Our part of the world is rich in history and culture. This is where you’ll find the cross commemorating the first mass in Ontario held more that four hundred years ago in 1615, at which Samuel de Champlain was present; where the Martyrs’ Shrine in Penetanguishene honours the martyrdom of eight Jesuit priests in the mid-17th century; to nearby Christian Island, where most would starve to death under the winter’s siege; where Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, the headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Wendat, was built as Ontario’s first European community, and which is now replicated on-site where it was originally built. Nearby is Huronia Museum, a replica of a pre-colonial contact-16th century Wendat village, including a lookout tower, a wigwam, a full-size longhouse and tens of thousands of historic artifacts ranging from Wendat art and cultural material to art by members of the Group of Seven.
Hundreds of pilgrims each year walk some or all of the 89 km off-road Pilgrim Route to the Martyrs’ Shrine, which wends through many local trails, including the Georgian Bay Snowriders Trail, the Tay Shore Trail, Barrie’s North Shore Trail, the Oro Medonte Rail Trail, Orillia’s Millennium Trails and the Uhthoff Trail.
Those inspired by the great outdoors will also enjoy hiking, birding, swimming, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, cycling and boating at jewels such as Awenda Provincial Park, the Wye Marsh, and the islands of the Beausoleil First Nation (note: the Beausoleil First Nation is currently not taking visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic; as such, boats cannot be docked at Christian Island, Beckworth Island, or Hope Island).
great lodge nearby points of interest
Awenda is a provincial park located on Georgian Bay at 670 Awenda Park Road in Tiny, Ontario, approximately a 20-minute drive from The Great Lodge. Awenda features 2,900 hectares of forest, 31 kilometres of hiking trails, 17 kilometres of skiing trails, and an interior lake. Activities include biking, birding, boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Located at 64 Nicole Blvd in Tiny, Ontario, the Bluewater Dunes are among Lake Huron’s highest sand dunes. Thanks to the determined efforts of the Bluewater Dunes community and (see Bluewater Dunes Protection Association), the once threatened dunes are being restored as an important ecosystem for flora and fauna. The boardwalk through the dunes provides visitors with a vantage point to observe and appreciate the dynamics of this area and to view gorgeous Georgian Bay.
Christian Island, and its neighbours Beckwith Island and Hope Island, can be seen directly across from The Great Lodge. Christian Island is home to Beausoleil First Nation and is known for its beautiful beaches and forests and an internal lake with a hiking trail. Several 1800s shipwrecks offshore of Christian Island, including the Mapledawn, have made it a popular destination for scuba divers. And don’t forget to visit the lighthouse, the first of the Imperial Towers constructed on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay to aid mariners. Let Gordon Lightfoot time travel you back to those days with his much-loved song named after Christian Island. Travel to the island can be made by pedestrians and cars via the ferry. Rough camping is available on Hope and Beckwith with a fee to the Beausoleil First Nation. Please note that due to Covid-19, Christian, Beckwith and Hope Islands are not taking visitors.
See Beausoleil First Nation Visitor’s Guide here for details on visits to their beautiful home.
Castle Village and Enchanted Kingdom Park
A fun and enchanting castle village complete with educational nature trails and life size fairy-tale themed cottages; a wonderful place to take the kids. Castle Village and Enchanted Kingdom Park is located at 701 Balm Beach Road East, Midland Ontario.
Relive the local history at Penetanguishene’s historic harbour, a 19th-century British garrison built after the war of 1812 to protect access to Upper Canada. Surrounded by Penetanguishene’s picturesque architecture and beautiful scenery, Discovery Harbour invites you to explore historic ships, docks, and a museum with the original hull of the H.M.S. Tecumseth, pulled from Penetanguishene Bay in 1953. Tours of the replica warship H.M.S. Tecumseth, and H.M.S. Bee Schooner & cargo vessel are pure delight for naval historians and children alike.
King’s Wharf Theatre
A beloved theatre in Penetanguishene, King’s Wharf Theatre is situated in Discovery Harbour between historic ships and 19th-century buildings. The theatre itself is beautifully rustic and features plays and other performing arts. King’s Wharf Theatre is located at 97 Jury Drive, Penetanguishene.
Ontario’s first mass, and Canada’s first mass west of Québec, was attended by Samuel de Champlain and Étienne Brûlé at the Wendat fortress Carhagouha. Two crosses now mark the location of that mass and can be visited at Cedar Point and Concession Road 18 West.
Huronia Museum and Huron/Ouendat Village
A treasure of Midland, Huronia Museum is located at 548 Little Lake Park Road. Huronia Museum’s pre-contact Huron-Ouendat village replica features a wigwam, longhouse and lookout tower. Huronia Museum’s indoor gallery includes art by the Group of Seven and numerous historical artefacts.
Lafontaine is a francophone town with historic ties to the Jesuits, Samuel de Champlain and Étienne Brûlé. Each July Lafontaine hosts Le Festival de Loup to honour their French music and culture. The festival originated as a celebration of the community coming together to stop the wolf from menacing the townsfolk in the 19th century. Today Lafontaine is known for its amazing pool of professional artists, many of whom take part in the Festival du Loup, including Jean-Marc Lalonde, Éric Dubeau, Michel Payment, Ariko, and Damien Robitaille.
Known as The National Shrine to the Canadian Martyrs, Martyr’s Shrine honours the Jesuits who lived and died for their mission in Huronia. Over one hundred thousand people visit the Martyrs Shrine each year, many of whom are on their own personal pilgrimages. The Martyrs Shrine includes the Shrine Church, Martyr’s Hall, Education Center, and gardens. Martyrs Shrine is located at 16163 Highway 12 West, Midland Ontario.
The historic town of Penetanguishene is a bilingual community in Simcoe County, a short fifteen minutes drive from The Great Lodge. Situated on beautiful Georgian Bay and surrounded by rolling hills, Penetanguishene is lined with charming historic buildings and is home to Discovery Harbour and King’s Wharf Theatre.
Sainte Marie Among the Hurons
Sainte Marie Among the Hurons is an authentic historical reconstruction of Canada’s earliest European community, the 1639 Jesuit Huron-Wendat mission. Sainte Marie Among the Hurons features an interactive museum illustrating the contact between the Jesuits and Indigenous people, bringing Simcoe County and Georgian Bay’s history alive. Sainte Marie Among the Hurons has garnered international acclaim for providing a unique window into early Canadian history and pioneer life.
The Wye Marsh spans 3,000 acres of native wetland in Tay, Ontario. Considered a National Wildlife Area and Provincially Significant Wetlands and Woodlands, The Wye Marsh is home to turtles, swans, numerous birds, and other animals. Trails, boardwalks, canoeing, snowshoeing, biking, kick sleds and cross-country skiing are all offered activities at this unique and beautiful wetland.
Wasaga Beach is the world’s longest freshwater beach, at 14 kilometres in length. Located at 11-22nd North Wasaga Beach, Wasaga Beach is famous for its stunning sunsets, sandy shore and trails for both hiking in summer and cross-country skiing in winter.