Summer is the season for road-tripping! All you need is some food, good music and an adventurous spirit to hit the road and discover hidden gems. The Georgian Bay area is an ecology focused destination with two international Biosphere reserves giving it a unique status and remarkable sites to explore and discover.
Six Days: Toronto – Blue Mountain – Tobemory – Manitoulin Island – Sudbury – Killarney – Parry Sound -Georgina Bay Islands/Wasaga Beach – Toronto
Day 1: Toronto to Blue Mountains
Get ready today to leave the heat and humidity of the big city behind and get up close and personal with clean, fresh air and nature along the Georgian Bay coastal route.
Begin the day by departing Toronto along the 401. Today’s final destination is the Blue Mountains and there are two ideal options to reach there depending on your starting point. If you are coming from the west, the best option would be to head North on the 410. If you are coming from the East, take the 400 North. Both routes will take approximately 2 hours depending on traffic. A good idea is to check for any road construction before leaving and chose the best option.
Stop 1: The Blue Mountains, located in Grey County, is Ontario’s only year-round mountain resort and spa. Situated between the base of the Niagara Escarpment and the rugged shores of Georgian Bay, this picturesque area is a paradise whether you are seeking adventure or a relaxing escape. Here are just a couple of activities available:
Hikes & Trails: Four self-guided hiking trails range in difficulty and length for the whole family to explore with rewarding views and a free gondola ride to the bottom if you make it all the way to the top!
Canoe & Kayak: Take a gentle, leisurely ride along Beaver River, one of the most popular canoe and kayak rivers in Ontario and enjoy the beautiful rugged landscape and canopy of mature trees along the banks. Trips can be taken guided or unguided for 1 or 2 hours.
Scenic Caves: Strap on a helmet and headlamp and journey underground to explore the natural caves and crevices carved by the glaciers. Scenic Caves offers fully guided tours as well as an assortment of other activities such as treetop trekking, zip lining and Southern Ontario’s longest suspension bridge.
Spa: At the award-winning Scandinave Spa experience a relaxing day or night in the renowned Scandinavian Baths. Situated in a serene natural forest complete with on-site massage treatments, Finnish and Infrared Saunas, Eucalyptus Steam room, Thermal and Nordic Waterfall and outdoor hot baths and cold plunge pools.
Rock Climbing: For some high adrenaline action, challenge yourself to scaling Metcalfe Rock, one of the many beautiful limestone cliffs in the Beaver Valley. With cliffs reaching heights of over 100ft in sections and offers climbing of all grades and styles.
Dining & Entertainment: The Village at Blue Mountain is equipped with everything from shopping, dining, nightlife and entertainment. Many free events and festivals take place throughout the year and are listed on their webpage.
Accommodations (1st Night): Many different options are available and range in size, price and amenities. For comfort and value, the Blue Mountain Inn is a good option with rooms accommodating up to 4 people and pet-friendly rooms available. For large groups/families Cachet Crossing offers good value for one and two bedroom units with full kitchens. For an upscale experience there is the four-diamond Westin Trillium House or newly renovated Mosaic.
Day 2: Blue Mountain to Tobemory
Getting an early start today to fit in as much as possible on the way to Tobermory. For a more scenic route, head northwest on ON-26 W. The direct route will take about 2 hours but here are some suggested stops along the way.
Stop 1: Approximately 45 minutes from the Blue Mountains, turn right on Grey County Rd 18 (Kilsyth/Springmount), then right onto Inglis Falls Rd and make a stop at Inglis Falls for breathtaking views of the Sydenham River cascading over the limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. If you feel up for a walk, take the Pines Loop through the forest with an optional energetic hike to Harrison Park.
Stop 2: Returning to Grey County Rd 18, turn right and follow the signs for ON-6 N (Wiarton/Tobermory). Before reaching Tobermory, take some time to visit Bruce Peninsula National Park by turning off Hwy 6 onto Cyprus Lake Rd and parking at the head of trails. Select one of the marked trails depending on time and level of difficulty that will take you to the Grotto, a natural sea cave, and Indian Head Cove. This sprawling park is loaded with natural wonders of incredible terrain, stunning limestone cliffs and turquoise waters. Bring a swimsuit if you are brave enough to handle the refreshing, cold water.
Final Destination of the Day: Tobermory is a harbour village located at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. It is surrounded by the Niagara Escarpment and it’s a gateway to the Flower Pot Island as well as a connecting port to reach Manitoulin Island by ferry. In winter, the town is very quiet but offers an unparalleled experience with some of the most breathtaking winter vistas in nature. In summer, the town comes alive with crowds of nature lovers, sun seekers, boaters and scuba divers.
Accommodations (2nd Night): Tobermory offers B&B, hotels, campgrounds, cottages and hostels so regardless of your budget and interest you can find somewhere to stay however summer is a very busy season so early reservations are suggested.
Dining & Entertainment: One of the must try’s in Tobermory is the local white fish. A couple places to try it are The Fish & Chip Place, Crowsnest Pub and Shipwreck Lee’s. Then, end the day with a sensational sunset cruise from Little Tub Harbour.
Day 3: Tobemory to Manitoulin Island
Spend time today enjoying the picturesque fishing village of Tobermory and the well-known Flower Pot Island before taking the ferry to Manitoulin Island.
Fathom Five National Marine Park with over 20 shipwrecks and 19 islands is the first National Marine Park in Canada. Board a glass bottom boat tour which leave Tobermory several times during the day and see the wrecks yourself and explore Flower Pot Island on foot with its 60 ft high ‘flower pots’, lighthouse and walking trails. Or strap on scuba gear and have an even closer look. This area is the Scuba diving capital of Canada after all!
Take time for some lunch, a delicious and sweet Beaver Tail and shopping in the quaint shops before boarding the 3:40pm ferry to Manitoulin Island. (Advanced reservations are recommended). The ride will take about 2 hours in total and you will arrive into South Baymouth.
Accommodations (3rd Night): Try something a bit different in Manitoulin Island by staying in a Tipi for a wonderful outdoor experience! Tekhummah Tipis and Gordons Park both offers authentic tipi stays on fully service campsites for a truly authentic experience.
Day 4: Manitoulin Island
Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world, is rich in authentic First Nations experiences. Plan to spend the day immersed in some of the best experiences the island’s people have to offer like traditional crafts, art tours, museums, drumming, nature hikes and traditional cooking.
Great Spirit Circle Trail offers carefully planned sightseeing itineraries that offer a true reflection of the history and culture of the region from an Aboriginal perspective. They have experiences ranging from soft adventure to wilderness eco-adventures and educational interpretive tours.
Hiking Trails: The island has many hiking trails that vary in length from a couple hours to a full day and various difficulty levels. For the casual walk, you can enjoy nature trails and boardwalks in and around the towns. One of the most famous trails is Cup and Saucer with its dramatic 70 metre cliffs and breathtaking views.
Star Gazing: Free from all the lights and pollution of the cities, the night sky is like you’ve never seen it before. Gordons Park Dark Sky Preserve offers one of the darkest observing sites in the province for an exceptional experience. You may even be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis.
Dining & Entertainment: A must while visiting this sacred island is to join a pow wow. These sacred gatherings of Indigenous people are to honor the past, renew friendships and celebrate with music, song, food, dance and storytelling. Check the listings to see if one might be happening while you are there.
Day 5: Manitoulin Island to Sudbury to Killarney to Parry Sound
Sadly, it’s time to leave this island paradise behind and prepare for the journey back to Toronto. But first, a couple more stops along the way in Sudbury, Killarney Provincial Park and Parry Sound.
On the Road: Depart Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands and follow the ON-6, Tran-Canada Hwy to ON-637 in Sudbury. Start bright and early, the drive to Sudbury takes approximately 2 hours.
Stop 1: Stop in Sudbury to visit Dynamic Earth and descend seven storeys on a guided tour that takes you to walk in the footsteps of Sudbury’s miners and do not forget a selfie in front of the Famous Big Nickel. After lunch, take the Killarney exit and turn right on ON-637 until you reach the park. The drive should take about 1 and a half hors.
Don’t forget pick up some food and refreshments to bring with you from Sudbury while hiking in Killarney Park.
Stop 2: Killarney Provincial Park is one of the most popular wilderness destinations in Ontario. The surrounding forests and mountains are home to some of the best hiking trails in Ontario. They boast 10 trails that encompass scenic beauty, marine heritage and native history. Enjoy stunning white quartzite hills, gently granite slopes and one of Ontario’s highest peaks – Silver Peak. Make sure to wear good shoes and pack replenishments!
Another option is to skip Killarney and visit French River Provincial Park and hike to Recollet waterfall (Recollet Falls Trail).
On the Road: Leaving the park the way you came in, drive back towards Sudbury then follow the Trans-Canada Hwy S to McDougall and take exit 231 to Parry Sound. After a long day hiking outdoors, Parry Sound, on the beautiful Georgian Bay, is a great place to stop for the night.
Accommodations (1N): Parry Sound offers a variety of lodging options at every price point so you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect to lay your head.
Dining & Entertainment: Every Tuesday at 7:00pm, Parry Sound hosts Bands on the Bay at the Stockey Centre. It’s a full evening of music overlooking the beautiful Georgian Bay and every concert is different and exciting and its free! They also have a licensed patio serving food and beverages.
Day 6: Parry Sound to Georgian Bay Islands National Parks/Wasaga Beach to Toronto
Instead of Wasaga Beach (mentioned below), visit Georgian Bay Islands National Parks. From Parry Sound, about 54 minutes drive South along the Georgian Bay is the Georgian Bay Islands National Parks. Take the Daytripper (Boat) to the boat only accessible National Park that is composed of 63 islands where the windswept white pines and granite shores of the Canadian Shield are yours to discover. The cruise time is 15 minutes and you can stay at Beausoleil Island for 4 hours, if you are visiting the Park via the Daytripper. If you wish to stay for more time, you can – there are camping options available!
If you are visiting Wasaga Beach – On the Road: After a hearty lunch, begin driving along the 400 S towards Toronto to Vasey Rd/County Rd 23 for about 1 hour until you reach exit 141. Continue along Vasey Rd/Simcoe Country Rd 23 until you reach Wasaga Beach.
Stop Wasaga Beach: Located along the shores of Nottawasaga Bay, Wasaga Beach is a destination with native wildlife, footpath and cycle trials, historic sites and the world’s longest freshwater beach! Located on Beach Area 1 you can enjoy the Main Street Market with free family entertainment, lots of food choices and incredible bands on the weekends. If you happen to be there on a Tuesday, stop by the Main Street Farmers Market before heading home to pick up some yummy farm fresh fruits & veggies, honey, baked goods, preserves or handmade crafts.
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If you prefer to explore the greener side of Wasaga Beach, Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, with its pink-oak savannah, is truly a rare find. From the Wasaga Nordic & Trail Centre (formerly Blueberry Trails) you can access 50km of hiking trails and Ontario’s largest parabolic sand dunes for excellent bird watching.
When you have soaked up as much sun and surf as you can handle, make your way to either the 400 or 410 S and continue back the way you came.
OR you can do this trip starting at Wasaga Beach and end at Blue Mountains with a rejuvenating massage treatment!
The itinerary is made with minimum number of days at each place, you can extend it as long as you like!
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