Things YOU GOTTA SEE when visiting the Barrie-Muskoka and Georgian Bay area
Barrie is the gateway to the picturesque 30,000 Islands region of the Georgian Bay, the Trent-Severn Waterway which connects Lake Huron and Lake Ontario, the Niagara Escarpment which becomes the Bruce Peninsula, as well as the cottage country of the Muskoka Lakes.
Here are some quick suggestions for visitors with limited time in the area: The schedule is only a suggestion — you may have more fun, or wish to take more time than mentioned below.
Barrie & Area
Here are our picks for the must-see attractions in the Barrie area (each of these can take a half to a full day):
Start in Barrie at the waterfront. Centennial Park offers great views of the lake, head north past the marina to Heritage Park, which is adjacent to Barrie’s shopping district.
Explore the rolling hills in the Barrie area just to the north of Lake Simcoe (you can also head west to the Niagara Escarpment near Collingwood), for scenic auto touring, summer hiking, and top-notch wintertime downhill skiing (Barrie is home to many of Canada’s Olympic skiers) or cross-country skiing.
Visit the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia the inspiration for his classic, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, written by Canada’s beloved humourist and author.
The casino in Rama, near Orillia, offers 24/7 gaming with various tables, slots plus top-name entertainers.
Learn about the area’s Aboriginal connections in Midland as you explore life in a 17th-century French-Huron village at Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons and visit the shrine dedicated to Jesuit martyrs.
Walk the floating boardwalks at Midland’s Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, which lead you through woodlands and wetlands teeming with wildlife.
Visit the waterside boardwalks of Penetanguishene‘s Discovery Harbour recreating an 19th-century British naval base where you can make a model ship, learn sailors’ ropework and explore historic vessels.
Mountain bike or hike the trails such as the Ganaraska Trail from Port Hope to Penetanguishene or at Hardwood Hills Cross-County Ski and Mountain Bike Centre near Barrie.
Wasaga Beach has the world’s longest freshwater beach and the largest set of parabolic sand dunes in Ontario. Tuere are plenty of other attractions (and waterslides) for the family to enjoy.
Venture out to the Collingwood Scenic Caves Nature Preserve and discover rock formations so spectacular that the early Hurons made it a place of worship. Then admire the sweeping view standing in the middle of the equally spectacular suspension bridge.
The Town of Blue Mountains is Ontario’s largest mountain resort. Head to the top for views of Georgian Bay, in winter go downhill skiing and in summerI, enjoy the area’s challenging golf courses.
See Georgian Bay at Awenda Provincial Park, to observer the rich bio-diversity, with over 31 species of reptiles and amphibians.
You can head further west past Owen Sound, onto the Bruce Peninsula, a continuation of the Niagara Esparpment as it sinks into Lake Huron. It is also home to Fathom Five Marine National Park, with its crystal clear waters, popular with divers who not only explore the underwater geology and sealife, but also a number of shipwrecks, sunk in the lake’s violent storms of the past centuries.
At the very tip is Tobermory, which is the terminus for the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry to Manitoulin Island (not just the largest island in a lake in the world, but home to the largest lake in an island in a lake in the world, too!).
Muskoka Lake Area
Ontario’s “cottage country” is full of sparkling lakes, dense forests and the rugged beauty of the Canadian Shield. Have your own “Group of Seven” moment in this part of the province. The Muskokas have many famous lakeside resorts , great golf courses, and lakeside docks for boating or fishing.You can cruise on the oldest coal-operating steamship in North America, or head into the motor-free wilderness of Algonquin Provincial Park for a memorable “conversation” with the local inhabitants. In the winter, you can snowmobile, ice fish or cross-country ski in this snowy playground.
Tee up on one of many challenging golf courses carved through wilderness.
Be truly impressed as you watch the Big Chute Marine Railway carry large boats over land to continue their journey along the Trent-Severn Waterway.
Cruise past palatial estates lining the Muskoka Lakes on the Lady Muskoka or the R.M.S. Segwun – an elegantly restored 19th-century steam ship, moored in Bracebridge
Explore Georgian Bay from Parry Sound and see the history, geology and wildlife from the decks of the spacious Island Queen, Canada’s largest sightseeing cruise ship.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park is home to wildlife, waterfowl, woodlands and plenty of gamefish in the surrounding waters, and can be explored from Honey Harbour.
Try your hand at nature photography or painting as you experience “Arts in the Wild” at nearby Algonquin Provincial Park – Ontario’s oldest park.
Experience rustic rural life in the late 1800s at Muskoka Heritage Place Steam Train and Pioneer Village in Huntsville where you can ride the Portage Flyer – a restored 1928 steamer.
Visit the Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site in Gravenhurst, honouring the doctor’s innovative contributions to medicine and his heroic healing work in China.
If you have kids, then check out Bracebridge‘s Santa’s Village and Sportsland Amusement Park – ‘Santa’s summer home’ on the 45th Parallel, half-way to the North Pole.
Visit Port Carling’s Muskoka Lakes Museum to view artifacts and clothing of early settlers at the – an 1875 log house that salutes the area’s boat building heritage