Surrounding the southern and western shores of Georgian Bay, this area offers living historical attractions as well as panoramic views and unsurpassed natural beauty. Just outside Midland, visit the restored site of the first European inland settlement in Canada, Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons. French Jesuit priests organized a mission fort at the southern end of Georgian Bay in 1639. Unfortunately, their arrival brought previously unknown diseases and internal division to the local Huron natives, leading to the entire tribe's eventual destruction. The mission fort was burned and some of the priests were martyred for their faith. Today, an amazing historical reconstruction of this site welcomes visitors. Directly across the road, the twin spires of Martyrs' Shrine, Ontario's only pilgrimmage site, serve as a memorial to a number of Canadian saints, including the Sainte-Marie martyrs.
Just a few miles away on the shores of Georgian Bay is Discovery Harbour, another historical reconstruction of life at a British naval and military base after the War of 1812. Two 19th century replica schooners offer "hands-on" sailing programs.
Continuing west along the shoreline, visit the town of Collingwood, nestled at the base of the Niagara Escarpment. The Canadian Elvis Tribute & Convention is the largest annual event of its kind held outside of the United States and features memorabilia, look-alike contests, musical presentations and community events.
Travel up the Bruce Peninsula to the quaint fishing village of Tobermory. To cross to Manitoulin Island, one must board the Chi-Cheemaun – an Ojibway word meaning "Big Canoe". This huge auto ferry makes a two-hour crossing over waters that, before modern navigation techniques, once claimed over 100 ships. Today, this area is well-known to scuba divers who explore these wrecks. The water here is a beautiful aquamarine colour-unique in Ontario and caused by quartzite crystals from the nearby Killarney Mountain Range. Take a glass-bottomed boat cruise and float over some of the wrecks then pass by two rock formations which have eroded over time and now resemble giant flowerpots.
Continue your journey north into the vast Canadian wilderness or return home through southern Ontario.
Day 1: Enroute to Midland from Toronto, visit the quaint village of Tottenham where you can ride the only steam train still running in Ontario with South Simcoe Railway. After lunch, take in a matinee performance at the Red Barn Theatre in Jackson's Point on the south shore of Lake Simcoe. Continuing north, stop for some bargain hunting at the 400 Market. Check in at your Midland hotel. After dinner, those who wish to may visit Martyrs' Shrine, a twin-spired church constructed in 1926 to honour a number of Canadian saints, including those killed at the nearby Sainte-Marie mission. See canes and other aids left by pilgrims claiming to have been cured. And don't miss the view of Georgian Bay's spectacular sunset from the lookout tower-a special way to finish the day.
Day 2: After breakfast, visit Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre for an exploration of the sights and sounds of this large wetland. Catch a glimpse of the successful brood of magnificent Trumpeter Swans, an endangered species. Next door, costumed interpreters lead your group through Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons and explain the history of this Jesuit mission fort and the reasons for its eventual demise. Lunch is available in the on-site cafeteria-style dining room. Visit nearby Discovery Harbour a reconstruction of a British naval and military base from the mid-19th century. There's even an opportunity to sail on board a replica of a 19th-century schooner. Before dinner, take a tour of over 24 historic murals painted on buildings in downtown Midland which depict the area's colourful past and then enjoy a sunset dinner cruise as you glide by windswept islands and rugged shorelines.
Day 3: This morning, head west through Wasaga Beach and see the world's longest freshwater beach, a 9-mile sweep of fine white sand. In Collingwood, visit The Candy Factory for a demonstration of the candymaker's art. Don't miss the free samples! View ceramics being made at Blue Mountain Pottery. After lunch, more adventurous groups can visit the Collingwood Scenic Caves Nature Preserve and explore fascinating caves and rock formations. From here, continue west and overnight in Owen Sound.
Day 4: This morning, follow the Bruce Peninsula north to the quaint fishing village of Tobermory. With its frame houses and twin harbours, the atmosphere of a quiet fishing village prevails, even though it's a busy resort and a centre for scuba diving activities. If there is time, take one of the glass-bottomed boat cruises to view some of the submerged shipwrecks and to see the famous "flowerpots". For groups heading to Manitoulin Island, the Chi-Cheemaun ferry is the largest and most modern ship ever built for ferry service on the Great Lakes and can accommodate up to 115 cars and 600 passengers. Inside, there are spacious lounges, a gift shop and a 230-seat cafeteria, all making for a pleasant and comfortable passage.
- Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival: Elmvale (third Saturday in April)
- Canadian Elvis Tribute and Convention: Collingwood- Largest annual Elvis convention outside of Memphis, featuring impersonators, dancers, parades and memorabilia (last weekend in July)
- Festival of Northern Lights: Owen Sound - Dazzling light displays, parades, musical entertainment and various events (mid-November to mid-January)
- Huronia Tourism Association: Phone (705) 726-8502, Fax (705) 726-3991, Toll Free 1-800687-6642 (U.S./Canada). Website: http://www.county.simcoe.on.ca
- Midland-Penetanguishene Tourism: Phone (705) 549-2232, Fax (705) 549-6640, Toll Free 1-800-263-7745 (U.S./Canada). Website: www.southerngeorgianbay.on.ca
- Georgian Triangle Tourist & Convention Bureau: Phone (705) 445-7722, Fax (705) 444-6158, Website: www.georgiantriangle.org
- Grey County Tourism: Phone (519) 376-2205, Toll Free 1-800-567-4739, Website www.greycounty.on.ca
- Owen Sound Tourism: Phone (519) 371-9833, Fax (519) 371-8628, Toll Free 1-888-675-5555, Website www.city.owen-sound.on.ca
- Bruce County Tourism: Phone (519) 832-2020, Fax (519) 832-2050, Toll Free 1-800-268-3838 (U.S./Canada). Website: http://www.naturalretreat.com
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