Ontario Tourist has combined the great outdoors with technology in a one-of-a-kind showcase that many Ontario tourists and nature lovers in general will love! Many Ontario resort owners are up on the latest news & technology and are able to provide memorable experiences for tourists coming to Ontario.

Want to get a "great shot" for your photo album without having to lug camera equipment wherever you go ? See what Gord has to say about the Nokia Lumia 1020 Super Smartphone with a 41MP lens or the GoPro camera for extreme sports video capture from Sony. For water lovers, there's an article on stand up paddle boarding (SUP) which has become very popular.

If you want to know more about the latest insect repellants and other tips and tricks to keep those pesky insects away this is the place. If you're a Lake of Bays Brewing Company beer connoisseur but don't know where to get your favourite brew while on vacation ... of course ... now there's an app for that.

Ontario Tourist is about more than just places to stay while on vacation in Ontario.

Best Smartphone for the Active Traveller

My contract is up for my smartphone so I'm looking around for a new one.  I presently have an iPhone 4S which has served me well for the last 4 years.  Phones have gotten better and mobile offerings have improved again and again.
I could wait for the rumoured iPhone 6 that should come out in the Fall but I really like the latest Samsung Galaxy S5. Some call it a SuperPhone!
For the traveller, it has a big camera with 16MP with a display of 5.1 inches. For selfies, it still only has a 2MP camera. Which is only downside I see with this device.
For active vacations, it's waterproof in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. I am constantly taking my phone down around the water so I am really worried about getting it wet.  Now I don't have to worry.
How would you decide?

UPDATE: The September announcement of the iPhone 6 and 6 plus was a letdown for the traveller. Lots of new features and functions but there were two key features that were missed. The camera is still at 8 MP and the case is not waterproof.  I am so disappointed! My next smartphone will be a Samsung Galaxy because it has those features.


Last Minute Booking for resorts and cottages in Ontario

With the widespread use of the internet, more and more people are booking vacations at the last minute based on best weather, best price and best time to sneak away from work.
The Summer of 2014 has a lot of  places to choose from because of the long winter and cool Spring and a slow wet start to Summer.
The online weather channel and weather related websites are top of the list for vacation planners.
The Trip Advisor review website is the leading source for third party review of hotels, resorts, cottages inns and lodges, by travelers.
The Last minute and Summer packages pages of www.cottage-resort.com are a well used resource for Ontario tourists. The most current listings are at the top of the page.

New ATV Trails in Muskoka - South of Baysville and Dorset

Muskoka is now open for ATV use on a limited basis. As of May 1st 2014, you are able to ride an ATV on the roads and trails south of Baysville, Lake of Bays, Muskoka and Dorset.
I am new to ATV Trail riding.  We have had an ATV for work around the property but have never used it for play.  This Spring, a new system of ATV trails opened up in our area. I got some information from the new ATV club but I also wanted to see for myself.
Questions I asked before I went out for the first time - What should I wear? - hip waders, rubber boots or ?? The answer was: If you stick to the beginner trails (orange) you'll stay away from the mud and the water. If you take the intermediate trails, you'll get some mud - take your rubber boots and if you take the expert trails you'll need your hip waders!
What should I carry? tire puncture sealant, water, space blanket, GPS, granola bars, rain coat, 12v compressor and all the insurance, ownership and license paperwork because you may be stopped by the OPP.
When I finally got out on the trails, I found lumber roads that were high and dry, nice and wide. I didn't need to worry.  There were mud trails that I could have chose had I been with some more experienced riders. I left them for another time. I did remember to bring a net hat because when I stopped, the bugs were all over me!
You don't have to own an ATV to try it. There are a number of ATV rental companies in our area that will provide guided tours. Backcountry Tours http://www.backcountrytours.ca/ and Redline Outdoors http://redlineoutdoors.ca/atv_rentals.php are two ATV rental companies in the Muskoka area.


Outdoor Winter Weddings in Ontario

This is what being a Canadian is all about! Why wait for the summer and have a wedding just like everyone else?  Sir Sam's Inn and Waterspa just north of the village of Haliburton in the Haliburton Highlands, just hosted an OUTDOOR WEDDING ceremony... in March.  An area by the lake was cleared off of snow, benches were set up so the ceremony could take place outside. A brave bride and groom exchanged their vows in a beautiful lakeside ceremony.  The reception was held inside in the main building.  Great memories of a special day.


What's New for Winter? - Aggressive Snowshoes  (Snowshoes with teeth!)

When you think of snowshoes, you think of wooden circles or ovals with a webbing to stand on, wearing mukluks, made by the pioneers. Snowshoes with aluminum frames have replaced the wooden ones.  They are much lighter and come in all sorts of sizes to fit children right up to adults. The bindings are easy to get on and off ... even wearing your gloves.
Aggressive snowshoes have recently come on the market in the higher end sports stores. They are made to tackle all types of terrain. The frame is aluminum with teeth distributed underneath all around the outer edge to provide 360 degree traction. Crampons have been added to provide more traction. The boot binding is easy on and off with a heel lift to reduce fatigue. The binding is secure and won't come off unless you want it off.

Ontario Ski Hills are OPEN for another Winter Season 

Ontario Tourist Ski News: In addition to Hidden Valley Ski Area Huntsville, which was the first to open in Ontario last weekend, this weekend a number of ski hills are open for skiers and snowboarders. Blue Mountain,  Dagmar, Snow Valley, Lakeridge, Calabogie Peaks, Mount Pakenham.  More will be opening on Dec 7 weekend.

Mobile TV Apps for your Smartphone and Tablet devices 

When I get to a different  Ontario town or city, I check out the local TV channels to see if I'm missing anything.  After a time of channel surfing, I give up because its hard to find something I want to watch even with all the cable or satellite channels. And I don't want to pay for a movie.  I have two apps on my iPhone that I use because they show my favourite TV programs with few commercials.
The best one is the Global TV app called Global Go.  I can see the latest versions of my shows when I want to see them. ( I like NCIS, Blacklist, Elementary and sometimes Glee and Hawaii Five O. My wife likes Survivor, The Good Wife and NCIS) Because we have Shaw TV satellite service at home, we can get a number of weeks of each show. I can catch up if I haven't had time to watch a show for a few weeks.
The other TV apps I watch are CTV and CBC.  I haven't been able to figure out how to see U.S. channels on my iPhone.  I'm told there's a way to fool the U.S. TV apps so that they think you are in the U.S.

Travel Technology: Lighten your Travel Load 
Travel Light with the Nokia Super Smartphone Lumia 1020 - just arrived in Canada.  You can leave your laptop, tablet and camera behind at home.

Nokia has just released a revolutionary smartphone to make a big leap over the others to reclaim lost marketshare of years gone by. The Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone has a 41  Megapixel camera! It has a Carl Zeiss glass lens when other smartphones have a plastic lens.  My iPhone 4s has only an 8 MP camera. My Nikon Camera has 16 MP and it's a camera-camera.  41 MP is HUGE! especially in a phone.  The next closest smartphone is the Samsung S4 which has a 16 MP camera.
It looks like it makes point and shoot digital cameras obsolete! I'll still keep my 12 MP Nikon with the 36X optical zoom and my waterproof cameras.   (Sony and Samsung have waterproof smartphones. And I did find waterproof smartphone cases when I searched online.)
The question is whether it has the apps you need or have become accustomed to?  It is based on Windows 8, not Apple IOS or Android operating systems.   It takes great photos and video, has Facebook, Twitter, SKYPE, Gmail but I don't think it has an Instagram app. It has MS Office but so what...  I'd never do any Word documents or Excel spreadsheets on my smartphone.  Can it do star charts of the night sky? or have voice recognition apps like Siri?  GPS map apps to direct me to my destination?  Can I watch HD Video?
You need to ask yourself some questions before you buy. www.nokia.ca


Extreme Sports Video Cameras

These high end cameras are being snapped up by active Ontario Tourists to record their mountain bikesup ride through the forest, their snowboard run down the ski hill, their surfboard riding the waves, their kayak or canoe trip. The video is easily transferred to YouTube.
The cameras are almost indestructible.  Take a look at their specs: takes still photos and video, 5 - 16 MP, waterproof, mountable accessories, Wifi
The GoPro camera seems to be popping up everywhere.
With a wide range of accessories, it can mount to a helmet, a bike handlebar, surfboard, on your arm or chest, suction cup it to your car or an airplane.  The GoPro Camera is carried exclusively in Muskoka by Algonquin Outfitters
A slightly less expensive competitor is the Sony Action Cam.  The video quality lives up to Sony's great reputation.

I'm testing the Polaroid Action Camera this Spring.  So far I have just gone hiking with it using it as a helmet cam.

Mid Summer VIDEO CAMERA UPDATE:  I have used the Polaroid Video camera on the water trampoline, in the water after I fell in!... and in the trees going down a zip line at Tree Top Trekking.  It was easy to use with a simple on and off switch. I didn't find not having a view screen to be an issue as it has a great depth of field.  Being a still photography guy, I had to learn to pan the camera slowly otherwise it was too bouncy... hard on the viewer.


What' SUP! The new sport of Stand Up Paddle Boarding

sup In the last year or so a new way to get out on the water has emerged. Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) have become very popular for Ontario Tourists.

Originally, people took the surfboard from their windsurfer without the sail, and paddled it around. My kids used the surf board as a raft to play on with their friends.

What has emerged is a more stable platform propelled by a long paddle by a single person.

The paddleboard is made with some different types of fibreglass, some different types of designs so some are less tippy than others and some have carry handles and waterproof storage for your stuff like a camera or smartphone.

When I see people paddling a SUP, it reminds me of a gondolier in the canals of Venice, Italy.

I taught a few people how to use the SUP last summer on Lake of Bays. It takes a bit of balance to stay on it. If a boat goes by with big waves, you can always sit down and ride them out. The first timer starts out with a long two bladed kayak paddle. You don’t have to switch hands to paddle on one side and then the other to stay pointed straight.

For youth and children, there's an eight foot version that you can buy that is easier for them to control.

The one issue people have is safety equipment. Do you need to wear a life jacket or have a life jacket with you? What other safety equipment is required?

I called the Boating Safety Infoline of Transport Canada. They said: It's treated the same as a paddleboat or a sit on kayak. They referred me to the Safe Boating Guidebook. On page 22 it says that you have to have a lifejacket. If you wear it then the only other thing you need is a whistle. If you don't wear the life jacket you'll also need a 15 meter heaving line and a bailing bucket. See the link for all the details www.tc.gc.ca

UPDATE: This summer, due to the popularity of the SUP in Ontario, there are Yoga classes on SUPs. Day trips and overnight camping trips on SUPs. SUP races and competitions.

News about Insect Repellant by Gord Bell

sunrise In one sentence:  DEET insect repellants are on their way out and Natural insect repellents are just as effective.

BBC News reported in February 2013 that mosquitoes are becoming used to the smell of DEET insect repellants.

You don't have to wait until August to visit the outdoors to canoe, kayak, hike, cycle or go fishing.

Many natural insect repellants are available to Ontario Tourists or you can make your own.  They come in the form of a bracelet, or a patch, powered by a fan, or burning in a candle.

At our resort, we keep a variety of products on hand for our guests to borrow and use. One product will work well for someone and have no effect for someone else.

A lot depends on body chemistry, the soap or shampoo, deodorant, cologne used that day and what you eat.  People that eat garlic don't need to worry about attracting insects... or people!

Recent lab tests in the Summer of 2012  on the effectiveness of insect repellants showed products with DEET were still in the TOP 4. #5 was a natural product with lemon eucalyptus - the only reason it was #5 was that it was more expensive to buy.

The good news is that a natural product can do the same job as one with DEET.

Don't forget to wear light colours, long sleeves, long pants. Tuck your shirt into your pants and pants into your socks.

Find the location of your favourite Beer


beer finder Lake of Bays Brewing Company has developed a mobile website for smartphones (iPhones and Android) that shows you the closest place to buy your favourite Lake of Bays beer.

You can choose At the Store or At a local drinking establishment. 

The search results are based on your smartphone location.

Lake of Bays Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Baysville, Muskoka in the heart of Ontario Cottage Country.  Their beers are available in over 700 beer stores, LCBOs, pubs and restaurants... The favourite of tourists throughout Ontario.

Boat Electronics - Why we chose what we did

by Scott Kast, Tomahawk Resort , Lake of the Woods, Ontario

sunrise We started with GPS in the boats about 2008.  We had been using depthfinders before that, but with the advancements of the technology and the units becoming more user friendly, as well as cost, we thought we would try a fishfinder/GPS combo in a few of the boats plus the houseboats to get the feel for them.  We had observed in the years past that people were bringing their own GPS units and rigging them in the boats, so thought maybe we should be offering that.   We looked around and ended up starting out with the Lowrance 520C, an entry level colour fishfinder/GPS combo.  At that time they seemed to offer a unit that we were looking for, and had some great price points.  After the first year of just having a few boats outfitted, they were a hit, and found that the user friendliness was received better than expected by the guests.  We had feared that they could be too intimidating and people would not want to use them, but they were relatively easy to use and instruct when giving the guest the orientation of the boat.

The following year, we then outfitted the remaining boats in the rental fleet with them.  They were a bit of cost outlay at first to outfit all the boats, but with the chart plotter and Navionics lakechip, having the mapping on the unit proved to be very beneficial.  It allowed our guests to not feel so intimidated by the lake, and gave the extra confidence boost to explore the lake, knowing that they were always recording a crumb trail to follow home if got turned around.  Lake of the Woods is vast body of water with endless islands and bays, so having a GPS took out some of the “fear” factor.  Also no second guessing on the map as to where they are.  The GPS was more or less telling them "you are here".   If it prevented someone from hitting a rock or destroying a gearcase, then it had paid for itself right then and there.  A $700 GPS unit was cheaper than a $1500 bottom end and unhappy guest.

We have been sticking with the Lowrance units (now using the HDS-5) mainly because they seem to be more user friendly and our experience in the operation of their product.  There are other manufacturers out there offering a product which will do the same thing.  Hummingbird offers a good quality product, as well as Garmin, so I guess it's just what we're used to.  The technology is changing so fast, that 10 years ago, we never really would have thought of doing this. Kind of like when the internet caught on and figured should design a web page.  Look where we are now?