By Jane Muller
Emily Deane of South Georgian Bay Visitor Association, along with her husband and daughter, comprise what could be a poster family for Collingwood. Raised in the area, she moved to Toronto where she and her husband enjoyed the downtown city life.
She had a great job, to which she could walk and easy access to restaurants, shops and attractions. After the birth of their daughter, she realized their city apartment wasn’t where she wanted to raise her and back home she went.
Deane admits that she was leery of finding small town life boring but instead she found it relaxing and full of opportunities to be active outdoors all through the seasons.
This is the Collingwood brand being marketed by builders of four-season vacation homes to families with young children and to older adults who are ready to right size their living quarters. Holidays and weekends can be enjoyed in this bayside town with a population of about 21,000 that swells by approximately 6,000 when “recreational” residents are included.
MacPherson Builders is among the developers of luxury chalet communities in Collingwood that are eyeing the four-season vacation homebuyers as well as permanent residents. Its Blue Fairway community backs onto the Cranberry Atoka golf course and is a short drive from Blue Mountain and the area’s private ski clubs. It’s steps away from the Georgian Trail and Cranberry Marina and is close to Collingwood’s quaint downtown area with its unique shops and great restaurants. The bungalow lofts and townhouses start in the low $300,000s.
Recreation for vacationers and residents alike abounds in the area with ski hills to the west, beautiful beaches to the east and 70 kilometres of trails winding throughout the town and connecting to neighbouring communities.
Stop at The Station
Collingwood’s Georgian Bay waterfront, once dedicated to shipbuilding and shipping, now boasts beautiful parks that provide amazing views and green spaces for picnics. Deane recommends The Chipper Fresh Cut Fries at Sunset Point Park for fries and ice cream.
She works a short walk away at The Station, a reconstructed 1873 train station that houses the Welcome Centre for visitors and Collingwood Museum that showcases the town’s shipbuilding heritage. The Station is a great place to launch a visit to Collingwood and to discover area attractions like Clearview EcoPark, just 10 minutes away in Clearview Township. The park, also recommended as a family-friendly destination by Deane, features accessible trails and a bird blind to view some of the more than 200 different species of birds that migrate through the area. An attraction not to be missed is Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, offering self-guided tours of amazing caves, caverns and nature trails, breath-taking suspension bridge, zip lines and tree-top adventure as well as gemstone mining, mini-golf, trout pond and more.
For an urban adventure, downtown Collingwood is a short walk from The Station. Perfect for all ages is The Paint Bar, a DIY pottery painting shop that provides a wonderful assortment of objects to paint. Walk-in painters are welcome. Items are fired and available for pick-up the following day. Events can be booked and craft-to-go kits are also available.
What’s up downtown
If tasting something sweet is on your agenda, The Candy Factory is a Collingwood institution that’s been open since 1972. Observe the candy makers create confections using old-fashioned methods.
During a weekend visit to Collingwood, it’s not possible to experience the many dining establishments ranging from sushi to family and fine dining. During a recent stay, I had a chance to enjoy fine dining and the tastes of Italy at Santini’s Ristorante that offers all you would want in terms of quality food, attentive service and wonderful imported Italian wines you won’t find at the LCBO.
Also on the weekend’s agenda was a traditional breakfast at The Olde Red Hen Restaurant, a local institution established in 1948. Service is prompt, the coffee is abundant and the collection of vintage radios on display is captivating.
You may have spied The Iron Skillet Restaurant and Pub on Food Television Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”. Now I know why show host John Catucci recommended the humungous schnitzel on a bun and the chicken enchiladas.
One of Collingwood’s three craft breweries is located downtown just steps from Holiday Inn Express & Suites. Leaving the car behind affords an opportunity to sample from Northwinds Brewhouse and Eatery’s extensive beer menu. Pair your choices with the warm homemade pretzels.
There is so much to do in Collingwood, it’s no wonder that visitors decide to make it a vacation home.