We have lost count of the number of border crossings we have made now between the United States and Canada…this one was one of the easiest so far….we went early in the morning, trying to avoid peak time and also in anticipation of a vehicle search. No search! Now we can make our way up the east coast of Lake Huron to The Bruce Peninsula.
From our crossing at Sarnia into Ontario, we followed the coastline of Lake Huron on Route 21. Through Grand Bend and Bayfield (where we stopped to photograph the requisite lighthouses) and finally onto Goderich.
Lake Huron has some of the cleanest waters of the Great Lakes and is wide enough so that the sun sets on the waterline of its western shore. The ‘blueness’ of the lake was both surprising and refreshing, contrasting with its whitish sandy beaches, very popular at this time of year as we could see by most of the park campsites being full. Highway 21 hugs the shoreline, and when it doesn’t, you’re separated from the water only by pine forests and lakefront mansions, of which there are many.
Previously awarded the title of Canada’s prettiest town, Goderich’s most recent and tragic claim to fame was for the tornado which tore through it at 4:03pm on August 21, 2011. It was a Sunday and the crowded market square had just emptied. The twister formed over Lake Huron and followed a direct path across the town’s distinctive octagonal town square, City Hall and beyond. Of the 97 century-old trees that were in the square, only three now remain and hundreds of buildings were damaged or destroyed, scores injured and one life lost. A few years on, the town is working hard to regain its former title. Most of the restoration and reconstruction work is now complete.
The old railway station now restored to a new bar and restaurant...great place to sit and watch the sunset and the paddle boarders....with a cocktail!
We liked Goderich….very much. There is a great promenade with a 3 mile boardwalk by the lakefront. This is hugely popular in the evenings with "promenaders" but also with, the boy racers (unfortunately!), anyone who has a Harley Davison and more interestingly all the local guys with vintage cars. Big Henry of course was also attracting a great deal of interest…but it was mostly harmless enquiries and we were able to spend two afternoons and early evenings parked down on the beach front enjoying the sunshine, sunset and for The Blonde, a nice dip in Lake Huron.
The Blonde out for an afternoon swim in the bay.
We also had a fantastic morning bike ride on an old rail trail the G.A.R.T. (Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail)....the trail is still "under construction"...there being a major component currently missing...the bridge across the river! But for all that it was a really nice FLAT ride for around 10 miles return.
The Blonde Biker....at the start of the trail...and the abrupt end.
The return along the old railway track.
That evening the weather changed and we were treated to an amazing lightning storm across Lake Huron and an absolute deluge. It was kind of fun at first to watch the storm roll in across the lake and made for a great backdrop to take some photos.
From Goderich we continued north through to Southampton. This is a real charming “mom and pop” lakeside venue, with lots of small craft shops and a couple of nice out of the way beaches where there is a boardwalk and some good spots to picnic. There are also a number of art galleries and a very good information center, so it was quite easy for us to while away a couple of hours here and enjoy a picnic lunch in the small park by the lakeside.
The Blonde taking it easy outside Southampton Information Center & Art Gallery
From here we crossed the base of the Bruce Peninsula and headed to Owen Sound for our first “sighting” of Georgian Bay..... “A vast realm of blues and greens, Georgian Bay is a land of infinite dreaming. Summer breezes blow gently along sandy shores. Maples ignite in the fall and thick pines quiver at winter’s frosty kiss. These ethereal landscapes inspired Canada’s best-known painters and today the bay remains home to scores of thriving artistic communities.”
Owen Sound also has a pretty sordid past as a port rife with booze and prostitution. Things got so bad that alcohol was banned here for over 60 years. By the time the embargo was lifted in 1972, the town had transformed into a thriving artists’ colony and remains so today. Well we came to Owen Sound on a Saturday in search of art…but this is not what you do on a Saturday afternoon…most of the galleries were closed! Instead we ended up at a very nicely laid out information center in the old railway station, spent an hour or so here and then set off to see the Indian Falls.
Indian Falls are in Sarawak Township, at the northwestern edge of Owen Sound, and we had a bit of a hard time finding the turn off. A one kilometre walk through Indian Falls Conservation Area leads through ferns, trees and wildflowers. The horseshoe-shaped falls drop to a quiet pool before Indian Creek flows on to empty into Owen Sound Bay. It was quite busy and we were grateful for this as the track was covered in water in places from the recent rains and it was quite difficult to find an alternative route. Getting a little wet and muddy in the process but we were rewarded with a quite spectacular sight once we climbed the cliff face to the lookout point.
Indian Falls...benefitting from the recent rain. See....every cloud does have a "silver lining".
From Indian Falls we continued north along the western side of Georgian Bay and turned out on to Grey Country Road 1….at the Kember Women's Institute Memorial.
I am not sure the ladies from the W.I. would approve of either the dress code or the table manners!
We followed the coast road to Big Bay, where we had been told we had to stop and appreciate both the beach for its amazing flat stones, great for playing skimming or “ducks and drakes” and also for having the best ice cream shop in the county. It was a little difficult to find a spot to park Big henry as the parking was quite full…but we managed. The ice cream? Well The Blonde really rated it…and the beach was indeed covered with great flat skimming stones….we skimmed and skimmed until our arms ached.
We are now in search of a place to camp….we had a couple of spots picked out from our RV Stays App. one of them being the parking area to the Bruce Caves Recreation Area. The entrance looked good but soon the track narrowed and it was not looking good for us to get to the parking area…Big H. too tall to get under some of the low hanging branches. the Blonde took a hike down the track for another half mile and came back to report that it was OK and there was plenty of room to turnaround at the end of the track. We walked out to inspect the caves…not so impressive….and the car parking area was full of trash and very dark and damp…we decided not to stay, but fortunately we found a good off road parking area a couple of miles back.