5 Family Firsts in Cottage Country
Cottage country in Ontario, Canada, has everything you need for creating memorable family holidays. Here are five summer experiences you don’t want to miss!
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Summer holidays is a time for building family memories. Whether you’re travelling with a toddler or a hard-to-please teen, Ontario’s cottage country has all the ingredients to create unforgettable summer experiences. Here are five adventures you don’t want to miss!
1. Classic Summer Resort
“Do you think the tooth fairy will know where I am?” asked six-year old Jaden as we checked into our room at the Delawana Inn. Founded in 1897 and located in Honey Harbour on the shores of Georgian Bay, this historic resort has been the setting for many children’s firsts, from dip-netting for frogs to jumping into a mist-shrouded lake at sunrise. We did all that and more. We roasted marshmallows over a bonfire, tracked wolf footprints in the woods and hiked Beausoleil Island, the largest of the 59 craggy islands that make up Georgian Bay Islands National Park. At the end of the weekend, with the discovery of a loonie under Jaden’s pillow, we also learned that the tooth fairy really does make road trips.
Family First: Cannonball contests offer the opportunity to show off your splashiest moves.
2. Wilderness Wonders
As we drove into Awenda Provincial Park, north of Penetanguishene on Georgian Bay, a fawn stood in dappled light by the side of the road, unconcerned with our passage. Although archaeologists record human habitation in the area as far back as 11,000 years ago, cottage country crowds are scarce on this secluded peninsula. That’s part of its appeal. Cobble beaches, forest bog and glacial bluffs make up the rest. We upped our wilderness quotient by overnighting in Snake campground, a radio free zone, where seclusion was easy under the leafy shade of tall sugar maples. At nightfall, First Nations legends came alive with each slip of the setting sun. Standing on a pebbly beach, we gazed at Giant’s Tomb Island where the spirit of Kitchikewana, a violent god with a necklace of tree stumps, is said to rest.
Family First: Using an outdoor privy is an experience every Canadian should master.
3. Retro Beaches
With family-friendly throwbacks to a gentler era of go-kart rides, thick-cut French fries and low-rise motels, Wasaga Beach offers a peek into summers past. Home to the world’s longest freshwater beach, the 14-kilometre stretch of white sand offers bikini-ready waters for swimming, wave action for body surfing and plenty of space for impromptu games of beach volleyball or Frisbee. The beach scene is an instant hit with teens, but our family soaked up the natural beauty of the swaying dune grass, the wooden boardwalk and winding Nottawasaga River.
Family First: Grab a double ice-cream cone, kick off your shoes and watch the sun set over Nottawasaga Bay.
4. Star-spotting in Muskoka
We each had wish lists. My daughter wanted to spot Katie Holmes and I had Eddie Van Halen in my sightlines. Located two hours north of Toronto, Muskoka is an iconic Canadian destination synonymous with luxury and a well-to-do crowd. To truly experience the “Hamptons of the North,” we hopped on the RMS Segwun, North America’s oldest operating steamship, for a tour of Millionnaire’s Row. It was a slideshow of eye candy: posh boathouses, sumptuous yachts and mega mansions. We sipped chilled drinks, listened to the call of the loon and slid past ancient granite cliffs. By the time we docked four hours later, we’d learned you don’t have to see a Hollywood A-Lister to enjoy a day in Muskoka.
Family First: Try a famous scone from Don’s Bakery in Bala. It’s a fave with celebs and locals alike.
5. French River Voyageurs
“Did you pack forks?” I asked as I rummaged in the depths of our family’s daypack. We were on a secluded island on an unmarked tributary of the French River, the epic waterway that stretches from Lake Nipissing into Georgian Bay, and my husband was flipping pickerel fillets in a frying pan while a can of pork ‘n beans bubbled on an open fire. The only other sign of life was a trio of kayakers silently gliding across the bay. It was easy to imagine that the landscape was unchanged from when it was first explored by intrepid Europeans more than 300 years ago. Samuel de Champlain, Pierre Radisson and La Verendrye had all navigated their ways down this river—the route of the voyageurs and the fur trade. As I came up empty in my search for forks, I realized that the French River might be rich with Canadian history, but nothing says wilderness quite like eating lunch with a twig for a utensil.