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
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.
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.
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.