Destination Ontario: The Natural Wonders of Collingwood
By Cece M. Scott www.cecescott.com
Incorporated as a town in 1858, Collingwood became a shipping hub for products that were destined for the upper Great Lakes ports of Chicago and Thunder Bay. For more than a century, shipbuilding was the town’s main industry. In 1986 the shipyards were closed, and the waterfront is now a revered leisure destination.
BRING IT ON
Located on the southern end of Georgian Bay, Collingwood is the gateway to the Blue Mountains, where skiing, snowboarding, shopping and fine dining off er the best that winter has to offer.
Blue Mountain is Ontario’s largest village resort, just 90 minutes north of Toronto and 11 kilometres west of Collingwood. There are 43 ski and snowboard trails, 365 skiable acres and a vertical drop of 720 feet. At the base of the mountain, The Village features more than 45 distinctive restaurants, bars and retail shops. Along with the popular Scandinave Spa, visitors can also enjoy the village’s two onsite spas.
Off -hill winter activities include tennis, the aquatic centre, snowshoeing, and new for 2018 – the Woodview Mountaintop Skating Trail at the top of Blue.
With the growing popularity of Winter Fat Biking, mountain bikers can now spin their wheels all year long. Fat bikes use tires that are inflated with less air pressure, which make navigating through snowy terrain a fun way to improve balance and strengthen winter legs.
WHET YOUR WHISTLE
The nine-day Whiskylicious festival, running from February 1st to the 10th, is a whiskey-infused celebration of local food. The outdoor ice bars and culinary pairings are inspired by Collingwood Whiskey – a toasted, Maplewood-finished Canadian blend. Located in the downtown core, the festival is a showcase of signature chef dishes, music, arts and brewers.
This year, the Apple Pie Trail FEEST is on Friday, February 9th, and is sponsored by Red Prince Apple to benefit the Blue Mountain Village Foundation. This magical evening features local food, cider, wine and music, along with moonlit trails with stops at fire-lit cabins. The five-kilometre guided trek takes participants across southern Ontario’s longest suspension footbridge, and through the trails of Scenic Caves Nordic Centre.
The distinctive shoreline and blue waters of Georgian Bay, mixed with the area’s rich marine history, are natural highlights for all types of boaters.
The Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster (Ontario’s first) is a one kilometre ride through the Niagara Escarpment’s diverse terrain. Drivers can reach an exhilarating 42 kilometres per hour.
Popular golf courses in the area include the 18-hole, par 71 Duntroon Highlands Golf Club, which offers spectacular vistas of Collingwood, Stayner and Blue, as well as the Blue Mountain Golf & Country Club, The Georgian Bay Club and Batteaux Creek Golf Club.
With 60 kilometres of four-season, well-marked, multi-use trails, touring around Collingwood is perpetually pleasurable. The downtown core is jam-packed with trendy clothing stores, spas, galleries, fine dining, artisan cafes, live music venues, pubs and bars, in addition to dozens of art galleries and studios. Colourful panels and murals are creative reminders of Collingwood’s historical past, spanning more than two centuries.
Visitors and residents are passionate about the The Good Food Stroll – a walking or biking tour that showcases Collingwood’s love affair with food. Much is sourced from local farmers, and includes restaurant pit stops, cafes, specialty food outlets, food markets, cafes and sweet shops.
THE SPIRITS OF COLLINGWOOD
The soil and unique climate associated with this region are key elements in the making of the distinctive wine at Georgian Hills Vineyards. During the winter, visitors can snowshoe through the vineyards and enjoy artisanal cheeses and a glass of wine after their trek.
Collingwood’s craft breweries, include Northwinds Brewhouse & Kitchen, The Collingwood Brewery and Side Launch Brewing Company Inc. (named for the town’s shipbuilding industry).
Meaford is the heart of Ontario’s apple country. Stayner and Thornbury, a short drive from Collingwood, offer eclectic variations of the small town experience, and numerous pick-your own farms en-route.