6 Incredible Places to Kayak on Georgian Bay

From Lion’s Head to Manitoulin, every kilometre of Georgian Bay’s shoreline is worth exploring.

Often called the sixth Great Lake, Georgian Bay is a massive body of water. And it’s a beauty. From the cliffs of Lion’s Head to the beaches of Manitoulin Island, every kilometer of shoreline is worth exploring. Whether you’re looking for a casual evening paddle out of cities like Collingwood, or epic wilderness trips near Killarney, there’s something for everyone. The first step in planning a trip of a lifetime is to determine where to kayak on Georgian Bay—and we’re here to help.

The sea kayak is simply the best vessel for self-propelled exploration of Georgian Bay. Throw on a skirt and a few waves won’t bother you too much. Sea kayaks cut through the water efficiently, offer exciting independence and plenty of room to pack tents, sleeping bags and other camping gear. If you’re just going for a short evening paddle on calm water, a sit-on-top kayak or even a river kayak will do.

As with any large body of water, wind and waves are unpredictable and Georgian Bay weather can change quickly. Paddling on Georgian Bay should not be taken lightly. With the right preparation, knowledge and skills, Georgian Bay is not to be feared. A healthy measure of respect is key. That respect will be rewarded with incredible paddling experiences.

If you’re looking for a multi-day guided adventure where the outfitter takes care of everything, check out Black Feather’s amazing trip from Britt to Hartley Bay. Guided trips are perfect for beginners, novices and those looking to improve their skills with expert leadership. Voyageur Quest offers a couple different trips on the east side of the Bay, and Horizons Adventures offers guided sea kayak trips and Paddle Canada instruction in the area. Ontario Sea Kayak Centre offers instruction, guided trips and accommodations near Parry Sound.

Outstanding scenery is what sets Georgian Bay apart from the other Great Lakes. The limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment create incredible landscapes on the east side of the Bay. To the north, the ancient mountains of Killarney lend a backdrop that’s absolutely world class.

Man paddling blue sea kayak with dune in background.
Plan a trip to Collingwood and you won't be want for things to do. Photo: Colin Field

Collingwood

The biggest town on Georgian Bay, Collingwood has long been an outdoor capital for the province. Locals are obsessed with bikes, standup paddleboards and all things outdoors. Putting in at the Collingwood Yacht Club or Northwinds Beach are both great spots to start your exploration.

  • Rent a kayak from Free Spirit Tours. A mainstay of Collingwood and Wasaga for decades, Free Spirit knows their stuff and can offer everything from rentals to guiding services. They have tons of local knowledge and are a great source of weather information. Other places to rent kayaks include Southwinds Marine and Little Ed’s.
  • Nearby Blue Mountain Resort has plenty of accommodation options and makes a great base from which to get out paddling. They even have a beach with kayak rentals on Georgian Bay that is accessible to guests only.
  • Collingwood restaurants abound. Places like Northwinds, Bent Taco, Baked & Pickled, The Lowdown, Black Bellows and so many more will feed your hunger.

Lion’s Head

For an evening paddle, it’s hard to beat Lion’s Head. Chalky Niagara Escarpment cliffs plunge into Georgian Bay in a dramatic landscape that’s absolutely stunning—especially viewed from the water. Azure waters look like the Caribbean. Paddle in August and enjoy warm water that’s clear as glass.

  • Rent a kayak at the nearby Suntrail Outfitters in Hepworth. This is a great outdoor shop, and they’ll have tons of ideas of where and when to paddle.
  • It makes the most sense to put in at Lion’s Head Beach. Paddle along the cliff on your right and marvel at the rock climbers and the incredible views. Sunsets here are beautiful, but be sure to know when the sun goes down and how long it takes to get back to the beach. You don’t want to be out here when it gets dark, or if the weather turns. Turn around and head back to the beach when you’re done exploring.
  • The Lion’s Head Pub is the classic spot for good grub and atmosphere and if you want to spend the night, the Fitz Hostel is the coolest place in town.
Yellow kayak and red tent on rocky ground.
Set out on a circumnavigation of this beautiful island near Killarney. Photo: Colin Field

Philip Edward Island

Wondering where to kayak on Georgian Bay? This is it! If there’s a place the sea kayak was absolutely invented for, it’s Philip Edward Island. This beautiful landscape of polished granite islands is a world class paddling destination, the epitome of Georgian Bay’s 30,000 Islands. The scenery cannot be beat and the campsites provide unreal experiences.

This is all Crown land, so there’s no booking ahead to get a spot, simply show up and start camping (non-Canadian residents must purchase a Crown land camping permit or use the services of an outfitter). If you’re here in August you may wonder if there’s anywhere else in the world that’s better: warm, clear water, incredible sunsets, no bugs and true wilderness.

Circumnavigating the island is a classic 3- to 5-day trip. Or just pick a campsite and do day trips from there. Whatever you do, you’ll have an incredible adventure.

  • The put-in for most trips to Philip Edward Island is at the end of Chikanashing Road. This is technically part of Killarney Provincial Park, so you’ll need a permit to leave a vehicle here. Get those at the George Lake office (it’s on the way to Chikanashing Road). 
  • Nearby outfitters like Killarney Kanoes and Killarney Outfitters both rent kayaks and all the gear you’ll need for multi-day excursions.
  • Chrismar’s Adventure Map makes a Philip Edward Island & Area map that’s specifically for sea kayaking. You can order it online or pick one up at any of the local outfitters.
  • Philip Edward Island is also accessible via Point Grondine Park, an Indigenous protected area on the mainland shore of Georgian Bay. 
Yellow sea kayaks paddling between rocky channels.
Paddle between hundreds of islands. Photo: Colin Field

French River Delta

The French River is more of a canoe tripping destination, but the French River Delta (where it meets Georgian Bay) is an amazing place to kayak. Part of the French River Provincial Park, the river mouth is full of incredible rock formations, beautiful scenery, thousands of islands and a sense of wilderness. It’s a bit difficult to get out here, so you’ll want some experience in a sea kayak and navigating in the wilderness before heading out to the Delta.

  • Rent a kayak at Hartley Bay Marina and follow their directions on how to get to the Bay. White Squall is another well-respected outfitter in the area, as is the Grundy Lake Supply Post.
  • There are a couple put-in options if you want to paddle out to the Delta. The Key River is a good option and the Key Marine Resort on Highway 69 has a boat launch you can start from. It’s a 13-km paddle from here to the Bay proper, but you’ll be in the Delta soon after that. Other options for putting-in include the Hartley Bay Marina, the Pickerel River (at Highway 69) or the French River at the French River Supply Post. All of these options will require you to paddle to the Bay. The Delta is a labyrinth of rivers and lakes, with endless route potential. It would be easy to create a multi-day loop here and never paddle the same area twice. 
Overhead shot of kayaks paddling next to rocky islands.
The town of Killarney makes for a great jumping-off point for Georgian Bay kayak excursions. Photo: Colin Field

Killarney

If you want to get on Georgian Bay, the lovely little town of Killarney, located at the end of Highway 637, has everything you need to get on the water. Experienced paddlers can venture out on a multiday trip and novices or those looking for more comfort can do day trips from one of Killarney’s great motels and lodges.

You’ll find options for just about every budget and group size, as well as a few awesome restaurants and a quaint village vibe.

  • Rent a kayak at Killarney Outfitters. They’re located just out of town, but they know what they’re doing and can help you figure out some perfect paddling locations. Killarney Kanoes runs a similar business and both companies rent everything to get you on the water. If you want to get out on big water, they’ll also know where to kayak on Georgian Bay and can rent you all the gear you need to make it happen. Tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, stoves, and lanterns—they’ve got it all.
  • Set up a base camp at Killarney Mountain Lodge. This classic waterfront family resort has everything, including amazing food and guided sunset kayak trips. The Sportsman’s Inn is another resort right downtown that offers rental kayaks and an unforgettable experience on the Bay.
  • Voyageur Quest has a 5-day guided kayak trip that starts and finishes in Killarney. This is a perfect chance to experience Phillip Edward Island and the islands surrounding Killarney. Meals, tents and nearly everything else are provided, so you just need to show up and hop in a boat. You’ll learn proper paddling techniques, safety practices and so much more.
  • Check out Horizons Adventures for all-inclusive guided Georgian Bay kayak trips and Georgian Bay sea kayak instruction built on decades of experience.
  • No trip to Killarney is complete without a meal at Herbert’s Fish and Chips. Right on the water, this is the ultimate way to fuel up before or after a paddle.

Manitoulin Island

Manitoulin Island is an absolute gem. Whether you get there by the MS-Chi Cheemaun ferry or by driving the long way round on Highways 69, 17 and 6, you’ll quickly realize that time moves at a slower pace on the island. The beautiful agricultural landscape is surrounded by an unspoiled shoreline, making it a perfect place to kayak on Georgian Bay.

  • Rent a kayak at Paddle Manitoulin, Island Time Boat Rentals or SUP Manitoulin. As always, these local businesses are the best to ask about paddling routes and weather forecasts.
  • There are lots of places to put-in on Manitoulin. Providence Bay is a classic: This beautiful bay has a massive, protected beach that is picture-perfect in the summer. You could stay in the sheltered nearshore waters or head out into Georgian Bay proper to explore the shoreline.
  • Grab some local fresh-caught grub at Lake Huron Fish & Chips in Providence Bay. Delicious!
  • Gore Bay is another great place to put in. Canadian Yacht Charters rents kayaks and can definitely suggest paddling itineraries for your timeline. While you’re here, check out Split Rail Brewing and book a night at the beautiful Queen’s Inn. Loco Beanz can get you caffeinated in the morning, too.
About Colin Field

Colin is an award-winning photographer and writer, specializing in outdoor travel and adventure. He is the editor-at-large with Mountain Life Magazine. He is based in Collingwood, Ontario. 

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