Friday, May 31, 2013

Discovery Harbour - Penetanguishene

Discovery Harbour is a historic site, sort of like Pioneer Village, but centred around the large old ships docked permanently in Penetanguishene Bay.  Penetanguishene, by the way, is a bilingual community located on the Southern tip of Georgian Bay, about 90 minutes north of Toronto.

Checking out one of the ships at Discovery Harbour.
The site is a lot of fun and not too expensive, a family of four can get in for under $30.  I am firmly of the opinion that  "there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."  It turns out lots of kids share this opinion.

Swabbing the poop deck.  See?  Even mopping is fun on a boat.
 In addition to the boats with all of their ladders and rigging which is pretty fascinating to kids (and me!) there is also a small village dating from around 1820 and features several buildings to poke around in.

About to pen a masterpiece.
Kids can try their hands at writing with quills made from seagull feathers in one building.  My older daughter loved this and would have spent half the day there writing with her feather pen.  One word of caution, if you have left handed kids (like me!) they will need to have a good wash afterwards since they drag the ink across the page as they write.

A plane?  A saw?  
Old fashioned tools were on hand to try in the workshop.  Hmmm....  a small child and a sharp tool that is pulled towards her tender midsection.  That could probably be chalked up to questionable parenting.  Oh well, alls well that ends well, eh?

Bling Blang, hammer with my hammer.
What harm could she do with a hammer that she couldn't do with that sharp metal thing above?  The workshop was a huge hit with my kids.  They loved trying out the tools and hoisting buckets of bricks using pulleys.  One thing I learned on this trip was I need to put my kids to work. They apparently love mopping and hammering and hoisting and whatnot.

Old timey ring toss.  For some reason it is more fun than regular ring toss.

You can also try out some games and learn some sea shanties from the staff in the sailor's quarters.

Why are the hammocks in the sailor's quarters so funny?
 Because she is lying on top of her sister.
The Commanding Officer's house has lots of old fashioned games that the kids can try out, both inside and outside.

 Or take a break and have a cuddle with an old dolly and then try to steal said old dolly by putting it behind your back and casually walking sideways out of the room.

Sure, she looks sweet and innocent...
The young people who worked at Discovery Harbour when we were there were all nice and friendly and helpful with the activities but seemingly uninterested in history, or ships, or Canada or, you know, anything relevant to Discover Harbour. All except one young man named John who was totally gung ho about everything!  He followed around behind us giving us our own private little tour of the ships and explaining what everything did.  He was great.  Later he was part of the sea shanty singing group and he was totally gung ho about that too.  I want John to follow me around everywhere and explain things to me very enthusiastically!

Discover Harbour is great and there are a couple of other attractions in the area that you can combine it with and make a full day of your visit to Penetanguishine.  Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, the Martyrs' Shrine and Wye Marsh are only 20 minutes away and they offer reduced admission prices if you combine them with one of the other attractions.

One word of caution about Discovery Harbour.  There is only one place to eat at the site, a sit down restaurant called Captain Robert's Table Restaurant and it is not very good and not cheap.  So, I would recommend either bringing your food with you or planning the trip so that you eat in the town before or after.

UPDATE: Discovery Harbour has informed me that Captain Robert's is under new management.  If anyone tries it out let me know how it is these days.

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