For boaters starting to plan their summer itineraries, the village of Killarney situated in the NW corner of Georgian Bay is a fantastic destination to visit!
The beautiful La Cloche mountains form the backdrop to this charming historical village that has welcomed mariners for over 200 years. Originally named Shebahonaning – Ojibwe for “canoe passage” – the name was later changed to Killarney shortly after the establishment of a fur trading outpost in 1820. The village is one of the oldest settlements in Canada and in the summer months attracts boaters from all over the Great Lakes.
The most popular options for transient docking are the Killarney Mountain Lodge and Sportsman’s Inn, both located on the north side of the channel. The Inn has additional serviced docks across the channel on George Island but you will need to dingy back to reach the village and amenities. One note about George Island – if you have the time, check out the 7km nature trail on the island – it offers some beautiful views!
The Lodge holds special memories for me….when I was young and traveling the North Channel with my parents, we would always spend a night at their dock enjoying the facilities before crossing the Bay to head home. With it’s outdoor pool, games room, shuffleboard court, and a “kids” menu, to my 8 year old self the Lodge was like Disneyland popping up out of the wilderness! I highly recommend it as a great place for families with children. Both the Lodge and Inn accept slip reservations in advance and get very busy in the summer months so it is always best to call ahead.
One thing to note when budgeting for your trip – there is a resort fee added to your dockage bill but keep your receipts as Ontario’s new Staycation Tax Credit should help somewhat with the costs of your visit!
For provisioning, Pitfield’s General Store in the village has a dingy dock and carries a basic variety of meats, dairy, and dry goods. There is also an LCBO, a few cafe’s and best of all – Herbert’s Fish and Chips which years ago operated out of a red and white school bus. Today they are a lot more modernized and still serving the same great fish! The Lodge and Inn also offer dining options to suit all tastes and everything is an easy walk from the docks.
For sight seeing check out the Jail House built in 1886, the Museum, the Eastern Light House (some mariners have fun with this, activating the fog horn upon departure) and don’t miss a photo op with the “Big Dipper” – an amazing piece of craftsmanship and the world’s largest paddle – here is a link to the background if interested: https://georgianbaybeauties.org/2021/11/30/the-big-dipper/
For those that prefer a little more quiet, Covered Portage Cove anchorage nearby is a great alternative. From there you can dingy into Killarney for the day to explore and return to your boat with dinner from Herbert’s. Check your charts for details.
Killarney is lively, eclectic, cultural, and friendly! In the summer months it is abuzz with tourists, cottagers, conferences, and rendezvous stop-overs. All day long the channel is a constant parade of paddlers, planes, boats and pretty much anything that floats.
It is so easy to pass the day sitting on the docks watching all the action on the channel. You will likely see people you know, people you don’t want to know and some other interesting spectacles. There is no other place like it on the Bay and if you are looking for a break from the quiet anchorages, it is a great stop over and one where they really treat boaters well!