Visit Georgian Bay – Wilderness

Georgian Bay, the northeast arm of Lake Huron in south-central Ontario, is one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world. Divided from the larger part of the lake by the Niagara Escarpment, and fed from Lake Superior and many rivers, the landscape surrounding this magnificent body of water is drastically different from one end to the other. Etienne Brûlé was the first European to document having discovered the Bay as early as 1610, although the land around it had been occupied by Indigenous tribes long before that. Originally called Lake Manitoulin, it was renamed for King George IV in a survey dated 1819-22.

But Georgian Bay is not just a big lake. It is an incomparable playground that includes the longest freshwater beach in the world, 30,000 islands on the edge of the Canadian Shield, its famous windswept pine trees, plentiful fishing, and endless sunny summer days on the water. No wonder it has been a destination for vacationers and cottagers for over 100 years!

 

To truly experience Georgian Bay, you have to get on the water! The simplest way to do that is to book a sightseeing cruise aboard the Miss Midland 30,000 Island Cruise. This 300-passenger ship takes passengers from Midland Harbour, around Beausoleil Island, through Honey Harbour to Governor Island, and back to Midland. Two and a half hour cruises operate daily from mid-May to mid-October, showcasing the spectacular landscape in summer and fall, and also providing passengers with historical information on Georgian Bay. Some tour dates include lunch, dinner, and/or live entertainment. 

The ship itself is 105ft long, is wheelchair accessible, has a snack bar and a licensed bar. Soak in the sunshine and the breathtaking view from the open air upper deck, or enjoy the heated lower deck on not-so-nice days. Owned by the Dubeau Family since 1980, she has been a landmark in Downtown Midland for years. But the family has an even longer history in the Heart of Georgian Bay, having operated transportation businesses in the area since 1867 when they operated the Penetang Midland Coach Lines with a horse and stagecoach. 

Seats are limited and popular, so it is recommended that passengers reserve tickets in advance by calling the head office or using their online reservation system. Reservations are required for all meal cruises. For those who prefer not to plan ahead, tickets are also available for purchase at the Midland Tours ticket booth located on the center pier at Midland Harbour, one hour prior to cruise departure time. 

Climb on board to experience the sparkling water, windswept pines and rocky grandeur of Georgian Bay, among one of the worlds largest concentrations of islands. 

 

To best experience wilderness, why not stay in under the night sky in the great outdoors? While there are a few private campground options scattered throughout the Heart of Georgian Bay, there is also a National Park and a Provincial Park which offer great camping options May through October. Awenda Provincial Park encompasses 4,900 hectares of forested land, located on the northern point of the peninsula. In addition to regular campsites with and without hydro, they also offer quiet campsites, group camping, and one roofed accommodation option. Explore 31 kms of trails, an interior lake perfect for canoeing, summer interpretive programs, and a beautiful sandy beach. Awenda is open for day-use year-round, whether for birding, cross-country skiing, hiking, cycling or snowshoeing. We recommend hiking the Bluff Trail, a 3.5 km loop trail with spectacular views of Georgian Bay.

 

The cycling trails in Awenda connect outdoor enthusiasts to a network of Cycle Simcoe trails, including the 150 km Simcoe County Loop Trail. Download the trail map for free for information on bike repair stations, cycle-friendly businesses and more. Embark on the fully paved Tay Shore Trail to ride through hamlets like Port McNicoll, Victoria Harbour and Waubaushene. Along the way,  you will find Queen’s Quay British Pub and Restaurant, where you can stop in for an authentic British pub-style meal and a pint. Located right on the water, soak in the sunshine on the patio overlooking a marina and Hog Bay, or take a breather in the dining room. Play a game of pool or darts, catch a game on the big screen, and enjoy one of their many imported and craft beers on tap.

 

On your way back towards town, stop in at Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre to escape, explore and experience 3,000 acres of provincially significant wetlands and federally designated forest. Open year-round, visitors of all ages can take a guided tour or simply explore on their own whether on foot, by bike, canoe, kayak, snowshoe or cross-country ski. Spend endless hours searching for snakes, frogs, birds and other types of wildlife, or visit the Birds of Prey Field for daily presentations and opportunities to engage with hawks, owls, and other raptors. Don’t miss the incredible view of the whole marsh from the top of their observation tower and the majestic trumpeter swans.

 

When exploring the wilderness of the Heart of Georgian Bay, you’ll need the right gear. My GBay Store specializes in all-season apparel for an active lifestyle. Since 1983, this downtown shop has provided locals and tourists with all of the outdoor apparel that they would need to explore the wilderness of the area. Known as “the Tilly store”, it features well known brands like Tilly, Buff and Merrell, as well as many Canadian-made brands. The owner of the shop also publishes blog-style articles on the best outdoorsy spots, like hiking trails, outdoor yoga, and more.

 

The Heart of Georgian Bay offers some of the best freshwater sailing in the world. For those who don’t own a boat, book with Cosmos Yacht Charters for a half-day, full-day, sunset, weekend or week-long getaway onboard a luxury sailboat. Explore the world’s largest freshwater archipelago and all of its breathtaking views from the comfort of your private yacht. Whether you prefer to climb on board and take it from there or sit back and relax while your every need is catered to, they’ve got you covered. 

For a full day trek, venture north to Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Nestled into the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, this National Park encompasses 63 islands, the largest being Beausoleil Island, and offers the outdoor-lover an opportunity to explore the classic Georgian Bay landscape in a variety of ways; overnight campsites, cabins and oTENTtiks, cycling and hiking trails, beaches and more. Learn about protected wildlife species and the historic connection to Beausoleil First Nation. And don’t forget to pack water for your excursion. Bug spray is recommended.

 

If camping is a little too “wild” for you, a great alternative is Rawley Resort, Marina & Spa. Conveniently located just off Highway 400, this boutique resort it is a great starting point for all your adventures. Amenities include contemporary accommodation options, award-winning restaurant, and a luxurious spa. Boaters can access the resort by water by docking at their 16-slip marina adjacent to Lock 45 of the Trent-Severn Waterway. This resort is a secret escape. No lineups, no stress, no worries – just intimacy, serenity and relaxation.

For more information on all the great things to do in the Heart of Georgian Bay, visit www.gbay.ca