when making your decision:


Where in the US are you headed? Choosing a crossing point closer to your final destination can save you time on the road.

Mode of travel

Are you traveling by car, foot, bike, or using a ferry? Some crossings have restrictions on certain modes of transportation.

Wait times

Nobody likes waiting in line. Check border crossing websites or apps for live updates on wait times at different crossings.

Travel documents

Ensure you have all the necessary travel documents, including passports, visas (if needed), and proof of COVID-19 vaccination (depending on current US entry requirements).

Bonus Tip: Be Prepared for Customs

Whether you’re crossing by car, ferry, or foot, be prepared for customs checks. Declare all items you’re bringing across the border truthfully to avoid delays. Here are some resources from both Canadian and US Customs that can help you prepare:

Wrapping Up

With this guide and a little preparation, crossing the border from Ontario to the US will be a smooth and exciting start to your American adventure. So, pack your bags, grab your passport (and maybe some snacks for the journey!), and get ready to explore all the amazing things the USA has to offer.

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