Yours to Discover: Tourism in Ontario through Time: Impact of Improved  Transportation: The Lure of the Wilderness - Page Banner

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The lure of the wilderness and the stunning beauty of the Canadian Shield drew people into the Muskoka Lakes Region. Outdoor enthusiasts looking to hunt and fish may have been the first tourists. The lodges that sprang up to serve them were the beginning of a thriving tourist industry of summer resorts. 

The accessibility afforded by railway and steamship made the Muskoka Lakes popular with Torontonians and wealthy Americans from New York, Pennsylvania and other eastern States. Visitors could get to Muskoka from southern Ontario in just a few hours or from New York in just one day.

Photo: Two men fishing in a boat, [ca. 1905]
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Two men fishing in a boat, [ca. 1905]
Melvin O. Hammond
Lantern Slide
M. O. Hammond fonds
Reference Code: F 1075-15-0-0-79
Archives of Ontario, I0016653

Photo: Passengers waiting for a steamer to dock, Muskoka, [189?]
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Passengers waiting for a steamer to dock, Muskoka, [189?]
John Boyd
Black and white print
John Boyd fonds
Reference Code: C 7-3, 0534
Archives of Ontario, I0003276


Resorts and hotels were being built throughout Ontario as more people sought recreation and relaxation on Ontario’s lakes.

Muskoka Lakes alone had over 100 hotels by World War I. But there were also hotels in the Thousand Islands, on Georgian Bay, and along the shores of the Great Lakes.

Click to see a larger image (84K)
Allistonia Hotel, Wasaga Beach, [ca. 1925]
Ministry of Education
Reference Code: RG 2-71, COW-40
Archives of Ontario, I0012505

Photo: Allistonia Hotel, Wasaga Beach, [ca. 1925]

Photo: Alexandria Bay, Thousand Island house (hotel), [ca. 1875]
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Alexandria Bay, Thousand Island house (hotel), [ca. 1875]
William Barrow
William Barrow fonds
Reference Code: F 4398-0-0-0-26
Archives of Ontario, I0009577

Photo: Delawana Inn [at Honey Harbour], [between 1910 and 1930]
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Delawana Inn [at Honey Harbour]
[between 1910 and 1930]
Ministry of Education
Reference Code: RG 2-71, COH-13
Archives of Ontario, I0012388

Photo: Boat at the dock for the Royal Hotel in Honey Harbour, [ca. 1915]
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Boat at the dock for the Royal Hotel in
Honey Harbour, [ca. 1915]
Ministry of Education
Black and white print
Reference Code: RG 2-71, COH-10
Archives of Ontario, I0004102


Some companies, such as the Peterborough and Lake Ontario Navigation Company Limited, produced maps showing the water routes to tourist areas along with images of the resorts in those locations.

Map showing the water route from Peterborough to Lake Ontario via the Trent and Otonabee Rivers, [1910?]
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Map showing the water route from Peterborough
to Lake Ontario via the Trent and Otonabee Rivers, [1910?]
Peterboro & Lake Simcoe Navigation Co. Limited
Reference Code: B-50-03
Archives of Ontario, I0026639


As areas in Southern Ontario became more crowded, those looking for a more authentic wilderness experience pushed north into the region of Lake Superior and Northern Ontario.

Photo: Two men on a riverside cliff in the Lake Nipigon and Armstrong region, [ca. 1915]

Photo: Tourist sitting with the fish he has just caught at a summer resort in Northern Ontario, [ca. 1930]
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Tourist sitting with the fish he has just caught at a
summer resort in Northern Ontario, [ca. 1930]
Ministry of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-30-2, 1.5.6
Archives of Ontario, I0005251

Photo: Lady Evelyn House, Temagami, [ca. 1907]
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Lady Evelyn House, Temagami, [ca. 1907]
Department of Mines and Northern Affairs
Reference Code: RG 13-30-1-7
Archives of Ontario, I0004660

Click to see a larger image (287K)
Two men on a riverside cliff in the Lake Nipigon and Armstrong region, [ca. 1915]
Photographer unknown, possibly Frank X. Amoss
Frank X. Amoss fonds
Reference Code: C 156-4-0-6-9
Archives of Ontario, I0021534

Photo: Steamship, Northern Ontario, [190?]
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Steamship, Northern Ontario, [190?]
William Hampden Tenner
Glass plate negative
Reference Code: C 311-1-0-31.1-1
Archives of Ontario, I0002393