By Terri Hodgson
The Heart of It all
As an attractive destination for sailors and cruisers alike, Midland Harbour doesn’t really have to try hard to impress; the waters of Georgian Bay attract yachts of all sizes from all over the globe. With a history steeped in lumber and boat manufacturing, Midland Harbour today is an integral part of a thriving town, boasting the largest freshwater marina in the world amongst its offerings. The hometown of Sarah Burke, Glen Howard, Adam Dixon and David Onley to name a few, Midland is the heart of the North Simcoe area, the centre of the neighbouring Georgian Bay communities.
Founded in 1871 the town’s main industry was lumber manufacturing at the Playfair Mill which dominated the town’s waterfront until shipbuilding took over, beginning with Dobson’s Shipbuilding and later as Midland Shipyards. Ships were built for both WWI and WWII, with a lull in production during the Great Depression and continuing with commercial building until 1954 when shipbuilding operations were centralized in Collingwood, ON.
Midland Harbour is tucked into the southern end of Georgian Bay, smack in the middle of the 30,000 Islands and home to a UNESCO world biosphere reserve (http://ow.ly/Iyufv). With a nominal year round population, Midland and the surrounding Penetanguishene, Tay, Tiny and Honey Harbour communities swell to over 100,000 during the summer season. This extended area, which has been known as North Simcoe County, Southern Georgian Bay and Huronia as a tourist destination over the past years, has recently come together to rebrand itself with one cohesive voice and is now to be known as The Heart of Georgian Bay (GoGBay.ca)
The downtown area is adjacent to and accessible from all of the Midland area marinas and yacht clubs. From Bayport Yachting Centre, Midland Sailing Club and Central Marina, boaters can walk right into the downtown core, with grocery stores, LCBO, restaurants and all other services right at hand. From Canada’s largest fresh water marina, Wye Heritage, yachters can make their way into town via a short dinghy ride, bicycle or car ride as well.
World class dining is ready available on or just off of the main street, steps from the marinas, with the top rated dining at the Explorer’s Café as well as the Library Restaurant, MC Sushi, Bo’s Authentic Thai, and many more. For those in search of a great selection of beers and ales then Cellarman’s Ale House Pub is a necessary stop, with a robust selection of hops, a full wine cellar and a nice, casual but tasty menu. Shopping and eating locally are themes which are becoming more integral in Midland Harbour; specialty food shops such as Ciboulette et Cie and the Midland Cultural Club offer diverse and locally sustaining offerings. For a not-your-average-cuppa-joe and baking stroll along the main street to The Grounded Café, The Elegant Gourmet or Georgian Bakery and immerse yourself in non-franchised deliciousness. Spring 2015 will see the opening of Grounded Café’s sister store, The Grounded Natural Foods Co, featuring locally grown and produced foods combined with organic and Italian products. Midland Harbour’s main drag is becoming a foodie’s dream destination and is not to be missed when you venture off the dock and up King Street.
Yearly harbour-centric events that draw crowds of boaters include the Tug Fest, Party on the Dock, Artwalk and Ribfest and the Kids’ Fishing Derby. Local attractions like the Martyr’s Shrine, Wye Marsh, Cultural Centre, Sainte-Marie among the Hurons and the famous Murals of Midland are all worth visiting, but the real attraction in Midland Harbour is the boating itself. The 30,000 Islands oasis on Georgian Bay is any boater’s dream. The waters are clear, the beaches stretch long and lush, there is no end of anchorages to explore and even though the area is a mecca for summer cottagers and tourists you never feel crowded or cramped, with the Bay stretching out to its enormous expanse of open waters as well as offering the inside channel full of coves, islands, lighthouses, fishing, swimming and unique geology to explore.
If you are planning a cruise to the Midland Harbour you can check out the competitive prices for overnight dockage at the Midland Sailing Club, Bayport Yachting Centre, Central Marine, Wye Heritage Marina and the Midland Harbour docks. For cruising in the 30,000 Islands bring your binoculars, a swimming suit and most importantly your charts and GPS to navigate the fascinating but heavily-shoaled waters throughout the area.
Photo Captions and Credits:
Photo 1 – Cheroka, a beautiful Bayfield 36, docked at Midland Harbour’s town dock in view of the waterside murals that great all boaters as they enter. Credit: John Jamieson
Photo 2 – Midland shipbuilding docks with coal docks in background circa 1880. Credit: Huronia Museum
Photo 3 – Midland Sailing Club, July 2014, with Lynn and Pat Lortie’s Adamant in the foreground. Credit: Terri Hodgson
Historical photos provided by Huronia Museum