Natural areas aren’t bestowed with national park status just for having a picnic bench and a fire pit. The six areas in Ontario that are marked by Parks Canada signs all exhibit qualities that put them above and beyond the ordinary. Whether it’s an archipelago in the St. Lawrence or a rugged shoreline on Superior, a marshy wedge of land in Lake Erie that’s thrumming with life or the hard rock shores and islands of Lake Huron, these areas are some of the best of the best, and they are open to visitors like you, so plan your visit now.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Georgian Bay
There’s no mistaking the eastern shore of Georgian Bay for anywhere else on earth. Its 30,000 islands form the world’s largest freshwater archipelago. Islands of smooth, pink and grey granite are topped with wind-formed white pines and surrounded by the clear waters of what Samuel de Champlain called the Sweetwater Sea.
It’s a kayaking playground, with innumerable channels to explore and uninhabited islands on which to camp. Georgian Bay Islands National Park encompasses a sampling of these islands along the southern half of the shoreline. The collection is spread pretty thin, but the largest island in the park by far is Beausoleil Island, just offshore of Honey Harbour.
Beausoleil is the only place in the park where camping is allowed, or you can rent cabins at Christian Beach or Cedar Springs toward the south end of the island. The island has a network of trails spreading toward the north end that offer great swimming spots and scenic lookouts. Biking is allowed on most trails, and you can rent appropriate bikes from the visitor centre at Cedar Springs. This map will give you the lay of the land.
For maximum independence, you can rent a canoe or kayaks from the The Swift Outdoor Centre on Highway 400, 7 km south of the Port Severn exit toward Honey Harbour. The closest point of Beausoleil Island is only about 2 km from Honey Harbour through protected but often busy boat channels. However, given the size of the island, any exploration will likely entail a longer paddle. Given the surroundings, that’s definitely a good thing.
Fees for admission, Day Tripper boat trips, mooring, and camping are available here.