The magnificent Georgian Bay wilderness in Ontario is home to 30,000 windswept, granite islands, making it an amazing kayaking destination. Rugged beauty is the backdrop for the duration of any paddling trip.
The Georgian Bay, sometimes called the “sixth Great Lake”, covers close to 15,000 square kilometers so it’s about 80% of the size of Lake Ontario. As such, it’s capable of generating its own weather, waves and currents. It’s famous for its winds that blow up out of nowhere – making calm water gnarly and dangerous in a matter of minutes.
Where to go kayaking on the Georgian Bay
The hardest decision you’ll have to make is what part of the Georgian Bay to explore. Time and your paddling ability figure prominently in the equation as does any forecast with wind warnings. You can launch anywhere between Snug Harbour and Killarney to access the myriad of islands and islets but always have a fall back plan in place; there are islands, particularly the distant out islands, where you can get wind bound for days.
If you’re a novice to intermediate paddler then one of the easier three day kayaking trips is a circumnavigation of Franklin Island. The island, accessible with a launch from Snug Harbour, offers quintessential Georgian Bay scenery; twisted, folded and cooked metamorphic rocks, wind twisted and gnarled white pines, flat slabs of crystalline rock perfect for sunbathing, beaches for swimming and fresh blueberries to pick in season. There are loads of camping sites and privacy should never be an issue. The actual circumnavigation of Franklin Island should take no more than four or five hours at a relaxed place.
Experienced paddlers might want to use Franklin Island as a stopping point on the way to or from the Mink Islands. These islands see fewer paddlers but offer plenty of opportunity for exploration. In particular, look for the wreckage of the steamship Seattle that sank in 1903, 300 meters off Green Island. Adventurous paddlers can continue further and explore the McCoy Group.
Useful Information for Planning a Kayaking Trip on the Georgian Bay
- Bring your own kayak or rent from White Squall or Killarney Outfitters.
- Its 13 kilometers to circumnavigate Franklin Island. The Mink Group is 5 kilometers from the Franklins with an open water crossing. From there you can access the McCoy Islands.
- Launch for the Franklin Islands from Snug Harbour, located approximately 275 kilometers north of Toronto via Highway 400, Highway 559 and Snug Harbour Road.
- Island camping on crown land is free.
- Don’t forget: Marine charts, a weather radio and extra food. Winds can blow up out of nowhere and the paddling conditions can change in minutes. Watch out for rattlesnakes.
- Options: There are lots of route possibilities. You could start in Killarney and head for Phillip Edward Island as well as the Fox and Chicken Islands; launch from the Key River Marina and head for the Bustard Islands. Or leave from Britt and head to the Churchill Islands.
- Plenty of companies offer tours. Although a tour is actually easy to do on your own, if time or logistics are an issue consider Wolf Den Expeditions (who I went with) or Voyageur Quest.
Have you ever been kayaking or canoeing on the Georgian Bay? Where would you recommend exploring?