Wasaga Beach Ontario
Wasaga Beach is a popular tourist destination located in Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada. Known for its long stretch of sandy beach along the shores of Georgian Bay, it is a favorite summer getaway for both locals and visitors. The town offers a variety of recreational activities, including swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. With its vibrant atmosphere and beautiful natural surroundings, Wasaga Beach attracts numerous tourists each year and is a significant economic and social hub for the region.
History of Wasaga Beach
Wasaga Beach and the surrounding area was inhabited by the Huron-Wendat Nation for centuries before they were conquered and driven from their ancestral lands in 1649 by the Iroquois Haudenosaunee (Known as the Five Nation Iroquois Confederacy). Wasaga is a contraction of the Algonquin word Nottawasaga. Nottawa means “Iroquois” and saga means “mouth of the river”; the word “Nottawasaga” was used by Algonquin scouts as a warning if they saw Iroquois raiding parties approaching their villages.
In 1812 the United States declared war on Great Britain and invaded Upper Canada on several occasions. Wasaga Beach became a strategic location at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River leading to Fort Willow and the Nine Mile Portage which was part of the supply line for British forces in the War of 1812 to Fort Michilimackinac and points to the north and west. The Royal Navy schooner HMS Nancy was scuttled in the Nottawasaga River to prevent the Americans from capturing her and her stores.
Lumbering was the main industry for the remainder of the 19th century. Logs were floated downriver and into the bay, gathered at ports to feed local saw mills.
Because Wasaga Beach had sandy soil unsuitable for cultivation, it did not attract early European settlement. In the 1820s the first sign of settlement in the area began as John Goessman surveyed Flos Township. In 1826, land was being sold for four shillings an acre. Though unsuitable for farming, the Wasaga Beach area had an abundance of trees. In the late 1830s and throughout the rest of the century, the logging industry was key to the economy and integral to development of the area. The first permanent settler was John Van Vlack, who arrived in 1869 and founded a settlement on the south side of the Nottawasaga River near its mouth and named it after himself. In 1872, a wooden bridge, the Vanvlack Bridge, was constructed east of the present Main Street bridge to provide access to the beach, then used mainly as a road. The name Wasaga Beach was first used in the area in the late 19th Century.
During the 1900s, families began to discover the beauty of the area. The beach gradually became a place for family picnics and holidays during the summer months, and the first cottages for sale were built. In 1909, a new steel bridge was constructed to replace the Vanvlack Bridge. Wasaga Beach had its beginning as a major resort area when the first beachfront hotel, The Capstan Inn, was opened in 1915 by entrepreneur John McLean in what would later develop into the present Beach One area. In 1918, he opened the Dardanella Dance Hall, and over the next several decades more hotels, venues, and amusements would open. During the 1940s, servicemen stationed at Base Borden, a nearby military base, visited Wasaga Beach’s amusement park, and they made Wasaga Beach known across the country. After the war, Wasaga Beach continued to be a popular place for cottagers and day trippers.
Wasaga Beach entered history’s headlines in 1934. It was the site of departure for the first overseas flight from mainland Canada across the Atlantic to England. A plane, named Trail of the Caribou, used the beach as a makeshift runway.