7 things only a real estate agent can tell you about South Georgian Bay
It’s Scott, here! Looking to move out of the GTA but don’t want to lose out on the comforts and conveniences of city life?
South Georgian Bay can offer you the best of both worlds, not to mention stunning views, attractions, and amenities for young families and retirees alike. South Georgian Bay made it high on my list of top 10 places to move, and is a place I love and visit often (with Steve in tow, of course)! I’ve packed Steve’s food dish and hopped in the car to tour the region, view properties, conduct interviews with top real estate agents, and scour MLS, all to discover seven things only a real estate agent can tell you about South Georgian Bay.
1. It has a great sense of community
Wasaga and Collingwood’s demographic are their #1 feature according to Maclean’s customizable ranking of “Canada’s Best Communities,” and Collingwood’s culture and community are right behind it at #2.
The region has been growing rapidly as more and more newcomers come to live in the area. I did an interview with a local realtor sleuth, from Royal LePage Locations North Brokerage to find out more about South Georgian Bay and why people are flocking to the region.
According to my real estate insider, a combination of South Georgian Bay’s high community engagement, year-round attractions, and recent boom in single family homes and condos is what’s drawing people in, especially from the city. There are plenty of Toronto and GTA expats in the area, so you can trust there will be some friendly faces who share your experience.
“I meet people every day who are new to the area… They join a lot of clubs… and a lot of the condos… and newer developments… have a lot of clubs for tennis, pickleball, golf, etc. You’ll often find that people who are likeminded will get together and socialize at [these] clubs.”
In fact, South Georgian Bay is happy to welcome newcomers. Their year-round attractions and festivals bring in people from all over the world, providing ample opportunity to socialize. Many of the townships also offer a small-town feel, which naturally means friendly neighbours and a sense of shared community that you can’t always get from the city.
Welcoming me to the area
I remember taking the Silver Bullet Express ski lift at Blue Mountain with one of the local realtors at Royal LePage Locations North. We were chatting about the upcoming Royal LePage ski day in the village. Without hesitation, she invited me to her night before get-together with several other agents and told me to bring my sleeping bag to stay that night. It was such a kind gesture that really made me feel welcome.
2. Each region has a distinct identity and a diverse range of homes
South Georgian Bay is made up of many different towns and villages, including but not limited to Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Meaford, Thornbury, Wasaga Beach, and Owen Sound. While some communities can give you the hustle and bustle of the city, you can also head north to Collingwood, Meaford, and Blue Mountain for the beauty of the waterfront, chalet-style homes, and cozy cottage country. The great part about South Georgian Bay is you’re only a short drive from the city or the country, so you never have to give up one for the other.
Mix of urban and scenic beauty
Arts and recreation
Modern, chalet-style living
Outdoor enthusiast’s dream
Mountain cottage, ski town
*Most population estimates are gathered from a 2016 census
Each area also has its own unique beauty. The naturally stunning Blue Mountain grew out of a sleepy village of ski chalets into the to resort community of today. I highly recommend driving up Scenic Caves Road, past the Woodview Mountain Top Skating Rink to Lookout Point atop the escarpment. From the top you can see panoramic views of the Nottawasaga Bay shoreline and the open blue waters of Georgian Bay.
Collingwood has all the amenities of a modern, downtown core, including a variety of services, shops, and restaurants, while retaining the town’s rich shipbuilding heritage. There has also been new downtown waterfront development, which means more opportunities for coveted waterfront living. Collingwood’s Yacht Club, which has been a town staple for almost 50 years, hosts the annual Georgian Bay Cup and attracts boaters from all over Georgian Bay. If you’re looking for a relaxing day, you can drive to the point beside the Collingwood Grain Terminals, grab a coffee and a bench, and feel the Georgian Bay wind in your face while taking in the spectacular views over the harbourfront.
Thornbury takes you to the outskirts of the hubbub. Built on a beautiful harbour, the quieter downtown has the amenities and shops for everyday living. Just off Highway 26 on Christie Beach Road is a beach on shale rock, which is great for paddle boarding and a stroll along the water. For those with a love for camping, Craigleith Provincial Park offers both waterside and private sites.
Meaford has an established downtown while maintaining a flare for the farming community and their orchards. You can find green acres here with the surrounding rural community. The waterfront is host to the local coast guard and water rescue units. Ultimately, the town has a friendly and welcoming vibe.
Beaver Valley caters to the outdoor enthusiast. It’s truly a breath-taking experience to hike the Beaver Valley, especially when fall turns the already scenic trails into a sea of red and gold. If you’re looking for a more rugged trek, follow the Beaver River to see the beautiful Eugenia Falls and meandering paths up the escarpment. You’ll need your map so you don’t get lost here. In the winter, the ski hills of Beaver Valley offer nice long runs for both beginners and experienced skiers.
Owen Sound takes you into Gary/Bruce County and the gateway to the Niagara Peninsula. It still has that working man’s feel to it with a larger, more established downtown and all the amenities of big box stores. Owen Sound has a more industrial waterfront with easy access by boat to northern communities like Wiarton on Colpoy's Bay. It has a terrific mix of properties available, including resort lifestyle communities like Cobble Beach. Altogether, this area is much more affordable than communities to the west.
Wasaga Beach is all about sand and summertime fun. Each year Multisport Canada runs a triathlon on the main beach, attracting hundreds of competitors. The athletes are prepared for a bit of Georgian Bay chop during the swim leg, along with scenic views on the bike and run. While Wasaga is traditionally more of a summer town, new developments are making it more attractive for year-round living.
Penetang, Midland, Port McNicoll, and Victoria Harbour have a great heritage of CPR shipyards and Great Lake transportation. Located alongside Severn Sound, these communities are a hub of water activities and great recreation, setting them apart from the open waters of Georgian Bay to the east. In short, these areas are a boater’s paradise. Several marinas cater to the weekend watercraft warriors. This area is the gateway to the Severn water system and inland waterways of Georgian Bay National Island’s Park. The Thirty Thousand Islands is the world's largest freshwater archipelago and is located mainly along the east side of Georgian Bay.
Looking to check out the area? A great place to start is with lunch in Honey Harbour at the Delawana Inn. Then carry on by boat through Little Dog Channel on your way to Bone Island. The park is mostly accessible by boat, and this natural beauty along the shores offers camping and a safe haven of harbours for summer visitors.
What buyers should look out for
With each distinct identity comes unique information that buyers should be looking out for, especially if you’re looking to build. For example, a large portion of Collingwood is on a floodplain, so it’s important to know the limitations that come with building on a potential wetland. You should also be aware of what your builders will be building on; whether it be sand, shale, or soil, the ground you build on will affect your excavation costs and overall budget.
Additionally, if you’re looking for a condo or apartment, they may differ from what you’re used to based on where you’re searching. Collingwood condos are typically communities of townhomes like those of Lighthouse Point, Dockside Village, and Rupert’s Landing, as the area is limited to three story residential buildings. Further, it’s important to be aware that condo fees really only cover operating costs and your reserve fund in these communities.
3.It has an affordable range in prices depending on what you’re looking for
Tired of the astronomical prices in the GTA? Looking to get more bang for your buck? According to Heather, the average price in the South Georgian Bay area is around $589,000. When compared to Mississauga’s housing market—where the average sale price is around $900,000—you can move to a beautiful bayside town like Meaford or Wasaga for 1/3 less than what you would pay for a Mississauga home! While that price range will change based on property size, type, and location, there’s no denying that you’ll be getting more for your money in South Georgian Bay.
Average Sale Price by Region
*As of February, 2021
Meaford, Beaver Valley, and Owen Sound are currently your most affordable options, and while prices in Collingwood have gone up, east Collingwood is still very affordable. According to the real estate agents I’ve talked to in South Georgian Bay, many residents in the Thornbury, Blue Mountain, and Collingwood area like the option of renting out their homes during ski season while they go south for the winter—it creates a revenue stream for them that requires minimum effort and maximum relaxation.
Ultimately, with the equity you have from selling your house in the GTA, you can buy the house of your dreams and use that money to renovate or fund the daily adventures available to you in South Georgian Bay!
4.New builds are on the way
As I mentioned previously, there has been a massive boom in single family homes and condos to keep up with the demand in South Georgian Bay area. This is great news for potential buyers!
New builds are coming to the area between Wasaga and Stayner (5000 units), and waterfront development is slated for the downtown area of Collingwood. These high end, apartment style Monaco condominiums are 80% sold, but there are still a few units available! Monaco features a beautiful rooftop terrace, party room, and fitness center, and all of it is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Blue Mountain and Wasaga.
The Cottages at Lora Bay is a new resort-style community in Thornbury that offers a fitness center, games room, library, kids camp, numerous social programs and activities, and full privileges at the Lora Bay Golf clubhouse. These luxury bungalows are starting in the mid $700,000s. Phase 4 has just sold out, but phase 5 is on the way! You can register on their website to find out all the latest news and be the first to know about phase 5 availability!
Aquavil is a new home development featuring 235 beachfront units on Blue Mountain Drive. These new condos, townhomes, and single-family residences range in price from $550,000 to over $1,000,000, and feature amenities like the AquaClub, AquaSquare, indoor/outdoor pool, sports court, recreational facility, and fire pit.
Cobble Beach is a beautiful waterfront golf resort community. It offers affordable lakeside living in the Georgian Bluffs just outside Owen Sound, and is just entering phase 2. Prices range from $514,900 to $1,000,000, and onsite amenities include a Nantucket-style clubhouse, tennis courts, fitness facility, spa, outdoor plunge pool, a beach club with personal watercraft racks, and more!
These new communities are being bought up fast, so make sure to book a tour before they’re gone!
5.The Bay area has great amenities
You can count on having fantastic amenities no matter where you house hunt in South Georgian Bay. From great stores and restaurants to a fantastic healthcare system, the region has it all. In fact, according to Desmond Von Teichman, owner of Royal LePage Locations North, South Georgian Bay attracts “amenity migrants” due to all the area has to offer.
There are great schools within the South Georgian Bay region, including options after post-secondary. Have a teenager looking at colleges? Maybe you’re looking to further your own education? Georgian College has multiple campuses, two of which happen to be in Owen Sound and Collingwood. Whether you’re interested in completing a full-time program or continuing education courses, Georgian College has it all. You can check out their website here for their list of programs and further information.
South Georgian Bay also has a great healthcare system, not to mention a fantastic program called the Royal Ontario Medical Program (ROMP) that sends doctors from urban centres to rural communities, ensuring there are always great doctors in the area. A new Collingwood hospital is also in the works.
Collingwood’s public transit system, Colltrans, is a great option to get around the city. Looking for a day at Blue Mountain or Wasaga Beach? The Colltrans transit links will get you there. Looking for a more exciting form of transportation? Check out Collingwood Regional Airport for scenic flights, helicopter tours, and flying lessons!
6. It has year-round attractions
South Georgian Bay is widely known for its four-season attractions. As Emma put it, “[Residents] can take their paddle boards out on the bay [in the morning] and be hiking the mountain in the afternoon.”
Whether it be the chillier times of February or the warm days of June, there’s always something to do in South Georgian Bay. For you adventure seekers, South Georgian Bay offers:
- Zip lining
- Paddle boarding
- Cycling tours
- Segway tours
- And more!
Boating on the Bay
The best boating on South Georgian Bay is out of the marinas in Severn Sound. In fact, one of my favourite boating experiences was the boat ride from Victoria Harbour to Frying Pan Bay. Starting midmorning on a beautiful August day, it was an easy launch of our bowrider at the main dock in Victoria Harbour. Marine charts in hand, we headed out onto Severn Sound with the sunshine and fresh breeze of Georgian Bay on our faces.
Our slow cruise took us past the scenic views of Beausoleil Island to the west and Port Severn, Lock 45 to the east (which is the gateway to the Trent /Severn waterway). Friendly local boaters waved to us as we passed by. It’s common the see black bears on the shore and even swimming in the channels here, so we kept an eye out. As we carried on into Honey Harbour, we stopped at the Narrows Grill Restaurant, tied up, and headed to the patio for lunch and a beer. After lunch we continued our ride and dropped anchor in Frying Pan Bay for a swim and to savour the beauty of the area. We ended our fabulous day with a quick ride back across Severn Sound to Victoria Harbour. Without a doubt this is one of the attractions that remind people why they moved to the South Georgian Bay.
Is relaxing with a glass of wine or a cold brew more your speed? Visit the many wineries and breweries in the area for a tour and a sample (or two). Check out some of them below!
- Georgian Hills Vineyard
- Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery
- Hoity Toity Cellars
- The Collingwood Brewery
- Side Launch Brewing Company
- Thornbury Village Cider and Brew House
- The Beer Bus
A new entertainment and casino complex is coming to the Wasaga and Collingwood border, which means lots of exciting shows, slots, table games, and more. Visit Blue Mountain for a wide range of stores, boutiques, spas, and of course, winter and summer sports. South Georgian Bay also offers great award-winning public and private golf courses like the Georgian Bay Club. Check out this list of golf courses in the bay area and start practising those swings!
Looking for some fun in the sun? South Georgian Bay also boasts multiple beaches, including Wasaga Beach, Christie Beach, and Leith Beach (which is said to have inspired a young Tom Thomson, who lived in the area as a boy). For a full list of beaches and summer activities, take a look at South Georgian Bay’s four-season guide.
As you can see, residents live active and fulfilled lives in South Georgian Bay, and I’ve only skimmed the surface of sights to see and activities to do in the region. For a full list, visit https://southgeorgianbay.ca/listing-cat/attractions/.
7. Finding the right home in South Georgian Bay takes time
As I said before, each region within South Georgian Bay offers something different and has its own unique feel. You likely won’t know exactly what you want from one visit, so remember to be patient—finding a home in South Georgian Bay won’t be as quick as finding a home in somewhere like Mississauga.
There’s no time like now to start! Jumping in the car and exploring is a great first step to finding out what you like and where you see yourself living. Ian Hawkins from Royal LePage Locations North Brokerage in Collingwood is in agreement.
“If you’re thinking of selling your house in Mississauga, you might want to come up here early and start the first phase, which is figuring out where you want to be. Once you have that… then you can look at the listings you might actually purchase at the time that you’re selling.”
Finding a real estate agent is the next vital step. It’s important to have an expert on the South Georgian Bay area on your side, as they can help you navigate the many different municipalities based on your specific wants and needs. But remember, it’s a process. Ian says that spending 2-3 years helping a client find their ideal home is quite common.
“I think it’s important that people recognize that—about our team especially—you’re not wasting our time by seeing properties without purchasing. It’s all part of us not coming to your house in 18 months and you saying, ‘We want to sell this because we don’t want to be here.’ Two to three years with a client is very common for us.”
According to a 2018 study by researchers at McGill University and the Vancouver School of Economics, Canadians in smaller towns are happier than their metropolitan counterparts. This is no surprise to me—the beauty of South Georgian Bay, whether it be mountain or beach, and all the amenities and sense of community the area has to offer can give young families and retires alike a great life. If you’re looking to leave the stress of the GTA behind, there’s never been a better time to jump in your car and check out what your life could look like in South Georgian Bay—I think the future’s looking bright!
So, what’s stopping you from making the leap? Take the plunge today!
Scott Brubacher, Broker
Royal LePage Meadowtowne Realty, Brokerage