What to See & Do in Oakville & Burlington?
Oakville and Burlington is a pretty section of the Golden Horseshoe, with great views of Lake Ontario, and bisected by the Niagara Escarpment on its path northward to Collingwood. The area combines rural charm, small town friendliness, with the benefits of urban proximity.
The Town of Oakville and the City of Burlington make up the urban area to the south, generally along the lakeshore and the Towns of Halton Hills and Milton make up the largely rural area to the north, clustered around the 401 and 407. While these communities were originally bedroom communities to nearby Hamilton and Toronto, today they are self-sufficient communities, with a complete range of educational, cultural and recreational facilities.
The community’s greatest two attractions are proximity to Lake Ontario (for water sports) and also to the Niagara Escarpment, with hiking, skiing, and a range of land-based recreation on extensive pubic parkland.
Oakville’s manufacturing sector is clustered in the automotive, advanced technologies, and pharmaceuticals, with several large knowledge-based employers. Burlington has a manufacturing sector strong in food processing, automotive & metal fabrication, pharmaceuticals, and bio-tech, with several companies strong in information technologies, financial services, as well as transportation & logistics.
Oakville and Burlington have a wide range of housing, with single-family housing in both urban and suburban settings, higher density condos and apartments in popular areas, as well as rural acreage and farm homes not far from the cities’ cores. All are accessible to transit and major highways like the QEW, the 401 and the 407 for ready access to nearby Hamilton, Toronto and Pearson International Airport.
The first European to visit the area was the French explorer and fur trader Oavelier de la Salle and Louis Joliet, who arrived at Burlington Bay in 1669 via the Grand River from Lake Erie on their return from Lake Superior.
In 1821 Jasper Martin from Newcastle England built a grist mill along the banks of the Sixteen Mile Creek, near today’s Milton, founding a settlement of 60 people first called “Martin’s Mills” which had an ashery, small store and a post office.
Oakville was founded in 1827 by Colonel William Chisholm (1788-1842), who became a merchant and shipbuilder on 960 acres granted at the mouth of Sixteen Mile Creek, where he soon established the first privately owned harbour in Upper Canada and handled trade between Hamilton and Toronto.
When the railway reached Milton in 1877, the town added several brickyards by the escarpment around Milton Heights.
The Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) along the Lakeshore began as a Depression make-work project and when it opened in 1937 was the first intercity divided highway in North America and the longest stretch of continuous illumination in the world. The roadway underwent improvements and widening in the 1950s and the 1970s. The QEW connects Toronto (at Highway 427) to Hamilton, Niagara Falls ad Fort Erie (and from there to Buffalo, New York). The highway connects west to Hamilton via the Burlington Skyway over the entrance to Hamilton Harbour and has a bridge over the Welland Canal at St Catharines.
After World War II, Halton entered into a period of prosperity and rapid growth, and by the early 1970s, Halton’s population grew by 400 per cent as job opportunities and cheaper “country” living attracted residents.
The Oakville Ford Plant was built in 1952 and created 5,000 industrial jobs and prompted many auto suppliers to build in the area.
In 1974, Halton County was reorganized into the Regional Municipality of Halton with four restructured municipalities (Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville).