Three war rein-actors walking towards the camera

Top 8 historical experiences in Ontario Parks

The landscapes of our provincial parks are like a vault of stories waiting to be opened.

This post showcases the top eight historical experiences across the province that shed light on the unique history of the land.

Discover the mosaic of Ontario’s rich cultural history while visiting our parks!

1. Compete in the Historical “Amazing Race” at Rondeau Provincial Park

Rondeau’s Historical Amazing Race takes teams all over the peninsula. It’s like the tv show, but with a historical spin for contestants to learn about the park’s history.

Rondeau park staff in costume taking a group selfie

Each stop involves a different historical character from Rondeau’s past. Teams complete challenges related to the historical characters and learn what their roles in the park used to be.

Sandy shore with grasses and poplar trees in summer under a blue sky

This year, the race is scheduled to run on Saturday, August 11, 2018. Teams can call the Visitor Centre (519-674-1768) to pre-register.

2. Visit the Spruce Lane Farmhouse at Bronte Creek Provincial Park

Built in 1899 by Henry Breckon, the Spruce Lane Farm and Farmhouse is open to visitors daily in July to August. A visit to the farmhouse is like travelling back to the turn of the century.

Red farmhouse with green trim and black roof with blue sky

There are daily tours and programs where visitors can discover what life was like during the early 1900s in the Bronte Creek area. Visitors can meet staff in Victorian-era attire and witness some of the activities from that era including needlework, baking, butter making, and more.

Birds eye view of more Bronte Creek activities

Spruce Lane Farm House is open daily from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm in July and August.

3. Paddle like a voyageur at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

Samuel de Champlain offers the unique experience of a Voyageur Adventure Tour, where you get to travel back in time and paddle in a voyageur canoe.

Group in a voyageur canoe with a costumed staff member at the front of the canoe

Participants have the opportunity to discover the life of a voyageur at the height of the fur trade by paddling on the stunning Mattawa River with a park naturalist.

Voyageur canoe from above

Tours run daily in July and August. Tour information and scheduling can be found here.

4. Discover the Agawa Rock Pictographs at Lake Superior Provincial Park

A visit to Lake Superior’s Agawa Rock Pictograph site is incredible. Generations of Ojibwe have recorded dreams, visions and events at this sacred site. It is one of the few pictograph sites in Ontario accessible by foot. There are 35 red ochre images visible.

Staff member showing visitors pictographs on the rocks

The site is open from mid-May to mid-September. During July and August, park naturalists are onsite to provide information about the pictographs Thursday to Sunday, 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm (weather permitting).

Lake Superior pictograph site (cliffs plunging into aqua water) on a sunny, clear day

The park also has an exceptional Visitor Centre, highlighting the park’s cultural history, natural features and recreational opportunities. The Visitor Centre is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (open until 8:00 pm in July and August) from May 18 until October 7, 2018.

5. Tour the remnants of a WWII prisoner of war camp at Neys Provincial Park

Before becoming a park, Neys was the site of a prisoner of war (POW) camp during the Second World War. The camp housed mainly high ranking German prisoners of war and operated from 1941-1946.

People looking at a mark in the forest, with the sun coming through the trees

Today, remnants of the camp buildings are scattered throughout the campground area. During July and August, park naturalists give weekly tours through the site to uncover the fascinating history and stories of Neys Camp 100.

collage of historical images of POW camp

Knowledgeable staff at the park’s Visitor Centre also shed light on this history. Visitors can view a model of the camp, photographs, documents, and other intriguing artifacts.

The Visitor Centre is open daily throughout July and August. Read more about the history of the POW camp here.

6. Get hands-on with heritage at Sibbald Point Provincial Park

Experience life as a “gentle pioneer” in Upper Canada first-hand by joining a Hands On Heritage Program at Sibbald Point. The programs are set against the picturesque backdrop of Eildon Hall Museum, the historical estate of the Sibbald family from 1835.

Large, white mansion-like structure with brown trim and roof, on grass with a blue sky

Hands On Heritage programs give visitors a chance to take part in daily activities and entertainments from the early Victorian period. Whether it’s making your own historical toy, penning a letter to a loved one with a quill and ink, or competing to see who can master heritage games, these drop-in programs make history fun for the whole family.

beach

Hands On Heritage programs occur from July 3 to August 31, 2018, from 10:00 am to 11:00 am on Thursdays, and from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm on Sundays and Mondays. Eildon Hall Museum is open daily during July and August.

7. Explore the culture of the French River at French River Provincial Park

The French River was the first designated Canadian Heritage River. Located at the junction of the French River and Highway 69, the park’s Visitor Centre was the recipient of a Governor General’s Medal in Architecture in 2010.

Interpretive Skeleton Display with child looking at it, and staff explaining

Explore the exhibits at the Visitor Centre to discover the rich history of First Nations, French and English cultures that lived, worked, and travelled the French River over time.

tree-lined gorge

The Visitor Centre is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm during July and August and Monday through Thursday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm in the spring and fall.

8. Attend “Wasaga Under Siege: A War of 1812 Experience” at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park

Wasaga Under Siege: A War of 1812 Experience is an annual living history festival commemorating a War of 1812 battle between Americans, the British and First Nations which resulted in an American victory with the sinking of the British Schooner Nancy.

Three war rein-actors walking towards the camera

This heritage festival features authentic War of 1812 tactics, historical battles, marine assault, artillery, and much more. Wasaga Under Siege is taking place from August 18-19, 2018.

Various First Nations artifacts and craft work

Can’t make the festival? Visit the Wasaga Beach Visitor Center. The centre commemorates the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and highlights the natural and cultural riches of the Wasaga Beach area.

beach

The Visitor Center is the gateway to the Nancy Island Historic Site, which features a theater, a museum and a replica of a Great Lakes lighthouse. Visitors can interact with costumed staff and participate in hands-on demonstrations.

Plan your historical experience today!

Ontario’s provincial parks offer countless opportunities to delve into the rich and diverse history and culture of Ontario.

A listing of special events can be found here to help you plan your historical adventures!