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Attractions in Southern Georgian Bay

• A WorldWeb.com Travel Guide for Southern Georgian Bay, Ontario.
With a mix of sandy beaches, historical sites and cultural attractions, visitors are sure to be both inspired and thrilled by the multitude of cultural, recreational and restorative activities offered in the Southern Georgian Bay area, which is located just over an hour’s drive north of Toronto, Ontario.

Districts, Neighbourhoods & Streets
While staying in the region, there are a couple of exceptional districts, neighbourhoods and streets that holidaymakers may wish to take the time visit. History buffs and architecture lovers can stroll through Collingwood's Downtown Heritage Conservation District and view the abundant heritage buildings—some restored and some original—that include homes, churches and businesses.

Located a short distance from Collingwood at the base of Blue Mountain, the Village at Blue Mountain has an abundance to offer visitors to see and do, such as the Ontario’s first mountain coaster, the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster. The village is also home to luxury accommodations, a variety of eateries, an assortment of shops and a myriad of year-round activities. A short distance southeast in the city of Barrie is the popular Bayfield Street, which features plentiful shopping, including many large brand name and chain stores as well as numerous restaurants and dining establishments.

Lakes, Beaches & Parks
Nestled between such prominent bodies of water as the Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching, it is little wonder that both residents and visitors alike make use of the ample beaches and water-based activities found in the region.

Located on the south side of the Georgian Bay, amidst beach communities such as Midland, Penetanguishene, Balm Beach, Collingwood and Thornbury is the beach at Wasaga Beach. A year-round holiday favourite, this white sandy beach stretches for 14 km (8.7 miles) and is broken up into six sections. The main sections (Section 1 and 2) are used by more active visitors while Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 are geared more towards family amenities and activities, as well as those seeking rest and restoration.

East of Wasaga Beach is Lake Simcoe, the fourth-largest whole lake in Ontario. Located on the west side of the lake is Kempenfelt Bay, which is surrounded by the city of Barrie, and situated between the northern most point of Lake Simcoe and the bottom of Lake Couchiching is the community of Orillia. Both cities feature a number of excellent beaches that open to the public.

Travellers will also discover numerous parks and gardens within the area, which range in size, geography and amenities. Many of the provincial parks offer full service campgrounds and protect portions of the Niagara Escarpment, Georgian Bay shoreline and wetlands. While in the parks, visitors can trek through extensive caves and deep crevices, paddle along scenic river routes or make use of the abundant trails on foot, bike, skis or snowmobile.

This region has several protected wetland areas as it is the breeding grounds for numerous bird species. An ideal stop for bird and wildlife lovers, the Minesing Wetlands Conservation Area consists of 6,000 ha (14,826 acres) of wetlands, fens and marshes, which are home to numerous plant and animal species, including over 200 species of birds.

Historical Sites
Southern Georgian Bay's rich and interesting history is evident in its many museums, monuments, historic sites and interpretive centres. Visitors can learn about the provinces earliest peoples in locations such as a recreated Huron village that models what life would have been like in the 1500s. Or, visitors looking for an idea of life in more current times can explore a Georgina Pioneer Village that includes re-enactments of local history. Other local museums include aviation, military and early Ontario police displays. Set in what was a general store in 1875, the Centennial Museum in Penetanguishene is now used to display early industrial and pioneer artefacts.

Highly dependent on the comings and goings of ships in the past, the bay's many lighthouses, particularly the six Imperial Towers, were absolutely essential to lead the ships to safe harbour. Only viewable from shore or by boat, the Nottawasaga Island Lighthouse is one of the six Imperial Towers and warns ships of the area's dangerous reefs and ledges entering the Collingwood Harbour.

Still providing aid to water travellers, the lighthouses stand as a monument to not only the sailors of those waters, but also to the faithful keepers who made sure there was always a light in the darkness to bring sailors home safe. Visitors wishing to learn more about Ontario's marine heritage can visit the Discovery Harbour. Once a British navel and military base, this historic site and interpretive centre now offers tours, activities and theatrical productions.

Culture & Entertainment
While the region certainly offers plenty for sun seekers and adventurous visitors, it also provides a number of cultural and entertainment opportunities. Specialty attractions such as the Midland Historic Murals and the Orangeville Art Walk of Tree Sculptures mix history and culture together to create an informative and pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Visitors can catch live theatre performances or other events held in one of the local cultural venues, theatres and auditoriums. These theatres range from operatic styled buildings such as the Orillia Opera House, which was built in 1874 and houses two ghosts, to the modern new Downtown Community Theatre in Barrie.

Those travellers looking for a little more excitement may wish to try their hand at the casino in Orillia or bet on their favourite horse at the Georgian Downs in Barrie. For an experience that mixes mud and the thrill of speed, travellers can attend Sweet Pea's Mudbog, held every June, August and October just outside of Orangeville.

For family-sized fun, visitors and locals alike can find plenty of sights that entertain both kids and parents. During winter and occasional rainy days during summer, visitors can still go for a swim at one of the many pools located in fitness and recreation centres in communities such as Collingwood, Orangeville, Midland, Barrie and Orillia. These facilities often include toddler pools, waterslide or splash parks.

Attractions like amusement and theme parks, and zoos and aquariums provide plenty of fun whether they house exotic animals or medieval knights. After a busy day, travellers can take in a movie at one of the local movie theatres such as the Barrie Triple Drive-In, which has three screens and an on-site playground.

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