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    Great Historical Journeys


    South Georgian Bay’s history runs deep, dating back to the First Nations’ people who navigated our waterways some 9,000 years ago. Small groups of hunter-gatherers began the last chapter of human settlement, and one group, the Paleo-Indians, left evidence of their existence in the region. Follow the paths of the Jesuits, Samuel de Champlain, the Hurons and the Petun tribe, British soldiers, pioneers and shipbuilders. Enjoy the vibrant cultural life in South Georgian Bay with art shows, live jazz and professional theater.

    The Town of Collingwood's many beautifully restored architectural buildings and homes illustrate its love of history and strong focus on preservation. The downtown core has been designated an official Heritage District — the first historic designated downtown in all of Canada. Learn about Collingwood's long and colourful history, best told while touring the numerous historic parks, buildings and murals. Retreats, places of beauty and points of interest with a past are all the more fascinating to visit.

    It was the arrival of the railroad in 1855 that cemented Collingwood’s worth as a centre for shipping and shipbuilding. For 103 years, Collingwood built lake freighters, corvettes, minesweepers, barges, ferries and ice breakers — anything that could sail on the Great Lakes and beyond. Stroll through the exhibits at the Collingwood Museum, located in a historic Railroad Station across from the Harbour, for a journey into a legendary past. The museum is in the Railroad Station on Huron Street and St. Paul, just footsteps from the harbour.

    The Craigleith Depot owes its existence to Sir Sandford Fleming, Canada’s celebrated railway engineer. In 1872, Fleming’s father sold a parcel of land to the Northern Railway for the construction of a station with the very newest architectural design, a rounded turret. In a direction quite unforeseen by the Flemings, the little station became the hub of ski trains from Toronto in the early 1940’s, and planted the seeds for what was to become Ontario’s premier four season recreational destination. In 2008, the Craigleith Heritage Depot reopened its doors as a community heritage interpretation centre and tourism office.

    For the past hundred years, Meaford Hall has echoed with music, drama, and debate, serving as the political, social and cultural heart of Meaford. This beautifully restored and renovated century old landmark, with state-of-the-art staging and intimate Edwardian Opera House currently plays host to live theatre, music, films, dance and entertainment events. Audiences clamor for The Meaford International Film Festival held each year in August.

    Carved millions of years ago by glacial ice, Scenic Caves is set in one of Canada’s sixteen UNESCO biosphere reserves. During the 17th century, the area surrounding Scenic Caves was inhabited by the Petun tribe, known as the “Tobacco Nation” who farmed, hunted and grew tobacco for trade. Excavations at Scenic Caves from 1975 to 1978 by archaeologist Charles Garrad confirmed that this area is the historic site of the Hurons’ village of Ekarrenniondi named after its famous rock, which the Hurons once worshipped. Visitors love to trek through the caves and crevasses while revelling in the traditions, legends and natural wonders.

    450 million years ago, the Craigleith area was submerged under the Ordovician Sea, not at all like our modern deep ocean basins. It was extensive and shallow, probably warm, oxygenated and sunlit. These factors combined to make the perfect environment for one of the world’s first species of animal to flourish — the trilobite. Ideal geologic and atmospheric conditions allowed for fossilization of these creatures, giving us the unique opportunity of viewing these ancient inhabitants in the shoreline shale rock in Craigleith.

    A former president of the Ontario Archaeological Society, Charles Garrad spent many years unearthing the sites of two Petun villages next to the Nipissing Ridge in the Craigleith area. A few of the hundreds of artifacts discovered during the digs are now on display at the Craigleith Heritage Depot. It was Samuel de Champlain who discovered a series of villages belonging to an agricultural and trading people in 1616, and inexplicably named them Nation de Petun (Tobacco Nation). They were the Ouendat (Wyandot) people who had broken away from the Huron Nation and moved into the area around Craigleith to participate in the fur trade.

    The Nottawasaga Lighthouse on the shore of Georgian Bay was constructed from 1856-1858. It soars 68 feet and is one of the few remaining symbols of our bold and diverse marine heritage. The imposing limestone structure suffered structural breakdown in 2004 and was stabilized in 2005. Take in the sites from the shoreline or up close by boat. No public access to the lighthouse however is available.

    The British Schooner, Nancy, was a fur trading vessel during the War of 1812 and was on the Nottawasaga River August 14, 1814. On that day, Lt. Worsley, commander of the Nancy, did all he could to defend her from American attack. Badly outnumbered, the Nancy was destroyed in battle, though the crew escaped to fight another day. Today you can see the hull of the Nancy, built in 1789, on display on Nancy Island and an award winning video presentation which tells the crew's heroic story. During the spring, summer and fall, join park staff as they bring the story of the Nancy to life. Take a tour of the Nancy Island Historical Site, participate in a musket or cannon demonstration, and interact with a historical character from Wasaga's past.