A book that is sure to be treasured by residents and visitors alike.
This is the first full-color pictorial on one of Ontario's fastest growing tourism and retirement areas. In A View of the Bay, the acclaimed writer-photographer team responsible for best-selling books on Muskoka turns their attention to the Collingwood region -- its history, its attractive four-season lifestyle and the many reasons for its remarkable population growth in recent years.
This naturally beautiful landscape is bordered on the west by breathtaking Georgian Bay and on the east by the rugged Niagara Escarpment. The area encompasses not just Collingwood and surroundings, but also Creemore and the Purple Hills, Thornbury, Wasaga Beach, Beaver Valley and the Blue Mountains.
A View of the Bay features more than 150 color photographs by one of Canada's finest photographers, while 16 vignettes look at life past and present along southern Georgian Bay, including:
John de Visser's photographs have been collected in more than 60 books. His outstanding lake country pictorials include Muskoka, Boathouses, The Thousand Islands, Shelter at the Shore and Georgian Bay. He lives in Cobourg, Ontario.
Judy Ross is the award-winning author of eight books, and her articles have appeared in such magazines as House and Home, Cottage Life, Canadian Gardening, Leisureways, Town and Country and Travel and Leisure. She lives in Collingwood, Ontario.
Life on the Edges of the Bay
IT IS NEARING MIDNIGHT on a cold night in February. The moon is full and I can see my breath in the clear air as I clomp through knee-high snow across a farmer's field. On my feet are a pair of newly purchased snowshoes. Ahead of me, a single line of fellow clompers, gamely trudging along moonlit tracks, their dark bundled figures like characters in an Ingmar Bergman movie.
It is well past the time we're usually all in bed. The air is tart with frost that tickles the back of my throat. Moon shadows lengthen across fields that, in summer, will be thick with hay -- and in the distance the town lights of Collingwood twinkle like a mirage. Beyond that, the half-frozen edges of Georgian Bay. After an hour or so of crossing hill and dale, we will wend our way back to a cozy fieldstone farmhouse and settle our weary bones for brandy by the fire.
We are newcomers, recent arrivals from the city, and have quickly been swept into the range of year round outdoor pleasures that have become part of life in southern Georgian Bay.
For many of us who have moved to this corner of the country (and especially for those born here), there's an implicit sense that this is unique. We are blessed with a dramatic limestone ridge, the Niagara Escarpment, which provides us with hiking trails, conservation areas and, most importantly, ski hills. In Ontario this is the closest thing we have to mountains, and we take full advantage of it. The first ski tow was put up in the 1930s by the Blue Mountain Ski Club, and now hundreds of runs and a multitude of high speed chairlifts slice across the Escarpment face from Devil's Glen to Georgian Peaks.
For those who prefer to stay at ground level, there's a waterfront trail that links the south shore towns of Meaford, Thornbury and Collingwood. The much-used Georgian Trail is an abandoned Canadian National Railway line that loops across 32 kilometres (20 mi) through orchards and woodlands. This wide gravel path, initiated and still maintained by local citizens, is ideal for walking and biking and, in winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. In spring, around the Craigleith Depot (once the railway terminal for the ski train from Toronto's Union Station), dozens of lilac bushes edge the trail, making for a sweetly perfumed outing. And across the way is a wide-open view of Georgian Bay.
We are surrounded by water here. Nottawasaga Bay, an immense body of fresh water, forms the most southerly loop of Georgian Bay. It spreads across 75 kilometres (46.5 mi) of coastline from Meaford to Wasaga Beach, with Collingwood Harbour placed strategically at its deepest point. Fanning out southward from the water are meadows and valleys with the most fertile land in Ontario. The lush area known as the Purple Hills boasts rivers with bluntly descriptive names -- Mad, Noisy, Pretty. All of them weave through stunningly beautiful landscape.
At Wasaga the shore flattens to wide hard-packed sand, 14 kilometres (8.5 mi) of it, forming the longest freshwater beach in the world. Water is never far away -- either literally or emotionally. It forms a large part of our psyche. As well as the vast shoreline of the bay, there are three mighty rivers that empty into it: the Bighead at Meaford, the Beaver at Thornbury and the Nottawasaga at Wasaga Beach.
The combination of the bay, rivers and valleys and of the looming backdrop of the Niagara Escarpment lures weekenders and vacationers and a growing number of artists who live and work here year-round -- photographers, potters, painters, musicians, writers -- all of whom find their muse in the lilting landscape. As a 1950 promotional booklet called Know Collingwood gushingly declared, "To have lived in the shadow of the Blue Mountains and in the clear air of Georgian Bay is to retain forever a sense of beauty and of grace."
When it comes to living here, there are countless options suited to any lifestyle. The shoreline -- in places, boulder strewn; in others, sand covered -- for those who love water; hills and valleys for secluded country retreats; fertile fields for anyone yearning to farm the land; condos for easy living, on golf courses and the waterfront; the Village at Blue for resort-style life; and for those interested in local heritage, historic towns and villages featuring downtown neighbourhoods lined with vintage red brick homes. In new subdivisions houses pop up like dandelions on a spring lawn, and along concession roads, what once was farmland is giving way to lavish country spreads with mega mansions and million-dollar views.
The views. They exist because of the happy convergence of water and mountain. Ask any hiker about the best scenic outlooks, or any skier where he pauses, and rests on his ski poles, to take it all in. Newcomers build their hilltop aeries and angle them just so to capture the panorama. But sometimes a view happens when least expected. Drive up a concession road heading north from Creemore, crest a hill -- and suddenly there's Georgian Bay, a blaze of blue beyond the farm pastures and woodlands. It's a breathtaking sight -- especially at sunset, when sky and water spread across the horizon, melding together in every shade of red and orange.
Every season comes with its own cause for celebration. In spring, skiers are still dancing through the last bit of snow that clings to the slopes, and apple blossom tours take place in the countryside. In rivers and along the shale beaches, anglers cast about for salmon and lake trout. Come summer, the clear turquoise bay waters, as inviting as the Caribbean, beckon weekenders and vacationers for beach parties and boating. The golf courses come alive, cyclists take to the trails and roads, outdoor patios spill over with revellers. In fall, the farms offer up their bounty at markets in every town and village. Harvest tours through apple country give everyone a chance to bite into a freshly picked apple.
And on winter nights when the air is crisp and the moon is full, someone, somewhere, will be hosting a midnight snowshoe party.
Table of Contents
Introduction Life on the Edges of the Bay
1 A New Name