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Georgian Bay/Canada

Introducing Georgian Bay

A vast realm of blues and greens, Georgian Bay is a land of infinite dreaming. Summer breezes amble along curving lakes and sandy shores, while thick pines quiver at winter's frosty kiss. These ethereal landscapes inspired Canada's best-known painters, the Group of Seven, and today the bay is home to hundreds of artists who use their backyard as inspiration. Evidence of these creative enclaves is conspicuous in Owen Sound and Manitoulin Island. In Midland, the downtown has been transformed into an outdoor gallery of over 30 spectacular murals.

Summers along Georgian Bay are crowded with Canadians looking for a sandy spot to catch some sun. Wasaga, the longest freshwater beach in the world, lures thousands of visitors on sweltering summer days. Ontarians from other regions take part in the annual ritual of negotiating and dividing 'cottage time' between factions of families that have owned the same lakeside retreat for generations. Then, in fall, much of the region closes down when the trees shed their enticing autumn foliage. The watery realm sees a surprising surge in winter as the area offers some of the best skiing in Ontario. Wasaga turns into a cross-country skiing paradise, and nearby Blue Mountain has the best vertical drop in the province.

Relative to the rest of the province, this small expanse of shoreline crams in a wondrous amount of varying topographical features. Southampton, on Lake Huron, enjoys warm waters and thick sandy shores. Next door, the Bruce Peninsula's jagged limestone outcrops offer dramatic cliffs and craggy beaches. Further along, the land flattens out at industrial Owen Sound, and sharply rises once more to host Blue Mountain. The swampy waters of Midland and Penetanguishene lead to myriad islands off the coast of Parry Sound. Shimmering quartzite cliffs immerge at Killarney and continue on to Manitoulin, the largest freshwater island in the world.

For a shortcut across the bay, try the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry, which connects Manitoulin to the tip of Bruce Peninsula. Orillia, a major stop on the Trent-Severn Waterway, offers several memorable dining options. Further north lies a vast forested domain of winding lakes called Muskoka (or 'The Muskokas'). This region, situated between the towns of Gravenhurst and Huntsville, has long been established as 'cottage country' for wealthy Torontonians.