Born on the Hawaiian Islands, the sport of stand-up paddleboarding continues to take the world by storm. Anywhere there’s water, people are standing up and paddling. Rivers, lakes, bays, you name it, they’re on it. If you haven’t tried stand-up paddleboarding yet, you should. It’s a surprisingly good time. And Georgian Bay offers a range of experiences that will have you hanging five with the best of them in no time (well, on flatwater at least).
If you can stand up (and swim, because falling is inevitable) you’ll pick this sport up right quick. You don’t need to spend hours taking lessons and the number of places offering rental boards is rapidly expanding (see sidebar). So without further ado, let’s drop into the top 12.
1. Bruce Peninsula National Park
If you paddle any of the shoreline in Bruce Peninsula National Park, you’ll be amazed; limestone cliffs drop into the water in dramatic fashion and the water is a clear azure reminiscent of the Caribbean. Where you put in depends on how far you’re willing to carry your board. Little Cove is probably your best option with the smallest distance between your car and the water. Be careful paddling here as storms can come in quick, and when they do, you need to get off the water ASAP.
2. North Winds
North Winds beach in Craigleith has been a surfing destination since windsurfers first discovered Dacron. On calm days this is a great spot to head out and explore the local islands. If you’re feeling confident, the Mary Ward shipwreck is a bit of a paddle, but worth the effort: drifting atop the wreck you can clearly see the ribs and hull of the ship that sank way back in 1872.
3. Wasaga Beach
The longest freshwater beach in the world, Wasaga’s sands are a beachgoer’s dream. And the best way to get away from the inevitable crowds is to get on the water and paddle the shoreline. From there the people-watching is limitless and the sunsets are incredible.
The Thornbury boat launch is the perfect place to step onto your SUP. A popular swimming area, this is one easy place to paddle from. From there you can head up and down the shoreline admiring the Escarpment and the ski hills as they descend into the Bay. The ultimate bonus is all the bars in town where you can have a post-paddle-pint and brag loudly about your ‘surfing’ adventures.
5. Big Tub Harbour
Tobermory’s Big Tub Harbour is a great place to check out some of the local shipwrecks. Sweepstakes is one of the easiest to get to, ask at Thonrcrest Outfitters how to get there. Watch out for offshore winds here, and be mindful of the boat traffic, which includes the infamous Chi-Cheemaun.
6. Dyer’s Bay
With instant access to the water at the Dyer’s Bay pier, one can head south towards Devil’s Monument and paddle under impressive dolostone cliffs, with crystal clear views of the submerged rock formations. Make sure to read the signs at the pier about winds and currents.
7. Matchedash Bay
If you’ve got any angling ambitions then Matchedash Bay is the spot for you. Paddling over the clear waters you’ll spot massive Bass and Walleye below as they search for food. Signified as an Important Bird Area, this is as much a wildnerness tour as it is an SUP spot, once again proving just how versatile these boards are. The best place to put in is at the Swift Canoe and Kayak Centre just off the 400. Make sure to ask permission, or you can also rent boards here. The north side of the Bay offers the clearest water.
Exploring the rocky shoreline of Killbear Provincial Park provides endless entertainment. The Canadian Shield is displayed in all it’s glory here offering lots of dramatic shoreline and inlets to explore. On a paddleboard you’ll get the best views of the park and discover incredible places to watch the sunset.
A short drive from the town of Killarney, Chikanishing Creek leads south to Collins Inlet, with views of Phillip Edward Island. And this place is magical. Smooth rocky islets pop out of the water all over the place. Orange moss-coloured rocks rise up out of torquoise waters, creating bright contrasting vistas covered in windswept pines. This is an incredible place to paddle, just make sure you can find Chikanishing Creek again before you go exploring as everything starts to look the same here and if you can’t find the Creek you can’t find your car.
10. Sauble Beach
Sauble Beach is such a great spot: endless stretches of sand head north and south and there is unlimited potential here for SUP fun. On quieter days go for a cruise up and down the shoreline people-watching and enjoying the scenery. On windy days, if you’ve got the skills, you can legitimately surf here.
11. Providence Bay, Manitoulin Island
If you want the full surf experience while out on an SUP, Providence Bay is a great option; the sandy beach and enclosed bay are reminiscent of Maui’s infamous coastline. This place is as beautiful as it gets and the view from the water is even better.
12. French River
More and more people are starting to play in whitewater on SUP boards and some are even doing multi-day trips through the wilderness on them. If you’re up for the challenge and some potential first SUP descents, the French River region might be just up your chute. This destination will take some planning. Talk to a local outfitter to get all the beta.
SUP RENTALS AND SALES:
Sauble: Jack N Jills
Heathcote: Free Spirit Tours
Collingwood: Blu Wave, Southwinds Marine
Craigleith: Blue Surf
Thornbury: Two the Core
Port Severn: Swift Outdoor Centres
Killbear: White Squall
Tobermory: Thorncrest Outfitters
Manitoulin: Paddle Manitoulin