Updated: Jun 9
The town of Parry Sound is a gem located on the shores of windswept Georgian Bay, in Northern Ontario, about 225 km north of Toronto. This is the world's largest freshwater archipelago, known as the 30,000 Islands. As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Parry Sound is a year-round destination that includes amazing natural beauty and outdoor activities as well as museums, cultural activities, and is host to many festivals and events.
There is a wide range of options for accommodations with bed and breakfasts, lodges, resorts, hotels and nearby campgrounds. This area is very popular with the diving community. The local tourism office can offer many recommendations for tours and activities in the area.
The town was incorporated when the railroad arrived, allowing easier and more efficient transport for local forestry companies. Eco-tourism has become a major industry today.
After looking at several different options, I chose to book myself on a 3-hour afternoon cruise on the Ocean Queen. This boat was built especially for maneuvering through the narrow and shallow waters. There is comfortable below-deck seating with large viewing windows and a large (uncovered) observation deck on top. The commentary offered was interesting and very informative.
The Island Queen is a big boat... with a very shallow draft. It does not fit under the Rose Channel bridge. The captain gives 3 short blasts of the horn to signal the bridge attendants to open it up.
As we passed, I was thrilled to see the osprey nest with the resident mama and a couple of chicks.
Some of these channels were really tight for a large ship, making it clear why the Ocean Queen was built specifically for Georgian Bay.
This area is known as the “30,000 islands”. There are standards, though. To be defined as an island, the land mass must be at least one acre in size.
The Muskoka region has some really expensive real estate. There is a large celebrity presence. Incredibly luxurious summer homes are often located next to some very rustic shacks.
The weather is a huge influence on the landscape. Wind and ice create constant erosion. Art lovers will recognize the landscape as the subject of many of the Group of 7 paintings.
Yet despite these conditions, this is a hugely desirable area for cottagers and those folks looking to live luxuriously in the wilderness. Locals refer to the "inner islands" and the "outer islands".
The inner islands have some protection from the other islands but the cottages on the outer islands are located on some pretty stark land.
Back in Victoria Harbour, I decided to do a bit of exploring and wandered around the harbour area. The Parry Sound Trestle Bridge was the subject of Tom Thompson's 1914 painting Trestle of Parry Sound.
I really enjoyed the art on the side of this bridge connected to the local First Nations land.
I especially enjoy spending the last of the evening at Tailwinds Bar & Grill, which is also the float plane terminal. The patio is a great place to pass a couple of hours enjoying a delicious meal while watching boats and float planes.
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