Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea that there was a National park so close to Toronto. Provincial parks, yes. Several. So when I looked at a map and noticed Georgian Bay Islands, I jumped on the opportunity to experience it myself. In this article, I’ll give you 5 solid reasons why you should experience it for yourselves. Here we go.
Close to Toronto
Yes, I know. Proximity matters. I understand that there’s only so much time in the day and the week. You don’t want to spend that much time in the car, trying to get to where you need to get. Georgian Bay Islands National Park (GBINP) is located about 2 1/2 hours north of Toronto. That may still seem far but when you think about the fact that you’re going to a National park, it should (hopefully) get you excited.
For me, the drive up and what’s around also plays a part. Highway 400 is a bit of a boring highway, I know. But once you get north of Barrie, the scenic drive element of the road trip itself makes it all worthwhile. The landscape becomes that much more rugged, the air that much cleaner.
It’s a National Park
The fact that there’s such a park so close to the big city is truly special. When I think about these types of outdoor gems, my mind usually goes to Jasper, Banff and even Gros Morne. These are some of the more majestic parks Canada has to offer. And although beautiful and definitely worth experiencing, don’t discount the beauty in Toronto’s backyard. You won’t see peaks, glaciers and ocean, but you will see a part of Canada and Canadian Shield that many of us take for granted.
After all, GBINP is right in the middle of the 30,000 island country. It’s home to the world’s largest freshwater archipelago. A small boat takes you either to the north end or south end of Beausoleil Island where you can then take your pick as to what you want to do. Cycle, hike, camp, swim and/or just enjoy the many vistas available. The Group of Seven saw plenty of beauty here and I guarantee that you will too.
Incredible hiking and cycling trails
There are around a dozen trails to explore on both the north and south side of the Beausoleil. I stuck to the northern end and managed to squeeze in 2 trails. Cambrian is a 2km trek that takes you along Little Dog Channel and through deep forest.
The other one was Fairy, a 2.5km loop trail that takes you to Honeymoon Bay and along Fairy Lake. Longer, more challenging hiking and cycling trails are located on the south end. If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one at the Cedar Spring Visitor Centre on the Island.
Affordable cabin life
GBINP is one of those places that comes equipped with fully functioning, all-the-comforts-of-home waterfront cabins. You can rent a cabin at either Cedar Springs orChristian Beach. At Cedar Springs, accommodations for up to 5 people is available. Cabins come with a queen sized bed and a bunk bed. You get washrooms, showers, dining table, sofa, coffee table, a fridge and yes electricity.
Photo courtesy: Parks Canada
Meanwhile the cabins at Christian Beach are a bit more remote, smaller too. They are more for the couple who wants some privacy and distance from everyone and everything. Here, you get a queen size bed, composting toilets close by, limited solar-powered electricity and a dining table with chairs. There’s no running water in the cabins but you get a shared fire pit, a beautiful pebble beach, views of Georgian Bay and you get to experience epic sunsets. Similar to Cedar Springs, pets aren’t allowed.
Photo courtesy: Parks Canada
Chance to see wildlife
If you’re a true lover of the great outdoors, then you love the chance to see some real wildlife. For lightweights like me, seeing a chipmunk is enough to get me rattled and dazzled. There are plenty at GBINP. But if you’re looking for a real up close and personal encounter with, say rattlesnakes then you’re in luck. They’re around at GBINP and from what I understand, they are a rare sight. But nonetheless, look for the sounds and respect their boundaries. Stay safe out there.
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake on Northern Beausoleil Island.
Photo courtesy: Parks Canada/ Bill Carswell, 1977
There’s also been Black bear sightings on both ends of the park. They tend to avoid humans and generally go for food lying around the picnic areas. Make sure that you store your food and cooking supplies so that you don’t risk coming into contact with these beautiful animals. Respect the park, respect the wildlife and everything should be just fine.