Boating Beyond Thanksgiving

October boating in Ontario doesn't get the attention it deserves—which is good for those who want to avoid the crowds.

The summer of 2017 will not be remembered as one of the best for boaters. Between the constant rain early in the season and the cooler temperatures in August, stringing together even a few days of sunshine to get out and enjoy Ontario's many waterways was a challenge. All you have to do is look at the delayed openings of the Trent-Severn Waterway and Rideau Canal for a perfect example.

It would seem that Mother Nature is taking pity on us and attempting an apology by extending our summer season into September and October. It's 27 degrees right now, as I am writing this article, in the third week of September. It's been hot and humid for almost a week now, at least as far as Ontario fall weather goes.

This warmer-than-usual weather is expected to continue well into October before fall returns to normal closer to November. At least that is the prediction from the Weather Network. (Hence this boating article reading like a weather forecast so far!)

Parry Sound is just one of several great choices for late fall boating.

Friends, the boating season in Ontario isn't over yet. We've still got plenty of time to cruise the waterways. And those of us who like a dose of tranquility along with our boating have some unique advantages working in our favour.

I know that some of you have already put your boats to bed for the winter. It's almost habit in our province. Once Labour Day is over and the kids go back to school, boating takes a back seat. Marinas and attractions are open reduced hours, and most of the tourists have headed home.

A few of us enthusiasts hang on until Thanksgiving, enjoying quieter lakes and shorter lineups at the boat launches. We're also treated to some of the most spectacular scenery Ontario has to offer when the fall colours arrive. And you should join us!

If you're not opposed to boating in a sweater, maybe even with a jacket and touque, you're going to experience a version of boating in this province that most people miss out on. So hitch onto your boat, and let’s keep this season rocking. Here’s where to go.

Best Places to Boat After Thanksgiving

I've experienced plenty of fall boating in my years on the water. While there are too many great destinations to list, I have a personal preference of choosing fall destinations close to hubs with larger population, which narrows down the list.

With the lack of tourists, most of the small communities and on-water amenities will either be closed or on very reduced hours after Thanksgiving. Sticking close to a larger town or city ensures that you'll have the restaurants, hotels, fuel, and service facilities available to make your trip successful and comfortable.

A few of my favourites spots are North Bay on Lake Nipissing, Barrie on Lake Simcoe, and Midland, Penetanguishene or Parry Sound on Georgian Bay. All are extremely popular boating destinations during the summer and are great any time of the year. In the fall, they’re good destinations for boaters seeking a more peaceful adventure.

You’ll find no shortage of hotels and restaurants, especially in the larger cities of North Bay and Barrie, and you’re likely to enjoy lower rates during the off-season.

Boaters who prefer to avoid crowds may fall in love with late fall boating.

Enjoy the Hotspots Without the Crowds

Even in cities, you'll find most marinas closed after Thanksgiving. There will be no staff on-hand to assist with docking, and there’ll be no fuel at the dock. The launch ramps will be open, and while the floating docks may have been removed, they're still great places to launch your boat. Just make sure you’re fully fueled and stocked on supplies before you get to the launch.

Most ramps will be busy on the weekends with anglers enjoying great fall fishing, but still not as crowded as in the peak of the summer season. If you can sneak off during the week, you'll have most of the place to yourself. 

If you're the type of boater who doesn't enjoy jockeying with crowded marinas and struggling to find dock space, you'll absolutely love fall boating. The air might be cooler, and the water might not be warm enough for skiing or swimming, but the lakes are open and the scenery only gets better as the colours turn.

If there's a place you've always wanted to explore, but don't want the hassle of dealing with traffic and congested waterways, this is your chance. Keep the boat out of storage just a bit longer and experience the quiet tranquility of boating in October.

About Steve Sansford

Steve has spent most of his life in and around boats. His father was a marine mechanic and Steve studied Marine Navigation in college. He currently holds several Transport Canada navigation and safety ratings. His work has been published in Powerboating Canada magazine and various other online outlets. Check out his Instagram feed for updates on his latest adventures.

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