The most westerly town on Severn Sound is Penetanguishene, which holds Discovery Harbour, an ambitious reconstruction of the important British naval base established here in 1817. The principal purpose of the base was to keep an eye on American movements on the Great Lakes following the War of 1812, and between 1820 and 1834 up to twenty Royal Navy vessels were stationed here. Ships from the base also supplied the British outposts further to the west and, to make navigation safer, the Admiralty decided to chart the Great Lakes. This monumental task fell to Lieutenant Henry Bayfield, who informed his superiors of his determination “to render this work so correct that it shall not be easy to render it more so”. He lived up to his word, and his charts remained in use for decades. The naval station was more short-lived. By 1834, relations with the US were sufficiently cordial for the Navy to withdraw, and the base was turned over to the Army, who maintained a small garrison here until 1856.

The site

Staffed by enthusiastic costumed guides, Discovery Harbour spreads along a hillside above a tranquil inlet, its green slopes scattered with accurate reconstructions of everything from a sailors’ barracks to several period houses, the prettiest of which is the Keating House, named after the base’s longest-serving adjutant, Frank Keating. Only one of the original buildings survives – the dour limestone Officers’ Quarters, dating from the 1840s – but pride of place goes to the working harbour-cum-dockyard, where a brace of fully rigged sailing ships, the HMS Bee and HMS Tecumseth, have been rebuilt to their original nineteenth-century specifications.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Rugged and vast, Canada has much to explore and enjoy. Driving gives you freedom to travel at your own pace, allowing you to pull over and appreciate scenery al…

05 Dec 2016 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
15 awesome images of Canada

15 awesome images of Canada

Canada is has vast and varied landscape, from beautiful beaches to glassy mountain lakes. It's difficult to capture the country's real beauty in a photograph, b…

09 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
8 reasons Vancouver is cooler than you think

8 reasons Vancouver is cooler than you think

Vancouver sometimes gets knocked for being a bit dull – and while it’s true that its residents can be earlier to bed than in the rest of North America, thi…

05 Sep 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month