What to See & Do in Barrie?
This city, on the shores of Lake Simcoe is the gateway and a great base to Ontario’s northern cottage country. head northwest to Wasaga Beach and Collingwood (and continue to the Bruce peninsula and Tobermory), or head northeast to Orillia and the Trent-Severn Canal (continuing toward the Muskoka Lakes), or head north to Midland and Penetanguishene (and the rugged eastern shore of Georgian Bay). To the south is a pastoral rural area with drive-ins, farmers markets and lots of beaches.
The City of Barrie is nestled on the western shore of Lake Simcoe, just southeast of Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes. The city of 153,000 residents (2017) sits on Highway 400 connecting Toronto and Southern Ontario to Ontario’s cottage country, and the Southern Trans-Canada Highway to Western Canada.
Originally located on an ancient portage route from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay, Barrie is made accessible by the Trent Severn Waterway and then early settlement roads, and more recently, Highway 400. Barrie is a city built around beautiful Lake Simcoe, which is home to many of the city’s prized attractions and facilities, with many parks and attractions close to the Lake.
The city has over 90 parks, covering more than 300 hectares, many connected by extensive biking, roller blading and walking trails, especially along beautiful Kempenfelt Bay. The city has cultural attractions like the renowned Gryphon Theatre, Park Place (formerly Molson Park) which has hosted major and international outdoor concerts (including Live8 in summer of 2005), the Barrie Molson Centre, a 4,200 seat multi-purpose sports and entertainment facility, and the MacLaren Art Centre.
Barrie is the gateway to the beautiful Muskoka cottage country to the north-east, and the Georgian Bay to the north and west, and is on the northern edge of the Greater Toronto Area, benefitting from both close access to Toronto and its transportation network, as well as lower land costs and lower cost of living.
In the post-war era, many large American-based industries opened branches in Barrie, taking advantage of the favourable labour costs. The are is strong in manufacturing, based on the extraction and processing of local natural resources, as well supplying other manufacturers and the large consumer market of southern Ontario and the northeastern United States.
Improved cars and highways allowed Barrie residents to efficiently commute to work in Toronto.
In the 1970s, Highway 400 between Barrie and Toronto was widened from 4 lanes to 6 (with 8 lanes south of Highway 88). In the 1990s, Highway 400 has been extended northward from Barrie, progressively “twinning” the route taken by Highway 69 to Sudbury. Eventually, it will connect to the main route of the Trans-Canada Highway at Sudbury.
Cottage Country & Georgian Bay Close-by
The larger communities in the area include Barrie, Orillia, Owen Sound and Parry Sound, which combine a good industrial base, excellent road and rail access, as well as close access to area recreation. There are many smaller recreation and tourism based communities worth moving to in this area, including Huntsville, Gravenhurst and Bracebridge in the Muskoka area, and Midland, Penetanguishene, Wasaga Beach and Collingwood along Georgian Bay. These communities attract not only seasonal cottage residents but those who enjoy the scenic beauty and access to nearby recreation year-round.
Early & Colonial History
Barrie derived its name after Commodore (and later, Sir) Robert Barrie, Head of the British Fleet and commissioner of the dockyards at Kingston in from 1819 – 1932. His wife wished to settle in the area, but he had other plans and returned to England in 1834.
Long before Europeans came to the area, the native people had established small communities near today’s Barrie, at the eastern end of a portage route between Lake Simcoe and the Nottawasaga River, which empties into Georgian Bay. This route became known as the Nine Mile Portage by trappers and fur traders.
The first European to visit the area was Samuel de Champlain, who arrived in Huronia in 1615 via the Ottawa, Mattawa and French River systems, and began trading with the Huron, Algonkin and Montagnais natives and aided them in their wars against the Iroquois, who lived south of Lake Ontario. Champlain travelled over the Trent-Severn system to Lake Ontario (then called Lac St Louis)
The Nine Mile Portage became important in the War of 1812 after the Americans at Detroit controlled the St. Clair River, and marine access to the upper Great Lakes. The British enlarged the Nine Mile Portage to accommodate wagons to move supplies and troops from Upper Canada to military posts on Lake Huron and Lake Superior. In the early 1800’s, the Hudson Bay Company established a storehouse on what is now Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe.
In the 1820’s, pioneers arrived, cleared the land and built homes in the area. Soon after, the British established a military presence in Barrie, and built a jail by 1841. The settlement was named after Sir Robert Barrie, the Admiral in command of the British fleet stationed at Kingston, and the first streets in Barrie were named after British officers (Wellington, Nelson, Collingwood, Worsley, Collier, Poyntz, Bayfield, Owen).
The War of 1812 taught the British that the Great Lakes were vulnerable to American attack, including their forts at what are now Detroit and Sault Ste Marie, so in 1820, the first plans were proposed for a Trent Canal, and in 1825 rough roads were built into the area. When the Crown failed to advance the canal, settlers in the area went ahead on their own, offering land grants to workers who came over from England to help build the canal. By 1830 the lumbermen, working to get the area’s forests to market, also got onside with a Trent Canal.
1843 saw the construction of the first subsidized private school, known as The Barrie Grammar School, in the District of Simcoe County. By 1879, this grammar school had developed into a high school, one of the first collegiates in the province, though it was destroyed by fire in 1916.
A series of fires struck the downtown area between 1870 and 1880, causing buildings downtown to be rebuilt of brick,which transformed Barrie into a provincial town. The label “The Five Points,” for Barrie’s main downtown intersection, has been in use since the 1870’s.
In 1916, the federal Department of Defense acquired a large tract of land in the Township of Essa and established Camp Borden (now called Canadian Forces Base Borden) which was prominent in training soldiers, airmen, and tank forces in two World Wars, and the years since.
By 1930, the railway era had peaked and the highway era was beginning. A super highway (Highway 400) was constructed in 1950, joining Barrie to Toronto and southern Ontario. In the post-war era, many large American-based industries opened branches in Barrie, taking advantage of the favourable labour costs. Improved cars and highways allowed Barrie residents to efficiently commute to work in Toronto.
By 1954, Barrie had to annex 220 acres from Vespra Township, when its population was about 15,000. In 1959, Barrie annexed 1,973 acres so it population could climbed to over 20,000 and it became incorporated as a city. In 1967 the city saw the start of Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology, which moved to its present location in 1973. As more people moved to Barrie, in 1982 the City annexed 10,539 acres of land, and the City’s population quickly climbed to 45,000. Today, Barrie stands at a population of more than 125,000 and continues to be one of Canada’s fastest growing cities.
Base Borden Military Museum
8 Waterloo Road East
Canadian Forces Base
Borden, ON L0M 1C0
From #400, take Highway 89 west about 15 km to base entrance, turn left on Dieppe Road % follow the signs.
(705) 423-3531. Fax: (705) 423-3623
CFB Borden was opened in 1916 to train troops for the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War. In early 1917, the base was the first flying station for the Royal Flying Corps Canada, to becoe the birthplace of Canadian military aviation. In 1938, when the Canadian Tank School came to the base, and during the Second World War, Borden was the most important training base in Canada, a role it has continued for the past 60 years. The museums at CFB Borden reflects Borden’s aviation and armour traditions Admission by donation
Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
8633 10th Line of Essa,
RR # 2, Barrie, Ontario, L4M 4S4
(705) 721-4730 Fax: (705) 721-4059
Bear Creek Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary is NOT A ZOO! We are a volunteer driven non-profit organization dedicated to the survival of rare and endangered species. We are also involved in humane wildlife rescue and rehabilitation of animals involved in public concerns, and as always, we provide a safe haven for unwanted, abused and injured exotic and zoo surplus animals. We are family and volunteer run. At Bear Creek we house over 100 animals, some of which are the most beautiful and most rare species from around the world. Open to visitors Victoria Day to Labour Day. For groups of ten or more people by appointment! Admission.
617 Penetanguishene Road
Barrie, Ontario, L4M 4Y8
This attractions helps kids connect to the country. Features haunted bar, corn mazes, and pick your own pumpkin (in season), and fresh corn. In spring, come for the Spring Festival and Easter egg hunt.
Lake Simcoe, Ontario
Lake Simcoe is the fourth largest lake in Ontario and one of the world’s largest fresh water lakes that freezes completely in the winter. Lake Simcoe has been designated by many as the “Ice Fishing Capital” of Ontario. The early fur traders named the lake Lac aux Claies, the “lake of weirs”, for the many fishing weirs at the narrows in Orillia. The lake was nextcalled Lake Toronto , and then renamed for Lord Simcoe. Lake Simcoe today is still considered to be Ontario cottage country.
MacLaren Art Centre
37 Mulcaster St
Barrie, ON L4M 3M2
The MacLaren Art Centre is the leading non-profit public art gallery serving South Central Ontario with monthly exhibits. Open Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm, Saturday 10 am – 4 pm. Admission is by donation.
Simcoe County Museum
1151 Highway 26, Minesing, Ontario
(From Barrie, follow Bayfield Street North and exit at Highway 26. Look for Museum on south side of highway)
The Simcoe County Museum portrays and promotes the history of people in Simcoe County by the collection, preservation, interpretation and display of natural, documentary, man-made and built heritage artifacts. The Simcoe County Museum is open year round, seven days a week. Hours are Monday to Saturday, 9 am. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, 1 pm to 4:30 p.m. Admission..
Sunset International Speedway
6918 Yonge St
Innisfil, Ontario, L9S 4N7
High-banked 1/3 mile NASCAR Hometrack – Ontario’s only NASCAR sanctioned oval. Home of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Live & Local.
Bayview & Little Park (Allandale Recreation Centre)
This 5.4 acre park is on the southwest corner of Bayview Dr. and Little Ave. (adjacent to the Innisdale High School) and has 2 ice rinks, 2 pools, a fitness centre, and the Allandale Seniors Centre.
Bear Creek Dr. north of Maplievew Dr., west of Essa Rd.
This 7.8 acre park has a softball diamond, a playground, and recreational walkways.
on Lakeshore Dr., between Bayfield St. and Tiffin St.
This – 12.1 acre park Accessible A playground, Washrooms, Concession Building, Beach, Volleyball Courts, Parking, Picnic Shelter, Mini-Golf, Walking/Bike Paths
on Cundles Rd. W., south of Livingstone St. W., west of Anne St. N.
This 5.1 acre park has a playground, softball diamond
on Grove St. E. between Cook St. and Johnson St.
10.77 acre park has a major ball diamond, full soccer pitch, tennis courts, and a playground.
northeast of Bay Lane on Tollendale Mills Rd.
This 42.3 acre park has woodlot trails, a beach,a picnic shelter and washrooms
on the southwest corner of Hurst Dr. & Golden Meadow Rd.
This 8.08 acre park has a basketball court, a playground, soccer field (junior), walkways
on southside of Greenfield St. between Woodcrest Rd. & Clover Ave.
This 6.5 acre park has a ball diamond, lit tennis court, a playground, and a half basketball court
Huronia Park – North
on east side of Huronia Rd. (behind Willow Landing School)
This 31.9 acre park has soccer pitches this 9 minis, a playground, half basketball court, parking lot, woodlot, walkways
Lennox Park (formerly Huronia Park South)
on the south side of Big Bay Point Rd., east of Huronia Rd.
This 21.3 acre park has 2 ball diamonds, parking, lit tennis courts, lit basketball court
on Lougheed Rd., south of Mapleview Dr. W. (beside St. Nicholas School)
This 6.18 acre park has full soccer pitch, lit tennis courts, a playground
on north side of Grove St. E., west of St.Vincent St.
This 6.43 acre park hasa major ball diamond, horsethis shoe pitch, a playground, parking, Washrooms
on Madelaine Dr., southwest of Yonge St.
This 6.6 acre park has a playground, walkways, softball diamond, woodlot, trails
on west side of Johnson St., north of Grove St.
ball diamond (minor), a playground
on Lakeshore Dr. between Bayfield St. and Victoria St.
Just north of Centennial Park, this 6.0 acre park has a marina
east side of Ashford Dr., east of Yonge St., south of Big Bay Point Rd.
This 10.6 acre park hasa major ball diamond, full soccer pitch, lit. tennis courts, a playground
on Kozlov St., behind the apartment buildings
This 7.41 acre park has a ball diamond (minor adults), lit tennis courts, a playground
on east side of Innisfil St. between Holgate St. and Baldwin Lane
This 8.0 acre park has a major ball diamond, lit. tennis courts, a playground, washrooms, parking, woodlot
east of Sunnidale Rd. between Hwy. 400 and Cundles Rd. W.
This 70 acre park has a playground, Dorian Parker Community Centre, storage building, boy scout buildings, arboretum, parking, woodlot, trails
on west side of Lillian Cres., north of Cundles Rd. W., east of Sunnidale
This 9.8 acre park with ravine also has a full soccer pitch, a playground, and parking.
corner of Little Ave., and Firman Dr. west of Yonge St.
This 11.1 acre park has a small ball diamond and a playground