Learn more about the fascinating history of South Georgian Bay through a variety of different historical sites and unique activities. Visit the classic museums, including one located inside an 1800’s train station. Discover South Georgian Bay’s foundations through immersive experiences like snorkelling an infamous shipwreck, exploring an entire municipality during a fun photo scavenger hunt tour, or taking a photo behind the bars at North America’s smallest jail. Don’t forget about iconic landmarks including a 100+ year old Victorian-style theatre, a site dedicated solely to the War of 1812, and an integral piece of Canada’s maritime history.
Discover all ten of these enlarged Muskoka chairs, known as the “Big Red Chairs”, within the municipality of Meaford. The Big Red Chair Tour came to life in 2015 when Meaford wanted to create something unique for visitors to enjoy, while showcasing iconic locations. A Georgian Bay Secondary School teacher and his class built the first five chairs in shop class in 2015, and then contributed another three in 2016. The owner of Bayview Escarpment Fine Furniture and Cabinetry constructed the final two chairs, totalling ten altogether. Check out the map here to see where to find the Big Red Chairs, including popular locations such as Memorial Park, the Irish Mountain Lookout, and Fred Raper Park. Visitors are encouraged to take photos in each of the Big Red Chairs and share them using #meafordchairs on social media.
Dive deep into the history of Collingwood during a visit to the historical museum. Learn more about how the railway system acted as a gateway for the shipping and shipbuilding of Collingwood – an industry that truly put the small town on the map. The Collingwood Museum is now home to many popular artifacts, models highlighting famous ships, and exhibits demonstrating the evolution of local businesses, and tributing the region’s First Nations people. Browse through the museum, check out the First World War Virtual Walking tour, listen to the podcast to hear fascinating stories, sign the kids up for summer camps, or check out the gift shop.
The Nancy Island Historic Site is located in Wasaga Beach and is dedicated solely to commemorating the War of 1812. The site focuses on the HMS Nancy, a ship whose legacy has directly contributed to the borders of Canada. Visitors are invited to the island to admire the artifacts of the HMS Nancy and learn all there is to know from a heritage-costumed staff member, including more about the ship, the crew, and the struggles they faced. Be sure to engage in an interesting hands-on historical experience, and watch an award-winning video.
Step inside an old train station built in the late 1800’s to find a museum, library, and tourism centre, located just off the shore of Georgian Bay. Explore a variety of exhibits, from the oil industry of Craigleith, to local ski history, to more about Sir Sandford Fleming and his family’s legacy in the region. The Craigleith Heritage Depot is the home to a large collection of archives including photographs, journals, letters, postcards, and scrapbooks, as well as business, personal, political, and religious documents. All of this information makes this former train station the ideal spot to go to research more about buildings, homes, and family history in the region.
Visit North America’s smallest jail located in the quaint town of Creemore. The jail was built in 1892 and came at a cost of $425. It operated for half a century under the direction of the village Constable and during that time, was used to incarcerate those who committed minor crimes. The jail held those charged with more serious crimes until they could be relocated to the County Sheriff in Barrie. Today, the jail is a tourist attraction and is open to the public all summer long. Visit on Saturday’s to learn more about the site from a history host.
For over 100 years, since 1911, this elegant Victorian-style theatre has been entertaining patrons. Located in the heart of downtown Collingwood, The Historic Gayety Theatre is still entertaining patrons to this day with concerts, comedy shows, and more. Stay up to date with their upcoming events here and purchase tickets online to experience the magic of the theatre for yourself.
The Nottawasaga Lighthouse has acted as an integral piece of Collingwood’s shipbuilding history and Canada’s maritime history, which go hand in hand. It was built over two years, beginning in 1856, and is one of six towers built on the Great Lakes. The tower acted as a light to guide both commercial and recreational boats into the Collingwood Harbour. Although it is no longer lit, it still stands tall as an iconic landmark for South Georgian Bay. It also acts as a marker to help recreational boaters navigate the waters of Georgian Bay and find their way back to the Harbour. Today, you can view the Nottawasaga Lighthouse on tours with Collingwood Charters and Collingwood Adventure Voyages, or guide yourself. However, the Lighthouse is now endangered as it has faced the hardships of Canadian winters for many, many years. The Nottawasaga Lighthouse Preservation Society has worked hard over the years to maintain the structure and integrity of the tower in order to preserve it for future generations to come.
The Meaford Museum was built in 1895 and originally acted as the town pumping station. Today, and for the last 60 years, the building has been home to many exhibits dedicated to Meaford’s history. Step inside a time machine to explore more about the roots of the town with fire, police, sports, and school exhibits. Learn more about First Nations heritage, the local municipal government, pioneer artifacts, the busy entertainment scene, and of course, the Meaford Harbour which is actually located just steps away from the Museum. Looking to dive into family history? Visit the research room to explore the vast collection of genealogical records, including military and local. Don’t forget to check out their new self-guided walking tour, which leads visitors through all of the different exhibits.
Discover the sunken Mary Ward shipwreck with Collingwood Adventure Voyages during a unique snorkeling experience in the shallow waters of Georgian Bay. Roughly 140 years ago, the ship attempted to make its way into the Collingwood Harbour. After a violent storm turned fatal, the Mary Ward sunk, killing eight passengers. Learn more about the history of the vessel and experience the remains of the shipwreck up close on an immersive snorkelling tour. Over 86 feet of the shipwreck has survived underwater, even after all of these years, so there’s lots to see! The tour is approximately 4 hours long and includes direct travel to the wreck site, all snorkeling equipment, as well as some pretty incredible photo opportunities. There’s no better way to experience South Georgian Bay’s history than from right in the Bay!
Planning to visit South Georgian Bay in the near future? Please contact individual businesses to confirm method and hours of operation and plan ahead by making reservations when possible. Visit our “Know Before You Go” page by clicking here.