10 Top-Rated Things to Do in Collingwood, Ontario

Written by Bryan Dearsley
Apr 2, 2021
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Set on the southern shores of Georgian Bay, a vast body of water that's part of the even bigger Lake Huron, Collingwood, Ontario has evolved from a quiet shipbuilding town to one of the most popular year-round vacation destinations in Canada. Located a two-hour drive northwest of Toronto and its international airport, Collingwood and the nearby township of The Blue Mountains - two distinct municipalities often lumped together by those unfamiliar with the region - are especially popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

Set at the northern end of the Niagara Escarpment, an area of outstanding natural beauty that stretches all the way to majestic Niagara Falls, Collingwood and The Blue Mountains is a bustling ski destination in winter. In the snow-free months, it's all about adventures like boating and fishing, hiking and biking - or pursuing more leisurely pursuits such as golf or outdoor dining.

To ensure you make the most of your time here, read through our list of the top things to do in Collingwood and The Blue Mountains.

1. Shop, Dine, and Stay in Downtown Collingwood

Downtown Collingwood

Collingwood undoubtedly has one of the most attractive - and lively - main streets of any small town in Ontario. Stretching nearly a kilometer from the former ship-building area (now home of the prestigious Shipyards development) on the shores of Georgian Bay south to Hume Street, the downtown core is dissected by Huronia Street and makes for a very pleasant outing.

The historic old buildings that line the street date from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and now house chic boutique clothing shops, interior design stores, and an eclectic mix of restaurants and cafés. Visit on a Saturday to broaden your shopping experience even further at the Collingwood Downtown Farmers' Market, when vendors from around the region set up shop selling everything from locally grown produce (apples are a specialty to the area), handcrafted goods, and artwork. Be sure to check Downtown BIA's official site below for news of other upcoming events.

For a truly memorable Collingwood getaway, book a stay in the town's newest luxury accommodations. Set just a block away from the action on Third Street, the chic VanderMarck Boutique Hotel offers extremely comfortable rooms and suites within walking distance of the best Collingwood restaurants and shops, as well as spa packages including pampering at Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Collingwood

2. Ski, Bike, and Hike at Blue Mountain Resort

Blue Mountain Resort at night

Located just a 10-minute drive west of downtown Collingwood, the Blue Mountains' ski slopes have been drawing crowds since they were established in the 1940s. Now covering an area of some 700 acres - 250 of them good for downhill skiing - Blue Mountain Resort has become the must-do ski destination in Ontario, drawing well over a million visitors each year.

Featuring two "bases," 36 ski and snowboard trails, and 15 chairlifts, Canada's third busiest ski resort has a slope to suit every level of competence. Night skiing is also available, and the resort also regularly hosts international ski competitions.

Aprés ski fun is plentiful in Blue Mountain Village, a multi-million dollar alpine-themed village located at the base of the slopes. Here, you'll find everything from sports shops to art galleries, along with plenty of restaurants and cafés.

Once the snow's melted, the hills come alive again as outdoor adventure fans descend upon the region to enjoy some of the best mountain biking in Ontario. The resort also serves as a base for numerous hiking trails, too, while the village itself is hopping this time of year with countless events to enjoy, including concerts, festivals, outdoor movies, and much more.

Address: 190 Gord Canning Drive, The Blue Mountains, Ontario

Official site: www.bluemountain.ca

Read More: Best Ski Resorts near Toronto

3. Explore the Scenic Caves

Suspension bridge in Collingwood

A staple of the tourism scene in Collingwood and The Blue Mountains for decades, the superb Scenic Caves offer a variety of fun things to do for young and old alike. Located on the Niagara Escarpment and just minutes away from Blue Mountain Resort, the rebranded Scenic Caves Nature Adventures today features enough outdoor activities to keep you busy for hours.

The highlight is, of course, clambering around the caves and caverns after which the attraction is named. It's a thrilling experience, especially tackling the aptly named "Fat Man's Misery," and a deep cave that's usually got snow in its cool bottom year-round. You'll also see the secret natural cave and rock formations that served as a fortress for the Petun people who once lived here.

Other highlights include Ontario's longest footbridge. Measuring 128 meters in length, it spans a deep gorge and offers spectacular views over Collingwood and Georgian Bay; zipline adventures; and plenty of fun for kids, including playgrounds and wagon rides. In winter, the attraction is open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing adventures, including fun nighttime tours.

Address: 260 Scenic Caves Road, The Blue Mountains, Ontario

Official site: https://sceniccaves.com

4. Take a Stroll in Collingwood Arboretum

Georgian Bay

In addition to its many hiking trails through the natural beauty of the Niagara Escarpment and Georgian Bay, Collingwood also offers a number of very pleasant places to visit for a more relaxed stroll closer to downtown. From the main street, it's just a few minutes' walk to Millennium Overlook Park, where you'll already have spotted the town's huge old grain silos, once used to store this important commodity before being shipped across Canada.

From here, head through the Shipyards development to Collingwood Arboretum. This is a delightful place to explore whatever the weather, and includes a number of interesting sculptures to see along the way, not to mention a wide variety of plant species and trees. Keep heading west, and you'll find yourself on the lengthy boardwalks of Harbourview Park, which offers a variety of places to stop and view the birdlife.

Address: 6 Hickory Street #3E5 off, First Street, Collingwood, Ontario

Official site: www.collingwood.ca/culture-recreation-events/parks-facilities/arboretum

5. Craigleith Provincial Park

Craigleith Provincial Park

Located about halfway between Collingwood and the quaint town of Thornbury, Craigleith Provincial Park is the perfect place to get up close to the unique geology and rock formations of this area of Georgian Bay. Take a stroll along the flat oil shale rock edged by surprisingly vibrant blue waters of the bay, and you may be lucky enough to spot some of the 450-plus million-year-old fossils that are frequently exposed (but DO NOT be tempted to dig them out, as it's an offense to do so!).

Established in 1967, it's especially popular for families given the very shallow waters. It's also relatively easy to launch canoes and kayaks here, too, and is a popular spot for fishing. Ample on-site camping is available, but can be a little crowded on weekends (reservations are required). A good-sized picnic shelter is also available for use, along with a kids' playground.

Address: 209403 ON-26, The Blue Mountains, Ontario

Official site: www.ontarioparks.com/park/craigleith

6. Hike and Bike the Georgian Trail

Pedestrian bridge over Beaver River Mouth

Stretching from Collingwood all the way to Meaford (and passing right by Craigleith Provincial Park), the 34-kilometer-long Georgian Trail provides an excellent opportunity to see the southern shoreline of Georgian Bay. Built in what was once the old railway line that connected Collingwood with Meaford, it's perfectly level, with a hard-packed granular surface that makes it ideal not only for walking, but also biking. Come winter, the trail is transformed into an excellent cross-country ski trail that's also suitable for snowshoeing.

For those not in a hurry, a number of rest spots complete with benches are provided; many of these shady nooks also provide great views over Georgian Bay. A great place to break up your journey, however you tackle it, is Thornbury. The trail passes right past the harbor and quaint downtown areas, so be sure to take the slight detour to see these picturesque corners of The Blue Mountains. A number of great sandy beaches are also dotted along the route.

Official site: www.georgiantrail.ca

7. Summer Fun at Blue Mountain Village

Blue Mountain Village

Looking very much like its counterparts in Whistler, BC and Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Blue Mountain Village offers no end of fun whatever time of year you visit. While winters are very much about skiing and après ski activities, summers here open up a whole other slew of outdoor activities to enjoy. Popular pursuits include mountain biking and hiking, using the village and its many accommodation options as a base from which to venture forth.

Nestled at the foot of the slopes, the village consists of a network of pedestrian pathways joining up the shops, resorts, and attractions. Along the way, you'll pass fire pits and splash zones, outdoor movie screens, comfy Muskoka chairs, buskers and music concerts, and plenty of other entertainment opportunities and experiences.

Be sure to allocate some time to tackle the excellent Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster, one of Canada's first mountain coasters. You're whisked up the hill in your open-air, go-cart-like car only to let gravity pull you back down to the village at speeds of up to 42 kilometers per hour (there's a manual brake if you want to go slower!). Also fun for kids, Plunge! Aquatic Centre features over 10,000 square feet of watery enjoyment, including heated indoor/outdoor pools, hot tubs, slides, and swings. A variety of kids' programs, including swimming lessons, are also available.

Address: 156 Jozo Weider Blvd, The Blue Mountains, Ontario

Official site: https://bluemountainvillage.ca

8. Pay a Visit to Thornbury

Thornbury Harbour

Located just 20 minutes' drive west of Collingwood (or an hour's bike ride along the Georgian Trail), the small community of Thornbury is quintessential small-town Ontario. While street parking is at a premium (we did say it was small), you'd do well to start your exploration by parking at the public parking near Thornbury Harbour, or locking your bike up at the municipal harbor building. You'll find some of the best views over Georgian Bay here as you watch kids jump in the water from the breakwater (feel free to join them).

From here, pass the folks fishing, cross over the old railway bridge that carries Georgian Trail over the Beaver River, and cut through the riverside park. You'll eventually come to Thornbury Fishway. This unique structure helps fish - salmon in fall, and trout spring - make their way to their spawning grounds upstream.

Highlights of the main street include grabbing a snack at the excellent Thornbury Bakery Café, the Cheese Gallery, or anyone of the town's coffee shops. You've earned it!

9. Revisit the Past at Collingwood Museum

Located at the north end of the downtown core in a replica of the town's 19th-century railway station, the Collingwood Museum is a must-visit for those wanting to learn more about the town's history (you can also pick up useful tourism info here, too). Highlights include displays and artifacts related to Collingwood's shipbuilding history and historic heritage buildings, as well as a rich archives.

Other displays include archaeological finds, artwork by local artists, vintage film reels, model ships, and information relating to the area's First Nations people. Self-guided tour options are available, and a gift shop is located on-site. A variety of kids' programs are also available year-round.

Address: 45 St Paul Street, Collingwood, Ontario

Official site: www.collingwood.ca/culture-recreation-events/heritage-museum/collingwood-museum

10. Explore the Village of Creemore

Creemore Log Cabin

Head 25 minutes by car south of Collingwood to the picturesque, tiny town of Creemore. It's worth visiting for the scenic drive alone, and once on the wonderfully named Purple Hills, be sure to pull over for the spectacular views over Georgian Bay.

With plenty of street parking available, you can easily leave the car and venture about on foot. You'll be glad you did, as you can easily pop in and out of the quaint stores, galleries, and eateries lining the main street, and in some cases, even sit awhile outdoors and watch the world pass (slowly) by.

Must-sees here include what's billed as North America's smallest jail. Measuring just 4.5 by 6 meters, this stone structure was constructed in 1892 and was even used once to lock up an errant cow (for a fun photo, get the kids to stand behind its bars). A similarly sized pioneer-era log cabin can also be used as a great selfie backdrop.

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