Barrie, Ontario on the Trans-Canada Highway

Barrie waterfront at dusk Barrie is a small attractive city with 125,000 residents with swimmable beaches and scenic waterfront along Lake Simcoe. The city has over 90 parks, covering more than 300 hectares, many connected by extensive biking, roller blading and walking trails, especially along beautiful Kempenfelt Bay. The city has cultural attractions like the renowned Gryphon Theatre, Park Place (formerly Molson Park) which has hosted major and international outdoor concerts (including Live8 in summer of 2005), the Barrie Molson Centre, a 4,200 seat multi-purpose sports and entertainment facility, and the MacLaren Art Centre.

Barrie derived its name after Commodore (and later, Sir) Robert Barrie, Head of the British Fleet and commissioner of the dockyards at Kingston in from 1819 - 1932. His wife wished to settle in the area, but he had other plans and returned to England in 1834.

Barrie-Muskoka Neighbourhoods Barrie-Muskoka Towns Barrie Business listings
Barrie Image Gallery
City of Barrie

Barrie History

Fishing boats at Barrie

Long before Europeans came to the area, the native people had established small communities near today's Barrie, at the eastern end of a portage route between Lake Simcoe and the Nottawasaga River, which empties into Georgian Bay. This route became known as the Nine Mile Portage by trappers and fur traders.

The first European to visit the area was Samuel de Champlain, who arrived in Huronia in 1615 via the Ottawa, Mattawa and French River systems, and began trading with the Huron, Algonkin and Montagnais natives and aided them in their wars against the Iroquois, who lived south of Lake Ontario. Champlain travelled over the Trent-Severn system to Lake Ontario (then called Lac St Louis)

The Nine Mile Portage became important in the War of 1812 after the Americans at Detroit controlled the St. Clair River, and marine access to the upper Great Lakes. The British enlarged the Nine Mile Portage to accommodate wagons to move supplies and troops from Upper Canada to military posts on Lake Huron and Lake Superior. In the early 1800's, the Hudson Bay Company established a storehouse on what is now Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe.

In the 1820's, pioneers arrived, cleared the land and built homes in the area. Soon after, the British established a military presence in Barrie, and built a jail by 1841. The settlement was named after Sir Robert Barrie, the Admiral in command of the British fleet stationed at Kingston, and the first streets in Barrie were named after British officers (Wellington, Nelson, Collingwood, Worsley, Collier, Poyntz, Bayfield, Owen).

The War of 1812 taught the British that the Great Lakes were vulnerable to American attack, including their forts at what are now Detroit and Sault Ste Marie, so in 1820, the first plans were proposed for a Trent Canal, and in 1825 rough roads were built into the area. When the Crown failed to advance the canal, settlers in the area went ahead on their own, offering land grants to workers who came over from England to help build the canal. By 1830 the lumbermen, working to get the area's forests to market, also got onside with a Trent canal.

1843 saw the construction of the first subsidized private school, known as The Barrie Grammar School, in the District of Simcoe County. By 1879, this grammar school had developed into a high school, one of the first collegiates in the province, though it was destroyed by fire in 1916.

Barrie's downtown is full of old brick buildings

A series of fires struck the downtown area between 1870 and 1880, causing buildings downtown to be rebuilt of brick,which transformed Barrie into a provincial town. The label "The Five Points," for Barrie's main downtown intersection, has been in use since the 1870's.

In 1916, the federal Department of Defense acquired a large tract of land in the Township of Essa and established Camp Borden (now called Canadian Forces Base Borden) which was promient in training soldiers, airmen, and tank forces in two World Wars, and the years since.

By 1930, the railway era had peaked and the highway era was beginning. A super highway (Highway 400) was constructed in 1950, joining Barrie to Toronto and southern Ontario. In the post-war era, many large American-based industries opened branches in Barrie, taking advantage of the favourable labour costs. Improved cars and highways allowed Barrie residents to efficiently commute to work in Toronto.

By 1954, Barrie had to annex 220 acres from Vespra Township, when its population was about 15,000. In 1959, Barrie annexed 1,973 acres so it population could climbed to over 20,000,and it became incorporated as a city. In 1967 the city saw the start of Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology, which moved to its present location in 1973. As more people moved to Barrie, in 1982 the City annexed 10,539 acres of land, and the City's populationquicly climbed to 45,000. Today, Barrie stands at a population of more than 125,000 and continues to be one of Canada's fastest growing cities.

Barrie's Heritage Fountain

Barrie Attractions

Barrie Speedway Park 2000
Concession 8, Oro Medonte
Barrie Speedway is a city-owned & operated 1/3 mile paved oval located north of Oro-Station, between Barrie and Orillia. Sunday afternoons the stock cars battle in three classes, with spectators seated in this 4,200-seat multi-purpose facility with plenty of parking, excellent sight lines, air conditioned seating, private boxes, restaurant club seating, convenient loading areas, and an excellent sound system and acoustics. The track opened in 1965. It has also operated as Twin Cities Speedway, Motorplex Park, Barrie Speedway 2000 and Barrie Motorsports Park.

Base Borden Military Museum
8 Waterloo Road East
Canadian Forces Base.
Borden, ON L0M 1C0
From #400, take Highway 89 west about 15 km to base entrance, turn left on Dieppe Road % follow the signs.
(705) 423-3531. Fax: (705) 423-3623
CFB Borden was opened in 1916 to train troops for the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War. In early 1917, the base was the first flying station for the Royal Flying Corps Canada, to becoe the birthplace of Canadian military aviation. In 1938, when the Canadian Tank School came to the base, and during the Second World War, Borden was the most important training base in Canada, a role it has continued for the past 60 years. The museums at CFB Borden reflects Borden's aviation and armour traditions Admission by donation

Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
8633 10th Line of Essa,
RR # 2, Barrie, Ontario, L4M 4S4
(705) 721-4730 Fax: (705) 721-4059
Bear Creek Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary is NOT A ZOO! We are a volunteer driven non-profit organization dedicated to the survival of rare and endangered species. We are also involved in humane wildlife rescue and rehabilitation of animals involved in public concerns, and as always, we provide a safe haven for unwanted, abused and injured exotic and zoo surplus animals. We are family and volunteer run. At Bear Creek we house over 100 animals, some of which are the most beautiful and most rare species from around the world. Open to visitors Victoria Day to Labour Day. For groups of ten or more people by appointment! Admission: Adults $10.00, Children (5 - 16) and seniors - $5.00, Under 4 years - Free.

Chappell Farms
617 Penetanguishene Road
Barrie, Ontario, L4M 4Y8
Phone: (705) 721-1547
This attractions helps kids connect to the country. Features haunted bar, corn mazes, and pick your own pumpkin (in season), and fresh corn. In spring, come for the Spring Ffestival and easter egg hunt.

Lake Simcoe, Ontario
Lake Simcoe is the fourth largest lake in Ontario and one of the world's largest fresh water lakes that freezes completely in the winter. Lake Simcoe has been designated by many as the "Ice Fishing Capital" of Ontario. The early fur traders named the lake Lac aux Claies, the "lake of weirs", for the many fishing weirs at the narrows in Orillia. The lake was nextcalled Lake Toronto , and then renamed for Lord Simcoe. Lake Simcoe today is still considered to be Ontario cottage country.

MacLaren Art Centre MacLaren Art Centre
37 Mulcaster Street.
(705) 721-9696
The MacLaren Art Centre is the leading non-profit public art gallery serving South Central Ontario with monthly exhibits. Open Tuesday to Friday 10:00am - 5:00pm, Saturday 10:00am - 4:00pm. Admission is by donation.

Simcoe County Museum
1151 Highway 26, Minesing, Ontario
(From Barrie, follow Bayfield Street North and exit at Highway 26. Look for Museum on south side of highway)
The Simcoe County Museum portrays and promotes the history of people in Simcoe County by the collection, preservation, interpretation and display of natural, documentary, man-made and built heritage artifacts. The Simcoe County Museum is open year round, seven days a week. Hours are Monday to Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is Adults $4.00, Seniors/Students $3.50, Children $2.50, Preschoolers free.

Map of Barrie Hotels and Attractions

Barrie-Muskoka Search  Click to expand this menu

Barrie-Muskoka Info & Links  Click to expand this menu