Exploring the ‘World’s Largest Concentration of Freshwater Islands’ Georgian Bay’s 30,000 Islands

Georgian Bay 30,000 Island

Georgian Bay 30,000 Island photo by Kate Bishop

Parry Sound, Georgian Bay – Parry Sound is located on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, about half way between Toronto and Sudbury. This is the rugged region of granite rock and windswept pine that inspired many paintings by members of Canada’s famous Group of Seven. The town is home to the world’s deepest natural freshwater port.

Our adventure started at the town dock in Parry
Sound, at Georgian Bay Airways (GBA) – a small
wooden building where they also sell scooped ice
cream and souvenirs.

GBA is owned by Nicole & Keith Saulnier, bush pilots who met at Confederation College flight school. Office décor includes file cabinets papered with drawings by their kids. Tied to the dock were three 3-passenger planes: a Bush Hawk (the factory that makes them is in Parry Sound) and two Cessna 180ʼs.

Georgian Bay Airways Tour © Lucy Izon

Georgian Bay Airways Lands at Frying Pan Island  © Lucy Izon

When we visited the company was offering a variety of opportunities, from a 25-minute sightseeing flight, to fishing trips (they drop you off where there is a boat and equipment waiting, then pick you up later in the day.) For the well-to-do business person, they even pick up at a cottage dock and shuttle to downtown Toronto, then return them back their dock when the meeting is through. We were there to experience one of the most unique opportunities, a visit Henryʼs famous fish and chip restaurant, which can only be reached by boat, plane or helicopter. GBA takes about 1,000 people out to it every summer.

We climbed aboard the 3-passenger Cesna with our young pilot James, and taxied out through the harbour. The wind was brisk, but the weather clearer here than the cottage area we came from just 20 km away. Quickly we lifted up and are soon were soaring over the islands, a scattering of tree-covered granite rocks, some with rustic cabins and a number with large cottages – one even had a swimming pool. The water is so clear you can see the submerged bases and shoals surrounding many of them. Some of the land our pilot James pointed out is also part of Massassaga Provincial Park, so it wonʼt be developed.

Henry's Fish & Chips

Henry’s Fish & Chips © Lucy Izon

The Huron legend is that Georgian Bay, which is almost as big as Lake Ontario, was once guarded by a temperamental god named Kitchikewana, When the woman he wanted to marry turned him down he grabbed a large ball of earth and tossed it, creating the 30,000 Islands.

In what felt like abut 15 minutes, we descended into the Sans Souci area, and after a smooth water landing and taxi up to Henryʼs, several white wooden buildings, with at least five docks, on Frying Pan Island. The restaurant is actually federally registered airport for sea planes and is serviced by at least 5 commercial airlines

At Henry’s it doesnʼt matter if you pull in, in a little boat or a yacht, a plane or a helicopter, you are treated the same. Young dock staff bound down to help with landing. Some cruisers are hooked up to power so they can comfortably spend the night.

 

Address:

Georgian Bay Airways Ltd., 11 Bay St Parry Sound, Ontario

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