From centuries old shipwrecks to magnificent tall ships, a 19th century British naval and military garrison comes alive at Discovery Harbour.
Discovery Harbour is a 30 acre living history park in Penetanguishene. This outpost was established to defend Upper Canada during the War of 1812, and it remained as a safeguard until 1856, when the British military handed it over to the Canadian government.
Board the replica ships H.M.S. Tecumseth and H.M.S. Bee for hands-on above and below deck tours and activities just like sailors would have done back in the day. Viewing the quarters below is quite a treat — everything from the hammocks used for sleeping to the re-imagined mementos that soldiers and sailors probably kept in their possession are displayed.
See an authentic 200 year old shipwreck! Explore reconstructed and original historic buildings, including workshops, dwellings and a stone Officer’s Quarters, built in 1845. Learn the tricks of sailor’s ropework, what ‘swab the deck’ means, how to write with a quill pen or take in 19th century cooking skills. Follow a spooky, lantern-lit ghost tour where costumed guides share intriguing stories and provide fascinating accounts of historical incidents, which adds a colourful layer to your tour.
Discovery Harbour is nestled on Penetanguishene Bay, in Southern Georgian Bay, 45 minutes’ drive northwest of Barrie and about a two hour drive from Toronto. The park is closed in the winter, with July and August being the peak season for tours, activities and demonstrations. Kids of all ages are enthralled at Discovery Harbour, but the site is just as engaging for adults as well, especially military and history buffs.
For up-to-date information and details on Discovery Harbour, we recommend you visit their website. For information about other places of interest to explore nearby, keep scrolling to see what Destination Ontario recommends.
Some things to do may not be available due to COVID-19.
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More about Discovery Harbour
Discovery Harbour operates under the umbrella of Huronia Historical Parks, along with its sister park, Saint-Marie among the Hurons in Midland. Another living history museum, Saint-Marie among the Hurons is the site of the first European settlement in Ontario, a French Jesuit mission to the Indigenous Huron Wendat people from 1639 to 1649.
Not only is Discover Harbour a fascinating place to learn about 19th century naval and military life, the picturesque park is also a photographer’s delight. Rustic wooden waterfront buildings painted in weathered red, blue and white face the harbour sheltering the heritage vessels. Ample seating along a waterside boardwalk gives you the opportunity to sit, relax and admire the view.
Surveying the lake and harbour, it’s understandable why John Graves Simcoe personally hand-picked this spot to build his military outpost. After touring the reconstructed replica of HMS Tecumseth, a visit to the HMS Tecumseth Centre offers a different perspective, with the rotted hull of the original Tecumseth on display.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite touring the site, visit the onsite restaurant, Captain Roberts’ Table, for a hearty meal. Located near the main entrance and adjacent to the boardwalk, you’ll dine with the view of the ships in the harbour as your backdrop. Next door, The King’s Wharf Theatre adds theatrical entertainment to the park. Operated by Drayton Entertainment, one of Canada’s finest professional theatre companies, you can be sure you’re in for a treat with every production. Don’t forget to check out the gift store for that perfect 19th century nautical themed treasure.
Discovery Harbour hosts wildly popular special events throughout its operating season. We mentioned the evening lantern-led Ghost Tours in the summer that delve into the paranormal, with macabre tales and stories of strange occurrences that will send shivers down your spine, and Pumpkinferno is an annual award-winning, magical Halloween season display of hundreds of hand-crafted pumpkins lit up each night.