Visiting the Famous Lighthouses of Ontario
There are well over one hundred lighthouses to visit in Ontario, so adding a stop at one of these beautiful monuments to maritime history as you travel to other attractions is not at all difficult. Offering excellent photo opportunities and some incredible views, these lighthouses vary in age, size, and intensity. Here are just a few favourites; you’re sure to add more to your personal list as you travel from one place to the next.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
Toronto‘s first lighthouse, the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was built in 1808. Originally 52 feet tall, it was raised by 30 feet in 1832 to bring it to its current height of 82 feet. Originally lighted with sperm whale oil and later by coal oil, it was wired for electricity in 1916. Interestingly, the first lighthouse keeper who worked here, J.P. Radan Muller, was murdered; the mystery remains unsolved to this day. To get here, take the Toronto Island ferry from the foot of Bay Street; you’ll need to walk to the lighthouse or rent a bicycle; it is just over a mile from the ferry terminal.
Nine Mile Point Lighthouse
Located in a remote area on a mostly uninhabited island out in the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Nine Mile Point lighthouse is 45 feet tall and dates back to 1833. Well worth a look, it is white with cheerful red trim and has an attached building where the keepers stay. To get a close-up look at the lighthouse, you can either take a boat, or you can start out on Wolfe Island and follow the signs to the Simcoe Island Ferry. (Wolfe Island is accessible from Kingston on the Kingston-Wolfe Island Ferry.) This little ferry follows a heavy cable across the water, and can drift a bit when currents are heavy, so it can be a bit of an adventure. Once you are on the island, you’ll need to follow the road almost four miles to the end and to the lighthouse itself. The area is owned by the Coast Guard and by private landowners, so you must stop at the gate or ask for permission to come closer.
Port Burwell Lighthouse
One of only a few original wooden lighthouses still standing, and probably one of Canada’s oldest intact wooden structures, the Port Burwell Lighthouse was built in 1840, when Port Burwell was a major shipbuilding centre and a commercial fishing port. (Port Burwell is 42 km from St. Thomas and 38 km from Port Stanley in Southwestern Ontario.) There was even a rail terminal right on the lakefront that took goods from the village to more remote locations throughout Canada. Decommissioned in 1962, the lighthouse is now a maritime history museum and is in excellent repair. It is open for tours, and one can climb to the top if desired. To access it, take Route 42 into the town of Port Burwell, then head south on Route 19. You’ll spot the lighthouse on the right hand side of the road.
Chantry Island Lighthouse
Located on Lake Huron’s Chantry Island (about 20 km from Sauble Beach), which is also a bird sanctuary, this lighthouse is just a 15 minute boat ride from Southampton, and was built in the mid-1800s. Today, it has been beautifully restored, and even the light keeper’s cottage has been furnished with period pieces. Only open on select dates between May and September due to the needs of the birds that nest here, the lighthouse is a fantastic destination. Tours are offered through the Marine Heritage Society.
These are only a few of the many lighthouses you can photograph or even explore as you travel in Ontario. The Marine Heritage Society and other organizations actively promote lighthouse tours and restora