EXPLORING THE HIGHWAYS
If you are the type of person who loves to go driving on a nice day, experiencing a wide variety of activities and viewing sensational scenery, but don’t like the thought of taking a series of country roads, especially in the wintertime, then you should try exploring a highway instead. All the highways and county roads in our area are kept in good driving condition when the weather is clear and all of them have unexpected treasures to find along their routes. The scenery and activities also changes at different times of the year so you may want to travel the same highway in the different season, even the towns and villages take on different looks as the seasons change.
A good example is Highway 26 where you can find almost anything that you may be looking for, except a large city, along its route or within a short distance down a good road. You may want to break the route down as it meets with several county roads, making it is easy to make round trips and still keep to good roads. Otherwise, you may prefer to cover it in several drives, day trips and explore the many points of interest.
This highway, established in 1927, is the main route that links the towns along the south shore of Georgian Bay with the cities of Barrie, Collingwood and Owen Sound. The main changes to the highway have occurred near Barrie, Wasaga Beach and Collingwood. The rest is mostly rural farmland, forests, waterfront, escarpment and small towns and villages.
When starting in Barrie on Dunlop Street, you will be on Hwy 26/27 which will take you past the Junction of Hwy 400. This is also a good spot to start this part of your drive. This part of the highway is lined with shopping malls, box stores, restaurants, motels, service stations, all the things you would expect to find on highways leading into cities. Before long, however, you will arrive at the junction where Hwy 27 leaves Hwy 26.
Hwy 27 is an alternative route to Collingwood and can make a delightful day trip in the summer if you want to stop at Elmvale to visit the zoo or have a swim at Wasaga Beach and wander around the town there, and end the trip taking in some of the sights in Collingwood, or return down Hwy. 24. In the cooler, off-season it is not as busy, and will give you a chance to view different scenery and tour the towns without the tourists. The water in the bay freezes over and you may even see some ice fishermen.
Staying on Hwy 26 you swing south through Midhurst. When you reach the Simcoe County Museum you can make a stop and view the exhibits, both indoors and outside. You may even be lucky enough to see one of their special events.
A mile further down the road is the Springwater Provincial Park. It is only fully operational during the summer months, but the rest of the year it is open to visitors daily from 9 - 4:30pm. It is a natural springs reforested area that allows you to wander through and stretch your legs. There is also a wildlife display area where they care for birds and animals that have been injured. If the weather permits, there is also BBQ pits, a playground, self guided trails and picnic areas. In winter months, there are cross country ski trails for you to explore.
As you continue along the highway you will pass Snow Valley Ski Resort where there is snowboarding and skiing during the winter. Springwater Golf Course is active in nice weather and if you didn’t stop at Springwater Park, you have another chance to stretch at Minesing Station Park. This has a picnic area on the north side of the highway or a little further along on the south side at County Rd. 28 and there is access to the village of Minnesing.
On County Road 22, which is a scenic shortcut to Orillia, you will arrive at the access to Horseshoe Valley Ski Resort. Continuing on you will pass Edendale Flying Club before arriving at Sunnydale Corners on Simcoe Rd 10. This is your opportunity to gas up if you need to and if you want to start the journey back it heads north to Wasaga Beach and south to Angus and Alliston.
If you continue on you will arrive in the town of Stayner. It is another good opportunity to get out and stretch, gas up, get a bite to eat, do a bit of shopping, and there is a playground for the kids. This is also your chance to turn onto Airport Road heading south or go on to Collingwood or back through Wasaga Beach.
As you travel through Collingwood on the Highway, you will miss the downtown area as it takes the Pretty River Parkway instead. You can still go downtown a do some shopping if you like. The Parkway is a pretty drive along the harbour, and gives you the opportunity to explore Sunset Point, the marina, several parks the Georgian Trail or the museum. You also have the opportunity to head south on Hwy. 24 or continue on through the tourist area around Blue Mountain, including: Craigleith and the Village at Blue and Thornbury which all have interesting attractions to explore.
Along this stretch you can turn onto several different County Roads which will take you to the Ski Clubs, Scenic Caves, various beaches and an access point to the Georgian Trail. There is also a turn off for Grey Road 40 which will take you to Walter’s Falls, Chatsworth and crosses with Highway 6, Highway 10 and Grey Road 13 through the Beaver Valley. The scenery is a combination of the Georgian Bay shoreline, the Niagara Escarpment, farms, woodland and villages. As you travel into Meaford, you will see the orchards alive with apple blossoms in the spring and laden with fruit in the fall. It is also a good place to find farmers' food stands to purchase fresh produce. All along this whole stretch the trees take on beautiful autumn colors before they fall.
In Meaford there are a variety of attractions that may be of interest to you. As you drive down Main Street you can admire the old buildings, the big red apple, or you can take a slight detour along the harbour. There is fishing all year long. In fact, in the winter there is usually at least one ice hut between the bridge and Richardson’s Marina. Spring and fall gives you various stages of the ice forming and breaking up and in the summer there are the flowers, sailboats, birds, parks, a museum, and a walkway for you to enjoy the many sights.
The highway from Meaford to Owen Sound passes through a strictly rural area with minor roads branching off of it. If the road is clear when you arrive at the old church in Woodford, however, you can swing south to Walters Falls and Grey Road 22 back to Thornbury or turn to reach Markdale.
A short distance beyond Woodford you will arrive at the all the fast food outlets, box stores and malls that tell you that you have arrived in Owen Sound. There are any number of things to do and see here. If you are heading south, take Highway 6 to Chatsworth and the junction with Highway 10 to Markdale and Flesherton.
There is no reason not to get out and enjoy our winter wonderland, as well as all the other seasons of the year. There is so much to see and do in our area!