Georgian Bay Tips

I have a wedding that I have to drive to in June and am thinking of taking the route north of Superior and down along Huron and then across to the wedding in NY.

On the way, I was thinking of trying to squeeze in a four or five day trip on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. With what little I’ve been able to research, the French River from 69 out to Bustard Islands seems to be a nice trip.

What I’m unsure of is permits, camping, etc… I’ve never done any trips in Canada outside of the Quetico. Any tips? Any other trips I should be looking at? Can I camp for free on Crown land if I hold British citizenship?

Georgian Bay

– Last Updated: Mar-29-07 8:07 AM EST –

I was planning a GB traverse for this summer. Everything from Killarney east to Key River is in the French River Provincial Park, even when on the Bay. Permits are required and there are established campsites. You don't need reservations.

A very good map is available.

I bought one locally last summer for $14.95. The outfitters and tourist stores in the area sell the maps and permits.

Crown Land
I have heard that there is some crown land connected to the south of Killarney Prov Park. There is no charge for camping and reservations are not needed. Lots of islands to set up at.

Killarney books up very fast… usually the day they take reservations.

Here’s a site for maps of Ontario Crown Lands and Provincial Parks.

Hope this helps.

From the US
If you are from the US Crown Land requires Crown Land permits for camping it’s free onlyto resuidents and landowners of Ontario.

If Brian is coming down the French River to GB he is all in the Provincial Park.


– Last Updated: Mar-29-07 8:52 PM EST –

We plan on heading down the French but are planning to be on the Bay for the first night. Are the islands off-shore on crown land? In Google Earth, I've noticed a few docks and buildings among the big grouping.


– Last Updated: Mar-29-07 8:53 PM EST –

This is another nob question, but where do I get the permits other than via local outfitters when I show up? And how soon will I need to get them?

Does this map show
Does this map show all the island off shore of the river delta out into the bay?

Anything that is a must see
Is there anything that is a must see in the French River Delta or the islands on the bay?

The map
The FRPP map shows all the islands. It extends 10k out into the Bay.

The Bustards are inside the Park boundary. There are private lands there and you are not supposed camp on them without permiso. The rule of thumb is if you see a cabin, cottage or some evidence of outbuildings it is probably private.

The map shows 4 established camps out there, but there are many more on the Mainland across the strait.

There is a visitor centre at Hwy 69 and the river. Permits and the map are also available there.

If you want to write or call to talk with someone:


French River PP

PP Box 218

Alban Ontario




French River PP

c/o Killarney PP

Killarney, Ontario



One more thing
We paddled a loop on the French last fall and to use Midwestern vernacular, “it ain’t wilderness.” In certain reaches there were much more than what I would consider “cabin” or “cottage” country. We saw many two story homes with floating boat docks.

There will also be a great many motorized boats.

But it is an historic route and very interesting to paddle on that respect.

Sweet. Thanks
Thanks for all the great info! I realized that it’s going to be a bit of non-wilderness. Is there another area I should be looking at with crazy islands like that somewhere around the Bay with more wilderness?

Not there that I know of
I think of that area as the buffer zone between the North and the South. There a lots of motorboat docks and facilities.

Your trip will be plenty nice, just don’t expect Quetico seclusion.

I’ve got a tip for you…
…if going in June, don’t forget the bug repellent!!

I figured
I figured it would be as bad there as here. Hopefully, it’ll be windy, then we’d have two pluses: 1. wind to keep the bugs away, and 2. wind to make waves for playing around all those crazy islands.

Plans for solid

– Last Updated: Apr-10-07 5:51 PM EST –

Thanks for all the tips on this discussion.

I've changed the plans a bit. We're going to head out the Key River from the highway and paddle to the Bustards. It'll be about a 15 mile day the first and last day and a 17 to 18 mile day if the lake is rough and we need to duck behind islands -- all depends on my buddy and how he feels he can handle waves.

That leaves us two days on the Bustards to check out the lighthouses, etc...

I found a great book for Georgian Bay called Kayaking Georgian Bay by Reynolds and Smith. It's a couple of years old now, but still very nice. I highly recommend it if you plan to paddle there.

Thanks for the help. I'm planning on going in June, so I'll post a trip report on my site late June!

pls report
Pls post a report on your trip. Especially the parking situation at the Key River access. I have heard they are not too helpful for canoeists or kayakers.

" Especially the parking situation at the Key River access. I have heard they are not too helpful for canoeists or kayakers."

I’ve never parked there(Key River) so I can’t comment on how helpful they may or may not be but a better place to park for a Bustards trip is at Georgian Bay cottages in Britt. These nice people cater to paddlers camping and parking there,they have a nice sandy beach to launch from but no boat launch so no powerboaters to deal with.You are much closer to the Bay and wind protection of the islands than at Key River. Key River is a long boring paddle out to the Bay with an almost guaranteed westerly headwind funneling down that long channel.


good intel

– Last Updated: Apr-11-07 7:21 AM EST –

Now that's good info. Do you have to let them know you're coming, or just show up?

Is this the place?

Great info
That’s great info! Thanks.

Yes that’s the place.
5 bucks a day to park your car,launch from the beach and go paddle.It’s pretty much at the end of the road (526) about 4K past the little village of Britt.No need for reservations unless you want a cottage. Last summer there were 9 of us paddling from Killarney to Parry Sound area…a storm came up and we got blown off the Bay into this campground. I had launched from there before so I knew them a little, other kayakers were camped waiting for a break in the weather so we spent the night and left in the morning.They even threw two loads of our wet clothes in their drier in the house and didn’t charge us…just for camping.

It’s a 15 minute paddle out to the Bay from there.

Pretty laid back place.I’m surprized they even have a website but I guess everyone does these days.