Road trip Ontario: Collingwood region ideal spot for those who want active getaway

A view of Collingwood as seen from the lookout on Scenic Caves Road near Blue Mountain Resort. Nick Westoll / Global News

What if someone told you that you could find the world’s largest fresh water beach and several ski slopes about half an hour apart — and in our province?

If you head to the southern Georgian Bay region, you will find both natural attractions in Wasaga Beach and The Blue Mountains, respectively.

And connecting these two destinations is Collingwood, a small waterfront town with plenty of historic charm. In 2018, Collingwood celebrates 160 years since it was incorporated.

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Collingwood Mayor Sandra Cooper recently told Global News the town, once predominantly known for its railway and shipping industries, is now a recreational haven.

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“We have 72 kilometres of trail systems within our community which connects with other municipalities,” Cooper said, adding that the area is just as busy in the summer as the winter time.

“There are just so many opportunities to stay active and enjoy your visit here in Collingwood … recreation, great events, shopping, dining, history, it’s all in one single, beautiful setting.”

Getting there

The quickest way to get to the Collingwood area from Toronto is go north on Highway 400 to Barrie and then west on Highway 26 to Stayner before heading north again. North of Stayner you can head east toward Wasaga Beach or west toward Collingwood and The Blue Mountains.

If you have extra time and want to take in additional scenery, Airport Road north from Brampton offers a peaceful drive.

Greyhound Canada offers limited bus service between Toronto and Collingwood with stops in Barrie, Wasaga Beach and Stayner.

Local and regional transit services operate in the southern Georgian Bay area with routes operating in the Collingwood, Wasaga Beach and The Blue Mountains communities.

Where to stop on the way

Eugenia Falls is located in the 23-hectare Eugenia Falls Conservation Area, which features a stunning 30-metre tall waterfall that offers a stunning view of the Niagara Escarpment. According to officials, it was discovered in 1852 during the ‘fools gold’ rush. There are tributes to the gold rush as you enter the town.

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The conservation area is a little more than half an hour southwest of Collingwood. It’s a little out of the way if you’re coming up from the Greater Toronto Area, but the views definitely do not disappoint.

Points of interest and major events

Collingwood Museum and tourism office: The town’s museum is located in the historic Collingwood train station, which was built in 1873, at 45 Saint Paul St. The museum said popular pieces include twisted metal recovered from the Halifax explosion and paintings by local artists trained by members of the Group of Seven. A tourism kiosk is also located at the train station for those who have questions.

Wasaga Beach: The beach, which at approximately 14 kilometres officials tout as the world’s largest fresh water beach, sees approximately more than a million visitors a year. The main boardwalk with restaurants and small attractions is at the eastern end of Mosley Street and is a popular gathering spot for visitors in the summer. Aside from typical beach activities, there are trails for walking and hiking, as well as opportunities for boating and paddling. In the winter, visitors can participate in cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

Scenic Caves Nature Adventures: Located near the Blue Mountain Resort, this is a family-friendly destination with exciting things to do. There are caves open for exploration and a 420-foot suspension bridge offers stunning views of the area. Visitors can go zip lining as well. Children can take part in gemstone mining activities and ride an electric train. If you’re looking for something more passive to do, there’s an 18-hole mini golf course. Visitors need to pay admission to get into the park as well as wear hiking boots or running shoes. Pets aren’t allowed.

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Blue Mountain Resort: Founded in 1941, the Blue Mountain Resort has evolved into a popular year-round destination. While known to many for its ski and snowboard slopes, it’s well used in the summer by hikers and mountain bikers. The resort is located minutes from Collingwood. If you want to spend a night or more, there are more than 1,000 lodging units. For those who want to relax, there are indoor and outdoor spa facilities

Collingwood Elvis Festival: Every year the town pays homage to ‘the King,’ Elvis Presley, with its annual Elvis festival. A large street party is held and there’s a tribute artist showcase. This year’s festival will be between July 27 and 29.

For the kids (and the young at heart)

Crock A Doodle: This studio, located in The Blue Mountains and part of a larger chain of businesses, allows children and families to paint different types of pottery pieces.

Candy Factory: Located in Collingwood, the Candy Factory is home to Georgian Bay Chocolates. There is a viewing room and candy machine museum available to visit.

Farmer’s Pantry: This farm is located west of the town of Blue Mountains. Visitors can pick apples, raspberries and pumpkins. There’s also mini golf, rope and hedge mazes, and animal petting areas.

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Blue Mountain Resort and Collingwood lookout: Located off of top of Scenic Caves Road (Highway 119) just after you drive out of the Blue Mountain Resort area, this spot offers a terrific view of the resort, Georgian Bay and Collingwood.

Millennium Park: This park is located at the end of Heritage Drive in downtown Collingwood and right on the waterfront. It offers pleasant views of Blue Mountain Resort and Georgian Bay. Beside the park are the Collingwood Terminals, a historic grain elevator that can be seen kilometres away.

Spots to eat and drink

Here are the top five user-ranked Collingwood restaurants on the TripAdvisor Canada website:

1) Brunello at 27 on Fourth
2) Fish & Sips
3) Northwinds Brewhouse & Kitchen
4) Bent Taco
5) Duncan’s cafe

Here are the top five user-ranked restaurants in Wasaga Beach:

1) Catch 22 Fresh Market Grill
2) Pizza Dee’s
3) West River Cookhouse
4) Maple Diner and Smokehouse
5) Katmanis Thai Restaurant

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Here are the top five user-ranked restaurants in The Blue Mountains and the Blue Mountain Resort (excluding surrounding towns):

1) Northwinds Brewpub & Craft Beer Store
2) Firehall Pizza Co.
3) Tholos
4) The Pottery Restaurant
5) Sunset Grill at Blue

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Make a night of it

According to TripAdvisor Canada, these are the top five user-ranked hotels in Collingwood:

1) Days Inn & Suites Collingwood
2) Living Water Resort
3) Comfort Inn & Suites
4) Living Stone Golf Resort
5) Georgian Bay Hotel & Conference Centre

Here are the top five user-ranked lodgings in Wasaga Beach:

1) Saga Resort
2) Luau Resort
3) Wasaga Motel
4) J&J Motel
5) Villa Nova Motel Resort

Here are the top five user-ranked lodgings in The Blue Mountains:

1) Westin Trillium House Blue Mountain
2) Mosaic
3) Weider Lodge – Blue Mountain Resort
4) Seasons at Blue – Blue Mountain Resort
5) The Grand Georgian – Blue Mountain Resort

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The final pitch: Why you should visit the Collingwood area

“It’s for everyone … The common thread among newcomers to Collingwood and visitors is the active lifestyle and the friendly community.” — Sandra Cooper, mayor of Collingwood

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