The Many Charms of Boating in Parry Sound

The Jewel of the 30,000 Islands has something for everyone. See why boaters are especially impressed by this beautiful Northern Ontario town.

When you first exit off the Trans Canada Highway in Parry Sound, you’ll enter into a modern big box development full of commercial outlets. You may find yourself wondering where the charm of this popular boating destination is hiding.  

It’s not until you cross the Sequin River into the downtown area that you truly understand the attraction of this small Ontario town. Both sides of the street are lined with small shops, offices, and restaurants.

Turning south on James St. will take you to one of the most interesting ports on the whole of Georgian Bay. As you cross under the iconic rail trestle, the longest one east of the Rocky Mountains, you'll catch your first glimpse of the sound from which the town takes its name.

Parry Sound bills itself as the "Jewel of the 30,000 Islands." It’s an apt moniker. There’s no better place to launch an exploration of the endless miles of coastline, inlets, bays and waterways that make up the world-famous 30,000 islands. Boaters travel long distances to experience one of the best freshwater destinations in the world.

Marinas of Parry Sound

There are no fewer than eight marinas spread along the shore south of town, sure to include an ideal fit for your needs during your visit. While the outlying marinas will likely be better suited to trailer boaters who have the advantage of a vehicle to get around town, those who are arriving by water on larger vessels will be better suited to a slip at either Big Sound Marina or Parry Sound Marine.

Big Sound Marina is a full-service facility that offers seasonal and transient slips for boats up to 85 feet in length. The slips are serviced with hydro and water. Pump-outs are available at the nearby town dock, which can also accommodate larger vessels up to 300 feet. Laundry, showers, and free WiFi are provided for boaters.

Across the harbour is another great choice for boaters. Parry Sound Marine offers a fuel dock with a 20-foot draft that can accommodate vessels up to 80 feet. There are also pump-outs, freshwater refill, propane and ice available at the dock.

Parry Sound Marine is also a repair facility with certified mechanics, a 12-ton lift and an on-site supply store. It’s also a Mercury Service Dealer with a fully stocked parts department.

Things to eat and things to do

Across the street from the town docks you’ll find several restaurants. For a finer dining experience, Bistro by the Bay offers an upscale menu with both indoor and outdoor seating. The patio offers a view of the rapids on the Seguin River.

For something a bit more casual, the Bay Street Cafe offers an excellent lunch and dinner menu. A few doors down from the cafe is a Boston Pizza, a particular favourite of mine, with a patio that offers a great view of the waterfront.

While you're exploring the area around the marina, you should make the short walk to the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, especially if you're a hockey fan. Of course, if you are, then you probably already know that Bobby Orr was from Parry Sound; a museum that bears his name, and showcases his career, is located in the Stockey Centre.

In addition to the museum, the centre also runs a regular program of events including workshops, shows, plays and movie screenings. You can check the calendar on their website to see what’s happening during your visit.

Another must-see attraction in Parry Sound is the Island Queen, a custom-built, 132-foot passenger vessel that was designed to get visitors as close to the scenic island shorelines as possible. Passengers can choose from a two-hour morning cruise or a three-hour afternoon voyage. It’s a great family activity, with kids under 12 riding for half-price and those under five enjoying the trip for free.

Accommodations

If your boating trip to Parry Sound involves an overnight stay, you’ll find several options. Closer to the highway, you’ll find the chain hotels that offer added convenience, but for a more charming stay, you’ll want to look at the smaller establishments closer to the harbour.

The Bayside Inn is an excellent choice. It features 12 guest rooms, some equipped with jacuzzis or fireplaces and breakfast is available on-site. The hotel is located a short walk from both the waterfront and the downtown area.

Room with a view at 40 Bay Street B&B, courtesy of TripAdvisor

Closer to the waterfront, you’ll find the 40 Bay Street Bed and Breakfast. This cozy inn offers rooms with ensuite bathrooms, laundry and WiFi. The in-house chef offers a wide selection of breakfast items and can accommodate special diets.

I spent a lot of time in Parry Sound during my boat delivery days, and it’s one of my favourite boating destinations in Ontario. The town has something to offer for everyone. 

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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