An Intimate Tourist View: From Wiarton to Penetang

What is a “Tourist”?

“Simple Tourists” visit a place for their own pleasure during vacations. They have little or no knowledge of the places visited or of their people, their customs, their beliefs, or their history. But they return with great stories and pictures of the places visited.

“Intermediate Tourists” have superficial knowledge of these facts by having briefly familiarized themselves with the tourist literature. I believe that most tourists are in this category. Strangely enough, they are often the ones who consider themselves sudden experts on these places.

“Intimate Tourists” however have returned to the same place again and again, have spent time getting to know the people, their characters and their favourite haunts, and have probably already spent some time living there. I consider myself and my family fortunate to be Intimate Tourists in the Southern Georgian Bay Region.

My first visit to Wasaga Beach in 1954 was to New Wasaga Beach, followed by many return visits to what became our favourite place during the 1970’s. Cars were allowed on the Beach, and there was a little store. After Wasaga Beach became a Town in 1976 parking on the beaches was disallowed. New Wasaga remains my favourite beach even today, and I have visited and walked it many times! The east shore beaches of the Georgian Bay continue in many sections north from Wasaga Beach to Midland and Penetang.

Cars parked doors open

My first visit to Collingwood was also in 1954, after an unforeseen large snowfall, when my Boy Scout Leader and two others drove up a snowy mountain road and pitched our new “Kohta” (a tent from Lapland with a fireplace in the middle and an air vent at the top) in the middle of the night on a flat area of the road. Imagine our surprise when it turned out in the morning that we were in the middle of a ski run. It was not one of Blue Mountain Resort slopes, which the German-Czechoslovakian Joso Weider, after his arrival in Canada in 1939, had started to develop two years later, but one of the neighbouring ski hills run by another East European immigrant. Needless to say, my first attempt at skiing was disastrous with those 6-foot skis strapped to my feet!

At some time in the early 1950s I discovered the book “The Bruce Beckons”, written by W. Sherwood Fox in 1952, which became our guide to that fascinating part of Ontario which is also part of the Southern Georgian Bay. We spent many of our weekends and several vacations there, specifically on the beaches of the Cape Croker Reserve. Later on, I spent an entire summer getting to know their friendly people. I camped on their property, climbed up and wandered the cliffs with them and, at times, was invited into their homes.

In 1975 I passed my Customs Brokers Examination, and my wife and our family had lots of free time to devote to skiing, photography and other interests. The business still exists and is now handled by our middle daughter here in Wasaga Beach.

Board Sailing CanadaAfter learning to ski on the tiny Ski Hills near Toronto (Don Valley, King Valley, Honey Pot) with our three young daughters (the youngest one started skiing at age 2) we also drove up every winter weekend to Blue Mountain and skied at Big Blue, Toronto Ski Club and Georgian Peaks.

In the early Summer of 1979 we discovered, while looking down from the Top of Blue Mountain, a lot of small triangular sails at Craigleith Beach. We drove down and soon discovered the relatively new sport of windsurfing. Shortly after that found us on our own windsurfer on the small lakes of the Conservation Areas around Toronto, where I worked weekends as a Naturalist and, on almost every day, we sailed at Professor’s Lake in Brampton, only minutes from our home.

In the September 1979 we bought a home in a trailer park just outside Thornbury. The Bay became our teaching ground, and we soon were very good boardsailors.

In 1980 I founded “Boardsailing Canada”, an Association for boardsailers. We held Regattas in Collingwood, Craigleith and Meaford, but not at any of Wasaga’s beaches, which were usually quite crowded. In our Association with the “Boardsailing America” we, and our sailors, were in attendance at most of their Regattas in Florida, Wisconsin, New Jersey and other locations, as well as at our own Regattas from Cultus Lake, BC to Lac Ouareau, QC. and many places in between.

Peter with his wifeIn 1981, Wasaga Beach Mayor Walter Borthwick and his crew visited a Regatta in Florida and convinced us to hold a Regatta at Wasaga Beach. In 1982 we staged the first North American Boardsailing Championships there.

Thousands of people came to watch the competitors from as far away as France and Hawaii, but the wind did not show up for all of the 3 days. However the party at the German Club Harmonie after the Regatta was a roaring success!

My wife died of cancer in 2018 in Brampton, surrounded by her loving family. Wasaga Beach was my choice for my future home, because most of my family now lives here.

The Town of Wasaga Beach presented me with a Thank You picture which is proudly displayed in my entrance hallway to always remind me of my 67-year old ties to my new Home here in Wasaga Beach.

Written by

Peter Iden is a resident of Wasaga Beach and a Naturalist and Photographer who has a broad range of knowledge of the natural world. Peter is also a volunteer Warden for the Piping Plover Recovery Programme with the Friends of Nancy Island.


Latest comment
  • Wonderfully written. Brings back a lot of beautiful memories.
    Thank you for the treasures you provided for us in our youth,
    your loving daughter – Connie –