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Boaters Being Tourists - Lake Simcoe to Georgian Bay Edition

Big Chute Marine Railway
Heading over the Big Chute Marine Railway towards another Georgian Bay adventure

It seems that everywhere we boat there are an endless array of options, places to visit, streets to explore and local shops to partake in.

From our home port on Lake Simcoe we have lots of local choices right in our backyard, and as we travel further and farther each year the list just keeps growing.

Orillia, aka "The Sunshine City" is a natural and readily accessible choice. With their 220 slip, 100% transient, Clean Marine rated marina, the Port of Orillia is a natural choice for boaters of all shapes and sizes.

The marina can accommodate boats up to 80’ and the Harbour Master building was recently rebuilt with new showers and washrooms that are impeccably clean. The knowledgeable and friendly staff (say hi to Jan) are local and ready to help with ideas and suggestions. You won’t find fuel or pump out facilities here, so plan accordingly and the Port of Orillia should be on every boaters list.

An easy walk up Mississauga street – Orillia’s main drag, will lead you to lots of shops and choices, here’s a few of our favourites.

Mariposa Market is a must with fresh baked goods, great lunches and fresh coffee. Fellow boaters gave us a heads up about a recently opened cheese place – Rind & Truckle -- and what a great win that was. There were dozens of types of cheeses, and it's owned by a friendly couple who were happy to share their own experiences.

On a side street we discovered a unique open air coffee shop The Lone Wolf Cafe and more friendly owners who told us their story of seeing a similar set up in San Francisco and deciding to bring the concept to Orillia – the cappuccino was outstanding.

Port of Orillia
Rockstar Jan at the Port of Orillia

Kahuna Surf Shop features one of the coolest street signs ever and the in store merchandise is priced fair with exceptional quality. Food choices are a plenty in Orillia with Studebakers winning the prize for best patio overlooking the water, but there’s awesome burgers at Kensington Burger Bar and great local craft beer at Couchiching Craft Brewing. You’ll find a well stocked LCBO, and a local pharmacy within minutes of the marina as well as a large Metro supermarket.

Kahuna Surf Shop
The Kahuna sign!

The City of Barrie marina offers up over 300 slips and there’s a separate section set up just for transient guests. While Barrie does lack in waterfront patios, it certainly doesn’t lack in pubs and food choices. The one patio that is a must is the rooftop at Hooligan’s featuring glass walls overlooking Kempenfelt Bay and great pub grub. Dunlop Street is lined with lots of foodie options, check out the North Country for great BBQ & smoked meats (brisket is epic), the fish and chips at British Arms, and the Irish nachos at Donalieghs.

We travel through the northern section of the Trent-Severn Waterway a couple times each year (Locks 42–45) and there are lots of highlights along the way. The Lock 42 Grill opened up in 2021 and is an excellent lunch or dinner stop, and fish & chips at the Waubic is a tradition for many boaters and cottagers. The Big Chute Marine Railway experience at Lock 44 cannot be understated – putting your boat on a carriage to be lifted over a roadway three stories in the air is a thrill for all boaters. Starport Marina has docking and services on both the upper and lower side of Lock 45. Boaters who miss the last lock will find excellent services, a wonderfully provisioned store and all the essential services you’ll need. The friendly Starport staff will even offer to take away your trash & recycling and bring you over some ice if you need it! The Trading Post Cabin opened up a fantastic coffee shop next door and immediately expanded into a full service rustic restaurant – we shared a pizza that was out of this world!

Parry Sound is a great surprise and this cute little town warmly embraces transient boaters. Big Sound Marina has made several facilities investments over the last several years including a new break wall that features ‘Wave attenuators’. These are locally designed and manufactured by Kropf Industrial right in Parry Sound and the result is calm waters inside the marina regardless of what’s happening on the outside. In town, we found the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame just a two minute walk from the marina – a must for all hockey fans and a great selection of local restaurants and shopping options. Walking towards town Bearly Used Books houses over 300,000 used books at bargain basement prices. Georgian Airways offers multiple flight options for those wanting an aerial view of the Bay (on our bucket list for sure!). One of our highlights was dinner at Trestle Brewing Company which is a 10-ish minute walk from the marina. The pretzel appetizer was epic and we shared (four of us) a traditional charcuterie board that was filled with lots of local goodies. If you’re hankering for some great Italian fare then Di Salvo’s is a must. A well stocked LCBO is 10 minutes from the waterfront as is an IDA Pharmacy.

The village of Killarney was founded in 1820 and spent many years as a commercial fishing hub. Today, the approximately 2,100 local residents primarily cater to Killarney’s new position as a thriving tourism hub for land and water travelers. We have moored at both Killarney Mountain Lodge & Sportsmen’s Inn and with both under the same ownership you’ll have access to land and water based amenities on both properties during your stay. Since 1981, Herbert Fisheries have served up generous portions of local caught fish and chips that are cooked to perfection. Pitfield’s General Store is another local gem that was built in the late 1800’s and today serves up basic needs for re-provisioning.

We make a point of supporting local shops wherever we go and the experiences never seem to disappoint. Boating into these local communities has and will continue to open our eyes to local gems and we would encourage all boaters to take the time to see what local offerings they can find – you’ll be glad you did.

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