The Garden House B&B in Owen Sound

Late summer can be a very beautiful time in Ontario, and this year we certainly have been having great weather. In addition to getting out and about in the city, Toronto that is, every chance I get, I have been meaning to do an excursion into the country for a while now. So I touched base with my good friend Yolande and we started making plans for a girls’ weekend getaway. We figured somewhere along Georgian Bay might be a good idea, and as I checked the map I Owen Sound caught my attention since I had never visited it before.

Boating, a popular pastime on Georgian Bay

So early this Saturday morning I picked up Yolande and on a gorgeous sunny day we started our drive northwards. We headed west to Brampton, left the highway and started driving northwards through country scenery. Farmland and rolling hills accompanied us on our drive until we reached the Town of Collingwood. Collingwood is located right on Georgian Bay in close proximity to Blue Mountain, one of the highest outcroppings on the Niagara Escarpment. Collingwood is a popular four-season resort, offering a wide range of recreational activities year-round, and Blue Mountain is Canada’s third busiest ski resort (after Whistler-Blackcomb and Mont Tremblant). Due to its broad recreational opportunities It has even become a popular retirement location in recent years and many new full-time residential developments dot the area.

Bridge in Meaford

We continued through the old town and kept going westwards along Georgian Bay past local towns such as Craigleith and Thornbury. We had absolutely gorgeous weather and as we were driving we caught glimpses of the sparkling blue water of Georgian Bay. A little while later we decided to stop in the historic town Meaford, and drove into its picturesque harbour area. Meaford is a rather small place with a population of about 4,000 people. It has a beautifully developed harbour complex that includes a Visitors Centre, a Dockmaster’s office, washroom and laundry facilities. Close by are a variety of picnic shelters and next to the Visitors Centre there is a retired Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue vessel on display.

A retired Coast Guard vessel in Meaford

It was time to shake our legs a little, so we embarked on a little walk through town. We crossed a river whose bridge was adorned with blooming flowerboxes which made a nice photo motif against a group of blue-grey condominium buildings. In just a few minutes we had reached the town’s main thoroughfare called Sykes Street, and admired an imposing Victorian brick building with a large mural that said “Paul’s Hotel”, obviously an earlier incarnation of this building.

The former Paul’s Hotel in Meaford

Sykes Street features a very intact Victorian streetscape with numerous retail stores and various cafes. We turned around at the Meaford Hall, an arts and cultural centre that regularly hosts live entertainment, business events and social gatherings. Many of the stores were already featuring scarecrows and other costumes for Halloween.

Meaford’s main street: an intact Victorian streetscape

As we needed to continue our trip we got back in the car and drove west to our intended destination for the weekend: Owen Sound, located right at the confluence of the Sydenham River and Georgian Bay. We drove into the northern end of town, parked our car at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre and stepped out for a brief walk. Owen Sound is known for its many walking and bicycling trails, and the Harbour walkway as well as Tom Thomson Trail provide scenic walking opportunities right along the city’s waterfront.

View of the mouth of the Sydenham River in Owen Sound

We admired three young athletes in neoprene wetsuits who were just embarking on a swim of the river’s estuary. The water looked pretty chilly. Just a few minutes further north a children’s race called the Kids of Steel Race was getting underway, all part of the Subaru Triathlon Series. I watched as the starter began the countdown and dozens of kids started to run southwards on the trail along the water’s edge. It was definitely a perfect day for a bit of exercise in the great outdoors.

Pleasure-boating on Georgian Bay

To get further information about this town we stopped by the Tourism Office which is housed in the same building as the Marine & Rail Musuem, unfortunately we had just dropped by during lunch hour and the office was closed. We stepped out onto the harbour promenade, read some of the historical plaques and asked some local fishermen where to eat and they gave us some loose instructions of how to get to the “Boot and Blade”, a very popular casual restaurant whose lineups attested to its popularity. Some of the offerings on the all-day breakfast menu sounded appealing and we started to enjoy our late lunch.

Entrance to the Old Post Office in Owen Sound

Appropriately strengthened we were ready for our explorations of the town and went back to the Tourism Office which was open right now. A young man named Keith provided us with a variety of brochures about Owen Sound and the surrounding area. In a two-minute interview (accessible through the Youtube link below) he provided us with a brief overview of Owen Sound, the tourist destination.

The old Market Building, from 1868

Owen Sound is a popular destination for art lovers and the city was named Canadian Cultural Capital in 2002. One of the major attractions in Owen Sound is the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery, one of Canada’s most famous artists who was closely associated with the famous Group of Seven. The Billy Bishop Heritage Museum showcases the life and times of the famous Canadian aviator Billy Bishop who grew up in Owen Sound. The Summerfolk Festival, the Artists’ Co-op and the Roxy Theatre are popular destinations for art lovers. A popular book by John Villani, “The 100 Best Art Towns in America”, lists Owen Sound as a great arts destination, one of only five in Canada.

Bridge over the Sydenham River in Owen Sound

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