Ontario Travel Diaries: Collingwood, Muskoka, and Manitoulin Island

One thing my family likes to do every summer is travel.

Last summer, we went to British Columbia. The summer before that, we went to Niagara Falls, and the summer before that we went to my uncle’s cottage. This time, we decided to do a road trip around Ontario, and we brought our black lab, Tessa, along with us. Here’s how it went.



Like usual for my family, we left about an hour late.

Our first stop of the trip was the family place we have up in Glen Huron, a little chalet the extended family flocks to around Christmas. It’s strange seeing it in summer, when everything’s so green instead of all white with snow, but I digress.

After we got unpacked and grabbed something quick to eat, we headed out to look around the area. My parents wanted to see the Hamilton Bros mill, a five-generation family-run business that bought Glen Huron in 1874. I apparently have a thing for old, slightly dilapidated buildings, so I was game.


hamilton bros mill -- glen huron (ontario travel diaries)
The side of the Hamilton Bros mill. I think the population count is a little out of date.

We also went back to take a sneak look at the water-powered mill, which, according to the Hamilton Bros’ website, is the original feed mill from the 1890s. Pretty cool, huh? I don’t think we were supposed to be back there (oops), but the view was just too pretty.

hamilton bros mill -- glen huron (ontario travel diaries)
A view of the water part of the mill, taken by my father.


After we’d had our share of looking around, we headed out to Creemore. It was dark by then, but that just made for more interesting pictures. It’s a sweet little town, with vibrant, quaint center. There are a lot of small shops; the biggest building by far is the Creemore Brewery, which takes up what looks like three separate buildings.

creemore (ontario travel diaries)
Cute little bauble on the railing outside one of the restaurants.
creemore (ontario travel diaries)
Look at these lights! I don’t know what they’re called exactly but they made for a perfect picture.

After about an hour or so and an emergency convenience store run for milk later, we headed back to our chalet for the night.



We woke up a little later than normal on day two, slow and sluggish in a familiar place.

After a few hours of getting our things together, we headed off to Collingwood to look at “The Village”. Though our family has known the area for decades, it’s changed a lot in recent years; Toronto money means it’s expanded a lot and gotten a bit ritzier. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s pretty easy to see.

collingwood (ontario travel diaries)
This isn’t exactly ritzy, but it’s pretty cool.

After looking around the Village for a while, we headed out to the Millenium Overlook park, one of the places we brought our BC friends a couple years ago. It’s just as beautiful now as it was back then; I’ve always liked water landscapes, and because of my adoration for slightly dilapidated buildings, I liked the mill, too. (Don’t mind me. I’m a little strange.)

collingwood millenium park
One of the first things you see when you go into the park.
collingwood millenium park (ontario travel diaries)
Obligatory artsy shot of the gulls.
collingwood millenium park
I like old buildings, okay. This one is pretty good.
collingwood millenium park
Apparently I like lighthouses, too.

collingwood millenium park

collingwood millenium park

After looking around for about an hour, we got in the car and continued on.

Our next stop was unplanned, but when we came across the Sunset Point park, my mom thought it was so beautiful that we had to stop. So we did, parking our car close to the water while we ate lunch.

sunset point beach collingwood
Look at the water

There was a brief moment where I thought I might’ve witnessed a drug deal—I’m a worrywart with the over-active imagination of a writer, sue me—but the water was beautiful, and it was pretty peaceful there, too.


For me, Gravenhurst was one of the highlights of the trip. While the city itself was beautiful—I’ve always loved small little towns—my main attraction was the meet-up I’d arranged with my first-year roommates, who I hadn’t seen for three months and two months respectively.

gravenhurst (ontario travel diaries)

We arrived in Gravenhurst around four-thirty, and spend about a half hour looking around before I met up with one of my roommates. We walked around for a bit before meeting the other roommate, and my parents took the dog for a bit of a walk while I got to hang out with my friends. It was nice to walk around the wharf and just talk; though I have friends back home, I’d lived with these girls for eight months, and I missed them like crazy. They’re like sisters to me, and I forgot how easy and wonderful it is just to be around them.

collingwood (ontario travel diaries)
These ships were pretty cool.

The wharf was beautiful, and all the shops around it were, too. The entire town was. I need the hustle of a city, and Vancouver is the place where I’ll always feel at home (even if I don’t live there yet), but I loved Gravenhurst, just like I’ve loved towns like Creemore and Stevenson.

gravenhurst (ontario travel diaries)
The docks during sunset.

Around nine, we parted ways, sad and a little wistful, and my family and I left for the next part of the trip.


North Bay ended up being a convenient midpoint from Muskoka to the ferry, so that’s where we decided to stay for the night. The car ride there was surprisingly short; we were there in about an hour and three quarters, instead of over two, which was probably good because I was falling asleep in the car.

Settling into the hotel was a weird experience, mostly because in the ten years we’ve had our dog, we’ve rarely brought her with us on trips, and never stayed in a hotel room with her. But Tessa loved it, spending a solid five minutes sniffing everything in sight. She slept beside my bed the entire time, and it was nice knowing that when I woke up in the middle of the night, she was right there beside me to pet.



As we settled into the car at 8:30 AM and the sun washed over me, I slowly, slowly started to wake up. As you can tell, I’m not a morning person, okay.

It took about four hours (with several pee and coffee breaks) to get to Manitoulin Island, and I spent most of them writing, dozing, or trying to put on mascara in a moving car. Watching the scenery fly past and rock formations appear alongside the highway is probably one of the best ways to wake up, in my opinion.

We were already slightly behind schedule, and seeing as we had a deadline, we didn’t really have a chance to look around Manitoulin, but what I could see from the car looked beautiful.


Just at 12:30, we pulled into the ferry loading zone, and spent our hour in line. Our dog got to meet several other dogs, which I’m sure she loved, and my dad got a good few pictures of the water. I was weirdly tired and lethargic, even after finishing the large mug of coffee I’d made for myself, so I stayed in the car and ate my lunch while my parents walked around.

ferry to manitoulin island (ontario travel diaries)

When the ferry started to pull in—with a horn blast so loud I literally jumped—I finally got out of the car. I don’t normally find boats particularly stunning, but this one was pretty great.

ferry (ontario travel diaries)
The MS Chi-Cheemaun (taken by my father)

I can remember being on a ferry only twice before—a return trip from Vancouver to Victoria—though I know it’s probably more than that. And while this trip was admittedly not as scenic as the last one, partially because I’m in love with BC and partially because that previous ferry ride was just a little after sunrise, it was still beautiful.

ferry to manitoulin island (ontario travel diaries)
Pretty nice view, isn’t it? (photo taken by my father)
ferry to manitoulin island (ontario travel diaries)
The fog off the ferry.

It was also different being on a ferry with our dog. Whereas the ferry in BC didn’t allow pets, this one did, and there were a lot of them on the boat. Thankfully, Tessa was fairly calm throughout the ferry ride—something pretty rare for her—and the trip went smoothly.

ferry to manitoulin island (ontario travel diaries)
My dog is too photogenic for her own good.


When the ferry docked around 3:30, we got in our car and drove into Tobermory. Because it was going to be a good four- or five-hour trip home and my dad had to work the next day, we didn’t really have much time to spare, but what I saw of Tobermory was amazing. It looked exactly like what I think camping country would be like, quaint and filled with that old-fashioned little town charm. As a person who’s lived most of her life in large cities, it’s always a shock to drive through a place that has a general store. Weird, but good.

We traveled down through Lion’s Head, and had our next stop in Port Elgin. After a quick coffee break, we continued on down to Wiarton, the cute little town that’s home to Wiarton Willie, our famous Groundhog Day predictor.

Next was Sauble Beach, a town that looked straight out of every teen beach movie you’ve ever seen. It was filled with little local shops—the only big chain store I saw was a Dairy Queen—and it felt somehow like I’d been transported back into time, where people relaxed on beaches and shops had open doorways and restaurants were Flintstone-themed. (To be clear, this isn’t me knocking the town. I thought it was damn cool.)

We continued down Ontario until we got back to more familiar territory. I got home that night tired but happy, and woke up the next morning to find out that somehow one of my arms was now more tan than the other.

Last summer, we went to BC. The summer before that, we went to Niagara Falls, and the summer before that we went to my uncle’s cottage. This time, we decided to do a road trip around Ontario, and we brought our black lab, Tessa, along with us. Here’s how it went.


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