There are a reputed 30,000 islands and 100,000 shoals in Georgian Bay. Each of the islands has it’s own character ranging from bare rugged rock to lush forests. The further out the more rugged and barren the islands, and often the bigger the waves.
Parry Sound offers one of the deepest sheltered harbours in the Great Lakes. The Big Sound is just west of the town and provides a deep-water playground for boaters and sailors. The Big Sound is contained by Parry Island to the south, Carling Township to the north and Killbear Park to the west. Once you pass Killbear Park you are in a much more exposed location where there are numerous islands and shoals, the rugged Georgian Bay seen in paintings and photos. Heading out a little further beyond Franklin Island, and the west side of Parry Island, you are now ‘Beyond the Big Sound’ with the next major landfall being the Bruce Peninsula, about 100 km away.
A great number of those 30,000 islands fall within and just beyond the Big Sound, however it's hard to go out there and not have a few favourites, here are some ours:
The Pancakes are a 45-minute boat ride from Parry Sound, and a shorter ride from Snug Harbour. A government dock makes access to the island easier. The island, as it’s name suggests, is rather flat with large expanses of rocks that were once at the base of the Grenville Mountains.
Wreck Island, almost an hour from Parry Sound by boat, is best known as the resting place of the PS Waubuno, a side-wheel steamer that sank November 22, 1879, with no survivors. The island can be more easily accessed from Woods Bay, south of Parry Sound, by boat, canoe or kayak, although there can be big water depending on the weather. Wreck Island has a wonderful interpretive trail with many different rock formations that takes about an hour to properly walk and enjoy.
On the west side of Parry Island, Copegog is nestled in a narrow channel. A smaller island, Copegog offers easy access with a government dock. The west side of the island offers views of a quiet bay and the outer islands. This is a very typical Biosphere island with a variety of hardy plants as well as soft and hardwood trees. Wildflowers can be found in late Spring and early Summer.
One of the islands beyond the Big Sound, Bateau Island is tricky to approach and land. Being out of the way the island offers a different experience with westerly views that are mostly horizon. It takes about an hour to get to Bateau Island with additional time required to find a suitable landing spot.
Even more remote than Bateau Island this island offers some unique rock formations on the island and on the way there. Plan on seventy five minutes to boat there from Parry Sound, the last few kilometers requiring very slow boating and sharp eyes.
Franklin is a very popular destination for boaters and kayakers. A short paddle from Snug Harbour, Franklin offers a variety of different environements. The west side is barren, windswept and quite solitary, while the east side is rather lush with numerous boats passing by on their way to and from Pointe au Baril. Depending where on Franklin Island you are headed it can take from 45 to 75 minutes from Parry Sound with the Beagle.
Massasauga Provincial Park
The park itself is an interesting destination with a number of points of interest. Wreck Island, mentioned earlier is a great destination hike, but there is also Winnett Island, the Baker Trail from Calhoun Lodge, and the Moon Island Trail. Each of these last two trails are longer, and require on the order of two to three hours. It also takes about an hour and half to reach each of these trails.
Pointe au Baril
This is largely a cottage community that was a very popular summer destination in the early 20th Century with visitors arriving by boat or train. Points of interest include the Point au Baril Lighthouse which is open to visitors, and the Ojibway Club a hotel built in 1906 that serves as an island community centre. A trip to Pointe au Baril requires six hours for travel and on shore activities.
Frying Pan Island
Home to Henry’s Fish Restaurant, this island is on the edge of Massasauga Provincial Park, about 45 minutes from Parry Sound. As an add-on to an adventure in the Massasauga Park area plan on another hour for lunch at Henry’s. The restaurant itself receives mixed reviews for its food, but there is no question that it is one of the best-known Georgian Bay destinations for lunch and dinner.
And So Many More Islands
With 30,000 islands there is always something new to discover. When we aren't out with guests we're looking for new destinations and new approaches to old favourites. Have some place special you want to visit? Let us know what you are thinking and we'll let you know if, and how, we can get you there. Beyond the natural beauty of the islands there a number of destinations that are interesting on the basis of their contribution to the history and development of the area.