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Mississagi Straight: Manitoulin’s Oldest Lighthouse

Standing tall on the rugged shores of the Mississagi Straight at the south-west end of Manitoulin Island is the oldest lighthouse on the island – the Mississagi Lighthouse. Built in 1873 the Mississagi Lighthouse guided ships through the difficult, rocky straight that separates Manitoulin Island from Cockburn Island.  A magnetic reef off Cockburn Island would interfere with ship’s compasses causing far too many shipwrecks. Now today the Mississagi Lighthouse now is home to a museum and campground where is an absolute must visit during your stay to Manitoulin Island.


Getting Here:

From anywhere on Manitoulin Island you want to start heading West towards the far west side of Manitoulin Island. One you hit Evansville you will want to stay heading West on Highway 540. From here you will travel 50km on Highway 540. You will turn left onto Mississagi Road and stay on this road until you reach the campsite. Mississagi Road is a gravel road that lasts for about 8km that can be very dusty so make sure to take it slow.  The Mississagi Lighthouse and Campground have done a wonderful job marking the way on Mississagi Road with mile markers and signage so you ensure you know where you are going.


Mississagi Lighthouse & Campground:

Imagine falling asleep to the sound of the water smashing up onto the rocky shoreline, looking up and seeing the milky way, the next morning waking to the smell of nothing but nature and the views of the Caribbean blue waters of the Mississagi Straight well that is all possible when you stay at the Mississagi Lighthouse and Campground!

Make sure to book early to one of the coveted waterfront sites. They offer a total of 38 sites on the campground from pull in, private unserviced sites, large sites to fit big RV’s. In our opinion the waterfront sites are where you want to stay as they felt more private and offer a view that cannot be beat. The interior forest sites felt very open and barren which you can see from the photo above.


Exploring the Mississagi Lighthouse Trails:

There are a lot of trails that wind along the shoreline, through the thick forest, over the rocks that drop into the crystal clear waters of the Mississagi Straight that are all well worth exploring.  We probably spent well over two hours climbing along the rocks, enjoying the view as the water smashed onto the rocky beach area and just relaxing. We were the only people on the trails that day and it felt like we were totally in our own world – so peaceful and perfect!


We could have easily spent a few days at the Mississagi Lighthouse and Campground relaxing, taking in the pure beauty of the area and exploring every inch of this hidden gem.  The drive to the west side of Manitoulin Island might seem far but it is well worth every minute in the car once you arrive you will not want to leave!

A Picture Guide to the Cup & Saucer Trail on Manitoulin Island

We had an absolute blast hiking this bucket list of a trail on Manitoulin Island. The Cup & Saucer Trail is a well known hike not just on Manitoulin Island but across Ontario. Being deemed on of the top hikes to do in Ontario we knew we could not pass up this chance for some adventure as well as some breath taking views as we were not disappointed! The main trail is a 4km round trip loop that we would rate as moderate.  The hike is equally as beautiful as you wind through the forest and travel up along the Niagara Escarpment until you get to the top where the trees start to open and you can get incredible views of Manitoulin Island stretching for what seems like miles in front of you.  We hope you will enjoy hiking the Cup & Saucer Trail as much as we did and we hope these pictures will give the inspiration to make this one of your next adventures! To check out the full directions and our experience hiking the trail make sure you head over to our Guide on Hiking the Cup & Saucer Trail here!

Here is our picture guide to hiking the Cup & Saucer Trail on Manitoulin Island!

Looking at the trail map before hiking the Cup and Saucer Hiking Trail in Manitoulin Island, Ontario. The trail map for hiking the cup and saucer trail in Manitoulin Island.

Visiting Awenda Provincial Park

Sitting on the rocky shores of Georgian Bay is a hidden gem of the Ontario Park’s system – Awenda Provincial Park.  The 2900 hectare park offers opportunities for a quick stop over or a long term stay. Camping amongst the forested land steps away from Georgian Bay is the perfect way to enjoy days near the water without being too far from amenities.


Getting to Awenda Provincial Park

Take the 400 north from Toronto and stay right on the 400 when it splits with Highway 11.  Stay on the 400 until exit 121 towards Midland / Petetanguishene. Turn left onto Robert Street West in Petetanguishene, turn right on Country Road 26/LaFontaine Road East and then right onto Concession 16.  Turn left onto Awenda Park Road which will take you down a long road right to the park office to check in for your camping pass or day pass. 


Camping in Awenda Provincial Park

This park is perfect for camping. With 333 drive-in campsites that are good size, private and under a thick covering of trees perfect for shade.  The park is divided into 6 campgrounds each offering something a little bit different. Sites are very shaded in both Sugar Maples and Red Oaks and are larger sites than most provincial parks. All of the sites in Wolf campground and some of them in Hawk have electrical hook-ups. Lastly, Deer and Bear campgrounds are designated radio free and Snake is both radio-free and dog-free.

All six campgrounds have water taps, vault toilets and a central comfort station that offers flush toilets and hot showers. Laundry is available in Turtle, Hawk and Bear campgrounds.


What to do in Awenda Provincial Park

Go for a Hike: With 31km of scenic trails you could spend hours wandering through the various trails in Awenda Provincial Park. From easy hikes (Beach trails and Beaver Pond) to intermediate trails (Bluff, Brule, Robitaille Homestead, Wendat, Nipissing) there is something available for everyone.

Swim in Georgian Bay: Go for a swim in the beautiful, clean waters of Georgian Bay. The water temperatures are cool but not freezing in the summer and the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day.  The sand bottom of the Bay makes it really pleasant to wade out into the waters without worrying about cutting your feet on shells, stones, etc. There is even a dog beach at Awenda Provincial Park where you can take your dog for a swim.

Enjoy the Stunning Georgian Bay Sunsets: Georgian Bay has some of the most beautiful sunsets and they seem to be every night during the summer time. With the waves crashing in on the rocky beach, the red and pinks lighting up the sky it doesn’t get much better than this.


Awenda Provincial Park is the perfect place to enjoy a get away and enjoy all the beauty that Georgian Bay has to offer. We hope our journey to this hidden gem of Awenda Provincial Park has inspired you to take the short two hour trip from Toronto and enjoy a day trip or a few nights of camping!

18 Photos that will make you want to visit Algonquin in the Spring

What better way to kick off spring that with a camping trip to on of Ontario’s favourite and most popular provincial parks – Algonquin Provincial Park. Located just north of Huntsville, Ontario this beautiful 7,653 km² provincial park is enormous and could take weeks to explore every inch of this gem of Ontario which makes coming back each time so much fun as there are always so many new trails and places to explore.  We packed up and headed to Algonquin for 2 nights in early May to try some spring camping. Algonquin in the spring is such a beautiful place to be – the crowds are few and far between, the wildlife are just starting to come out of hiding from the winter, and there was even some snow to still be seen throughout the park! We stayed in Mew Lake Campground as that was the only campground open before the Victoria Day Long Weekend and it was relatively busy but still felt very remote since there was no other campground open.  We had a beautiful waterfront site where we could watch the sunset each night as the fire burned and could hear the loons call out to each other all day long.  Camping or even a visit to Algonquin in the spring provides tranquility and offers the park at its true beauty when the large crowds are not around. Even though there was still some snow and the nights were chilly it was well worth the trip north to visit Algonquin Provincial Park. 

Ultimate Guide to Visiting Midland, Ontario

The town of Midland is set on the shores of Georgian Bay with its harbour built for small cruise ships, grain ships and recreational boats of all sizes. The town is filled with hundreds of years of history.

One of our favourite spots to spend a weekend in any season, exploring the beautiful town and surrounding areas on Georgian Bay.  Being the gateway to the 30,000 islands on Georgian Bay, home to many great places to eat and things to do Midland is a must visit place.

Here is our guide to visiting Midland, Ontario! 

History of Midland

The history of Midland plays a large part on the town’s existence today.  The area was home to the Huron Wendat nations for hundreds of years prior to first contact with the Europeans.  In the mid-1600’s the Jesuits arrived and set up Ontario’s first European Community, Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, which would be the headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people.  Over the next two hundred years the Europeans began to settle the area and what is now known as Midland began to flourish.

The First Nations roots of Midland and the surrounding area are still celebrated to this day with murals throughout the city, statues, museums celebrating their heritage as well as shops run by families of the original First Nations settlers.


Top Things To Do In Midland

North Americas Largest Outdoor Historical Mural – A must see in the Midland Harbour is North Americas largest outdoor historical mural displaying Sainte-Marie Among the Huron as it would have looked in the mid-1600’s.  You can easily view this mural from the town docks.  There are also plenty of other small murals on the buildings along the main streets of Midland depicting the history of this town.

Miss Midland – Ever cruised Georgian Bay and experienced the 30,000 Islands? If not make sure to book a tour on the Miss Midland!  Enjoy this two and a half hour sightseeing cruise that will take you through the dramatic rocks of the Canadian Shield, alongside the windswept pines that Georgian Bay is known for and see all the hot spots in the area.  For tour information on the Miss Midland 30000 island cruise click here.

Sainte-Marie Among The Hurons – Visit the first European Community established in Ontario – Sainte-Marie among the Hurons is a re-creation of its original site that tells the story of the Wendat and French interactions and life during the 1600’s.  Visitors get the unique opportunity to see what the earliest Canadian pioneer life would have looked like through self-guided visits, special events and group tours.  For more information on visiting Sainte-Marie click here.

Martyr’s Shrine – The Martyr’s Shrine is the National Shrine to the Canadian Martyrs.  The shine is a memorial to honour the the 8 Jesuit Saints who lived, worked and died in Midland over 350 years ago.  The Shrine offers tours, church services and engaging activities for all ages.


Top Places To Eat in Midland

The Boathouse Eatery – The Boathouse Eatery is a Midland favourite for both locals and boaters alike.  Located right on the shores of Georgian Bay you can access the restaurant by car or boat.  Here you can have a light snack, drinks, or a full lunch or dinner.  Regardless of what you order the view cannot be beat and the food is equally as good!  Make sure to ask for a seat on the patio to watch the boats drive by or even watch the sunset into the horizon.

Dillon’s Wood Fired Pizza – Dillon’s Wood Fired Pizza is one of the newest restaurants to Midland but it is taking the town by storm.  This cozy restaurant offers hand made, wood oven fired pizza that will leave you wanting more.  The owner – Dillon – is almost always around to greet everyone with his warm smile and make great recommendations.  Located right on the main street of Midland (King Street) and steps to the docks on Georgian Bay.

Mom’s Restaurant – Mom’s Restaurant is a staple in Midland that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday.  They are best known for their incredible breakfast menu and a great place to take the family and enjoy great food and company.  Located a 5 minute drive from the downtown.

Uncle Roy’s Restaurant – Uncle Roy’s offers an American breakfast menu and then changes to Chinese food for lunch and dinner.  If you are looking for great eat in or take out Chinese, Uncle Roy’s is a great option during your visit to Midland.    Located on King Street in Midland and is within easy walking distance to Georgian Bay.


Midland is the perfect place to visit for a weekend getaway with is shallow waters perfect for splashing around, a boaters paradise and hundreds of years of history will make you want to return.  

Exploring Laurier House National Historic Site

Take a step back in time to visit the former resident of two of Canada’s most important Prime Ministers.  This Second Empire mansion in downtown Ottawa was the heart of Canada’s political life where both Sir Wilfred Laurier and Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King were able to call home.  The Laurier House National Historic Site is a Parks Canada site and a must visit while in Ottawa.

Here is my experience visiting the Laurier House!

History of the Laurier House

The Laurier House is the former residence for both Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King.  The house was built in 1878, but has gone through several alterations throughout its years.  The home was the personal residence of Sir Wildrid Laurier from 1897 to 1919 and then was given to Mackenzie King to serve as his home during his time as the leader of the Liberal Party from 1923-1950.  Upon Kings death he granted the house to the country and their people

 


Getting There

Laurier House is located at 335 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa. There are several different options on how to get here.

On Foot: Located just over 2 kilometres from Parliament Hill on a nice day this site is easily walkable.  Taking just over 20 minutes from Parliament to Laurier House it is a nice peaceful walk that will take you past the Shaw Centre, along the Rideau Canal, through the University of Ottawa Campus and finally arriving to the house.

By Car: From highway 417, take exit 118 for Nicholas Street/Lees Ave (if you are coming from the eastbound direction of the Queensway, you must turn left onto Lees Ave).  Turn turn onto Mann Ave, then left onto Chapel Street. Laurier House is on the corner of Laurier Avenue East and Chapel Street.  Note: There is no on site parking, but there is street parking nearby.  

By Bus: There is a bus that takes you from the War Memorial, leaving at the corner of Wellington and Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa, and is about a ten minute drive to Laurier House.  Take the number 5 bus for an easy and hassle free commute to the national historic site.

 


Admission & Hours of Operation

For the 2017 year Laurier House National Historic Site is free to all visitors to celebrate Canada 150th birthday.

The hours of operation are as followed:

May 1-June 30 – Open Thursday to Monday (closed Tuesday & Wednesday) 10:00am – 5:00pm

July 1 – September 4 – Open daily, including holidays – 10:00am – 5:00pm

September 5 – October 9 (Thanksgiving) Open Thursday to Monday (closed Tuesday & Wednesday) 10:00am – 5:00pm


What To Do

Self-Guided Tour: The visitors centre provides you with a self guided tour book that explains the layout of the house with floor plans, the history of each of the Prime Ministers when the lived in the house and much more.  Additional to the guide books the house is full of Parks Canada Guides that are more than happy to share their additional knowledge of each of rooms and the history behind the house.

Take a Guided Tour: If you are interested in taking a guided tour they are offered for $7.30 by the Parks Canada Guides. They will take you through the collection of antiques and paintings that were owned by each of the Prime Ministers during their time living on Laurier Avenue as well as the lives and accomplishments of both Sir Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Tip: If you visit on a week day during off-peak times (morning, after lunch) you will likely find yourself in the house with very few other visitors and the Parks Canada staff will be happy to give you a mini-tour of each floor without having to pay for a guided tour.  

Have Afternoon Tea on the Veranda: Every Saturday throughout the summer (July & August) light tea and pastries are served on the veranda.  There are two time slots for your historic tea at the Prime Ministers house which are 11:00am an 2:00pm.  Reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance through Cordn Bleu by calling (613) 236-2499 or emailing contact@signaturesrestaurant.com.  If you are in town on a Saturday make sure to stop by and stake a step back in time and sit where both Laurier and Mackenzie King would have and enjoy some tea and pastries!


Must Visit Rooms & Exhibits in the Laurier House

Second World War Homefront – Canada’s Kitchen: This brand new exhibit that opened May 1, 2017 allows you to explore what a kitchen would have looked like in Canada during the Second World War.  The kitchen was normally the largest room in the house as so many activities took place in this space.  In the kitchen you will find both original and replica books for rationing, price inflation, coupons and much more.  Make sure to open the fridge, oven, cupboards to explore what is behind each door and decide if you would have wanted to dine in the 1940’s.

The Elevator: Did you know there is an elevator in the Laurier House? If you did not make sure to ask one of the Parks Canada staff to show you! The door to the elevator blends so well into the wooden walls you would never notice to look for it unless you knew it was there.  Unfortunately, you cannot ride in the elevator as it has been getting stuck since the time Laurier lived in the house, but its cool enough to be able to go in and take a look at!

Staying at the Andaz Ottawa Byward Market

One of Ottawa’s newest hotels on the scene, The Andaz Hotel,  is the perfect spot to stay during your visit to Ottawa.  Located right in the downtown core, steps to Byward Market and Parliament, you couldn’t get a better location than this!

Here is my experience staying at the Andaz Ottawa Byward Market!

The Rooms

Beautiful spacious guest rooms filled with natural light and stunning views of Gatineau Hills, historic buildings, the Byward Market, and Parliament in the background.  I checked into a deluxe room with a King bed, a cozy living room area perfect for relaxing or doing some work, and a beautiful view of the Byward Market and the Parliament Buildings looming in the background.

 

With 200 rooms in the hotel there are many room options to choose from, including standard rooms, deluxe, rooms with a view, and suites.  All rooms are modern with a Canadian flare, including nice touches like local artwork and contemporary furnishings.

One of my favourite touches in the rooms was that all non-alcoholic beverages and snacks in the mini bar are complimentary and replenished daily.

Each floor on the hotel is designed to reflect the rich history and character of the Canadian provinces and territories through the artwork and decorations. Make sure to visit each floor for the full experience!


Food & Drink

The Andaz plays host to a Canadian cuisine restaurant, lobby lounge, and rooftop bar.  Each of these spaces to eat and drink offer a unique local experience.

Feast + Revel: This Canadian inspired restaurant with new Canadian cuisine featuring local, organic and sustainable products is a must visit while staying at the Andaz.  The open kitchen, high ceilings, and bright open windows invite guests to come to the long 14 foot central table and truly feast and revel.  From the appetizers to the desserts you will not be disappointed with the selection available on the menu.

Copper Spirits & Sights: Head to the 16th floor of the Andaz to experience Copper Spirits & Sights and take in one of the best views in the city.  This rooftop patio bar is boasts premium lounge seating, incredible views of Parliament and the Byward Market.  They have seating both inside and outside depending on your preference but regardless the view is one that cannot be beat.


Things To Do

With the Byward market steps outside the doors of the Andaz, and Parliament not much further away, all of downtown Ottawa is at your fingertips so you will always find something to do.

Explore the Historic Byward Market

Visit the historic Byward Market, established in 1826, this market remains one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets in the country.  You will be treated to local vendors selling anything from baked goods, homemade items and much more.

Explore Inspiration Village 

Inspiration Village is one of Ottawa’s newest areas for entertainment.  Located on York Street just around the corner from the Byward Market, this village is home to special exhibits, performing art events, and exhibits for each of the provinces.  The village is only temporary and is open daily noon to 8PM until September 4, 2017.  The village is free to visit and fun for all ages.

Take a Tour of the Parliament Buildings

Ottawa is the nation’s capital and home to the beautiful parliament buildings which are free to explore!  Take a guided tour of Centre Block, explore the Peace Tower, Memorial Chamber, or stroll through on your own to discover the monuments that are found all across the grounds.

Looking for even more to do? Check out our list of 15 free things to do in Ottawa during the summer!

Why You Need to Visit Georgian Bay

Ontario encompasses over one-fifth of the worlds fresh water with its 250,000 lakes.  These waterways play a key part in the history and development of the province through the means of transportation for early explorers, a source of food and influencing where towns would be built. Next to the five great lakes, Georgian Bay is the largest body of water in Ontario and is often considered the sixth great lake.

One of our favourite places to explore, photograph and enjoy is beautiful Georgian Bay.  With its 30,000 islands and 2,000 kilometers of shoreline, this large bay has many popular areas and hidden gems.  Georgian Bay has everything from beautiful white sand beaches, hiking trails, island camping, boating, picturesque lighthouses and so much more.

Less than a two hour drive from Toronto, Georgian Bay lets you see another side of Ontario.  Here you will leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and enter a place of wind-swept pines, waves crashing up onto the Canadian Shield, small and large cottages dotting the lake and the 30,000 islands.

Here’s what you’ll experience while visiting Georgian Bay! 

The Cities Surrounding The Bay

Many areas of Georgian Bay along the shoreline can be accessed from the road.  This includes Collingwood, Midland, Parry Sound, French River, Killarney and Tobermory to name a few. Tobermory and Collingwood have a steady stream of tourism to the areas with their great attractions such as the Bruce Peninsula National Park and Blue Mountain.  Other towns such as Midland and Petetanguishene are less frequently visited by tourists, but have a lot to offer.

To drive around all of Georgian Bay it is 1285km drive including a ferry crossing at the northern end that connects you between Manitoulin Island and Tobermory.  This drive can be done in as little as 2-3 days or leisurely take up to 15 days to enjoy and immerse yourself in this beautiful area.  To drive to some of the destination cities or do the entire loop either way you will not be disappointed in what you see as with each new bend in the road there is a different view of the Bay and beautiful Ontario.


 

Boating on Georgian Bay

Although there are many great destinations that you can access around the perimeter shoreline of Georgian Bay, some of the best destinations are on the many islands throughout the bay. Most of these islands are accessible by boat in the summer and many can even be accessed by snowmobile throughout the winter months.

Our two most visited islands for both the summer and winter months are Giants Tomb and Beckwith, each of which are a short trip from Midland / Honey Harbour by boat or snowmobile. Both islands offer great day trip destinations in the summer and winter months and allow you to explore the perimeter on the water / ice or head into the island and explore the islands on foot.

Giants Tomb takes the shape of a sleeping giant and native legend has it that the giant God Kitchikewana laid to eternal rest here after creating Georgian Bay. The island is a great destination for day trips, great swimming and camping on the beach.  During the winter months when the bay freezes over, a series of natural ice caves can be found on the West side and is popular amongst snowmobilers. The actual size of the ice caves can vary each year as they are caused by the waves freezing as they crash into the island.

Located just beyond Giants Tomb, Beckwith is a boater’s paradise.  Thanks to it’s sandy bottom, this island has crystal clear water and long beaches. There is no development on the island except for a simple outhouse to serve boaters, campers and picnickers. The island provides you with everything you need to spend the day or night in complete tranquility.  This is a popular destination for us on weekends to relax on the beach and swim in the warm waters of Georgian Bay.  One of our favourite moments is when the boat pulls up to the island and the bay transforms into clear turquoise waters – This is one of the few places you will find clear water like this on Georgian Bay.


One of the best things about Georgian Bay is that it is ever changing with beautiful landscapes and new adventures around each corner. From day trips to week long adventures, Georgian Bay has something to offer everyone. If you get the change stay out late, watch the sunset and wait for the stars to come out as it is a sight you will not soon forget.

Georgian Bay is beautiful in every season so if you are looking for a weekend adventure anytime throughout the year take a drive to one of the many beautiful towns along the bay.

Hopefully we will see you on Georgian Bay!

A Photo Guide: Killbear Provincial Park in Winter

We have always enjoyed exploring areas in off season as it often has little to no tourists, chances of seeing wildlife are higher and for all intensive purposes it is incredibly peaceful to be on your own in the outdoors.  We just finished exploring Killbear Provincial Park in winter where we saw more wildlife than people!  Killbear gets over 380,000 visitors each year during its operating season (May-October).  While during the busy months it is still very peaceful to camp and hike along the shores of Georgian Bay, the winter offers an unparalleled experience with almost no one in sight.

Located just north of Parry Sound just short of a two hour drive from Toronto Killbear Provincial Park it an easy destination for a day trip or an over night adventure.  Camping is not available in the winter season but accommodations can be found in Parry Sound.  Depending on your weather conditions while driving to Killbear Provincial Park in winter your drive could be closer to just over three hours.

We hope these photos will inspire you to visit Killbear Provincial Park in winter, its off-peak season to explore the true beauty it has to offer.

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