Discover Penetanguishene, Ontario: A Blend of History and Tourism

Penetanguishene, Ontario, often shortened to Penetang, is a charming bilingual town nestled on the southeasterly tip of Georgian Bay in Simcoe County, Canada. Incorporated on February 22, 1882, this French and English-speaking community has seen a steady growth in population, reaching 8,962 in the Canada 2016 Census. The name Penetanguishene is believed to originate from either the Wyandot or Abenaki via Ojibwe, translating to "land of the white rolling sands".

The Rich History of Penetanguishene, Ontario

The history of Penetanguishene, Ontario, dates back to as early as AD 800 when the Wyandot people established semi-permanent villages in the area. The first European to set foot in the area was the young French translator, Étienne Brûlé, between 1610 and 1614. Unfortunately, he was murdered in 1633 in Toanche, just across the bay from the modern town of Penetanguishene.

In 1793, John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, recognized the area's potential as a Royal Navy naval base. He envisioned using the bay to shelter warships to protect Upper Canada from American military aggression and territorial expansion. This vision led to the construction of the Penetanguishene Naval Yard by the Royal Navy in 1813 and the Penetanguishene Road in 1814.

The naval base was closed in 1834, but the military base remained until 1856. Some of the troops settled in the area after their service, providing an English-speaking population. In the 1840s, French-speaking families from Canada East, attracted by promises of cheap and fertile land, joined the French-speaking Drummond Island settlers already in the area. Today, many of Penetanguishene's families are descendants of these Québécois settlers, giving the town a marked bilingual nature.

Tourism and Sights in Penetanguishene, Ontario

Tourism thrives in Penetanguishene, Ontario, with the historic naval and military base, now called Discovery Harbour, open to visitors. The harbour houses reconstructed buildings from the historic Penetanguishene Naval Yard and two replica sailing ships from the 1812 period, HMS Bee and HMS Tecumseth.

The King's Wharf Theatre, located at Discovery Harbour, offers a programme of popular plays and musicals every summer. Two notable and historic churches, St. James on-the-Lines and St. Anne's, add to the town's charm. St. James on-the-Lines, a small wooden Anglican church, was built in 1836, while the large limestone Roman Catholic church, St. Anne's, was constructed between 1886 and 1902.

Demographics of Penetanguishene, Ontario

According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Penetanguishene had a population of 10,077 living in 3,976 of its 4,357 total private dwellings. This represents a change of 12.4% from its 2016 population of 8,962. With a land area of 25.42 km2 (9.81 sq mi), it had a population density of 396.4/km2 (1,026.7/sq mi) in 2021.