Discover Port Elgin, Ontario: A Blend of History and Tourism
Port Elgin, Ontario, is a vibrant community nestled in Bruce County, Canada. This charming town, originally known as Normanton, was renamed Port Elgin in 1874 in honor of James Bruce, the 8th Earl of Elgin and a former Governor General of the Province of Canada. Today, Port Elgin is part of the amalgamated Town of Saugeen Shores, which also includes the Town of Southampton and Saugeen Township.
Unlike typical "beach towns," Port Elgin is a four-season community, with businesses open year-round and activities available for locals most months. The primary employment sectors are agriculture, small business, tourism, and work at the Bruce Power nuclear power station.
A Glimpse into the History of Port Elgin, Ontario
The area now known as Port Elgin was first settled in 1849 by Lachlan McLean, who initially built a shanty and later ran a tavern. By 1857, a village plot named Port Elgin was laid out, and the arrival of the Wellington, Grey, and Bruce Railway in 1872 further stimulated the growth of the community.
The town's early industries included a steam sawmill, foundry, and woolen mill. By the 1880s, tourism was becoming a significant factor in the economy, with passenger boats, largely from the U.S., beginning to visit the area.
Historical Timeline of Port Elgin, Ontario: 1849 to 1906
The history of Port Elgin is rich and varied. In 1849, the first settler, Lachlan McLean, arrived. By 1852, George Butchart had erected a dam and sawmill on Mill Creek. The first commercial store and post office opened in 1854, and by 1855, a grist mill was completed.
The village was incorporated in 1874, with a population of about 950. The arrival of the railway in 1873 helped increase trade with other areas. By 1906, Port Elgin was becoming more popular as a summer resort, attracting an increased number of visitors each season.
Tourism in Port Elgin, Ontario
Port Elgin's long, sandy beach is a major draw for visitors, primarily families who rent or own cottages in the area. The town is renowned for its beautiful sunsets, and while it didn't make National Geographic's list of the world's best sunsets, it was a finalist in CBC Television's competition to discover the Seven Wonders of Canada.
Every year, on the first weekend in October, Port Elgin hosts Pumpkinfest, a competition between farmers to grow the largest pumpkin and other common farm crops. The festival also features a large classic car show and many activities for children.
The Saugeen RailTrail in Port Elgin, Ontario
The Saugeen RailTrail is a popular attraction in Port Elgin. After the railways ceased to service the area, the tracks were removed, and the beds were vacant and overgrown. A group of volunteers founded the Rail Trail Association in 1990 and convinced Port Elgin, Southampton, and Saugeen Township to acquire sections of the then-unused rail bed. Today, the trail connects Southampton and Port Elgin and leads to towns such as Paisley, Walkerton, Mildmay, and Kincardine.