Guide to discovering Georgian Bay in Canada

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Georgian Bay rivals the Great Lakes in size. At 5,792 square miles — a little less than Lake Ontario’s 7,320 square miles — this northeastern Canadian arm of Lake Huron might as well be another Great Lake, as it creates its own currents, waves and weather patterns. Often referred to as the “Sixth Great Lake”, it is home to a UNESCO biosphere reserve, thousands of islands and several national parks with preserved forests, making it an idyllic natural playground for sports enthusiasts. boaters, hikers, cyclists and campers. .

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For history buffs, the bay’s ancient glacial rocks, shipwrecks that lie in its clear waters, and serene coastal towns offer a tantalizing proposition. The waterways and shores of the northern part of the bay, which fall under the traditional domain of the Anishinaabe First Nations peoples, offer visitors the opportunity to learn about the culture and the role the lake has played in the commerce and the livelihood of indigenous peoples. . The conservation of natural resources and cultures is paramount to the region and manifests itself in the way people work together to protect them.

While the summer weather draws many visitors to the bay, its sandy beaches and campsites are scarce compared to other popular natural attractions. Fall, with the resplendent colors of the forests against a backdrop of rugged coastal beauty, is the perfect time to experience this piece of Canadian paradise.


Here is a guide to outdoor activities, Aboriginal cultural activities and conservation efforts on the north shore of Georgian Bay.

Related: Why Canada’s West Coast Trail Is One Of The Best (And How To Plan It)

Georgian Bay Islands National Park

Parry Sound, one of the last timber-age towns, was founded in 1887 at the mouth of the Seguni River near an Ojibwe village. This coastal town became an important depot during the 19th century when new rail service connected travelers to Western Canada. Today, it serves as the gateway to the 30,000 islands including the world’s largest freshwater archipelago and the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. It is also the first Canadian port of call on the Great Lakes Explorer’s itinerary during the Viking Expedition Cruise on the Octantis.


Established in 1929, Georgian Bay Islands National Park is made up of 63 islands and is only accessible by boat. The granite shores of the Canadian Shield rise to white pines that turn into hardwood forests that burst with vibrant color in the fall. Beausoleil Island, the park’s main island, is open to the public and offers camping in secluded spots or in cabins overlooking the water. Here, adventure awaits, whether you take a kayak, boat or water taxi. The provincial park is also near the town of Port Severn.

Killbear Provincial Park

A short drive from Parry Sound is Killbear Provincial Park, located near the town of Nobel. This 4,300-acre park offers hikers, beachgoers and cliff jumpers sandy beaches leading to the pine-forested rocky ridges of the Canadian Shield.


One wonder not to miss is the remarkable Killbear Tree, a solitary windswept pine that stands on a granite outcrop named Sunset Rock.

The park’s wetlands are home to spotted turtles, Blanding’s turtles and the endangered eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, while the forests are home to white-tailed deer, chipmunks and black bears. Outdoor enthusiasts can choose from over 800 campsites. The campsite extends from May to the end of October.

Killarney Provincial Park

Adjacent to the town of Killarney, the cliffs of the La Cloche Range rise above the shores of Georgian Bay in Killarney Provincial Park, where white quartzite rock dating back to 1.88 billion years. Blessed with vast wilderness of lakes and eastern mixed forests, this breathtaking Canadian protected land offers many hiking trails and canoe routes that connect the lake system inland. Bears, moose, and deer inhabit this habitat, along with beavers and reptiles. Visitors can choose to stay in the rustic yet elegant setting Killarney Mountain Inn full service resort.


Related: Visit the perfect town of Mahone Bay in Canada

Frazer Bay

A short distance from Killarney and across the channel from Manitoulin Island is Frazer Bay, with its namesake hill rising nearly 600 feet, offering hikers stunning views of the surrounding nature, including the North Channel of Georgian Bay which empties into Lake Huron.

Hikers inland are treated to breathtaking views that inspired the famous Group of Seven landscape painters who were prominent in the 1920s and 1930s. These Canadian artists made repeated trips to capture the beauty of this remote region. , which was no small feat given that there were no roads connecting major cities at the time.

The AJ Casson Peak hike and scenic Baie Fine freshwater fjord inspired AJ Casson, one of the group’s founders. In keeping with their spirit, the coastal towns of Georgian Bay have several art centers and studios and host annual art festivals.

Georgian Bay Conservation Efforts

Highly trafficked waterways have left a negative environmental impact on Georgian Bay. Add climate change, invasive species and development pressures to the mix, and there’s even more pressure on the fragile ecosystem. The rocky shores, coastal wetlands and sandy beaches are home to an array of species, including the endangered spotted turtle and the eastern Massasauga rattlesnake.


Turtles are at high risk of dying due to development and road traffic, especially in provincial parks. Conservation efforts are underway by the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve (GBBR) Mnidoo Gamii charitable organization to protect and preserve the region as well as the native culture and traditions. The charity relies on donations and funds to pursue conservation efforts, sustainability and education and partners with scientists, researchers and community groups.

Some of their sustainable initiatives include beekeeping, planting native wildflower species, water testing, promoting cycling, and taking students outdoors. One of the most challenging and rewarding projects underway is collecting turtle eggs from roadsides and other nesting areas, incubating them, and then releasing the hatchlings back into the wild when they are ready.

At the headquarters of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, visitors can get up close to a number of remarkable creatures rescued by the charity and play a crucial role in conservation education. This includes a hive of bees, an endangered eastern snake, a snapping turtle, and a glimpse of the delicate hatchlings (and their soon-to-emerge siblings) before they’re released back into the wild.

Georgian Bay Anishinaabek Youth Initiative

GBBR also has Cultural Advisory Circles that provide Indigenous perspectives and language revitalization through community activities that engage youth. One of these efforts is the Georgian Bay Anishinaabek Youth Initiative.

Georgian Bay is located on Anishinaabek Territory, where the Ojibwe, Chippewa, Potawatomi and Odawa Indigenous peoples were the area’s first residents. Today, the Georgian Bay Anishinaabek Youth Initiative, in partnership with the Georgian Bay Biosphere, gives young people the chance to reconnect with their roots and celebrate their culture through innovative projects.

At the Parry Sound Sailing School, visitors can meet youth team leaders and learn how the next generation is reclaiming the cultural traditions of their ancestors who have been oppressed for too long. Among the projects, visitors will hear about the construction of the old loom of the wiigwaas jiimaan, a traditional birchbark canoe used by Indigenous peoples to navigate the waters for trade, building community relationships and how it became symbolic for the continuation of the Anishinaabe.


Georgian Bay is located approximately 100 miles north of Toronto and is accessible by road. Fun fact – this wasn’t possible until the 1960s, and visitors had to take to the water or the air to experience its rugged beauty.

With the introduction of Great Lakes Cruises by Vikingthe region is now accessible via the comfort of a cruise ship, with excursions that take guests on hikes through provincial parks and towns to learn about the history, culture and conservation efforts of this magnificent region.

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