By Wendy Haaf
Photo: iStock/Jason Grant.
hen Ingrid and Owen McBride decided to downsize from their home in Toronto and move to a smaller community, they considered several charming, postcard-pretty areas that offered opportunities to pursue some of the outdoor activities they enjoyed.
In the end, it was the home where they now live that helped them decide on Collingwood, a town nestled between the beaches of Ontario’s Georgian Bay and the nearby resorts where Ingrid had been skiing for 30 years.
“We saw a Blue Fairway open house in a small enclave of about 25 homes,” Owen McBride recalls. “We liked the design of the buildings—they look like ski chalets—and we have a ‘bunga-loft’: everything we need is on one floor, with a den and guest bedroom upstairs. There’s a golf course running along the back; it takes two minutes to get there. It’s a seven-minute drive from Blue Mountain [a ski and golf resort], there are another five or six golf courses within a 15- or 20-minute drive, and Georgian Bay is right across the street. There’s also a really tight community feeling here. They say when you get older, it’s difficult to make friends, but on this particular street, it’s wonderful.”
Photos: OTMPC (resort); Dave West/
(terrace and Town Hall).
For other retired residents, one of Collingwood’s leading attractions is the relatively small size and walkable layout of the town centre. Jack Marley, for example, had assumed he and his wife, Sue, would retire to the country, until they stayed with a friend who lived in downtown Collingwood. “We could walk everywhere,” he says.
For Jack Merwin, who moved to Collingwood with his wife, Lynne, in 2000, this feature became doubly important when, seven years later, he broke his spine in a fall. In his “convertible,” as he calls his wheelchair, weather permitting, he says, “I can easily whip downtown and go to the drugstore and the grocery store. I can even get up to the hospital and the YMCA.”
The town’s modest size also proved a boon for accessing services and participating in sports such as curling and golf. “Every time I get involved in something here, I think, If I were in Toronto, I’d be on some waiting list,” Merwin says.
When it comes to active outdoor pursuits, few places can compare for the variety and sheer number of available possibilities, from tennis, bicycling, hiking, and old-timers’ hockey to wakeboarding, boating, kayaking, skiing, and skidooing. “It’s a four-season area,” McBride says.
Photos: Courtesy of Town of Collingwood (cyclists); Dave West/
davewestphotography.com (amphitheatre); OTMPC (golf and mountain).
“I owned a bicycle for years and never used it, but once we moved here, I got into cycling,” Marley says. “Sue doesn’t like road biking, but on the trails, we can bike to Thornbury—it’s 20 kilometres each way—and stop and have a coffee. It’s another 15 kilometres to go to Meaford, and about 17 to go to Stayner along the train trail. And in town, there are 10- and 15-kilometre loops.”According to Sid Dickinson of Thornbury, these traits set Collingwood apart from other popular retirement destinations in another way: “This is a place where your kids want to come to visit,” he says.
“I owned a bicycle for years and never used it, but once we moved here, I got into cycling,” Marley says. “Sue doesn’t like road biking, but on the trails, we can bike to Thornbury—it’s 20 kilometres each way—and stop and have a coffee. It’s another 15 kilometres to go to Meaford, and about 17 to go to Stayner along the train trail. And in town, there are 10- and 15-kilometre loops.”
According to Sid Dickinson of Thornbury, these traits set Collingwood apart from other popular retirement destinations in another way: “This is a place where your kids want to come to visit,” he says.
Opportunities to stimulate the mind are equally numerous and diverse. In addition to several art studios, a live theatre group, and a cinema club that shows art movies and foreign films three Mondays a month, the Collingwood area is home to the Georgian Triangle Lifelong Learning Institute (GTLLI) and more than a dozen Probus clubs—social networking clubs for retirees.
“I belong to a men’s Probus club, Lynne belongs to a ladies’, and we also belong to a mixed club,” Merwin says. Between the GTLLI and those three organizations, he says, “we could be busy every night of the week.”
The area’s relaxed yet vibrant lifestyle, natural beauty, clean air, and small-town friendliness attract not just retirees but young entrepreneurs and professionals, as well. In fact, in 2014, Collingwood was named one of Ontario’s Top 10 business-friendly small cities. “I’m on the hospital foundation, and they have no trouble recruiting,” Marley observes.
“Three young doctors just moved here and set up practice,” Dickinson adds. “I’m really pleased with what’s happening from a medical standpoint—we’ve gotten more specialists.
“Our own hospital is great,” he says, noting that any situations beyond its scope can typically be handled by larger, equally good hospitals in nearby Owen Sound or Barrie.
In sum, McBride says, “It’s a lovely place to live. When we’re driving around, Ingrid and I will say to each other now and again, ‘When do we have to go home?’ Especially in winter, when we get to Stayner and see Blue Mountain lit up at nighttime, it’s just fabulous knowing that we’re already home.” Photo: Jeff S. PhotoArt.