Discover Barrie, Ontario: A Blend of History and Modernity

Barrie, Ontario, a city nestled in Southern Ontario, Canada, is a gem waiting to be discovered. Located about 90 kilometres north of Toronto, Barrie is a part of Simcoe County and is situated along the shores of Kempenfelt Bay. Despite its physical location within the county, Barrie maintains political independence. The city is a part of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, an extended urban area in southern Ontario. As of the 2021 census, Barrie had a population of 147,829, while the census metropolitan area was home to 212,667 residents.

The Historical Journey of Barrie, Ontario

Barrie, Ontario: The Early Years (Before 1900)

Barrie's history is deeply rooted in the traditional land of the Wendat and Anishinaabeg peoples. The city was initially a collection of houses and warehouses at the end of the Nine Mile Portage from Kempenfelt Bay to Fort Willow, an indigenous transportation route that existed centuries before Europeans arrived in Simcoe County.

During the War of 1812, Barrie played a crucial role as a supply depot for British forces. The Nine Mile Portage was adopted by the British military as a key part of their supply line, providing a strategic path for communication, personnel, and vital supplies and equipment to and from Fort Willow and Georgian Bay/Lake Huron.

In 1833, the city was named after Sir Robert Barrie, who was in charge of the naval forces in Canada and frequently commanded forces through the city and along the Nine Mile Portage. Barrie was also the final destination for a branch of the Underground Railroad, contributing to the development of nearby Shanty Bay.

By 1869, Barrie had become the county seat of Simcoe County, flourishing with a population of over 3,000 people. This population increase led to the establishment of prominent businesses and landmarks, including the Barrie Hotel, the Anderton Brewery, and one of the Canadian Bank of Commerce's original branches.

Barrie, Ontario in the 20th Century

The 20th century marked a period of massive rebuilding and growth for Barrie. The city's modern streets and buildings began to take shape, and several of Barrie's largest and most prominent companies were established during this time.

During the First World War, residents of Barrie helped to construct Canadian Forces Base Borden (CFB Borden), which served as a major training centre for Canadian Expeditionary Force battalions. The base has since become the largest Canadian Forces Base in Canada.

The 1980s and 1990s saw substantial growth for Barrie, with the population tripling in the span of 25 years. In 1981, the city had a population of 38,423; by 2006, Barrie had 128,430 residents living within city limits.

Barrie, Ontario in the 21st Century

The 21st century brought new challenges and opportunities for Barrie. In 2004, the former Molsons plant was found to be home to an illegal marijuana grow-op housing an estimated 30,000 marijuana plants. At the time, it was the largest marijuana grow-op bust in Canada's history.

In 2005, Barrie's Park Place (formerly Molson Park) was chosen to host Live 8 Canada. The success of the concert supported a plan to convert the former Molson Park lands into a commercial district.

In 2013, Barrie was twinned with the English town of Harrogate due to Sir Robert Barrie's close connection to it.

Exploring the Geography of Barrie, Ontario

Barrie is located in the central portion of southern Ontario, approximately 90 km north of Toronto within the Greater Golden Horseshoe subregion. The city's historic downtown area is situated in a distinct curved or wrapped valley, surrounding the western edge of Kempenfelt Bay.

Barrie falls into Plant Hardiness Zone 5b. The city does not have any major rivers within its limits but does have numerous creeks and streams, most of which empty into Kempenfelt Bay.

The Expansion of Barrie, Ontario

Barrie has been designated an Urban Growth Centre by the province of Ontario. As one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada, this designation aims to mitigate urban sprawl and concentrate higher-density development in areas specified by the City of Barrie.

The Climate of Barrie, Ontario

Barrie has a humid continental climate, with warm, humid summers, and cold, snowy winters. The coldest month is January with a mean temperature of −8.1 °C (17 °F), while the warmest month is July with a mean of 19.6 °C (67 °F).

The Demographics of Barrie, Ontario

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Barrie had a population of 147,829 living in 55,316 of its 57,276 total private dwellings, a change of 4.5% from its 2016 population of 141,434.

The Rich Culture and Arts Scene of Barrie, Ontario

Barrie is home to a vibrant performing and fine arts scene. There are a number of live performance companies, including Theatre by the Bay, Talk Is Free Theatre, and the Huronia Symphony. The city also hosts numerous recreational venues and community centres.

Transportation in Barrie, Ontario

Barrie is served by Provincial Highway 400, which acts as the primary route between Barrie and Toronto. Public transport is provided by Barrie Transit, which operates numerous bus routes within the city. In addition to train service, GO Transit offers daily commuter-oriented bus service to the Greater Toronto Area.


Barrie, Ontario, with its rich history, vibrant arts scene, and rapid growth, is a city that offers a unique blend of the past and the present. Whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, or someone looking for a new place to call home, Barrie has something for everyone.