I’ve written about how to spend a weekend in Collingwood, Ontario before. However, given that Collingwood is in Ontario, Canada, we know that the weather drastically changes each season, meaning so do the activities you can do. During the pandemic, I’ve had quite a number of trips to Collingwood as my step-sister lives there and I’ve desperately needed an escape from downtown Toronto for a change of scenery.
Collingwood offers so much to do. It’s seriously such a great weekend getaway spot. Most famously it’s known for its ski hill (Blue Mountain) but even if you aren’t a skier or snowboarder (like me) you can still find a lot of great winter activities to do that force you to get outside and embrace the cold, snowy weather.
Let’s start with the basics. How do you get to Collingwood? Collingwood is located just shy of 2 hours North of Toronto on the southern part of the beautiful Georgian Bay. To get here, there are a few options:
Car: This is obviously the easiest option. I always rent a car because it’s the most direct, quickest route from Toronto.
Go Train: If you have someone that can pick you up in Barrie, Ontario, then you can take the Go Train to Barrie and go from there. It’s about a 50-minute drive from Barrie.
Bus: AU Coach Tours offers a shuttle service departing from 4 pick-up spots in Toronto and goes directly to Blue Mountain daily during the winter (December-March). It costs just under $30.
What to do
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding:
The most popular winter activity in the area is definitely the ski hill, Blue Mountain. This ski hill offers rentals and is surrounded by a cute ski village full of restaurants, shops, etc. If you are planning to ski or snowboard, I’d recommend planning your trip on a weekday as the hill gets incredibly busy on weekends. Alternatively, opt for night skiing instead of day skiing.
Cross Country Skiing:
If downhill skiing isn’t your thing, you can go cross-country skiing. Honestly, I find cross country skiing such a workout but it’s so fun! There are a few spots you can do it in the Collingwood area, you can do it at the Scenic Caves where they have 27km of trails and rentals, or at Highlands Nordic where they have 25km of trails and also offer rentals. The second option is a little out of Collingwood and about a 25-minute drive. Of course, if you have your own cross country skis, and don’t need rentals, you have way more options, use AllTrails to find some of the best trails.
Snowshoeing is also a great winter activity. You can rent snowshoes and enjoy the trails at Scenic Caves, at Blue Mountain or rent them at a variety of sports outlets in the area to tackle whatever trail you want (Alpine Sports, Rick’s Pro Shop, are a few that do rentals). Scenic Caves has a really cool suspension bridge you can visit, and multiple natural caves. You can find more on snowshoe trails in the area via AllTrails or here.
I feel like we used to go tubing SO much as a kid and it’s super underrated. There is a snow tube park located right at Blue Mountain this can be a great activity for any age or the whole family!
Of course, a classic winter activity is skating. If you have your own skates, you can go to any public outdoor rink. If you need to rent skates, Woodview Mountaintop skating is offered on the top of Blue Mountain ski hill. It’s a skating trail that they have lit up with different lights along the path. It’s super fun and family-friendly. You can also rent skates for an additional $10 a person. Make sure to check the conditions ahead of time to ensure it’s open for when you’re visiting.
Another option that can be completely free is hiking! Get on your winter gear and enjoy the beautiful scenery in Ontario during the winter months. I use AllTrails to see what routes would be best but some recommendations are: Nottawasaga Bluffs, Loree Forest, Margaret Paul Side Trail, and Pretty River Provincial Park, but there are so many trails in this area including part of the Bruce Trail.
I have never gone fat biking before but it can be a unique winter activity if you’re adventurous. You can do this right at Blue Mountain! Their hours have been closed this winter but with the pandemic, staffing has been hard, so make sure to check back often before you visit to check if they’re open.
One of my personal favourite activities is the spas in Collingwood. Whether you aren’t into winter sports, or you need a break from all the activities, there are some fantastic spas in the area to get some R&R in. Scandinavie Spa is one of the most popular, famous for their cold/hot pool experience. Make sure to book in advance as this has become quite the hot spot for tourists. Another alternative is the Living Water Resorts & Spa. They do their own Aquapath water experience which is more private and also beautiful. If you want just a basic (but good), regular massage, you can also try Cedar & Sage. That’s where I went on my last visit!
Where to eat & drink
There are a lot of great restaurants and breweries in the Collingwood area to visit. Here are some of my favs, combined with my family’s favs as I haven’t had a chance to visit all these places yet…
- Northwinds – a brewery and pub. Get their giant flight that comes with all their beer on a big skateboard
- Sidelaunch Brewery – although you can find these in most LCBO’s their brewery has options that you can’t find anywhere else. Note they don’t have a restaurant, you go for the beer
- Black Bellows – another cute brewery located right across the road from Low Down serving both food and locally crafted beer
- The Tremont Cafe – little more upscale but the food is said to be amazing. Try their tasting menu
- TheSmoke – amazing BBQ joint
- Low Down – great spot for cocktails and Asian-inspired dishes
- Lakeside Seafood & Grill – right on the waterfront
- Sol Kitchen – healthy, fresh, and local food options
- The Alphorn – a fun swiss restaurant in the area offering fondue, schnitzel and more. Personally I love the quirky atmosphere here
- Nicky’s Doughnuts – SUCH good doughnuts and homemade ice cream downtown Collingwood. They sell out quick so place an order in advance the day before if you want to try all the flavours
- Bent Taco’s – unfortunately when I tried to go here it was when only patios were open and they didn’t have their patio running anymore but it comes highly recommended from so many people
- 1858 Caesar Bar – try the Canadian classic cocktail but with a million different twists. Personalize it your way
- Low Down – great spot for cocktails and Asian-inspired dishes
- Gibson & Co – beer, wine, whiskey, and also great coffee. This spot is hidden down an alleyway and super cute
If you are feeling like a little drive, you can also venture to Thornbury to their cidery, or The Cheese Gallery – two of my fav spots
Where to stay
I kept this for the end because I always stay at my family home when visiting Collingwood so I don’t have many recommendations. I will say that staying right at Blue Mountain Resort or within walking distance to the village/hill, you’re going to pay way more than staying closer to downtown Collingwood. If you have a car, the driving distance is short and there’s tons of free parking at the hill.
There are also a ton of options on Airbnb. These will book up quick on winter weekends because it’s high season in the area, so try and book as far in advance as you can.
Overall if you’re looking for a winter getaway, Collingwood has SO much to offer in terms of winter activities and fun. This only scratches the surface.
What are some of your favourite things to do in the Collingwood area?