Ontario is richly blessed with almost half a million lakes and close to 40,000 miles of rivers. Almost one in every 10 square miles of land is a protected wilderness park. Ontario also has the most canoe routes of any region in the world. So why not venture into the northern part of this great province and let the rugged beauty of the "near north" captivate your spirit. See what great escapes you can discover – only a few hours north of the major metropolitan areas.
Nothing compares with the spectacular natural beauty that is encompassed here. Muskoka is known worldwide for its picturesque lakes, elegantly gabled resorts, Victorian mansions, and beautifully maintained historic wooden boats. A number of local boat lines offer narrated cruises of these waterways. Excellent summer stock theatre is offered in the towns of Gravenhurst and Orillia. Try your luck at the newly opened Casino Rama. Or spend a few nights in a waterfront resort and listen to loons calling across a mirrored lake. Even more thrilling is the sound of a wolf's lone howl in the darkness.
Algonquin Provincial Park, only three hours north of Toronto, offers over 4,500 square miles of protected wilderness for exploration. Of special interest to groups is the Visitors Centre and Logging Museum. Opened in 1993 to celebrate the Park's centennial anniversary, these two separate stops located near the east gate of the Park offer modern facilities to visitors. Invite a professional naturalist onboard the coach to describe the wildlife, flora and fauna along the 37-mile Park corridor. Or enjoy an easy walk along one of the many well-marked trails. And nothing will impress your passengers more than an evening trip into the Park to howl for wolves – in the hope that they will answer back with a howl or two of their own. This will probably be the highlight of their Algonquin experience.
Head west to the shores of Georgian Bay at Parry Sound for a look at the Thirty Thousand Islands, an untamed area noted for its ruggedly beautiful islands which dot the eastern shores of this huge body of water like pearls in a necklace. Made famous by artists, explorers and poets alike, a cruise through this area is not to be missed.
Day 1: Check-in at a beautiful lakeside resort near the town of Huntsville. Dinner is included at the hotel. Meet the professional naturalist who will escort this evening's "wolf howl" program into Algonquin Provincial Park. An onboard interpretive program gives visitors insight into the Park's many forms of wildlife. And finally, the group will have the opportunity to hear wolves howling in answer to the naturalist's calls. This is an unforgettably spine-tingling experience!
Day 2: After breakfast in the hotel, embark on a full day excursion into Algonquin Provincial Park with a professional naturalist. First stop is at the west gate for an overview of the history and geography of this famous Park. Next, take an easy walk into the woods to see where bears and other large animals have been spotted feeding in the past. Continue on to the Visitors Centre and enjoy lunch in the lovely cafeteria-style restaurant overlooking a spectacular river valley. The Centre contains world-class exhibits about the Park's natural and human history, as well as an informative audio-visual presentation and an excellent bookstore. Just down the road is the Logging Museum, featuring a slide show tracing the history of logging in the Park from the early square timber days to the last of the great river drives. A historical character from Algonquin's past might even appear! Return to the resort to rest before heading into Huntsville for a barbeque and candlelight tour at Muskoka Heritage Place.
Day 3: Today, experience life as a voyageur in the vast Canadian wilderness three hundred years ago. Large native war canoes capable of holding almost a dozen passengers take visitors on a fun and informative paddle across a pristine lake to a beautiful island where a native encampment is recreated featuring a magnificent teepee and a large native fire ring. Of special significance is the participation of a local Native Canadian who shares personal stories and perspectives of Algonquin. After lunch, groups return to civilization, stopping in Bracebridge at Rich Hill Candles, a unique gift shop where visitors can view candles being made. Nearby Santa's Village and Sportsland provides amusement for all ages. Continue on to the Kewadin Inn in the resort town of Orillia on the shores of Lake Couchiching. After dinner in one of the unique Ossawippi Express Dining Cars, shuttle service is provided for those who wish to try their luck at Casino Rama, offering over 2,000 slot machines and other games of chance.
Day 4: This morning, visit the Ontario Provincial Police Museum which houses an intriguing collection of law enforcement artifacts. The Insignia Shop specializes in clothing and gift items featuring the force's logo. Luncheon cruises of Lake Couchiching are available right at the town dock. Give the group free time for shopping in downtown Orillia and then visit the Stephen Leacock National Historic Site for afternoon tea and a reading of this famous author's humourous works. Return to your hotel to rest and have dinner. This evening, the group will enjoy a performance by the Sunshine Festival Theatre, operating out of the heritage-designated Orillia Opera House.
Day 5: Depart Orillia and head west through the heart of Muskoka to Georgian Bay. Visit the West Parry Sound District Museum which traces the history of trapping, First Nations culture, shipping, logging, farming, rail and cottage life in the area. Climb the nearby fire tower for a breathtaking view of the waterfront area. You'll have lots of time for lunch and sightseeing in downtown Parry Sound, so those who want to view this spectacular region by air can take a sightseeing flight in a float plane from the town dock. In the afternoon, board the Island Queen, Canada's largest sightseeing cruise ship, for a three-hour journey among the narrow channels and shallow waterways in the Thirty Thousand Island region of Georgian Bay. After the cruise, enjoy an early dinner at the Jolly Roger Inn. The group could either check-in at nearby Resort Tapatoo, drive north to Sudbury, or head south toward Toronto and overnight in Port Severn at the Inn at Christie's Mill.
- Festival of the Sound: Parry Sound – A music festival offering everything from classics to jazz (mid July to early August)
- Bala Cranberry Festival: Bala – An event highlighting the local harvest, featuring demonstrations and tours (mid-October).
- Muskoka Tourism: Phone (705) 689-0660, Fax (705) 689-9118, Toll Free 1-800-267-9700. Website http://www.muskoka-tourism.on.ca
- Parry Sound Area Tourism: Phone (705) 746-4455, Fax (705) 746-4435, Toll Free 1-888-746-4455, Website http://www.parrysoundarea.com/
- Orillia District Chamber of Commerce, Phone (705) 326-4424, Fax 327-7841, website http://www.orillia.com/
- Ontario's Lake Country Tourism Marketing Board, Toll Free 1-866-329-5959, Fax 705-325-6817, Website www.ontarioslakecountry.com
- The Inn at Christie's Mill: 263 Port Severn Road North, Box 125, Port Severn, Ontario L0K 1S0. Phone (705) 538-2354, Fax (705) 538-1836, Toll Free 1-800-465-9966, Website: http://www.christiesmill.com
- Kewadin Inn: 400 Memorial Avenue, Orillia, Ontario L3V 6K8. Phone (705) 325-9511, Fax (705) 325-3682, Toll Free 1-800-461-0283 (U.S./Canada)
- Resort Tapatoo: Box 834, Parry Sound, Ontario P2A 2X5. Phone (705) 378-2208, Fax (705) 378-2379, Toll Free 1-800-461-5410 (Canada), Website: http://www.tapatoo.com/
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