Ontario’s Most Unusual Sights

Guest blog by Ron Brown

“Nobody knows Ontario like Ron Brown” is how the CBC once described this author, geographer, and travel writer. Ron Brown has long had a love affair with the landscapes of Canada. His travel pieces have been published in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Geographic Magazine, and VIA Rail Magazine. Here are his picks for the most unique sights in Ontario.

Lake Erie has been long noted for its maritime lore; naval battles, rum running, and countless shipwrecks, even a “monster.” Now comes a Cold War submarine barged from Halifax and then dragged on shore in the picturesque fishing village of Port Burwell, southwest of Tillsonburg. Standing 5 stories high from keel to conning tower, and stretching almost the length of a Canadian football field, the HMCS Ojibwa served our fleet from 1964 until 1997. To celebrate the centennial of Canada’s navy, the Elgin County Military Museum hauled the giant vessel to its resting place in 2012, and now guides the public through the torpedo room and the cramped living quarters for the 42 submariners.

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Toronto’s vanishing heritage is recalled in the Guild Inn’s “garden of ruins” where former Guild Inn owner Herbert Spencer Clarke rescued remnants of the city’s demolished buildings, including columns, arches, and pillars from such historic landmarks as the Bank of Toronto, Bank of Canada, and the U of T’s Faculty of Medicine. More than 60 such ruins dot the garden behind the inn, attracting wedding photographers and visitors alike. While the Guild Inn itself, located on Guildwood Parkway in Scarboro, awaits new owners, the “garden of ruins” is maintained by Toronto Parks.

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Gone is the giant thermometer which once proclaimed White River Ontario to be Canada’s coldest spot. In its place stands an oversized statue of Winnie the Pooh. On the platform of the town’s train station in 1914, Canadian army veterinarian CPT Harry Colbourn bought a bear cub and named her “Winnipeg” after his home town. Leaving England, he donated her, then nicknamed “Winnie,” to the London Zoo where Christopher Robin Milne’s love for the friendly bear inspired his father A.A. Milne to create his enduring children’s books. Travellers to White River can visit the Winnie the Pooh displays in the tourism centre or even recreate Colbourne’s train journey on VIA Rail’s 3-times-weekly Sudbury to White River train, the Superior.

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