Recreational Boating on
Georgian Bay

Recreational boating on Georgian Bay has a long tradition. Reports indicate that regattas were being held at Owen Sound as early as 1852. In 1879 the Wiarton Echo reported that professional and amateur sailors would be gathering in that town in September for a regatta. Many historians report that in the 1800s many wealthy families from Toronto and other southern Ontario centres enjoyed booking passage on the many ships that sailed Georgian Bay. Aboard these vessels tourists would enjoy passing the time reading, dining, and admiring the scenic beauty of the Bay.


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

Technology Provides Advancements for Recreational Boating on Georgian Bay

The development of the internal combustion engine enabled many individuals to acquire their own means of water transportation. This led to many recreational marine vehicles travelling the watery highways which had once been almost solely used by commercial vessels.

Recreational boating on Georgian Bay became increasingly popular after the turn of this century. However, it is not until the 1930s that tourism began to boom in hinterland of this area. The 1933 edition of the Ontario Tourist and Sportsman's Guide did not list any resorts north of Sauble Beach on the Lake Huron side of the Bruce Peninsula. On the Georgian Bay shore the Williams' Hotel in Lion's Head and the Arlington and Pacific Hotels in Wiarton were the most northerly tourist havens reported.  

However, this does not mean that tourists were not travelling to this area. The July 10, 1930 edition of the Wiarton Echo reported that the previous weekend had been a "record week-end for tourists and visiting of many yachts" at Tobermory. Many of the vessels docked at Tobermory were from the Detroit Yachting Club.

Later, in the Echo's August 28, 1930 edition, the editor commented on the opulence of a yacht visiting Tobermory and cost of such a splendid vessel:

"While I was in the village, (Tobermory) there was a yacht came into port to `coal up'. It was owned by one of the Fishers of the Fisherbody Co. of Detroit. He is what you might term a `wealthy American millionaire'. It was a very elaborate plaything, an extravagance. Andrew Belrose coaled her up with 750 gallons of gasoline. She burns up 100 gallons an hour, and very few people outside of a bank, could afford a thing like that for a toy."

Manitoulin Island and the Georgian Bay region held a special attraction for American sailors. In fact, Chicago's Great Lakes Cruising Club felt that commercial pilot charts for the area were inadequate for the use of recreational sailors. To rectify this situation, they printed their own guide and log book to provide better sailing conditions in the area for their members.

Between 1880 and the Second World War excursion trips allowed more people to enjoy recreational boating on Georgian Bay. These immensely popular events occurred no only by taking passage on board one of the vessels which regularly travelled the waters of Georgian Bay but also became huge social events where clubs, Sunday Schools, organizations or groups of people chartered a vessel for an excursion around the Bay.  

Recreational Boating on Georgian Bay: Excursions

In 1920 the Dominion Transportation Company of Owen Sound advertised its Owen Sound-Michipicoten route as "the summer's most popular outing-six days on the Great Inland Seas". In 1930 the company advertised their Lake Huron-South Shore route in terms which were strictly directed towards tourism (NOTE the misinformation about the Indigenous People that would be met along the way):

“There is still a famous Indian Reserve at Cape Croker, where the Ojibway Indians, descendants from the Huron Tribe of old historic fame, still live, occupying their time with farming, fishing, basket making and hunting, whose shores are skirted by our motor ship Hibou winding its way from Owen Sound through that world famous Colpoy's Bay right into Wiarton. Wiarton is the gateway of the Bruce Peninsula, situated where Georgian Bay and Lake Huron almost meet at the base of the Peninsula, population 2,000, good hotels, motor camp, garages, stores, restaurants, accustomed to catering to tourists, campers, fishermen, and hunters. After leaving Wiarton the next point of interest is Cape Croker...From Cape Croker the scenery is beautiful, passing Gun Point and into the scenic bay into Lion's Head, which is also one of the beauty spots of the Bruce Peninsula, where accommodation is plentiful for tourists, campers, hunters and fishermen. From Lion's Head you glide along, passing Cabot Head, whose lighthouse guides the ships coming to Georgian Bay. After passing wonder after wonder of natural scenic beauty we arrive at Tobermory, the head of the Bruce Peninsula, which is would famous for its fishing. Leaving the mainland of the Bruce Peninsula we go across Lake Huron skirting many famous islands, passing Cove Island, where the towering lighthouse and fog horn have stood for ages guiding the mariners on their way from Lake Huron to Georgian Bay. Then on to South Bay, on the South Shore of the Grand Manitoulin Island, world famous for its beauty and Indian Legends.”

However, better roads and increased usage of the automobile for tourist travel ultimately spelled the end of the excursion business, but did not diminish the enjoyment of recreational boating on Georgian Bay. Today, the thousands who come here each year illustrate that the allure of the beauty the Bruce Peninsula area has not diminished.

More Georgian Bay Sailing Stories

Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay and Great Lakes sailing traffic. They assisted mariners in making their sailing a safe venture. 

Recreational Boating on Georgian Bay  There is a long tradition of recreational boating on Georgian Bay. Reports indicate that regattas were being held at Owen Sound as early as 1852.

Great Lakes Recreational Boating  Great Lakes recreational boating has been a popular pastime in the summertime in the Georgian Bay region for many years.

Yachts on Georgian Bay  A history of yachts on Georgian Bay.

Georgian Bay Ferry Boat Service between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island has a history that is more than a century old. Today, the Chi-Cheemaun continues that tradition.

Ferry boat service after 1930 increased in activity between Tobermory at tip of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island

1867 Election Meant Sailing to the Soo. There was only one polling station in the Georgian Bay region in the first election after Canadian Confederation and that was in Sault Ste. Marie!

A Flowerpot Island boat trip takes you to one of the many Georgian Bay islands  dot the landscape of the waters around Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. One island features not only unique landforms and vegetation, but also a mysterious indigenous Romeo and Juliet tale of romance.

Chicora the first stage of an 1871 Great Lakes tour aboard a cruise ship on Georgian Bay.

Chicora the final stage of an 1871 cruise a foggy voyage on the Great Lakes.

Historic Vacations: King's Royal Park  Historic Vacations: King's Royal Park, opulent adventures for the wealthy of the day. It was the late 19th century and tourism was beginning to bloom.

Sailing the Lake Huron Shoreline is a step back in history and a delightfully scenic trip. But beware of the big waves that can arise anytime!

Sailing Lake Huron Shoreline Part 2 takes us through the most treacherous part of our voyage and also a most interesting part as we visit some unique islands.

Georgian Bay Sailing Georgian Bay Sailing history is a rich tapestry of tales of heroism, tragedy, and exploration. Sailing vessels traversing the rugged waters of Georgian Bay predate the arrival of European explorers and settlers.

Boating for Recreation on Georgian Bay and beyond had an early start once settlement began in the region. As early as the 1850s pleasure crafts were popular. 

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