Make Georgian Bay your playground

Written by: Lorraine Sommerfeld

If you’re exploring the Georgian Bay area, you’re going to keep coming back to the rock.

You can’t avoid it, and you’d be remiss if you did. Georgian Bay, on the eastern edge of Lake Huron, is a nesting doll of geographical, historical, and cultural revelations. But whether you’re a thrill seeker looking to immerse yourself in a world of sports and adventure, or someone looking to pass through a pristine environment and leave nothing in your wake, you will never be far from the rock.

The Bay itself is the world’s largest freshwater archipelagos. There are over 30,000 islands throughout the region, offering everything from tiny uninhabited outcroppings to well documented landscapes named for, and steeped in, the ancient lore of the native people who first settled the region.

Take a week – and the family – and do the loop. Explore from home first with your best base for the area,  the Georgian Bay Coastal Route website devoted to the entire area.   Start in Parry Sound, and behold a breathtaking overview of what you just can’t see from the ground. Georgian Bay Airways will take you up 300 metres over the Bay in a Cessna 180. Cottages – from modest to extravagant – dot the area (though much is designated protected land), but viewing them as they perch on some of the oldest rock in the world lends perspective.

From high overhead to deep underground, head to Sudbury, and Dynamic Earth.  Live the world of the early miners, plunged deep into that rock that has provided the world with so much of its nickel. You’ll don a hardhat and wend your way through chilly mining passages, ducking through early timber archways and exploring the dangerous, backbreaking work performed by these men, and often children. Literally enter each new era, and watch the transformation that has taken place beneath our feet for nearly a hundred and fifty years.

Over at Science North, get comfortable in the state of the art Planetarium. Let the world of weather and astronomy surround you, and watch the kids get excited learning extraordinary things about our planet. Guides at both locations, from summer students to volunteer local experts, are on hand to answer any questions you might have.

Exiting Sudbury, it is difficult to view the highway’s towering rock faces the same way. A new appreciation for the evident copper that rusts the rocks sets in and the striations that reveal the meteoric labour that produced the region are impossible to ignore.

Continue your way north around Georgian Bay towards Manitoulin Island. You’ll be driving on some of the best car and motorcycle routes around, perfectly cambered roadways snaking around beautiful water views, and all of it still ensconced in that undaunted, eternal rock.

In Kagawong, make time for the Bridal Veil Falls, an easily accessible view of the Kagawong River as it plunges over its limestone threshold to join the North Channel heading to Lake Huron.

At Little Current, you’ll meet the famous swing bridge.  On the hour during high season, the bridge swings away from the road so boat traffic can pass through the North Channel. In fifteen minutes, it is restored to its original position. A swing bridge is such a simple yet beautiful structure; plan your travels to see it in operation.

Just outside Little Current, break out of the car for some of Ontario’s best hiking at the Cup and Saucer Trail. Panoramic views of the region as you crest the Niagara Escarpment, kilometres of marked trails for all levels of hikers. Bring your camera; it’s more stunning displays of that famous rock.

It’s the locals who will give you the best directions, in all forms. Source out the Bed and Breakfasts that are the mainstay of visitors. At The Lighthouse B&B on the waterfront in Gore Bay, owners Bob and Joyce Lamb provide modern, beautiful accommodations and knowledge of local history steeped in pride: Joyce was born on the Island. Get Bob to make you a map of wherever you’re headed; you’ll never go wrong.

No road trip is complete without a ferry. The famous Chi-Cheemaun Ferry connects South Baymouth on Manitoulin to Tobermory. Line up an hour ahead,  walk around South Bay to grab some lunch, then enjoy the two hour crossing either inside, or at the railing.

Tobermory’s charm is centred on its harbour. Be hypnotically pulled to the glass bottom boats that will take you over the historic shipwrecks entombed beneath Georgian Bay’s clear waters. The Blue Heron Company gives you a choice: sunset cruises, glass bottom boats, or jet boats out to Flowerpot Island. Famed for the stacked rock outcroppings (find the famous face) that resemble giant flowerpots, the island – accessible only by boat – welcomes hikers or campers.

Leaving Tobermory, take the express route, or amble through the countryside. When you reach the Blue Mountains, you’ll discover a year round playground with some of Ontario’s best skiing, hotels, shops, hiking and golf. Feeling adventurous? Do not miss the Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, for an unforgettable walk around the treetops on swinging platforms, and a delirious exit from the forest on a zipline. Discover the silent, eerie, yet stunning natural rock caves, once underwater, that formed fortresses for the Petuns, natives to the area who with the Hurons once formed the largest Nation in North America.

The only place you might leave the rock behind? The world’s largest freshwater shoreline, in beautiful Wasaga Beach. The whole family can try stand-up paddleboarding with Eagle Adventure Experiences, who will supply the equipment and the know-how. You can even rent the equipment to keep playing as you enjoy the shallow waters and the 14 kilometres of gorgeous white sand.

Tips for Travellers:

Links are provided for pricing and hours, but please call ahead to confirm.

Forget your SatNav. Make sure you’re equipped with old fashioned maps. If you’ve come to rely on your navigation system in more urban areas, you’re going to find it sorely tested it in the land of water and islands.

The Georgian Bay region is home to some of Ontario’s beautiful Provincial and National Parks, including Oastler Lake, Killbear, Killarney, Windy Lake, Fairbank, Bruce Peninsula, Wasaga Beach, Craigleith and Awenda. Check ahead for camping facilities and details.

 

Si vous explorez la région de la baie Georgienne, vous allez sans cesse revenir au rocher.

Impossible de l’éviter, et vous manqueriez à votre devoir si tel était le cas. La baie Georgienne, situé sur la côte est du lac Huron, est une poupée gigogne qui emboîte maintes révélations géographiques, historiques et culturelles. Que vous soyez amateur des sensations fortes qui veux plonger dans le monde des sports ou de l’aventure ou quelqu’un qui cherche à fouler un environnement vierge sans laisser de traces, vous ne serez jamais bien loin du rocher.

En soi, la baie représente le plus important archipel d’eau douce au monde. La région compte plus de 30 000 îles qui offrent de tout, des minuscules affleurements rocheux inhabités aux paysages bien documentés tirant leur nom des traditions anciennes des peuples autochtones, premiers à s’établir dans la région.

Prenez la semaine – et la famille – pour faire le circuit. Explorez de la maison d’abord à partir de la meilleure base régionale : le site Web de la route côtière de la baie Georgienne consacré à la région entière. Débutez à Parry Sound pour contempler une vue époustouflante à partir d’une perspective impossible à capter au sol. Georgian Bay Airways vous fera grimper jusqu’à 300 mètres au-dessus de la baie à bord d’un Cessna 180. Les chalets – tant modestes qu’extravagants – parsèment la région (quoiqu’une grande superficie soit désignée comme zone protégée), mais les contempler perchés sur les rochers comptant parmi les plus anciens au monde vous procure un point de vue tout à fait unique.

Passant des hauteurs aux profondeurs, mettez le cap sur Sudbury, et Terre dynamique. Découvrez le monde des premiers miniers, plongés au cœur du roc qui a fourni au monde de vastes quantités de nickel. Mettez votre casque de sécurité pour vous frayer un passage dans les tunnels miniers plutôt frisquets, baissez la tête pour éviter les anciennes arcades de bois et explorez les travaux dangereux et éreintants qu’accomplissaient ces hommes, et souvent les enfants. Passez littéralement d’une époque à l’autre pour constater la transformation qui s’est réalisée sous nos pieds sur une période d’environ cent cinquante ans.

À Science Nord, assoyez-vous confortablement dans le Planétarium à la fine pointe de la technologie. Laissez-vous envelopper par l’univers météorologique et astronomique, et observez l’enthousiasme des enfants lorsqu’ils apprennent des faits extraordinaires sur notre planète. Les guides aux deux endroits, des étudiants d’été aux experts bénévoles locaux, sont sur place pour répondre à toutes vos questions.

En quittant Sudbury, il est difficile de voir les imposantes faces rocheuses du même œil. On comprend beaucoup mieux le cuivre évident qui forme de la rouille sur les rochers, et il est impossible d’ignorer les stries qui montrent le labeur des météorites ayant façonné la région.

Poursuivez votre chemin autour de la baie Georgienne vers le nord en direction de l’île Manitoulin. Vous roulerez sur les meilleurs trajets en auto ou en moto, car les routes parfaitement cambrées serpentent entre les magnifiques vues sur l’eau, le tout solidement ancré dans ce rocher inébranlable et éternel.

À Kagawong, prenez le temps de visiter les chutes Bridal Veil, pour contempler le panorama facilement accessible de la rivière Kagawong qui se jette en bas du seuil calcaire pour rejoindre le chenal North et ensuite le lac Huron.

À Little Current, vous rencontrerez le célèbre pont tournant. À toutes les heures pendant la haute saison, le pont s’éloigne de la route pour laissez passer les bateaux qui naviguent le chenal North. Quinze minutes plus tard, le pont reprend sa position originale. Un pont tournant est une structure à la fois simple et magnifique; planifiez votre trajet pour en voir le fonctionnement.

Un peu à l’écart de Little Current, quittez l’auto pour profiter d’un des meilleurs lieux de randonnée en Ontario au sentier Cup and Saucer. Vous serez ébloui par les vues panoramiques de la région au sommet de l’escarpement du Niagara, et par les nombreux kilomètres de sentiers balisés pour les randonneurs de tous les niveaux. Apportez votre appareil photo; vous trouverez d’autres représentations incroyables du rocher célèbre.

Les gens de la place vous donneront les meilleures directives, de toutes formes. Découvrez les gîtes touristiques, hébergement privilégié des visiteurs. Bob and Joyce Lamb, propriétaires du Lighthouse B&B situé au bord de l’eau à la baie Gore, offrent un hébergement moderne de toute beauté et partagent leur connaissance de l’histoire locale imprégnée de fierté : Joyce est d’ailleurs native de l’île. Demandez à Bob de vous tracer une carte peu importe l’endroit où vous comptez vous rendre; vous ne risquez pas de vous tromper.

Aucune escapade en auto ne serait complète sans monter à bord d’un traversier. Le célèbre Chi-Cheemaun relie South Baymouth sur Manitoulin à Tobermory. Faites la queue une heure à l’avance, promenez-vous dans South Bay pour prendre le dîner, puis profitez de la traversée de deux heures à l’intérieur ou appuyé sur la rambarde.

Le charme de Tobermory tourne autour du havre. Laissez-vous séduire par les bateaux à fond de verre qui vous feront visiter les épaves reposant au fond des eaux limpides de la baie Georgienne. L’entreprise Blue Heron Company vous donne le choix : croisières au coucher du soleil, bateaux au fond de verre ou hydrojets jusqu’à l’île Flowerpot. Connue pour les affleurements rocheux empilés (trouvez le célèbre visage) qui ressemble à d’énormes pots de fleurs, l’île – accessible en bateau seulement – accueille les amateurs de camping et de la randonnée.

En quittant Tobermory, prenez la route express ou dirigez-vous tranquillement par les routes de campagne. Une fois à Blue Mountains, vous découvrirez un terrain de jeu ouvert à l’année longue qui renferme les meilleures pistes de ski en Ontario, des hôtels, des magasins, le golf et la randonnée. Si vous vous sentez l’âme aventureuse ne manquez pas les Scenic Caves Nature Adventures où vous ferez une promenade inoubliable à la cime des arbres sur des plateformes suspendues et une sortie de la forêt grâce à une descente épatante en tyrolienne. Découvrez les grottes naturelles, jadis submergées, silencieuses, aussi inquiétantes qu’impressionnantes, qui ont formé les forteresses des Pétuns, autochtones représentant autrefois, avec les Hurons, la plus importante nation en Amérique du Nord.

Le seul endroit où vous pourriez mettre le rocher de côté? La plus longue plage d’eau douce au monde, situé dans la belle ville de Wasaga Beach. Toute la famille peut essayer la planche à rame avec Eagle Adventure Experiences, entreprise qui vous fournira les équipements et le savoir-faire. Vous pouvez même louer les équipements pour continuer à jouer pendant que vous profitez des eaux peu profondes et du beau sable blanc qui s’étend sur quatorze kilomètres.

Conseils pour les voyageurs :

Les liens sont fournis pour vous permettre de vérifier les prix et les heures d’ouverture. Veuillez téléphoner au préalable pour confirmer.

Oubliez votre système de navigation par satellite. Procurez-vous de bonnes vieilles cartes routières. Si vous avez pris l’habitude de vous fier au système de navigation system en milieu urbain, vous serez mis à rude épreuve au pays des îles et des plans d’eau.

La baie Georgienne héberge les parcs provinciaux et nationaux qui comptent parmi les plus beaux de l’Ontario, y compris Oastler Lake, Killbear, Killarney, Windy Lake, Fairbank, péninsule de Bruce, Wasaga Beach, Craigleith et Awenda. Vérifiez les détails et les installations de camping à l’avance.

 

Top Ten Cool Activities for Teens visiting Georgian Bay

Written by: Kate Pocock

Looking for something interesting to do with your teenagers this summer around Georgian Bay? Tweens and teens from 12 to 17 may be looking for more exotic pursuits than screen time and ‘hanging’ with friends. With this Top Ten list of action-packed thrills, cool historic sites, and unique festivals, teenage visitors will definitely have something to tweet abut and text to their friends back home—and maybe email to their grandparents too. For lasting vacation memories, and lots of fun too, here are some ideas to please both teens, and the grownups accompanying them!

THE THRILL OF ACTION

Scenic Flights from Parry Sound

Hear the roar of a Cessna-80 seaplane as it revs up the props and takes you up and away on a sightseeing flight. For 10 years now, Georgian Bay Airways has been treating families to a bird’s-eye view. Each legendary plane takes two or three passengers (depending on weight) on a roster of tours. See the coast, fly over cottage country, or land on Wreck Island to snorkel amidst the ruins of a ship and splash in the lake. Or do like celebrities for a “Fly & Dine” flight to Henry’s Fish Restaurant for famously delicious fish and chips. Introduction flights start at $73 per person for 15 minutes. It seems expensive but if you don’t own a boat, it’s one unique way to travel the Bay!

Horseback Riding on Manitoulin Island

To see natural beauty up-close, travel on the back of a horse. Kyla Jansen, who was given a horse as a Christmas gift at the age of 12, has recently been lauded as one of the best Gold-Level horse trainers in the world. Today, she leads trail rides from her Honora Bay Riding Stable for all levels, from beginners on quiet horses to expert riders on more active steeds. “My goal is happy horses,” she says. And happy riders too! Set out through cedar bush, across streams and rivers and up onto the escarpment for splendid views of the shoreline. For true adventure, sign up for an overnight tenting experience that includes meals and pitched tent. Pony rides from $15, trail rides from $40; Overnight Cowboys Adventure, $270.

Location: Little Current

Sea Kayaking from Parry Sound

There are thousands of reasons to set out in a sea kayak with White Squall Kayaking, namely 30,000 islands of white pines and glacier smooth granite amongst thousands of litres of sparkling fresh water. Not to mention their experienced instructors who have guided thousands of young paddlers in one ‘bzillion’ canoes and kayaks during 23 years of exploring beautiful Georgian Bay. Kayaking trips include Family Fun Clinics (no experience necessary, just a grin) and Family Island Daytrips (paddling, swimming at your own pace). Prices range from $40 to $60 for teens 14 and under, and from $65 to $120 for older teens and adults. A full day on deep blue water with a stop for picnic lunch, includes kayak, instruction, guide and water-soaking fun.

Swimming, Snorkelling and Hiking, Bruce Peninsula National Park

Your teens may need a little encouragement to hike the 30 minutes from the Head-of-Trails parking lot to Indian Head Cove and the Grotto, a secluded swimming spot along the Bruce Trail. Along the way, look for wildlife like the Massassauga rattler that we spotted sunning one day. But once there, they will undoubtedly saunter down the rocky path and dive into the clear, cool water to explore the beautiful sea cave carved into the rocks. On a nice summer day, the sun shines through the holes in the rock to create blue-green ‘diamonds’ dancing on the water inside. Another upside: no sand in your sandwiches as you picnic afterwards on the flat rocky ledge.

Location: Bruce Peninsula National Park

www.pc.gc.ca

Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, Collingwood

Grab your teen tree huggers and set out for the treetops at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures. Walk the swaying 300-metre-high suspension bridge (as tall as the Eiffel Tower) over one of the highest points of the Niagara Escarpment. Then, in the adjacent forest, channel your inner Tarzan to trek over more than a dozen bridges suspended in treetops. Your forest trek ends with a ladder descent or an exhilarating 300-metre zip swing back to earth. Coming this summer is the Thunderbird Twin Zip, a thrilling half-mile ride over the escarpment and valley below. True energy types can complete their day with the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster at Blue Mountain, downhill mountain biking at Blue Mountain Bike Park and perhaps for your teen daughter, a visit to Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain to soothe tired muscles. Guys may want to test the waters at Plunge! Aquatic Centre in Blue Mountain Village.

Comfort in the Bush, Killarney Mountain Lodge, Killarney

If you’re going to take your teens away from their screens and into the rugged bush, why not splurge for a few days with brilliant landscapes that inspired the Group of Seven painters, and enough activities to lull them to sleep naturally? A three-day adventure package at Killarney Mountain Lodge Wilderness Resort will have them swimming in the pool and Killarney Bay, learning to kayak, spotting deer, moose and blue herons with a guide, cruising a fjord lined with dazzling white cliffs and hiking to the top of Silver Peak. Some claim it’s the best view in the province. Celebrating their 50th year of introducing city folk to wilderness, the East family knows how to plan a grand vacation. Three-day adventure packages from $590 per person include all meals and activities.

COOL HISTORIC SITES

Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, Midland

History comes alive in a fascinating way at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, a reconstructed 17th-century mission for the Huron Wendat people. Youngsters can step inside a smoky wigwam, authentic longhouse or historic chapel built by the French Jesuits. Learn to make a First Nations bracelet, don 17th-century clothing or paddle a canoe through bull rushes in the adjacent Wye Marsh. In September, the Georgian Bay Native Friendship Centre Pow Wow showcases drumming, dancing and delicious food. At nearby Discovery Harbour, a reconstructed 19th-century British Navy base in Penetanguishene Bay, teens can banter with shipwrights and sailors, write with a quill pen, play 19th-century kids’ games, learn to tie knots and visit replica naval vessels. The officers may tell them to buck up (as you might want to do at times), but it’s all in good fun.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, Wasaga Beach

After your teens race each other along the world’s longest freshwater sand strip (about 14-km long) at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, and plunge into the cool waters of Georgian Bay, present them with some historical excitement. From August 17 to 19 (and during the next two summers), hundreds of actors will re-enact the famous battle fought here in Wasaga Under Siege: A War of 1812 Experience. Also on show is the new Visitor Centre, built to resemble the sails of a Great Lakes tall ship. See the charred remains of the H.M.S. Nancy; climb the historic lighthouse. Every Thursday summer evening, ‘spirits’ come alive to tell the tales of long ago.

www.OntarioParks.com

FUN FAMILY FESTIVALS 

Wikwemikong Annual Cultural Festival, Manitoulin Island

No wonder Anishinabek peoples call Manitoulin “Island of the Great Spirit,” a natural haven truly blessed. During the first weekend of August, experience Wikwemikong reserve’s annual Cultural Festival and Powwow, Canada’s longest running competition powwow. From the Grand Entry to the closing ceremonies, the dancing and drumming attract thousands of spectators. Feast on native foods, wander the arts and crafts booths, introduce your teens to native traditions like the hoop dance or reverence of the eagle feather. You can even partake in the intertribal dances. Dance to the rhythm of the drum, then say “Meegwetch,” or “Thank you!” $10 daily admission, 12 and up; $20 full weekend pass.

www.Wikwemikongheritage.org

Collingwood Elvis Festival, Collingwood

Get out the white suits, gold lamé jackets and satiny hair cream to ‘get all shook up’ at this world-class Collingwood Elvis Festival. Some of the events need tickets, but your teens will love the free events such as Classic Car Parade with gleaming Cadillacs, the jiving music and dressed-up ‘Elvises’ strolling the streets from around the world—from Brazil, Japan, Australia, Scotland and elsewhere. Watch the Elvis tribute artists, judge the singers, wave your pom poms on the new parade route, ride the Ferris wheel at the Family Carnival and pick out the best chrome wings on a shiny 50s cruiser. It’s fun for all ages. Note: pets do get all shook up from the Elvis action so best to leave them at home.

visitgeorgianbay.com