If you are Toronto and want to get out of the city and experience something different, you may want to head out to Killarney, one of the best weekend getaways in Ontario Canada.
In a previous post, we related a couple of day trips we did this summer. One was a day trip to the enchanting village of Elora, known as “Ontario’s most beautiful village”. The other was a similar day trip to the town of Paris, voted “the prettiest little town in Canada”. If you need or prefer to spend a couple of days away, Killarney is an excellent option. Its magnificent landscapes, sapphire lakes, majestic pine forests, and ancient white quartzite cliffs, offers fantastic hiking, world-class kayaking and canoeing, stand up paddle-boarding, yurt and backcountry camping, and more.
Killarney (a namesake of the town of Killarney in Ireland) is a municipality situated on the northern shore of Georgian Bay in the Sudbury District of Ontario, Canada. This charming historic village used to be known as Shebahonaning (canoe passage) in the 1800s when it was founded as a fur trading post.
The current municipality of Killarney encompasses virtually all of Killarney Provincial Park and the French River delta. Notwithstanding its extensive geographic reach, most of the municipality’s population (only around 500) reside in the town proper with impressive eateries, relaxing pubs, and elegant lodging.
The Killarney Provincial Park (around 10 kilometers from the town proper) is an iconic wilderness landscape showcasing the wild Georgian Bay Coast of pink granite, the La Cloche Mountains’ white quartzite ridges, and over 50 exceptionally clear, sapphire lakes set among Jack Pine hills. The park offers extensive backcountry canoeing and sea kayaking experiences, outstanding hiking trails, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in winter and George Lake campground, with access to beaches, trails, and canoeing.
Getting to Killarney
Killarney is one of many small towns that make up rural Ontario and lies along the gorgeous Grand River, about 18 kilometers North/Northwest of Guelph. There are three ways to get to Killarney from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA): (a) fly to Sudbury and then drive from Sudbury to Killarney; (b) take a bus; and (c) go a road trip by car.
In our case, we decided to go on a road trip. Killarney is around 4.5 to 5 hours drive from the GTA. The fastest route from the GTA will be via Ontario Highway 400, following the signs Ontario Highway 69/Parry Sound/Sudbury and eventually taking Ontario Highway 637 towards Killarney.
We headed out from the GTA around 10 am and arrived in Killarney around 3 pm, after a couple of rest stops in Barrie and Parry Sound. The drive was relatively easy – the highways were excellent, and not much traffic along the way. It allowed us to scout for good places for a “changing of colors” drive during the fall season.
If you are visiting Toronto and want to make a road trip to Killarney just like what we did, there are a lot of options for getting a vehicle you can use. Check out some of these options by clicking the banner below.
The route described above route involves land drive all the way from the GTA to Killarney. However, if you want to experience as well an exciting ferry ride across Lake Huron, there is an option to do a circle tour when going back. This will take you through Manitoulin Island, across the Fitzwilliam Channel to Georgian Bay aboard a ferry to Tobermory. From there, you can drive back all the way to the GTA or other parts of Southern Ontario. The route can be switched depending on preference (i.e. go to Killarney via Tobermory/Manitoulin Island and drive back via Parry Sound/Barrie). This is something we will consider next time when we have more flexibility in our schedule.
Where we stayed
We chose to stay at Killarney Mountain Lodge, a rustic full-service resort and marina, located at 3 Commissioner Street, around 0.6 kilometers from the town center.
The resort prides itself as a provider of the high-end amenities for a refined Canadian wilderness lodge experience. Look out for a separate post where we narrate our experience in this rustic resort.
We opted for the King Suites of the Covered Portage building that overlooked the Killarney Channel on one side and backdropped by the La Cloche mountain range on the other. We realized that this building was a recent addition and provided a unique accommodation experience featuring lodge-style amenities, spacious suites, and lush outdoor leisure spaces.
Before booking our stay at Killarney Mountain Lodge, we also checked out other accommodation options, particularly the following.
- Avalon Eco Resort – This is an off-the-grid resort powered by the wind & sun and provides an excellent base for vacationers in the area. It is located on Tyson Lake and offers excellent paddling, exploring, and fishing adventures. This was in fact the first option we considered. However, we could not get a booking for the schedule we wanted.
- Sportsman’s Inn Resort & Marina – This is a 3-star waterfront hotel at the town center at 37 Channel St. offering modern suites, motel rooms & an upscale restaurant.
If you need to book your accommodation options in Killarney and neighboring areas, click the button below.
While in Killarney, you have several options for grabbing food and drinks. Here are some of them:
- Killarney Mountain Lodge – The Lodge has a range of delicious dining options to satisfy every craving. The choice includes The Ranch House, Great Room, Carousel Lounge, Main Dining Room, Outdoor BBQ, Private Dining, and Curds ‘N Whey.
- Gateway Restaurant and Bakery – This is a cafe, bakery & restaurant on Channel Street in the heart of Killarney, Ontario. Home-cooked meals, all-day breakfast, bread, pies & pastries baked fresh daily.
- Herbert Fisheries – One of the top 10 fish and chip restaurants in Canada, according to Canadian Living magazine.
- Aunt Bea’s Corner Kitchen – A seasonal food stand selling delicious take-out and fast food, just across Herbert Fisheries
As mentioned earlier, Killarney boasts magnificent landscapes, breath-taking cliffs, beautiful bodies of water, and lush forests. All these serve as a fantastic backdrop for hiking, trekking, or even biking. Below are some of the most popular trails in Killarney:
The Crack Trail
A 6 kilometers non-loop trail, 7 kilometers east of the Killarney Provincial Park office. A moderate-to-difficult level of difficulty trail, which would take approximately 4 hours to cover. This hike joins with the 78 km La Cloche Silhouette Trail Amazing lookout at the top with views of La Cloche mountain range and Killarney Lake and OSA lake. This is in fact the most popular trail in Killarney. However, the time required to complete, and the degree of difficulty were the constraints for us.
This is not a loop trail that begins on the east side of the entrance to Killarney Mountain Lodge. A relatively easy trail that would take approximately 2-3 hours to cover the 5 kilometers (round trip). It was the first trail we tried and provided a peek into the beauty of the Georgian Bay and the surrounding areas.
This is a 3 kilometers loop trail, 1 kilometer from the Killarney Provincial Park office. This is a moderate difficulty trail with lots of ups and downs over granite outcrops that will take approximately 1 ½ hour to cover. It was the second trail we tried.
As mentioned above, we did both the Lighthouse and the Chickanishing Trails. Stay tuned for our separate post on our awesome experience on these trails.
Other things to do
This is one of the things most visitors to Killarney do. The magnificent landscapes, sapphire lakes, forests, and cliffs in the area lend itself well for camping activities. Here are some of the more popular camping areas:
- Killarney Provincial Park – The park (on Georgian Bay) provides a fantastic wilderness experience and comes with basic amenities on most campsites.
- Rocher Rouge Campground – On Georgian/Killarney Bay, that will allow you to watch sunsets over the beautiful Lacloche Mountains. Every amenity and convenience close by.
- Rouche Rouge Camp – Its waterfront is on Killarney Bay and provides beautiful sunset views. Close to the village, although still feels secluded.
Killarney has recently been a popular destination for stand-up paddle-boarding, canoeing, and kayaking. Georgian Bay and George Lake provide kayakers and paddleboarders an excellent platform to glide through crystal-clear water while enjoying the calming views of the wilderness.
What to bring along
Your weekend getaway will surely give you great memories to capture through travel photos and videos. These will be handy when telling your experience back home and reminisce a great time during your trip. To have quality and vivid shots, it is always good to have a quality camera on top of your smartphones. Check out our previous post, comparing the camera to smartphones.
In addition to a good camera, you should also plan to bring with you several essential-for-travel items that can make your trip not only memorable but also attach colors and drama to each experience. Stunning landscapes, wildlife sightings, spectacular architecture, good food, and exciting adventures may greet you during your trip. You can ensure that you will not miss any of these by bringing essential gadgets. Check out our post on the items we brought during one of our trips involving similar travel experiences.
If you wish to escape Toronto’s hustle and bustle, get out of the city, and experience something different. Consider heading out to Killarney, one of the best weekend getaways in Ontario Canada. Its magnificent landscapes, sapphire lakes, majestic pine forests, and ancient white quartzite cliffs, offers fantastic hiking, world-class kayaking and canoeing, stand up paddle-boarding, yurt and backcountry camping, and more.
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