By Maddie Johnson
The days may be shorter, but early autumn in Southern Georgian Bay sure is sweet. Rolling hills of rich colours offset by the bright greeny-blue waters of Georgian Bay make a visit to the region a must-do this season.
If you are unfamiliar, Georgian Bay is the northeastern offshoot of Lake Huron and home to the world’s largest freshwater archipelago. The residential area known as Southern Georgian Bay is just that: a collection of quaint little towns that line the southern shore of Georgian Bay — a diverse stretch of land home to the world’s longest freshwater beach, the highest point of the Niagara Escarpment, and the heart of Ontario’s apple county.
Located just 90 minutes north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and connected by a series of rural roads and rolling hills, the area has also become affectionately known as Ontario’s four-season playground. Downhill skiing and snowmobiling dominate the winter months, with a number of beautiful trails scattered throughout the area that are excellent for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat biking. In the summertime, days are spent swimming, boating, hiking, cycling, caving, kayaking or enjoying the number of cultural festivals that take place around the region.
And then there’s late summer and early autumn, a spectacular season that has become almost sacred to some.
The pace becomes slightly more laid-back than the bustle of summer, but warm weather lingers in the September sun. Come October, a colourful panorama of glorious maples, sumacs, oaks, and aspens bound the escarpment, cascading into the valley and yielding a sight that is so exceptionally beautiful it will take your breath away.
In addition to a mutual appreciation for the beautiful landscapes, the people who call Southern Georgian Bay home have developed a close-knit community bond like no other. Local residents, business owners, artists, and entrepreneurs alike work together to make life better for everyone, every day. In recent years, the area has also become home to a thriving wellness culture – from the latest spa treatments, fitness offerings, and holistic therapies, to preeminent places to eat, stay, relax and retreat.
So whether you love being outdoors and are looking to embrace a more active lifestyle, want to immerse yourself in one of Canada’s most entrepreneurial communities, or simply indulge in delicious seasonal, locally-sourced and sustainable libations, Southern Georgian Bay offers countless places, pursuits and products so that you can live well, eat well, and travel well — even long after summer has come and gone.
A haven for year-round outdoor adventure, Southern Georgian Bay is the perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure junkies alike. From an expansive network of trails to hike, rivers to paddle, waves to surf, caves to spelunk, rocks to climb… You name it… And some of the best skiing in all of Ontario, there is an endless list of activities available all year long — no matter what your skill level is or where your interests lie.
Pursuing a healthy outdoor lifestyle and spending more time in nature has become a priority for many in recent years, and no shortage of it can be found in the beautiful communities that make up Southern Georgian Bay.
To accompany this thriving, active lifestyle, local wellness entities for health optimization, performance and recovery have opened around the region dedicated to helping those who live, work and play in Southern Georgian Bay maintain a strong connection to their mind, body, and beyond.
So whether you are looking to unwind after an afternoon of adventure, spa at Scandinave in the Blue Mountains, pamper yourself with holistic treatments and natural esthetics, experiment with a new yoga class or connect more deeply with your inner self, Southern Georgian Bay has something for you.
Vortex Wellness Studio
If a gym, a yoga studio, and a spa had a wild night in the self-help section of a bookstore, the product would be Vortex Wellness Studio: a brand new, state-of-the-art wellness facility in Collingwood. Locally owned and operated by husbands Daniel James and Steve McCrea, Vortex is inspired by the west coast wellness vibes of California and offers nine unique sessions for health optimization, fitness recovery, and innovative self-care in a cozy, luxurious atmosphere. Vortex aims to make you feel awesome, elevate your energy, and allow those good vibes to ripple out into your community.
A space for healing, inspiration, community, movement, and bodywork, including massage, craniosacral, reiki and more, Everlove Healing and Yoga is one of the area’s newest wellness hubs. Founders Dan and Ariana always dreamed of opening a space where their guests feel so taken care of that they can just melt into their practice and get closer to the highest articulation of themselves. Everlove offers different movement memberships and healing options, as well as a variety of events and community gatherings rooted in connection.
Cedar + Sage
Located downtown Collingwood, Cedar and Sage is a premier float, massage, and yoga studio. Founders Deanna Harris and Jessica Racioppa combine their love of holistic living, movement and the human body to create a unique wellness experience where people can come together to learn, grow, and prosper. It is the only wellness centre of its kind in Southern Georgian Bay and provides acupuncture, registered massage therapy, hot yoga and restorative float therapy to encompass a many-sided approach to health and wellness.
‘Making lemonade’ is the concept of taking something sour and making it sweet. That is exactly what Melissa Goldmintz was looking to do when she bought the old sports club in Thornbury and transformed it into Lemonade Collective. The fitness and events centre is on a mission to inspire a healthier, happier and more confident community and is home to a boutique gym, saltwater swimming pool, dry sauna, squash court, fitness studio, members lounge and events space. Plus, lemonade stands are always welcoming — and so are they: Lemonade Collective prides itself on embracing guests of all fitness levels, ages, and genders.
The minute you enter Sanctuari’s new space on Hume street, your shoulders soften — you have arrived at a space where you can feel safe, heard, and more connected to your inner wisdom. Owned and operated by Amie Young, the transformative arts centre isn’t your average yoga studio. Offering a range of services, classes, and events, such as reiki and reflexology, Generational Healing®, ThetaHealing®, meditation, yoga, life activation and emotional cord-cutting, everything Sanctuari does is unique and rooted in passion and tradition. Sanctuari has served the Georgian Bay community since 2017 and continues to be an inclusive, safe space for all.
The Creemore Apothecary is a multidisciplinary clinic and wellness boutique located in the quaint village of Creemore. Founded by Dr. Kate Hunter, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, the apothecary is on a mission to offer complimentary care to individuals who have historically been excluded from systems of health and wellness, as well as exclusively carry Canadian lines focusing primarily on Female, Black, Indigenous and Racialized creators and makers.
The Spa Truck
Meet Ruby, home of The Spa Truck and a 1962 Vintage Airstream that has been fully renovated into a boho-chic self-care sanctuary on wheels. The mobile spa was founded by Jillian Dilts, a self-proclaimed green beauty queen who loves bringing people together through relaxation and beauty. Offering everything from yoga to hair, make-up, nail treatments, and more, The Spa Truck offers something for every girl gang occasion.
Bottled by the Bay
It’s no surprise that a region known for its abundant orchards and apple production also produces some of the finest ciders in the country — but it doesn’t stop there. Southern Georgian Bay has a rich history of local shops and makers and, in recent years, has seen an abundance of craft beverage producers popping up around the region, crafting everything from wine and whiskey to gin, vodka, cider, seltzer, and small-batch beer.
These passionate and creative local distillers make exploring Ontario’s four-season playground a whole new adventure and allow your inner alchemist to shine. Big-name brands are fading in popularity as these producers continually find innovative ways to incorporate new and local ingredients and experiment with different and traditional styles in their creations.
If you want to be part of something that is locally made, inspired by the area and strives to make you feel good, there is a nearly endless amount of breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries scattered throughout the region that promise to entice your taste buds and offer a healthier and more sustainable option to a traditionally harmful industry.
Rally Beer Co.
Brewed with functional superfoods to replenish, inspire, and kudos all of life’s greatest adventures, Rally launched in Southern Georgian Bay as the perfect backdrop for all the adventures and activities the community seeks day in, and day out. The idea for Rally Beer first formed in 2020 while Alan Wood was on a long-distance bikepacking trip that forced him to learn about nutrition and functional foods. He fell in love with the products that fuelled him on his bike during the day, but felt a lack when it came to finding the perfect beer to end the day before making camp. So Rally Beer was born.
Still Fields Brewery
A farmhouse microbrewery with a focus on small-batch, mixed culture fermentation, Still Fields Brewery sits on twenty-two acres of fertile agricultural land which is also home to Highland Hop Yard. Founded by Margaret Curtis, Steven Ormsby, and Owen and Jaclyn Roth, the brewery takes a tactical approach to brewing, with an emphasis on utilizing raw ingredients to give their beer a unique, terroir-specific profile. The team is passionate about crafting creative, experimental, spontaneous and wild beer that has the highest integrity from its inception to your glass.
The Collingwood Brewery
Co-founded in 2014 by Chris Freeman and partners he picked up along the way, The Collingwood Brewery is Collingwood’s original craft brewery. Freeman set out to make well-crafted, balanced beers that are designed to draw in people who aren’t overly familiar with craft beer… And delight those who are. Their beer is available across the province at the LCBO, The Beer Store, select grocery stores, and discerning bars and restaurants. They also host countless cool community events at their taproom and beer garden located in Collingwood.
Purchased in 2003 by the Schneider Family, Dunridge Farms is a product of love for the environment and a desire for real, sustainable change. The production of their flagship cyder follows that same farm philosophy at Duntroon. Crafted from only hand-picked heritage apples, without any added ingredients, slow-fermented and aged, then blended to perfection, their cyder embodies traditional English cyder-making expertise and techniques and earns Duntroon Cyder House its “Y.”
Spy Cider House + Distillery
With a knowledgeable team at the helm – all with a respect for the land and a wealth of relevant experience – Spy’s collective goal is to create unique and flavourful ciders and spirits that delight the palate and pay homage to the region. The organic craft distillery is sleek in design with a thematic brand witty and on point. Their ciders and spirits contain only two types of fruit: the kind they grow themselves on their organic farm in The Blue Mountains, or the kind they buy directly from nearby neighbours. Their focus is local, and their ciders and spirits are uncompromisingly good.
Creemore Hills Winery
One of the newer wineries in the region, Creemore Hills Winery is making a name for itself by crafting extraordinary, small-batch wines using sustainable practices. It all started in 2007 when Catherine Morrissey and Stephen Loewy purchased a farm property in Creemore, Ontario, that reminded them of Italy’s fabled Tuscany region. Together with their wine master, David Eiberg, they embarked on a journey to produce the finest quality terroir-driven wine in a way that enhances their environment and community.
Southern Georgian Bay is synonymous with both rest and relaxation, and experience and adventure. At any time of year, Collingwood is a nature lover’s paradise, but in the late summertime, with deep, crystal clear waters, lush trails along the escarpment, and an abundance of festivals and events, a visit to the shores of South Georgian Bay is relaxing, memorable — and downright inspiring.
From serene to stimulating, this incredible area inspires creativity and connection and offers a long list of unique, experience-based and locally-inspired accommodations that serve as the perfect launchpad for your next adventure.
The towns and surrounding areas of Meaford, Thornbury, the Blue Mountains, Collingwood, Nottawa, Stayner, Creemore, Clearview and Wasaga Beach all have their own attractions and accommodations for you to explore and enjoy. Plus, each season unlocks unique experiences you may not have at another time of year and is just another reason why if you haven’t been to Southern Georgian Bay, now is the time.
Whether you seek a much-needed R&R break, a collaborative work experience, a family getaway (or getting away away from kids and family), romance, adventure, or a deeper spiritual connection, there is something here for you.
Originally built in 1974, Penny’s Motel and Après Snack Bar hopped onto the ‘motel makeover’ trend and reopened as a retro-style boutique motel inspired by its surroundings and designed with adventure and relaxation in mind. Steps from numerous activities in the area, with 13 rooms, a courtyard, three fire pits, picnic tables, a bocce ball court, a heated patio and a restaurant and bar with room service, Penny’s goal is to recapture the ambience of a family road trip with a little bit of luxury to serve as your hub for the ultimate Georgian Bay experience. The motel has also partnered with a number of local businesses to offer things like stand-up paddleboarding, hiking, fishing, yoga and numerous tours.
11 Rooms is a micro-hotel, work-friendly retreat, and collaboration space in downtown Collingwood packed with hidden features that help small groups spark connection, creativity, and community. Conceived by local facilitator and community-builder Sandra Kahale, and designed collaboratively with a diverse team of artists and creatives, 11 Rooms is much more than a boutique hotel. It’s an inspiring retreat space that tickles the senses, ignites the imagination, helps people work and collaborate, and sparks spontaneous magic.
VanderMark Boutique Hotel
Located in Collingwood’s vibrant downtown, the VanderMarck is a boutique-style luxury accommodation housed in a beautifully converted Victorian mansion. Built in 1912, the house has a unique history. The hotel has since undergone extensive renovations, and nine suites are now located over three floors, accessible only by the house’s original staircase. No two suites are quite the same, and the hotel also boasts a beautiful outdoor common area where guests can relax and reconnect.
Tiny Home Regenerative Farm Stay
Escape the city and unwind in a private yard on a 37-acre regenerative farm in Creemore. Enjoy your evening with an intimate fire on your flagstone patio, read a book next to the singing frogs in your private pond or take a stroll past the berry patch and pick some strawberries. A hand-built “Gute” tiny home is the perfect place to get a deep country sleep in an intimate yet expansive setting.
The Retreat House
The Retreat House is a beloved rustic oasis and a perfect place to reconnect with play and nature, where you can nourish your body with healing foods, bodywork and rest. The retreat house was created with the intention of being a place for deep relaxation, soul searching, and adventure. Take a bath, cozy up by the fire, lay in the sun, hike an Ontario-sized mountain, read a book, play a game or piece together a puzzle, The Retreat House was designed to be a tailored pause.
Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre
Located on 150 acres of maple and cedar forests and lush meadows and surrounded by 3000 acres of provincial land, Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre was created as a place for people to reconnect with a part of themselves that may be neglected or hidden, to connect with others, or just get away and have some fun. It started as a dream of Liz Frost about 20 years ago and became a reality, with the help of her husband, Kurt, in 2005. The centre is small enough to be managed by the owners and chances are you will meet Liz and Kurt during your stay, providing an extra special experience for guests.
Back Forty Glamping
Back Forty Glamping is an up-and-coming multi-dome accommodation business opening in Meaford in Fall 2022. Eight 20×20 geodesic dome structures will be secluded among the trees on 25 acres of forest, meadows, and pastures, with views of rolling hills for miles. Their insulated canvas structure enables guests to stay in all four seasons, providing guests with the opportunity to experience the beauty of nature while staying in luxury and style. Each dome will have a big bay window that allows guests to feel fully immersed in nature but remain in the comforts of home.