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Highway 12 Peterborough to Parry Sound (Ontario Southern Route)

The drive along Ontario Highway 12 and Highway 400 between Peterborough and Parry Sound takes travelers through a diverse and scenic route, showcasing a mix of rural landscapes, small towns, and the natural beauty of Ontario.

Route Overview

The journey starts in Peterborough, a city with a rich cultural scene and access to the Trent-Severn Waterway. As you leave Peterborough, you’ll pass through suburban areas before reaching the more rural sections of the drive.

Throughout the journey, travelers will experience the changing landscapes of southern and central Ontario, from the lakes and forests of cottage country to the rugged beauty of the Canadian Shield. The route offers opportunities for outdoor activities, sightseeing, and exploring charming towns along the way. Keep in mind that road conditions and attractions may vary, so it’s advisable to check for updates before embarking on your trip.

Southern Route-Kawartha Lake

Southern Route-Kawartha Lake

The route takes you through  the Kawartha Lakes region, known for its numerous lakes and cottage country charm. This area is popular for outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, and hiking. Towns like Lindsay and Orillia offer opportunities to explore local shops and attractions.

The drive brings you near the shores of Lake Simcoe, one of the largest lakes in southern Ontario. Along the way to pass through Beaverton and pass by Beaverton on the eastern Shore, and nearby historic Kirkfield, wth its Lift Lock on the Trent-Severn. Depending on the route taken, travelers may catch glimpses of the lake and enjoy scenic views. Orillia is the major town along this itinerary and lies at the northern end of Lake Simcoe and has major boat traffic form both the lake and fromthe Trent-Severn Waterway.


Orillia Waterfront - sliver (Kyle Lamont)

Orillia Waterfront – sliver (Kyle Lamont)

Barrie is a larger city just south of the route, situated on the western shore of Lake Simcoe. It offers a mix of urban amenities, parks, and cultural attractions. The waterfront area in Barrie is particularly picturesque.

As you continue north on Highway 400, the landscape begins to transition into the rugged beauty of the Canadian Shield. The highway passes through forests and rocky terrain characteristic of this geological region.

Coldwater, Midland and Penetanguishene are located on the shores of Georgian Bay and are known for their maritime history. Travelers might explore historic sites, waterfront parks, and enjoy views of the bay. And just to the west of this route, along the shores of Georgian Bay, lies Wasaga Beach which is legendary for its wide sand beaches, and Collingwood which is known for its Blue Mountain ski hill which lies on the Niagara Escarpment (which continues along the Lake Huron shoreline up the Bruce Peninsula, along the spine of Manitoulin Island and down part the western shore of Lake Michigan

Here again, you pass several key features of the Trent-Severn Waterway, including the locks at Port Severn, and just off the highway the locks at Big Chute as the canal descends to Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

To the east of the highway 400 lies the famous Lake Muskoka, with lots of fancy cottages, with very popular restor towns like Bracebridge, Port Carling and Bala. To the west of Highway 400, along the shores of Georgian Bay is the Georgian Bay Islands National Park

Parry Sound-Lighthouse-sliver

Parry Sound-Lighthouse-sliver

The drive concludes in Parry Sound, a picturesque town situated on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay. Parry Sound is famous for being the birthplace of hockey legend Bobby Orr and offers attractions such as the West Parry Sound District Museum and the scenic Tower Hill Lookout.

Elevation Chart: Ontario South Route - Peterborough-Orillia-Parry Sound

Ontario South-Peterborough to Parry Sound
Ontario South-Peterborough to Parry Sound

History of Highway 12 and 400

The oldest portion of Highway 12 was originally known as the Coldwater Portage and later the Coldwater Road, connecting the modern sites of Orillia and Coldwater by a 23 km (14 mi) trail. John Colborne (later he Governor of Upper Canada) surveyed the portage in 1830 and had it widened for wagon use by 1844. This road was later extended south to Lake Couchiching and in 1848 extended from Lindsay south to Whitby. In 1922 it was designated as Highway 12.

Highway 7 was built from Sarnia to London to Guelph in 1920, and then a year later to Brampton. and in 1927 extended from Brampton to Peterborough.

Highway 400 from Toronto to Barrie was opened in 1951  (it had 2 landes in each direction in 1952). By 1959 this was extended north to Coldwater. The hihgway along the east side of Georgian Bay existed as a Colonization Road since ####, and was paved in the 1930s. Hihgway 400 was twinned as far as Highway 93 north of Craighurst by 1982, and  from Coldwater to Waubaushene (near Pentanguishene)  in the late 1970s. North of Highway 12, Highway 400 transitioned into the two-lane Highway 69.

Following the twinning of Highway 69  to Port Severn, the twinning to Parry Sound began in 1988, and was completed in 2002. Highway 69, once each section was twinned, was officially re-designated as Highway 400 in 1997. In 2002, the Highway 400 designation was extended north to the Seguin River.

Highway 12 and 400 Peterborough to Parry Sound (Ontario Southern Route) Map