Best of the Bay: A Six-Pack of Destinations for Exploring Georgian Bay

Georgian Bay - Beausoleil

By Jennifer Harker

Georgian Bay: Just the words evoke ethereal images, stirring something special in the hearts and minds of all boaters whether you explore silently by kayak, traverse under taut sails or power through her more than 30,000 Islands. 

This vast body of water is technically part of Lake Huron, but is often referred to as the sixth Great Lake for its sheer size and diversity of destinations. It’s a lake of legends, lost ships, forgotten coves, iconic windswept pines, artistic inspiration, rich history and endless islands each packing plenty of personality all their own.

Where to start? Good question. Boaters could spend a lifetime travelling the bay and never know all of its nooks and crannies; never stay in the same spot twice and still not see it all. 

Covering approximately 15,000 square kilometres – give or take several hundred depending on constantly fluctuating water levels – Georgian Bay is decidedly different depending on your mood. And that’s the beauty of the bay. It really can be all things to all people.

Long time boaters will never really reveal their secret spot and who can blame them? No one wants to discover their dream destination packed with people when they glide in to their extraordinary escape from the everyday. With that in mind here’s a six-pack of suggestions that are hardly secret but still satisfy a variety of needs. 


Georgian Bay - Stockney Centre

Best day trip  

Entertaining a boatload of friends and family and not keen on rubbing shoulders all day long in a confined space? Your best bet for a day trip destination offers clear shallow water, a solid and secure anchorage, a beautiful beach for walking and room to move. The answer to your day’s dilemma could be Giant’s Tomb.

No need to pack along extra toys, just organize a scavenger hunt on the beach (who can find 10 different coloured pebbles, two shells and a piece of driftwood that looks like an animal) or tic tac toe games in the sand. The shallows that extend hundreds of metres off shore are also the perfect place to fling a Frisbee, play tackle water football or use a skip ball – ours was purchased on a trip to Mexico when the ice thickly covered our bays and we had a hankering for sun, sand and open water. The small soft ball splashes across the water and has provided hours of fun here at home.

Easily accessible by personal watercraft, small boat and large cruiser for all the comforts of home, Giant’s Tomb is close to Penetanguishene, Midland and other launch ramps in the region.


Georgian Bay - Franklin Island

Best place to see the bay the way it once was

You could head out to the Western Islands for sensational seclusion, take shelter in the unofficially named but aptly known Hockey Stick Bay on Bone Island or any number of other anchorages with not a cottage in sight.

Another way to see the bay the way it once was is to chart a course for the protected properties of the Georgian Bay Land Trust, a registered Canadian charity officially created in 1991. 

Thanks to the generosity of landowners who donate their property in perpetuity to the trust, this lasting legacy of giving means GBLT currently owns or holds easements on 43 properties comprised of 1,568 acres and helps steward a further 4,635 additional acres.

With creeping commercialism and disappearing wilderness these slices of heaven encourage low impact day-use only visitation – no fires, barbecues or camping and many have environmentally sensitive areas where no pets or people should be. However they are the perfect place for picnics, birdwatching, photography and swimming. One example is American Camp Island in Wah Wah Taysee near O-Donnell Point. The vast, flat and undulating rocks of this unusual archipelago were scraped bare by glaciers and are yet another example of the diversity of Georgian Bay.

Georgian Bay - Franklin Island CanoePlease note this site enjoys high visitation so if a red flag is flying, please delay your visit for another time and be aware that the remainder of the protected Alexander Islands in this group are restricted with no visitors allowed. Like most GBLT properties there is no room for large boats here so perhaps anchor in nearby Indian Harbour and dinghy across, or better yet take the kayak.

You can share your love of the bay by making a donation, volunteering your time or otherwise assisting the organization. Go to www.gblt.org for full details including a visitor pledge (remember visiting is a privilege) that helps protect these pristine properties for future generations.


Best for everyone 

Just minutes from hectic Honey Harbour but an entire whole world away, boaters find Beausoleil Island, the largest in Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Here there’s something for the whole family from biking and hiking trails that criss-cross the 8 km island to boisterous beach days in the shallow warm water of protected anchorages.

Want to hold a fox snake? Interpretive programs at the Welcome Centre in Cedar Springs introduce visitors to the unique nature and culture of this site – archaeologists have uncovered artefacts revealing it’s been a gathering place for thousands of years. If you’re gathering your clan this could be the perfect place. Throughout the island there are over 90 dock slips, 10 cabins, 100+ traditional tent campsites and the new oTENTiks, a sort of hybrid rustic cabin and tent blending comfort and adventure where having no gear is no problem.

Georgian Bay Islands National Park

Moorage fees at the park haven’t changed in years and cost 40 cents a foot for daytime use or 90 cents per foot for overnight dockage – or enjoy an entire season of unlimited dockage for $9.80 per foot. A bargain really, considering the island boasts comfort stations with flush toilets and showers, garbage disposal, fire pits, a playground and picnic shelters. 


Best for adventure

Hard to imagine but it might be possible to grow tired of the spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring anchorages – perhaps when separating a moody teen from technology? Embrace it instead with your GPS and geocaching. 

This modern-day treasure hunt is another reason to explore off the beaten path. Dozens of privately placed sites are scattered throughout the Bay and the list grows longer daily. The Parry Sound Power and Sail Squadron is onboard with its GeoBayCache Program that even awards squadron ‘swag’ to those locating the hidden caches on Huckleberry Island, Franklin Island, The Pancakes, Copegog, Wreck Island, Winnett Island, Sandy Island and Windsor Island. Learn more at http://parrysoundboating.ca/geobaycaching-2014-06-09/ 

It’s one more reason to love every aspect of this amazing place. 


Georgian Bay - White PineBest social spot 

Travelling in a group and need a protected anchorage with room for all? Port Rawson is calling. The extended area not far from the main channel near Sans Souci winds its way back into an inviting landscape which includes the Moon River, Massasauga Provincial Park and the many small arms of Three Finger Bay, offering plenty of choices to drop anchors. Some locations also have strategically placed mooring pins mounted in the rocks for extra security.

The area is a favourite with large groups of boaters travelling together from Georgian Bay marinas and the area easily accommodates 50 or more boats. Small villages are created with these moored vessels as boaters hop from one swim platform to another, gathering for BBQs, fishing derbies, water fights, dinghy tours and relaxation. Within Massasauga there are several land-based boater gathering areas where fires are permitted so remember to pack the marshmallows!

Don’t be intimidated if busy social boaters aren’t your style, the area’s many inlets offer quieter options as well and the northeast arm has several mooring buoys.

No summer cruising on the bay would be complete without a stop at nearby Frying Pan Island and world famous Henry’s Fish Restaurant. Watch the world on the water go by with floatplanes, cottage boats and cruisers all making the stop.


Georgian Bay - American Camp Islands

Best spot to restock, recharge and re-energize 

So you’ve spent a few days on the water, perhaps in Twelve Mile Bay or Echo Bay near Sans Souci with other sailboaters, or maybe tied up in Regatta Bay on Franklin Island – where you probably dinghied over to Gilly’s in Snug Harbour for fish and chips – and now you need to recharge the batteries, restock the galley and stretch your legs on shore. 

Head in to Parry Sound where you’ll find space at the main wharf or in Big Sound Marina. Restaurant, liquor store and other amenities are just steps away and it’s tradition to hike up to the top of the fire tower you can see in the park on the hill from the waterfront. 

There’s something to entertain all ages here from fitness trails and farmers’ markets to the interactive museum at the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame and the old fashioned candy store on the main street. If you happen to be in harbour during the Festival of the Sound take in one of dozens of superb concerts during this annual international classical music celebration.

Or budget for a special treat and book a spot on Georgian Bay Airways to fly over Georgian Bay for a breathtakingly different perspective on this boater’s playground. When the kids were still quite small we surprised them with a trip – they thought they were heading over to the docks for ice cream. As the floatplane taxied across Parry Sound Harbour they thought we were enjoying some sort of unusual boat ride until we lifted off. They spotted our boat in Big Sound Marina as we flew right over top of it the red kayaks on the bow making it stand out from the others. Best moment ever was when our then five-year-old turned to us wide-eyed and exclaimed, “We are in the sky!” The aerial views are simply fantastic.

These suggestions serve merely as a starting point in the more southerly end of Georgian Bay. Rest assured adventure awaits you wherever you travel in the bay. You’ll quickly discover your own dream destination for regular relaxation, but just know there is always another amazing anchorage around the next island.


Georgian Bay - Gilly's Restaurant

Photo Captions:

Photo 1  – Simply splashing around in the warm water of protected anchorages is all part of the fun at Beausoleil Island. Credit:  Jennifer Harker

Photo 2  – When it’s time to recharge the batteries and re-energize the crew head to Parry Sound where you’ll find everything from world class musicians to a chance for the ultimate Canadian adventure at the interactive Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. Credit:  Jennifer Harker

Photo 3 & 4 – Franklin Island is only one of many great places on the Bay to discover crown land camping and beautiful beaches and anchorages. Credit:  Terri Hodgson

Photo 5  – Georgian Bay Islands National Park offers a variety of accommodations from cabins to dock space. Credit: Parks Canada

Photo 6  – Georgian Bay’s iconic windswept white pines evoke sensational summer boating images from secluded anchorages to social settings and even destinations your dog will love. Credit: Jennifer Harker

Photo 7  – Selected sites such as American Camp Islands are preserved and protected by the Georgian Bay Land Trust and while you can’t anchor overnight they make the perfect place for picnics, photographs and swimming. Credit: Jennifer Harker

Photo 8  – From your moorage you can dinghy over to Gilly’s in Snug Harbour for the best fresh fish dinner around. Credit:  Terri Hodgson

Photos Below:

Georgian Bay: Beausoleil(2), Giants Tomb, Port Rawson, Scenic, Sign.  Credit: Jennifer Harker

Georgian Bay: Massassauga Provincial Park, Massassauga Boat launch, Little Blackstone. Credit: Elissa Campbell

Georgian Bay - Beausoliel (2) Georgian Bay - Giants Tomb Georgian Bay - Port Rawson Georgian Bay - Scenic Georgian Bay - Sign Georgian Bay - Massassauga Provincial Park Georgian Bay - Massassauga Boat Launch Georgian Bay - Little Blackstone


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