Georgian Bay Islands National Park

A small but beautiful water based park
within a few hours from Toronto


georgian-islandsThe small but beautiful Georgian Bay Islands National Park is composed of 63 windswept islands at the southern end of the magnificent Georgian Bay. Providing some spectacular landscapes the park was the inspiration for many of the famed Canadian Group of Seven artists whose paintings have become synonymous for the Canadian outdoors for many people around the word.

The park is only 13.5 square kilometeres in size but is part of a 30,000 island archipelago, the largest collection of freshwater islands in the world. One unique feature is the fact that the islands are at the transition zone of two distinctive habitats. The rugged beauty of the Canadian Shield in its northern half with its windswept pines emerging from barren rocky outcrops gives way to the deciduous hardwood forests located throughout southern Ontario.

Originally founded in 1929 with only 29 islands including nearby Flowerpot Island in the Fathom Five National Marine Park the park is in the middle of one of Canada’s premier “cottage country’s”.


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What also makes Georgian Bay Islands National Park so unique is the fact that since it is an island park it is accessible by boat only. Fortunately for visitors that don’t have their own water transportation, rentals and/or water taxi services are available.

The islands are also renowned for their abundant wildlife, particularly the 35 species of reptiles and amphibians they support, more than are found anywhere else in Canada. They are one of the few remaining habitats of the endangered Massassauga rattlesnake. Found primarily on Beausoleil Island, the parks largest, it is the only venomous snake in Eastern Canada.

Insider Tip: The chances of encountering a Massassauga rattlesnake in Georgian Bay Islands National Park is extremely rare however care should be taken when traveling in this area. Always wear hiking boots and long pants if possible and watch where you step or put your hands when hiking. The animal is shy and will only bite when provoked. Never approach as their venom is poisonous. If seen, report at the visitor’s office.


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georgian-bay-islands Most visitors only make the excursion to Beausoleil Island, the largest of the park’s islands and this is understandable since it is where all the parks campsites and facilities are located as well as being the termination point for The Day Tripper, the parks official water taxi service.

You catch the Day Tripper in the Town of Honey Harbour on the mainland. The boat runs mainly in the busy summer months and it is only a 15-minute trip out to the island. To get to the Day Tripper take Highway 400 to exit # 156 and travel west on Muskoka Road 5 until you arrive in the town. The Day Tripper embarkation point is located right across from the Honey Harbour Town Centre. Check out: Georgian Bay Islands National Park for more information such as the schedule and fees, reservations are recommended.

If you arrive on your own boat, you must self-register at the park docks. There is limited overnight docking facilities on the island.

Remember: ACCESS TO GEORGIAN BAY ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK IS BY BOAT ONLY


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Location of Honey Harbour & Georgian Bay Islands National Park



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How to get to Honey Harbour and Georgian Bay Islands National Park:

If traveling from Southern Ontario:
  • Take Highway 400 North past the City of Barre to exit 156. Head west on Muskoka Road # 5 into the Town of Honey Harbour.

If traveling from Northern Ontario:
  • Take either Highways 69 or 11 south until they connect to Highway 400. Then take exit 156 west into the town.


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Once on Beausoleil Island activities to partake in include:

Hiking

All Georgian Bay Islands National Park hiking trails are found on Beausoleil Island and provide visitors with spectacular scenery and chance encounters with a variety of wildlife. There are 13 different trails to choose from depending on the difficulty and the environment you wish to traverse.

Cambrian Trail: A very easy trail at 2 kilometeres (1.2 miles) in length. Passes through some classic Canadian Shield scenery the trail is a loop off of the Fairy Trail in the north of Beausoleil Island.

Fairy Trail: Of moderate difficulty this trail is 2.5 kilomtres (1.5 miles) long. A winding trail that leads through some hills and valleys along the shores of Goblin and Fairy Lakes it provides for some splendid scenery. It can be reached from the Rockview Trail in the north of the island.

Rockview Trail: A very short and easy to traverse trail at 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) long it overlooks and gives a splendid view of Long Bay and connects the Fairy and Dossyonshing Trails to the Huron Trail in the north of Beausoleil Island.

Dossyonshing Trail: At 2.5 kilometeres (1.5 miles) long this trail is very easy to traverse. It passes through a variety of beautiful scenic areas including some beaver ponds. The trail can be reached from the Huron via the Rockview Trail in the north end of Beausoleil Island.

Massasauga Trail: This 2 kilometer (1.2 miles) trail is easy to hike and gets its name from the endangered Massasauga Rattlesnake that can sometimes be seen in this area. It runs along the eastern side of the island and provides access to many of the parks campgrounds and docking sites.

Portage Trail: This very short 0.3 kilometer (1/10 mile) trail is very easy to hike. It passes through some wetlands and derives its name from the fact that it was the portage route used by aboriginals and early settlers to cross the island and is still used by local inhabitants today.

Huron Trail: The longest trail at 8 kilometres (4.8 miles) it is of moderate difficulty. A hike along the trails full length allows hikers the opportunity of passing through the transition zone between the lowlands and the Canadian Shield country. It runs along the eastern side of the island and connects with several other trails and provides access to a number of the backcountry campsites. Bicycling is permitted on this rail.

Georgain Trail: Of moderate difficulty this trail is 5 kilometres (3 miles) in length and runs along the western shoreline of the island. The trail connects to the Huron at the southern tip and northern section of the island. It can also be reached from the Christian Trail. This is a great place to watch the sunset over Georgian Bay.

Treasure Trail: At 3.8 kilometeres (2.3 miles) in length this trail is very easy to hike. The trail follows a ridge out to Treasure Bay and passes the site of old Ojibwa aboriginal settlements. The trail can be reached in the south from Cedar Springs campground on Beausoleil Island.

Firetower Trail: One of the best trails for spectacular scenery it is only 1.3 kilometeres (0.8 miles) in length and is of moderate difficulty. At the end of the trail is a magnificent view over Papoose Bay. The trail can be reached halfway along the Christian Trail.

Christian: One of the most heavily trafficked trails it is 1.5 kilometeres (0.9 miles) in length and is of moderate difficulty. The trail crosses the width of the lower part of the island connecting Cedar Springs campground to the group camping area at Christian Beach on the west coast. Bicycling is permitted on this trail.

Lookout Trail: As the name implies the trail gives you some pretty impressive views of the bay and surrounding areas. It starts at the Head of Trails in the Cedar Spring campground and winds its way through forests for 1.9 kilometeres (1.1 miles) and is of moderate difficulty.

Heritage Trail: A short 0.6 kilometer (.3 miles) easy to traverse trail that allows hikers to discover some of the unique natural heritage of the island and park.


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Camping

There are a total of 192 sites with limited camping facilities available on Beausoleil Island only. The main park campground is at Cedar Springs with 87 sites and facilities such as toilets and showers are available. The rest are primitive sites located along the islands shores stretching from the southern to the northern tip. These sites can be accessed by water or you can backpack in from Cedar Springs campground. The sites must be reserved and during the busy summer months can fill up quickly. Park information can be found here: Georgian Bay Islands camping.

Canoeing

Georgian Bay Islands National Park is not really recommended for canoes as you are really canoeing on the open waters of Georgian Bay. This is a huge body of cold water that is usually fairly choppy and prone to fogging over, especially in the early morning. Weather conditions can also change fairly quickly so it is always recommended to stay close to shore and never go out alone.

If you decide to canoe they can be rented in Honey Harbour. Crossing over to Beausoleil Island can be hazardous so watch out for the wake of passing motorboats. Once you are there however you are in store for some great scenery. Canoeing also gives you the option of traveling from island to island to see some rarely visited spectacular scenery.

Sea Kayaking

This is where Georgian Bay Islands National Park really shines. The kayaking among the islands is magnificent. Beausoleil island is a relatively short paddle from Honey Harbour and once there the rest of the islands are at your beck and call.

Limited campsites are available along the shoreline allowing one to navigate through the islands with overnight stops on the agenda. There are endless inlets, channels and bays to explore making the park one of the world’s premier kayaking destinations. It really was made for kayaking so if this is a sport you like to participate in the park was definitely made for you.

Please note that traveling between islands can be dangerous as Georgian Bay is a large body of cold water and weather conditions can rapidly change. Never kayak alone and make sure you have enough experience to partake in the planned journey.

Fishing

Georgian Bay Islands National Park is a great place to partake in some onshore fishing as Georgian Bay is one of Ontario’s premier fishing destinations. Check out my Ontario Fishing pages for more information as to the type of sport fish available to be caught in its waters.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is available but is limited due to the fact that Georgian Bay Islands National Park is accessible by boat only. This means hauling your bike over on a canoe or on the Day Tripper. For those that do bikes are restricted to The Huron and Christian Trails.

Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing

During the winter months Georgian Bay freezes over and it is possible to partake in these activities in the area. It should be noted however that ice conditions can change rapidly and care should always be taken when going out on the ice.


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georgian-bay-islands-national-park Georgian Bay Islands National Park makes for a great day trip for most visitors. Located just a couple of hours north of Toronto it is easily reached and is only a short ride on the water taxi over to Beausoleil Island. Once here, you get to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Canadian Shield in all its ruggedness, scenery that has long made it a favourite among photographers and artists alike.

For the more outdoors type, enjoy kayaking and canoeing among some of the most splendid scenery you will ever encounter. The parks limited access (by boat only) means it is not as heavily visited as many of the other National and Provincial Parks in the area. The Georgian Bay Islands National Park is a true gem of the Canadian National Park system as is well worth an excursion.


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