Sometimes when a beautiful day beckons, you just have to jump in the car and go. So that's just what Jim and I did yesterday and had a great day trip to Parry Sound.
A charming little town to the west of us on Georgian Bay, Parry Sound is a popular day trip for guests, especially when they're staying a few nights and have time to explore in all directions. I head out that way a couple of times a year, but this was the first time Jim and I decided to play tourist and check it out together.
From Fern Glen Inn, the drive starts out right with a pretty view of Round Lake on our way to Sprucedale. From there, we follow Hwy 518 west past a few small communities, spruce bogs, fields, lakes, rivers, dense forest. The highway is in great shape, fully paved with lots of new sections where they widened it and straightened it out a bit, but it still has lots of hills and curves.
About half way along, we pass Old Nipissing Road, a colonization road used by early settlers in the region. If we were driving our Circle Tour route, we'd turn north here and head towards Magnetawan. If we were to drive south on Old Nipissing Road, we would pass through the ghost town of Seguin Falls.
Instead, we continue west and are treated to the sight of a moose grazing in the marsh alongside the highway! Unfortunately, this was also a "Honey, where's the camera???" moment, so alas, no photo of the great beast.
What we did get some nice pictures of were the legions of white trilliums that blanketed the hardwood forests along the highway. The official flower of Ontario, white trilliums are lovely, happy little flowers. We have the red variety growing throughout our property, but I have yet to see the white ones here at home.
We pass through the town of Orville, which boasts a restaurant as well as a gas station, general store and LCBO agent. This is one of the handful of places where the Seguin Trail crosses the highway and provides access to services.
Continuing on, Hwy 518 comes to an end at Hwy 400/69, just south of Parry Sound. It's only been about 60km, but it took us about an hour to drive, including stops along the way.
We head into town and briefly check out the main street shops. We're not much for shopping, so instead we visit the Old Fire Hall museum on Mary Street. As a volunteer firefighter here in Emsdale, Jim was particularly interested to see the old engines. Hockey fans may prefer a visit to the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame located at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts.
Top of our must-see list was the Fire Tower. There's also a museum on site but we didn't go in this time and just climbed the tower and enjoyed the gardens. No longer used for keeping watch for forest fires, there's still a great view from the top of this 96-foot tower (I counted 130 steps on the climb to the top!). We had a bird's eye view of Georgian Bay, the town, the docks and beyond.
We also snapped a photo of the Island Queen cruise ship. This 550-passenger vessel makes daily 3-hour tours of the 30,000 Islands throughout the summer months. Guests who have taken the cruise have told us it was a wonderful time.
From Parry Sound, we headed home by another route, taking Hwy 124 north-east through more lovely countryside of lakes and small communities. This route feels more settled, less like wilderness than Hwy 518.
From Hwy 124 we took Hwy 520 into the town of Magnetawan. Here you'll find a small selection of eateries and shops, including Summer's Attic, where you're sure to find a souvenir or treasure for your garden.
With locks and lakeside parks, Magnetawan is a lovely day trip on it's own. From there we swung south on Old Nipissing Road, stopped at the Cornball Store (out in the middle of nowhere, really) for an icecream, then turned east on Midlothian Rd for a drive by the Screaming Heads.
We came out at Burk's Falls, which has a few restaurants to choose from for dinner options, but instead Jim wanted to stop at the chip truck in Katrine for that authentic 'summer road trip' ambiance. We even took the back roads home from there in order to prolong the feeling.
With all our stops and our longer route home, our day trip was about 5 hours start to finish. We could have easily made it much shorter (by taking Hwy 518 home again) or longer by adding more stops. I think next time we'll try coming home by way of Rosseau and Huntsville for a southerly loop. The possibilities are endless.
If you'd like to enjoy a day trip to Parry Sound, Magnetawan, or other great gems of the region, we'll be glad to help you plan your tour.