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Local Focus – Collingwood & Wasaga Beach

Local Focus - Collingwood & Wasaga Beach

Living History

Collingwood was incorporated as a town in 1858 and was named after Admiral Lord Cuthbert Collingwood, Lord Nelson’s second in command at the Battle of Trafalgar. The area was originally inhabited by the Petun (Huron) nation, who were driven from the region by the Iroquois in 1650. European settlers and escaped slaves from the United States – who came to the area on a branch of the Underground Railroad – arrived in the area in the 1840s.

An aerial view of Collingwood’s downtown.

An aerial view of Collingwood’s downtown.

African Methodist Church in Collingwood.

African Methodist Church in Collingwood.

Collingwood’s harbour became the shipment point for goods destined for the ports of Chicago and Port Arthur-Fort William (Thunder Bay) in 1855. In 1883, the Collingwood Shipyards opened and in 1901 the Huronic set sail, the first steel-hulled ship launched in Canada. The shipyard produced lake ships and during the Second World War contributed to the production of Corvettes for the Royal Canadian Navy. Shipbuilding was the principal industry in the town until overseas competition led the to the closing of the shipyards in 1986.

The historic silos in Collingwood.

The historic silos in Collingwood.

The creation of government incentive programs and a fully serviced industrial park made it possible for Collingwood to attract new manufacturing firms to the town by 1971. More manufacturing companies had located in the town by 1983, making Collingwood the largest industrial employer in the region.

The boardwalk at Wasaga Beach.

The boardwalk at Wasaga Beach.

Wasaga Beach

Wasaga Beach

Located east of the Collingwood is Wasaga Beach, boasting 14 kilometres of white sandy beach, the longest freshwater beach in the world. Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is the first provincial park in Canada to be awarded the Blue Flag designation for its efforts to manage the shoreline according to international environmental standards.

The Nottawasaga River in Collingwood.

The Nottawasaga River in Collingwood.

Wasaga Beach and the surrounding area was inhabited by the Wyandot (Huron) people for centuries before they were dispersed in 1650 by the French-allied Algonquin people. The word Nottawasaga is of Algonquin origin. Nottawa means “Iroquois” and saga means “mouth of the river.”

In the early 1800s, Wasaga Beach evolved into a strategic location in the War of 1812 when the schooner HMS Nancy was sunk in an effort by the Americans to cut the supply lines to the west and north.

Wasaga Beach’s unsuitable sandy soil contributed to the late settlement of the area, as the lack of farming land made it unattractive to settlers, although the area had an abundance of trees. In the late 1830s, and throughout the rest of the century, the logging industry would play an important role in the development of the area. Logs crowded the river and the bay, floating down to feed local saw mills.

Aerial view of Wasaga Beach.

Aerial view of Wasaga Beach.

During the 1900s, families began to discover the beauty of the area and the beach gradually became a place for family picnics and holidays during the summer months. During the 1940s, while stationed at a nearby military base, servicemen from across Canada visited Wasaga Beach’s amusement park. After the war, Wasaga Beach continued to be a popular place for cottages and day trips, beginning the tradition of city dwellers travelling to the beach in the summer.

In 1974, the Town of Wasaga Beach was incorporated with a population of over 4,000, a dramatic increase from 1965 when only 500 people called the town home. Today, it has a population of 17,000 full-time and 16,000 seasonal and part-time residents.

Housing Options

With Collingwood’s industrial past and the Wasaga Beach area known as a summer playground, housing stock is generally single-family homes and cottages, although there are many condo developments catering to seasonal visitors.

To see a list of Collingwood’s lowrise homes for sale, go here.

To see a list of Wasaga Beach’s lowrise homes for sale, go here.

To see a list of Collingwood’s condo homes for sale, go here.

To see a list of Wasaga Beach’s condo homes for sale, go here.

The Workplace

The tourism and recreational field is certainly the area’s single largest combined employer. Collingwood’s industrial base includes Collingwood Ethanol, Pilkington Glass of Canada, Goodall Rubber Company, VOAC Inc. and Canadian Mist Whiskey, which are the community’s largest employers.

School Days

The Simcoe County District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board administer public schools in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, although Wasaga Beach has no high schools. Students use a bus service to attend a high school of their choice. The closest post-secondary school is Georgian College in Barrie.

Leisure Pursuits

Collingwood is home to many events and festivals. The most famous is certainly the Elvis Presley Festival, which attracts Elvis impersonators from all over the world.

Other events include the Jazz & Blues Festival, Art on the Street, Culture Days, and Art in Town Hall, while Theatre Collingwood produces live performances of plays and musicals. The town is also home to many art galleries and studios, a fabulous farmers’ markets and the Collingwood Museum.

If you don’t feel up to strolling the galleries, however, you can simply enjoy lying on the beach, throwing a line into the water at one of the area’s many great fishing spots, or paddle the area in a canoe or kayak. If you’re feeling more adventurous, Wasaga Beach’s famous beach awaits.

Parks & Rec

Skiing at Horseshoe Resort.

Skiing at Horseshoe Resort.

The view of Collingwood from the top of Horseshoe Resort.

The view of Collingwood from the top of Horseshoe Resort.

Collingwood and Wasaga Beach are located on the southern shore of Georgian Bay, next to Blue Mountain, a promontory of the Niagara Escarpment. The region is a major recreational area, noted for skiing, water sports and incredible beaches. There is large network of trails for walking, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, snowshoeing, crosscountry skiing and snowmobiling.

The Collingwood Arboretum has both paved and natural trails and is a vital botanical park. Collingwood’s Scenic Caves offer a variety of activities, including cave tours, a treetop canopy walk, nature trails, a suspension bridge, a zip line, gemstone mining, a trout pond and mini golf.

The Highlands Course at Horseshoe Resort.

The Highlands Course at Horseshoe Resort.

And speaking of golf, the area is home to many great championship golf courses, including Cobble Beach, Lora Bay, Monterra at Blue Mountain Resort, Cranberry Golf Resort, Georgian Bay Club, Batteaux Creek, OslerBrook, and Horseshoe Resort’s Valley and Highlands courses.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park offers a myriad of activities, including canoeing, swimming, boating, fishing, biking, birding, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Retail Therapy

There are many lovely shopping areas in both Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, offering a fine assortment of boutiques, arts and crafts stores, independent retailers, cafés, restaurants and pubs. The nearest shopping mall is Georgian Mall in Barrie, where you can find many chain stores and big box outlets.

Easy Access

Wasaga Beach and Collingwood are served by Highway 26, which runs along the shore of Nottawasaga Bay, and County Road 124. The towns are also served by a rail link connecting them to the towns of Owen Sound and Barrie. There is a spur heading north through Collingwood to the large grain elevators at the downtown wharf, where trains would formerly load and unload into lake ships.

Collingwood has its own transit service, as does Wasaga Beach. Collingwood also boasts an airport, a medium-sized facility about seven kilometres south of the town.

Essential Services

The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital is a 72-bed acute-care hospital providing emergency care, diagnostic services, as well as two inpatient units (medicine and surgery). Specialty areas include obstetrics, orthopaedics, intensive care and surgery. Outpatient services include dialysis, mental health and rehabilitation services. It is a part of the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network which is made of eight hospitals.

The OPP patrols both Collingwood and Wasaga Beach. Fire protection services are served separately by the Collingwood Fire Department and the Wasaga Beach Fire Department.

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