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Nancy Island Wasaga Beach

I had the privilege of having a tour of the historic Nancy Island site in Wasaga Beach recently. I was a guest of the Superintendent at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, John Fisher, Chief Park naturalist Marina Opitz, volunteer Rob Potter and Peter Willmott from the Friends of Nancy Island.

The Nancy Island Historic Site along the Nottawasaga River has served as a historic site since 1928 and remains one of the most photographed landmarks in Wasaga Beach.

Left-to-right: Simcoe-Grey MPP Brian Saunderson, Chief Park naturalist Marina Opitz, Friends of Nancy Island member Peter Willmott, Provincial Park Superintendent John Fisher, volunteer Rob Potter.

When you enter the main building you are immediately immersed in the history of Wasaga Beach and reminded of the events of the war of 1812 and the local battles that resulted in the tragic burning and sinking of the Nancy in 1814.

Nancy Island is the most viable site to the War of 1812 in Simcoe County and the Georgian Bay region as it represents a major event during the War of 1812. History tells us the HMS Nancy was forced to inter into battle against three American schooners on August 14th,1814.   Displays, a video and conversations with staff members and costumed interpreters describe in detail this pivotal moment in Canadian history.  Canadian borders today are a direct result of the battles waged by the crew members of the Nancy.

“I was treated to an up-close visit with the salvaged hull of the Nancy. It was quite amazing to see the burned out section of the hull that has survived since sinking in 1814. Standing beside the hull you can actually smell the smoke … truly amazing.”

It is important to note The Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to furthering the educational and interpretive programs of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park and Nancy Island Historic Site.

Nancy Island in Wasaga Beach represents an important part of the history of Wasaga Beach, Simcoe-Grey, Ontario and Canada. The site experienced flooding during the high water events of a few years ago, as did other parts of Wasaga Beach and South Georgian Bay shoreline communities. Over 40 trees had to be removed from Nancy Island because of the flooding event. Historic high water events were followed by COVID-19 lockdown periods. Park Superintendent John Fisher said this year the site will operate for approximately 50 days, down considerably from past years’ numbers. He said said the return of special events to the site, like the former Jazz in the Park evenings, would help boost visitor numbers. “We will be open into the fall season this year but we need to find more opportunities to get more people on the site again” Fisher said.

Over the years, the provincial park and municipality have worked together on many initiatives. This year they are working together to improve the appearance of wayfinding signs throughout Wasaga Beach. The signs belong to the provincial park but will appear on municipally owned property. Fisher said a great deal of infrastructure overlaps between the provincial park and municipality, and he hopes both parties can continue to successfully work together on future projects.

Today, the site is open to the public but staffing issues can sometimes play havoc with hours of operation. The past few years have not been easy for most tourism operators in the region including Nancy Island. “There is work to be done to ensure the future of this incredibly important facility is respected and looked after. What we see here is living history and it is important the site’s facilities remain up to date and that every effort is made to protect and respect the importance of the hull.”

One of the region’s most photographed structures is actually a theatre and Education Centre on Nancy Island
Visitors to Nancy Island are treated to a video to learn more about the history of the sinking of the Nancy
John Fisher, Marina Opitz, MPP Saunderson and Rob Potter at the theatre entrance
Just steps from the burned out hull of the Nancy is this grave of an Unknown Soldier who lost his life in the War of 1812
Peter Willmott, Rob Potter and MPP Saunderson pay their respects at the grave of the Unknown Soldier on Nancy Island
MPP Brian Saunderson views a model replica of the Nancy from the viewing area. Behind him is the actual burned out hull of the vessel
Yes, the question was asked … what could possibly go wrong?

CLICK HERE to visit the Nancy Island website to learn more about hours of operation, ways to donate and for a list of special events.