We were heading north for a few days of camping in Awenda Provincial Park, and decided on the way to stop and visit one of the local attractions, Discovery Harbour. We thought we’d only spend an hour but ended up spending ages here, exploring the whole thing!
Discovery Harbour is an original British naval and military base in Penetanguishene, dating back to 1812. The base kept ships prepared to supply British posts to the northwest. By 1820, it was home to over 70 people, including sailors, officers, shipwrights, and soldiers. Five large ships, 15 smaller vessels, and numerous dwellings were built, most of which you can explore (except for the ships – now there are only two historic warships on site).
Today it is a living open-air museum, as the original buildings have been beautifully preserved to give you a glimpse into what life would have been like for those living and working at this military base.
From the humble log cabin sailor’s quarters full of hammocks and whisky bottles, to the more comfortable doctor’s quarters, and finally the regal and well appointed senior officer’s homes, you get to explore the working of what was once an important base, walking from house to house, and touring inside.
There are also lots of things for kids to do, and some staff on site, in period costumes, to explain how things worked, and what challenges the sailors faced living in such a harsh winter climate so long ago. One of the things The Kid liked best was the wood working room, where you can try out all the original tools used for making furniture and what not.
You can also tour the HMS Tecumseth, a very handsome ship parked in the harbour. Kids apparently LOVE to swab the deck (I should make her do this at home too).
Discovery Harbour was a surprisingly fun place to visit for a few hours, and it’s worth taking the time to explore all the buildings, and travel back in time to when this was an actual working military base. It will surely also make you appreciate your modern comforts!