September 2 2011 by Bryson Forbes
It's true, only 90 minutes north of Toronto lies a hidden gem of Canada - Georgian Bay. My wife, kids and I recently spent a weekend along with a couple of great friends on Georgian Bay in Midland, Ontario. After our weekend there, I can sure see why it was voted "Best Hidden Gem in Canada" by The Canadian Tourism Commission's Local's Know campaign from 2010. Okay, so you've got me - it may be closer to a 120 minute trip if you leave on a Friday after work, but it's worth the drive!
Georgian Bay, commonly referred to as the "Sixth Great Lake," is home to a fabulous shore line, more than 30,000 islands and some of Canada's most beautiful national parks. Although the Bay is massive it feels exclusive with many of its islands, parks and cottages accessible only by boat. The area has something for everyone including great fishing, golfing and exceptional boating. From the water, whether you're on fifty-two foot massive yacht or a canoe, all around you, you see people fishing, tubing and riding personal watercrafts. Here is a great little video that gives you a great sense for the area: Georgian Bay You Tube Video
If you are unable to find a friend with a boat, I recommend catching the Miss Midland sightseeing cruise which offers tours three times per day in the summer. The trip takes about two and half hours and it's a great way to tour the area.
Midland is a perfect little town to hang your hat and use as your hub for exploring the area. I say "little town" because the official population is just over 15,000 people, but seasonally it can surge as high as 100,000 with hotel visitors, cottagers, boaters and campers. My recommendation to stay here is the BEST WESTERN PLUS Highland Inn. It is a fantastic property with a nice outdoor pool, sauna, whirlpool and gym, and free amenities like high-speed Wi-Fi, parking and a hot breakfast!
After your hot breakfast at the Best Western and a day on the water, there are two restaurants you need to check out. The first is The Explorers Cafe, a cool spot off the beaten path with a fantastic array of food with an Indian kick. Be sure to ask the owner about his many trips to Antarctica, make reservations as it's always packed, and, if it's nice weather, hit up the patio. They also have a great kids menu aptly named "Little Explorers."
Next, try The Arch Steakhouse & Tavern. The Arch is a great family restaurant with an Italian and Greek feel. Its specialty is steak, but their chicken parmigiana is fabulous too. Be warned though, they may need to roll you out of the restaurant because the portions are not small.
We left too soon but had a great weekend and we will be back for sure! Do you have any hidden vacation gems to share with us?