Home to around 30,000 islands, 60 of which are encompassed in the Georgian Bay Islands National Park, the islands of Georgian Bay offer an experience like no other. The islands can only be reached by boat, and each contains a mix of the rocky landscape of the Canadian Shield as well as the hardwood forests that are usually found further south. The largest freshwater archipelago in the world, the islands of Georgian Bay are perfect for those that want to explore some of Ontario’s untouched wilderness.
The largest of the Georgian Bay islands, Beausoleil Island stretches out for eight kilometers, and is just a short 15-minute ride from Honey Harbour. Rich in many species of wildlife, with over 600 different species of plants and animals, Beausoleil Island is one of the last known habitats for the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, which can potentially be quite dangerous to humans. The island is extremely popular for hiking and camping, with a number of different trails criss-crossing around the island, from the historic Portage trail in the north to the deer and bear-filled Christian trail in the south. The south end of the island is also where you will find the Cedar Spring area, where visitors can rent cabins and mountain bikes, visit the welcome center, swim at one of the many beaches, and make use of the picnic shelters.
Situated on the eastern side of Georgian Bay, the Western Islands are the most exposed group of islands in the bay, and are also the most remote. A 20-kilometer ride from the mainland, access to the islands is quite difficult, although most visitors choose to make their way straight to Double Top Island to check out its 45-foot lighthouse. While there may not be much to see and do on the Western Islands, they make for an interesting excursion, especially if you are kayaking.
Since Franklin Island is Crown Land, all camping and recreational usage of the land is free, as long as visitors respect the island and do not leave behind an imprint. For those that are kayaking to the island, which is an extremely enjoyable way to access it, there are numerous natural harbors and landings that you can pull up to, and beautiful camping sites scattered throughout the island. Since the island is not too far away from the mainland, this is a great kayaking trip for beginners, and, if you have a few extra days to spare, it is easy to incorporate a visit to the nearby McCoy and Mink Islands too. Just like the other Georgian Bay islands, Franklin Island is packed with an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty, from turtles to snakes to rare birds, and offers up a truly unique experience no matter when in the year you choose to visit.
Just a short distance away from Toronto, the islands of Georgian Bay are outdoor gems that are most definitely worth visiting. Whether you are only able to visit the popular Beausoleil Island, or have the time to tour multiple islands, you will be able to experience a part of Canada that many do not ever have the opportunity to see.