it’s completely understandable why this area is known as the “best freshwater cruising grounds in the world

By Mike Gridley

As you cruise past Christian Island, you enter the waters of Georgian Bay’s 30,000 Islands – an expanse of water, granite and pines that extends up the eastern shore of Georgian Bay from Severn Sound to the channel at Killarney. With plenty of marinas, stopovers along the shore and secluded anchorages to call your own, it’s completely understandable why this area is known as the “best freshwater cruising grounds in the world.”

With sandy beaches and clear waters, this group is more akin to Caribbean islands than what boaters will find in the remainder of the region.

A group of four islands guard the protected waters of Severn Sound – Christian, Hope, Beckwith and Giants Tomb. With sandy beaches and clear waters, this group is more akin to Caribbean islands than what boaters will find in the remainder of the region.

While not well protected, Sandy Bay off Hope Island is the quietest of the anchorages. The most popular ones are on either side of Beckwith Island. Boaters mostly head for the eastern anchorage as it offers good holding in firm sandy bottom. But when the wind blows from the east – creating what is locally known as the “Beckwith bounce” – head to the western shore, where you’ll find an equally attractive beach and protection from those occasional easterly winds.

Boaters also love to anchor on the southern shore of the Tomb because of the sand bar that runs out between an eighth to a quarter of a mile offshore. It can surprise the unwary boater, though, so keep a look out and reduce your speed as you approach. You’ll find about five feet of water depth at the bar’s drop off edge, then it slowly shallows as it slopes up to meet the beach.

there’s plenty of sun and sand to enjoy a day trip here.

Most of Giants Tomb Island is part of Awenda Provincial Park. Although anchoring overnight is not allowed, there’s plenty of sun and sand to enjoy a day trip here. With the low waters forecast for Lake Huron this summer, you can bet this island group will be a popular destination.

The eastern “water” gateway to Georgian Bay is through the historic Trent-Severn Waterway. Port Severn is the last port-of-call before Georgian Bay and the perfect place to re-provision, refuel and stop overnight. If you need a full-service marina, head for Starport Severn, conveniently located on the town side of the Severn River. Marine services, parts and accessories are available at their second facility located below Lock 45.

For those looking to enjoy an upscale meal or a luxury room ashore for a few nights before heading to the lock, Rawley Resort and Marina is a definite must stop. If you’re looking to overnight on board, the last option before entering the bay is to stay at the top of the lock. There is plenty of dock space and facilities include a large park, washrooms and picnic tables.

When departing Lock 45, be aware you are ending your downstream trip. Here in the bay, the tables turn and you join the upstream small craft route, so you now must keep your red buoys to starboard. Considering recent low water levels, also carefully review your charts and plan your route out to the bay carefully. You can head through the main route utilizing Potato Island Channel or the alternate route through Waubaushene Channel. Both lead into Severn Sound, where you can head north, cruise to the Outer Islands or explore the communities on the Sound.

Two of the largest communities on Georgian Bay, Penetanguishene and Midland offer plenty of services and attractions. Entering Penetang Harbour the most popular attraction is a historical reconstruction of a 17th century British naval base and garrison, known as Discovery Harbour. The King’s Wharf pier berths the two resident tall ships, the HMS Tecumseth and the HMS Bee, both honourary members of the British Royal Navy. The resident summer theatre, a red structure easily distinguished from the bay, has a wide range of productions over the summer months. Although there is no overnight docking, boaters are welcome to tie up to the dock in front of the restaurant throughout the day in order to tour the site or anchor in the bay protected by Magazine Island.

On the opposite shore, tucked behind Michaud Point, is quiet and friendly Northwest Basin marina. Further along is Bay Moorings, a full-service marina with gas, diesel and pump-out accessible through the north entrance to its floating breakwater.

After passing through the narrows off Davidson Point you will enter South Basin. The town of Penetanguishene wraps around the eastern bank of this bay-within-a-bay, with its public dock standing at the doorway of the basin like a welcoming maitre d’. The western reach of South Basin is dominated by Hindson Marina, while Beacon Bay Marina lies squarely in the southernmost point. The rim of the basin is shallow, but both marinas have dredged and buoyed channels to their entrances.

The Port of Historic Penetanguishene – or the “town dock,” as it is aptly known – has room for over 20 transient boats to a maximum of 100 feet. Within a 10-minute walk, you will find convenience stores, beer, hardware, pharmacies, two banks, and various gift shops and boutiques. Groceries and the liquor store are just a taxi ride away. There are restaurants for every taste and watering holes welcoming wayfaring boaters.

The most central community in Severn Sound, Midland lies at the apex of a large, double-lobed bay. When first entering the bay, boaters will notice Tiffin Basin to the southeast, home to Wye Heritage Marina. In the western bay, referred to as Midland Harbour, are Central Marine, Midland Harbour or Town Dock, Midland Bay Sailing Club and Bay Port Yachting Centre.

Midland Harbour is easily navigated, even at night, due to the well-lit shipping channel and its deep, wide open waters. A great navigational landmark is A.D.M. Milling Company’s grain elevator located next to the town dock. Adjacent to the elevators, town-operated Midland Harbour offers transient berths. For relaxing ashore, the dock has two large gazebos on the pier and ice cream for sale. A park with picnic areas and a playground is located right next door.

If a great meal or cold refreshment is on your wish list, the Boathouse Eatery is just steps away. You can enjoy great fare, including Georgian Bay pickerel, in the main restaurant and bar or sit dockside on the expansive deck and enjoy a great view of the harbour.

There are plenty of options for things to do on shore, as the town of Midland has a host of shops, services and restaurants just a short walk up King Street. You’ll find groceries, pharmacies, an LCBO outlet and a Beer Store all within walking distance.

the CP Rail Steamship, Keewatin, was returned to the port 100 years to the day that she sailed in to start passenger services at the head of the rail line.

Around Paradise Point are the villages of Port McNicoll and Victoria Harbour. Port McNicoll was once the home to the Canadian Pacific Railway’s upper Great Lakes ship lines. While the grain elevators are gone, a new waterfront development is taking shape. The first of the waterfront homes can be seen and plans are underway for two marinas. In 2012, the CP Rail Steamship, Keewatin, was returned to the port 100 years to the day that she sailed in to start passenger services at the head of the rail line.

Across the bay lies Victoria Harbour and Queen’s Cove Marina, a full-service marina that boasts the only covered slips for cruising boats on Georgian Bay. For those needing launch facilities, there is a concrete ramp and the storage area for vehicles and trailers is lit and secure. Facilities available to transient boaters include WiFi, a heated pool and spa, washrooms and showers, tennis court, gazebos, picnic tables, and a barbeque pit. For those wishing to relax and dine ashore, Queen’s Cove also has a licensed restaurant. The Quarterdeck offers casual fine dining and an excellent view of the marina and Hog Bay. The marina is within walking distance of the village, where boaters will find a coin laundry, LCBO outlet and grocery store.

Cruising north out of Penetanguishene, Midland, Victoria Harbour or Port Severn, you first arrive at the southern tip of world-famous Beausoleil Island, the largest of the 59 islands that make up Georgian Bay Islands National Park.

Popular anchorages are found along the island’s eastern shores. Day boaters gravitate towards the first, Papoose Bay, due to the beaches and sandy bottom, but it is exposed to constant boat wakes.

Moving north, you will find the main wharf just past the point at Cedar Spring. This is a popular spot for a stopover or even an overnight, but the open waters and passing boat wakes can make it a bit bouncy along the dock. The anchorage in the warm shallow waters off Cedar Spring offer transient boaters the chance to go a

shore and explore the park amenities, from hiking trails to campsites, as well as beautiful beaches. And if you prefer, can also access the docks off the Parks office while visiting the island.

Past Touch Point in Beausoleil Bay is the wonderfully secluded Ojibway Bay, which offers docks and picnic benches that are well protected from the prevailing west winds.

Chimney Bay is also a favourite and, therefore, often busy anchorage offering good holding in a mud bottom. With low water levels, a Bruce or claw type anchor is your best bet here to cut through the weeds.

Perhaps the most popular anchorage on Beausoleil, Frying Pan offers something for everyone at its two large docks and accompanying sandy beaches. If you prefer to swing on the hook, this secluded bay is suitable for anchoring boats of all sizes. There’s also picnic shelters, and access to the park’s hiking trails, including the half-day loop around beautiful Fairy Lake.

This destination is featured in the Spring 2013 issue of Boats&Places and episode 9 of the 2013 Season of PowerBoat Television.

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Mike Gridley is a Producer and Host of PowerBoat Television and contributor to Boats&Places Magazine, and A lifelong boater, Mike started on the water with a 12-foot Peterborough cedar strip. Graduating to fibreglass, he has owned a series of boats from cuddy cabins to cruisers. He has come full circle back to wood with the purchase of a 1964 Greavette. After graduating from Ryerson University, Mike joined Molson Breweries where he spent 17 years in a variety of sales, marketing and promotions positions. He went on to hone his marketing communications, creative and advertising skills as a Senior Account Director with several national advertising agencies for clients including Bank of Montreal, Petro-Canada, Canadian Tire and Polaroid. In pursuit of his love of all things boating, Mike joined Lifestyle Integrated in 2004 and assumed the role of Producer in 2006.