Destination Ontario – The Heart Of Georgian Bay
By Cece Scott www.cecescott.com
Photography, courtesy of North Simcoe Tourism
Midland and Penetanguishene
Midland and Penetanguishene in Simcoe County are the gateway to 30,000 Islands. Simcoe Country also includes the townships of Tay (Port McNicoll) and Tiny (Balm Beach), which offer a charm bracelet of historical sites, wildlife centres, provincial parks, live theatre venues, cycling, boating and the shimmering blue waters of Georgian Bay.
Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was home to the French Jesuit missionaries who ministered to the Huron Wendant people from 1639 to 1648. This site was the first to be settled by Europeans in Ontario, and offers a glimpse into Canadian pioneer life. After a visit to the Interpretative Museum, you can enjoy a meal at Restaurant Sainte-Marie.
Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, is one of two of Canada’s national shrines to Canadian martyrs, (the other is in Quebec). In its 91st year (2017), the shrine, which welcomes pilgrims of all faiths and cultures, honours eight saints who lived, worked and died in the area.
Discovery Harbour in Penetanguishene is a military and navy outpost established as a base for the British in the War of 1812. Along with the opportunity to board replicas of the H.M.S Tecumseth and the H.M.S. Bee naval ships, there are themed guided tours about the War of 1812, facilitated by authentically costumed staff.
Nature lovers’ havens
The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, located on 3,000 acres of wetlands and forest, is a trumpeter swan sanctuary. A hot-spot connection for nature lovers, visitors can take advantage of the observation tower to decide on the best route for their hiking, biking or cross country skiing adventure. In September, the marsh’s Get Outdoors Festival is a great way to celebrate all things indigenous that this nature reserve has to offer.
Awenda Provincial Park is a spectacular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering camping, biking, canoeing and swimming. Sunbathers flock to the sandy Georgian Bay shores and beaches during the summer months. Consisting of 63 small islands, Georgian Bay Islands National Park also has camping and cabin rental availability.
With more than 230 kilometres of trails, cyclists of all abilities can enjoy the beautiful paths that run along the bay’s coastine. The routes are jampacked with historical highlights, as well as cycle-friendly support businesses, such as eateries, cosy accommodations and bike shops.
This water corridor is celebrated for its sparkling azure qualities, and is the Gateway to the 30,000 Islands – an outsized boaters’ paradise. There are multiple anchorages for boaters, and a good selection of places to gas-up and stock up on supplies. One of the many jewels in the chain, Beckwith Island is an Ojibwa reserve that allows boaters to spend the day on the beach or tour the dunes. Overnight camping is available with prior permission.
You can get your live performance fix at two of the area’s arts venues, King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene and the Midland Cultural Centre.
King’s Wharf Theatre, an intimate 385-seat venue, is situated at the end of a long, water-kissed boardwalk. This year’s playbill includes the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope musical, the Million Dollar Quartet, and the ever-popular Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Intermission at any of these performances can be enjoyed by sipping a cold libation or savouring a sweet treat while taking in the sights of Discovery Harbour’s replica ships, as well as the spendour of Georgian Bay.
The Midland Cultural Centre celebrates the arts with classical, folk, country and bluegrass concerts, in addition to live theatre and literary events by well-known authors.
Stroll the streets
Shopping in the area is an eclectic, small-town experience offering up everything from fashion to furniture. A stroll along Midland’s downtown King Street affords views of the bay as you make your way from store to store. A well-worth-thewalk excursion should include the outdoor gallery of murals (North America’s longest historic outdoor mural), painted along the sides of buildings in the downtown/ waterfront area. Inspired by the murals of Chemanius, B. C., the outdoor gallery of 35 murals depicts the poignant pioneer history of the area.
The Queen of Tarts
Celebrating all things butter tarts, Midland is home to Ontario’s Best Butter Tarts Festival. In 2016, the festival attracted 50,000 visitors and sold more than 127,000 tarts. This year’s festival takes place on June 10th. Arriving early is the key to grabbing a dozen – or maybe three.