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Unparalleled Kayaking & Camping In The Islands Of The Georgian Bay

Unparalleled Kayaking & Camping in the Islands of the Georgian Bay

If you’re looking for an outstanding kayaking trip that delivers where it counts  – unparalleled beauty, rocky pink granite islands and gorgeous campsites on islands you have to yourself, then you should think about a kayaking (or canoeing) trip to the Georgian Bay – in particular, the area around Killarney Provincial Park.

Georgian Bay kayaking and camping

A few years ago I’d spent some time paddling around Franklin Island in the Georgian Bay, further to the south so I had some idea of what to expect. But I thought this was even more beautiful, probably because it was less built up and there were so many islands to explore.

John and I met two of our very good friends – Jo & Ted at Killarney Outfitters within the Killarney Provincial Park boundaries. You can buy any last minute supplies you need for a trip here – and if you haven’t bought a map yet it’s a good place to get one. It’s also where you pick up your paddles, tow ropes and PFD’s if you’ve arranged for a canoe or kayak rental. (Our kayak rentals were very kindly comped.)

Start the trip by an easy paddle on the Chikanishing River

Start the trip with an easy paddle on the Chikanishing River

Then it’s about an eight minute drive to the Chikanishing River launch site. But before you go there, especially if it’s a multi-day trip you’re planning, buy a parking pass at the George Lake office in Killarney Provincial Park for $14 per day. The other option is to buy day passes at the launch site but that is slightly more expensive.

Our original plan was a five day circumnavigation of Philip Edward Island starting and ending at the Chikanishing River launch site. But Jo and Ted had to change plans and could only go out for two nights instead of four. As a result we decided we’d make the trip into a relaxing one – exploring islands and stopping wherever we thought it looked good.

The Fox Island chain, roughly 11 kilometres from the launch site, was our goal on the first night. We totally lucked out with weather and winds and in a few short hours we were there – looking for campsites. As it was a Saturday and peak season, most were already taken. Eventually we found a cobble beach campsite on Centre Fox Island overlooking Sly Fox Island – that looked close to ideal.

We were lucky to have calm waters on the Georgian Bay

We were lucky to have calm waters on the Georgian Bay

Stopping to explore one of the pretty islands en route to our first campsite

Stopping to explore one of the pretty islands en route to the Fox Islands

Kayaking in the Georgian Bay

The rocky islands in the Georgian Bay are ideal for exploring

There was enough room on the narrow beach to pitch two tents. And the island was a great one for exploring. It was a steep climb off the beach, but the reward was expansive views of the nearby islands and beautiful rock to explore and photograph.

First light on our kayaks - Fox Islands, Georgian Bay

First light on our kayaks – Fox Islands

Fantastic views from Fox Island, Georgian Bay

Fantastic views from Fox Island

Georgian Bay

Orange lichen is very prevalent on the rocks near the water

Georgian Bay view from the Fox Islands

John enjoying the view

Quintessential Georgian Bay scenery

Quintessential Georgian Bay scenery

Relaxing at our campsite in teh Fox Island chain

Relaxing at our campsite in the Fox Island chain

We elected to spend two nights on the island – partially because we didn’t want to look for another site and its location was perfect for exploring nearby islands. After a leisurely morning we headed for Solomons Island and the warren of little islands around it. Several hours were spent just poking in and out of small inlets where we did see one bald eagle and a great blue heron. After a lunch stop with a swim it was time to head back but by then the wind had whipped up – as it tends to do on the Georgian Bay – so the return was a much harder paddle – though good fun in the waves.

As a note to people looking for campsites, we found several that weren’t marked on any official maps so don’t give up hope if it’s busy and instead paddle some of the quieter waters until you find something. Most people – ourselves included – seem to opt for the campsites with the grand views.

Beautiful cottages on the Georgian Bay

Beautiful cottages on the Georgian Bay

Back at our campsite, we lounged some more, swam again, read and cooked dinner. And as the sun was setting we climbed to the top of the island for the view you see pictured below.

Enjoying a sunset over the Georgian Bay

Enjoying a sunset over the Georgian Bay

Camping on the Georgian Bay

When the lights go down

On the third day we packed up camp and headed pack in the direction of Chikanishing River. Jo and Ted left John and me on Crab Island where we whiled away another day reading and swimming. It was a busier area because of its location so it was fun to watch various groups paddle by – many in loaded canoes that didn’t look very seaworthy should a storm arise.

Lots of kayakers and canoers paddling past our 2nd campsite

Lots of kayakers and canoers paddling past our 2nd campsite

Georgian Bay

The water is warm enough to swim – something we did multiple times per day

Stormy skies at our 2nd campsite

Stormy skies at our 2nd campsite on Crab Island

The same campsite - now with the sun going down

The same campsite – now with the sun going down

By the fourth day I was getting itchy and starting to regret our decision not to circumnavigate Philip Edward Island. I figured John and I could have done it if we’d left right from the Fox Islands. But we didn’t have any weather allowance built into the trip so we’d decided we’d have to save it for another time.

We opted to head for Pinch Island – near the Flat Rock beacon. This turned out to be a great decision as the island does not feel heavily used; it’s big so there is lots to explore and there are loads of camping options.

After landing and choosing a site we once again spent the rest of the day reading, swimming and exploring.

From here it’s an easy paddle even with the wind blowing hard (which it was) to return to Chikanishing River. We did it in just over an hour.

Georgian Bay

Very cool rocks and algae at our 3rd campsite

Georgian Bay sunset

Last sunset of the trip

Looking over to he lighthouse on Flat Rock, Georgian Bay

Looking over to the beacon on Flat Rock

The pink granite of the Georgian Bay

The pink granite of the Georgian Bay

Stormy skies but only light rain once in five days

Stormy skies but only light rain once in five days

The kayaking among the 10,000 islands in the Georgian Bay is first rate. It’s certainly some of the prettiest kayaking I’ve ever done with the only downside being the sheer number of people vying for campsites at the height of the summer. It’s a real treat when you score an island and you have it to yourself!

Some useful information for kayaking the Georgian Bay

  • Cellphones worked wherever we paddled.
  • On weekends try and get an early start to beat the rush – especially if you don’t plan to paddle far. Our campsite on the third night out on Pinch Island is a great choice. It’s not on the main Philip Edward Island loop but it’s still within about an hour of the launch site.
  • Wind and fog are the hazards on this trip. Carry a marine radio for updates if you’re planning a longer trip.
  • Please campers – pack out your garbage. You can dump it in a proper garbage at the launch site. And burn your toilet paper. We saw way too much of that in heavily used areas.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A Fantastic Kayaking and Camping Trip on the Georgian Bay, Ontario

Leigh McAdam

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 21 Comments
  1. What a journey! I’ve never experienced anything like that and in Poland there are only a few rivers to pursue such an adventure. It is wonderful to watch your pictures! You were very lucky with the weather. Oh, and I totally agree with you regarding the garbage – it drives me crazy! Why people who appreciate nature and relaxing weekend outdoor would not care about this very nature? Shame on them!

  2. Wow this looks like it was such a fabulous kayaking trip – Canada is creeping further and further up my bucket list with every photo I see! Thanks for including the tip about taking your garbage away with you – too many beautiful places around the world getting littered and destroyed by travelers who don’t think twice about leaving their trash.

    So thanks for promoting responsible travel!

    1. @Meg It was a superb kayaking trip but on one island in particular someone had used the bushes as a bathroom within 10 feet of one of the tent sites. Needless to say we didn’t camp there but I was sickened with their neglect.

  3. Beautiful scenery – it reminds me a lot of Killbear Provincial Park, which isn’t that far away and is also on Georgian Bay. We do a big camping trip every year and we’ve hit it up several times.

  4. This looks beautiful. I haven’t done a lot of kayaking in Canada (just around Gros Morne and Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick) but this looks like a rugged adventure.

  5. What a trip and some superlative photography……envious for sure. Just added it to my bucket list……keep the paddles dripping and dipping….. Norm

  6. An unique perspective to travel from a Kayak. I´m sure it must be a soothing way to see natural parks away from the crowds and closer to nature.
    Great photos!

  7. Oh yes, I could definitely see myself doing this. Wonderful. Love the pictures (as usual). Guess you need a bit of training before you head out right? We went into a kayak recently for only two hours…or maybe your body gets used to it after a while?

  8. Wow! Never been to the Franklin Island in the Georgian Bay and looks stunning! I think it’s perfect plan! Love camping and spending a weekend there has to be great! Some Kayaking and enjoy nature!

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