Ontario's recreactional playground
Among the best 4 season destinations
The historic town of Collingwood Ontario has always been an important economic driver in the region and a year round recreational playground for Southern Ontario, especially those from the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).
Located about 2 ½ hours north of Toronto on the southern shores of Georgian Bay just 11 kilometres (6.7) miles west along the coast from Wasaga Beach this small Simcoe County town has become one of Canada's fastest growing communities over the last 20 years and almost 20,000 people now call it home.
What draws them is the multitude of world class recreational opportunities that abound in the area including:
Beaches – Wasaga Beach is next door
Boating – the town has one of the best harbours on Georgian Bay
Canoeing – open water on Nottawasaga Bay and two of the best river routes in Southern Ontario
Alpine Skiing – Arguably the best in Ontario at Blue Mountain there are also other venues close by
History – The downtown is a marvel of late 1800's architecture and is a preserved heritage area
Hiking – The Bruce Trail and Georgian Trail pass through the area
Nordic Skiing – kilometres of groomed and un-groomed trails are available
A well-developed resort and retirement community has developed with many of the recent arrivals coming from Toronto and they have developed a "chic" little town that is near picture perfect.
All the downtown buildings have been restored or renovated and are filled with high-end articles and various over priced bric a brac. Restaurants and café's abound and in the summer the downtown is filled with a constant stream of tourists. This is by no means diminishing the area is as it is simply beautiful and the town does occupy a very scenic spot on the Bay.
Originally founded in the late 1858 after the railroad was extended to the area in 1855 the deepwater habour immediately became a shipping centre to the Upper Great Lakes and Collingwood Ontario quickly became one of the Province's major shipbuilding centres.
In the early 1900's the natural beauty began to attract tourists and the recreational opportunities that Mother Nature offered began to be developed. Being so close to Wasaga Beach didn't hurt but the nearby Blue Mountains made the town a year round destination in its own right.
While the shipbuilding and many other industries have long gone with so much to offer its easy to see why Collingwood Ontario has long been one of the premier year round destinations for Southern Ontarians.
Location of Collingwood Ontario
Getting to Collingwood Ontario:
Getting to Collingwood Ontario is very easy, especially if coming from Toronto or the GTA.
Navigate to highway #400 North
Take exit # 98 and head West on Highway #26
Follow Highway #26 into town
From Southern and Eastern Ontario
Navigate to Highway #401 East or West depending upon starting point
Exit to highway #400 North
Take exit # 98 and head West on Highway #26
Follow Highway #26 into town
From Northern Ontario
Navigate to Highway #69 South or Highway #11 South depending upon starting point
Highway #69 merges into Highway 400
Exit at Horseshoe Valley Road/ County Road #22
At highway #26 continue west into town
Exit at Horseshoe Valley Road/ County Road #22
At highway #26 continue west into town
By public transport:
Getting to Collingwood Ontario by rail is not an option
Getting to Collingwood Ontario by air is not an option
Greyhoud offers bus service from Toronto. Visit www.greyhound.ca for more information.
Summerbound offers Pearson International Airport transfers. For more information visit: Summerbound.
Collingwood Ontario Attractions and Activities
Collingwood Ontario sits in the shadow of the Blue Mountain, the rocky summit of the Niagara Escarpment whose highest point is at Osler Bluffs.
The mountain is one of the main recreational destinations in the Province especially in winter where it has been developed into "THE" premier alpine skiing destination with a number of resorts established on its slopes.
This is the skiing destination of choice for Southern Ontarians and being located about 2 hours north of Toronto the slopes can get fairy busy.
In addition to Blue Mountain Resort other skiing opportunities exists at:
Osler Bluff Ski Club
Toronto Ski Club
Craigleith Ski Club
Alpine Ski Club
Georgian Peaks Ski Club
Of course, there are also many Nordic skiing opportunities in the area including at some of the clubs listed above and also at the Scenic Caves Nordic Adventure at the nearby Scenic Caves.
In summer, the Bruce Trail passes along the mountain and the beauty of the region makes it a major draw for hikers as the views from the heights 300 metres (1800 feet) above Georgia Bay below are gorgeous and a photographers delight.
Visitors are also likely to visit the Scenic Caves attraction carved deep into the side of the mountain in the summer.
Located just 12 kilometres (7.2 miles) from downtown Collingwood Ontario this is one of the premier attractions in the region. The site includes a series of caves and rock formations that were once sacred to the First Nations tribes who lived in the area.
Part of the Blue Mountain that is itself an extension of the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO Biosphere Reserve the site offers incredible panoramic views and has also been developed into a mini adventure park with:
A 126 metre (420 feet) long suspension footbridge
Twin zip lines above the forested canopy below
Treetop walking adventure
Gemstone mining adventure
The real draw however still remains the easily explored series of caves and caverns that were once thought to be the path to the afterlife and were marked by the sacred rock "Ekarenniondi".
Ekarenniondi and the Indian village of the same name that stood at the site was visited by historic luminaries such as:
Jean De Brebeuf
After being abandoned due to warfare the site became forgotten
and after a couple of centuries eventually came into private hands.
The site was "rediscovered" and by the mid 20th century a tourist attraction was established. The site has now grown to become today's attraction that is a must if in the Collingwood area.
The views of Georgian Bay from the suspension bridge are truly stunning and visiting the historic sacred standing rock and caverns below is quite memorable.
Hikers will be able to access the Bruce Trail and that gives one the ability to visit nearby Osler Bluffs, the highest point on the Niagara Escarpment at 510 metres (1675 feet) above sea level.
The caves and most other attractions are only open from May to October but the site has also been developed into a winter destination and it Scenic Caves Nordic Centre is open from December to March and includes:
27 kilometres (16.2 miles) of groomed cross-country ski trails
8 kilometres (4.8 miles) of snowshoe trails that includes crossing the suspension bridge
Just 10 minutes south of Collingwood Ontario at over 283 hectares (700 acres) this is the largest mountain resort in the Province and boasts an incredible amount of world-class year round recreational activities including:
42 alpine trails suitable for snowboarders and skiers
18 hole golf course – The Monterra
Ontario's best mountain biking centre
Ridge Runner mountain coaster – the only one like it in the Province and a highlight of the resort
Hiking along the Bruce Trail for spectacular views
Horse-drawn carriage ride
One of the main reasons people travel to the Collingwood Ontario area a trip the resort at any time of the year is a definite must if time permits.
Check out this Ridge Runner Video below:
or this promotional video
Villages of Blue Mountain
A recent amalgamation of the local communities of:
Each offers something a little bit different. Sandwiched on and beside the mountain along the Georgian Bay shoreline between Collingwood Ontario and the Beaver River south to the Pretty River these tiny communities are filled with fine restaurants and shops.
The bigger sister communities of Thornbury and Clarksburg are located on either bank of the Beaver River and have quaint little historic downtowns in they're own right while Craigleith offers Craigleth Provincial Park.
Thornbury has an excellent harbour and marina facility, is the home base for many local boaters and is filled with restaurants and small shops.
Clarksburg has developed into more of an art district and has filled with small galleries.
The Villages of Blue Mountain are great to visit when making a tour of the Blue Mountain Resort and/or Scenic Caves and spending a half-day touring the various hamlets and when combined with these attractions makes for a perfect way to spend a day enjoying the beautiful Niagara Escarpment and Georgian Bay scenery.
This small museum is located right downtown at the waterfront in a replica building of the town's 1873 CN Train station.
Local history is in display with exhibits featuring:
Information and artifacts from the First nation Petun culture
The importance of the Shipbuilding Industry to local heritage
Transportation and in particular the importance of the railway to the area's development
The small company of Summerbound operates out of Collingwood Harbour and offers a variety of services including:
Collingwood Harbour Tours
A great way to view the historic harbour from its most important perspective, for more information visit: http://summerbound.ca
For those following a lighthouse tour this 29-metre (95 feet) 1858 imperial lighthouse gem is located just south west of town but is not accessible and can only be viewed by boat or land.
Laying 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) just offshore on Nottawasaga Island it marks the reef and shoal strewn entrance to Collingwood Ontario's deepwater port.
Now derelict and off limits the island is a bird sanctuary and serves as home to thousands of birds including:
The Collingwood and Blue Mountain area have long been a prime destination for hikers in Southern Ontario and some of the best Bruce Trail hiking is in this area.
There are many trails in town that lead to all the prime sites of interest
But it is also served by a number of trails where you can explore some of the most beautiful natural areas in the province.
The Georgian Trail
Part of a larger rail trail that connected Barrie to Owen Sound the Georgian Trail is a 34 kilometre (20.5 mile) multi usage all season trail that stretches westwards along the southern shore of Nottawasaga Bay from Harbourview Park in Collingwood to Meaford Harbor.
Along the way you will pass by a number of sites of interest including:
Craigleith Provincial Park
Peasmarsh Beach and Conservation Area
There are two distinct portions of this route:
Collingwood to Thornbury 21 kilometres (12.6 miles)
Thornbury to Meaford 13 kilometres (7.8 miles)
From Meaford trail users can connect to the Tom Thomson Trail leading to Owen Sound
From Collingwood Ontario trail users can connect to the Shore Trail to Wasaga Beach, the Ganaraska trail and beyond.
Located just south of town along 10th line this small reserve has a couple of nice Bruce Trail sidetrails that offer beautiful vistas over the surrounding countryside.
With caves and cliffs to walk along they provide for a nice hike.
Located just southwest of Craigleith this protected area has a nice 7.1 kilometre (4.3 mile) trail that offers gorgeous view of Georgian Bay and also the Beaver Valley.
Another large protected area southwest of town this is a little further out but the area contains over 50 kilometres (30 miles) of trail with various year round suitability.
Pretty River Valley Trail
South of town in the Pretty River Provincial Park this short 6-kilometre (4.2 mile) side trail of moderate difficulty connects to the Bruce Trail. A nice trail along the top of the Niagara Escarpment through some beautiful country it is one of the nicest hikes in the area.
Beaver River Trail
A 10.7 kilometre (6.5 mile) trail that follows the path of the Beaver River from Clendenan Dam to Thornbury Harbour on Georgian Bay.
An easy to complete trail offering some beautiful views and passing by some scenic parks this trail eventually connects to the Georgian trail.
In addition to the Province's largest mountain bike complex at the Blue Mountain resort Collingwood Ontario also offers a number of options for those visitors interested in cycling.
Collingwood to Feversham Route
A very tough 61-kilometre (42 mile) journey that takes riders to the very heights of the Niagara Escarpment.
Beginning in downtown Collingwood Ontario head south towards the Pretty River before heading west to follow the rivers course along the escarpment you eventually reach the small village of Feversham and its gorge of the same name.
You then head back north through the Kolapore Wilderness Area, past the Metcalf Rock before heading back east towards downtown after passing through Blue Mountain Village.
Mountain Challenge Route
A very difficult journey up and down the escarpment from the Blue Mountain Village to the small town of Kimberley on the banks of the Beaver River.
A very scenic but arduous trek it should not be undertaken unless in good shape.
Blue Mountain High Route
Starting at the Blue Mountain Resort and continuing up the Escarpment past the Scenic Caves you head north and west until reaching the Beaver River valley at the small village of Victoria Corners.
Continue south until reaching the shores of Nottawasage Bay at Thornbury before heading back east along the Georgian trail. At 35 kilometres (21 miels) this trail may not seem long but it does involve several incline changes and is fairly difficult to complete.
Wasaga Beach Cruise Route
An easy to complete 25-kilometre (15 mile) one way journey to one of the best beaches in the country.
Head south on Hurontario Street to Airport Road. Travel east along Airport until it turns into Mosley Street. Continue on Mosley Street right into Wasaga Beach.
Beaver Valley Route
Beginning in Thornbury head south by following the course of the Beaver River to the small community of Kimberley. You then head back north along 4th line to the Town of Meaford on Georgian Bay.
Head back east to your starting point by following the Georgian Trail. A fairly long but easy route to complete the Beaver River valley offers some beautiful views.
This 34-kilometre (20 mile) cycling route is probably the most popular in town. For more information see the hiking section above.
Creemore Beer Run Route
Head south out of town along Hurontario Street to Airport Road. Head east on Airport Road to Fairgrounds Road/4th Line. Continue on 4th line into the small town of Creemore famous for its Creemore Springs Brewery. To complete the 63 kilometre (51 mile) journey head back to Collingwood Ontario the same way you came.
Off-Road Cycling Routes
In addition to the Blue Mountain Resort a number of off road cycling destinations in the Collingwood Ontario area are also available. Off-road cycling trails can also be found at:
While not really known as a swimming destination especially with Wasaga Beach Provincial Park so close by, there still are many swimming opportunities available at a few small parks and beaches along the coast.
Sunset Point Park
Situated in the east end of town this small park has a shale beach that is suitable for swimming. While this is the town's only beach people usually visit this park for its splendid views or to windsurf.
From here you see (depending upon weather):
Nottawasaga Island and its historic lighthouse
The incredible beach at Wasaga
lue Mountain and the Niagara Escarpment
A great place to watch the windsurfers it is connected to many paths and can easily be reached by walking or cycling. This really is a spot in town that should not be missed, especially at sunset.
Located just west of town along Highway #26 across from the Craigleith Heritage Centre this is a nice little beach that offers many activities including:
Stand Up Paddleboards
Views of the Nottawasaga Lighthouse
Craigleith Provincial Park
Located a little further west along Highway #26 this park has a nice shale beach suitable for swimming. Visit my Craigleith Provincial Park page for more information.
Delphi Point Beach
Located just west of the park along Highway #26 this small shale beach is suitable for swimming. A little rockier than most shoes should be worn.
Located at the intersection of Highway #26 and Grey Road #4 just west of Delphi Point this is another shale beach suitable for swimming.
The amall 23 hectares (58 acres) Peasmarsh Nature Preserve lays just east of Thornbury along Highway #26. It protects a small wetland area at the mouth of the Indian Brook and also contains two small beaches both suitable for swimming, one sandy and one-shale.
Located in Thornbury just east of the Beaver River turn right off Highway #26 to Elgin Street and continue north to Bay Street East and the park with be located on your left hand side. Small beach suitable for swmming.
Little River Beach Park
In Thornbury Harbour at the mouth of the Beaver River running adjacent to Thornbury Pier this small beach is a mixture of sand and stone that is very suitable for swimming.
The small park also provides an excellent view of picturesque Thornbury Harbour.
Lora Bay Beach
Located just west of Thornbury aside the Lora Bay Golf course exit Highway #26 at Lora Bay Drive and head north right to the beach.
The sheltered bay has created a nice sandy beach perfect for swimming.
The various waters surrounding Collingwood Ontario offer numerous fishing opportunities amongst the best in the province and suggested fishing spots include:
The Collingwood Pier
Harbourlands & Millennium Park
Clendenan Dam Conservation Area
Peasmarsh Conservation Area
A variety of species can be caught including:
Variety of Panfish
There are numerous boat rental opportunities all along the coast but if your would prefer some deepwater fishing than charters are available through Summerbound. Visit: www.summerbound.ca for more information.
The waters just offshore also make for a great place to fish all year and you will see many ice fishing huts dotted along the coast.
Located on Georgian Bay Collingwood Ontario and the Town of Blue Mountain are a boaters playground.
Collingwood has one of the best harbours on the Upper Great Lakes yet is still geared more towards larger industrial ships and only supplies 115 docks of which 15 are reserved for transient visitors.
A public boat launch is available at Harbourlands & Millennium Overlook Park right downtown.
Beautiful Thornbury Harbour at the mouth of the Beaver River is a very touristic area and does supply 250 docks with 25 transient slips available to be reserved.
Both harbours offer full marine services and can accommodate many larger vessels both sail and motorized.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Sea kayaks are available for rental at Northwinds Beach but for many paddlers the attraction here is two of the best canoe routes in Southern Ontario are located less than 15 minutes away:
As previously mentioned Blue Mountain is the premier downhill skiing destination in the province but the area also caters to Nordic sports and there are numerous cross country and snowshoe trails including:
The Georgian Trail
The major ski and snowshoe route through the area this 34 kilometre (20.5 mile) trail links Collingwood to Meaford via Blue Mountain.
A well-traveled route following the path of the former CN line it is easy to complete.
Loree Forest Loop
7 Kilometres (4.2 miles) of un-groomed trails atop the Niagara Escarpment.
Only 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of town along 10th Line this is a full service Nordic centre offering:
25 kilometres (15 miles) of groomed trails
5 kilometres (3.2 miles) of dedicated snowshoe trails
Clendenan Conservation Area
Cross-country ski trails are available.
Site of the Beaver River Rat Race
The Town of Collingwood Ontario really is at the centre of the province's major year round holiday destinations and it's easy to see why it has continued to thrive even after losing its once mighty industrial past.
These areas have if fact been turned into tourist attractions in they're own right and are not to be missed when visiting. Located right downtown:
Harbourlands & Millennium Overlook Park with the adjacent
Harbourview Park and Arboretum
With the grain elevators (the former symbol of the city) sitting in the background this former industrial area has been transformed into a pedestrian destination with gardens, benches and paths leading to some awesome views of the harbour, lighthouse and Blue Mountain.
Memorial granite pillars line the pathways and are dedicated to the history of Collingwood Ontario and its shipyards.
One can easily spend a week in the area and enjoy the perfect Ontario holiday. It is one of the true year-round Ontario holiday destinations and Collingwood Ontario should definitely be a strong candidate for a visit.
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