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Port Hope Ontario:
Heritage Destination

Port Hope Ontario is a busy tourist spot during the Spring, Summer, and Autumn months, starting with its 'Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny' 'boat' race in early April when the melting snow swells the normally normally placid Ganaraska River into a rushing torrent.

You'll find Port Hope about two hours drive east from Toronto along Highway 401.

It began as a port for local farmers and loggers to get their products out to the wider world.

And, like many towns in Ontario and the western world, it's boom period was from mid-Victorian days to quite recently, say the 1980's, when manufacturing moved away to cheaper places. 

Port Hope Ontario -- Attractions

Port Hope Ontario, Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny Boat Race

Today the population of around 17,000 is focused mainly on service industries, of which tourism is one.

With the removal of heavy manufacturing, the town has returned to a prettier, more human, appearance. 

Such as the event in this photo -- 'float your fanny down the ganny', the Ganaraska River, that is. See more below.

Port Hope Ontario, Main Street shops

Nowhere is that 'prettiness' more evident than in the buildings on main street, as well as in its old churches.

In many parts of the world, different churches competed down the centuries to build the 'biggest', or 'highest steeple' or whatever. 

Port Hope Ontario, church

In Port Hope the race was obviously for the 'biggest church' and the town is dominated by churches that would be cathedrals in many a European city.

Such competition may have been a bit silly but the results add genuine grandeur to this relatively small country town.

Even the new brick-built Catholic Church (not shown) is huge. The folks in Port Hope Ontario have to be a pretty devout lot to fill these places every Sunday.

Port Hope Ontario, Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny Race

The Ganaraska River running through town, and the reason the town began, is generally a pleasant brook but when the snow melts in spring it can become a torrent and occasionally a problem, like in 1980 when it flooded the town.

From this unfortunate event, the townsfolk began an annual 'boat' race in commemoration.

Now every year the race has all sorts of canoes, kayaks, and home-made vessels paddling down the river from a point north of Port Hope Ontario to a finish line near Barrett Street -- in town and about half a mile upstream from the river mouth.

The year these photos were taken was a 'dry' winter with little snow or ice to melt and the river was very low for the race, as our pictures show. [Btw, for any British visitors to the site, the 'fanny' in the race name is a North American one and not so very 'rude':-)] 

Port Hope Ontario, Lantern Inn and Restaurant

Over the old Walton Street (Hwy 2 on your Ontario map) bridge in downtown, is the Lantern Inn and Suites, a beautifully renovated 1845 hotel catering to today's visitors with 1840's decor rooms and a 1920's Paris lobby.

It also has a fine dining restaurant that's worth a visit even if you aren't staying at the hotel. 

Port Hope Ontario, Walton Street heritage buildings

Back along Walton Street, is the principal visitor shopping area of cafes, restaurants, antiques and book shops, as well as chic gift and clothing shops.

This area of town is considered by many to be the best preserved 19th Century street in Ontario. Not only that, with nearly 300 heritage designated buildings, the town has Ontario's highest density of preservation. Or, to put it simply, you can see more historical buildings here per square foot than anywhere else in the Province. 

Port Hope Ontario, Ganaraska Hotel heritage building

One other fine old hotel in downtown is the Ganaraska Hotel.

This hotel has taken a modern route to continued success with big-screen TVs showing sports, karaoke, and live R&B and Rock bands throughout the summer months. 

Port Hope Ontario, church buildings

One way you can enjoy these and other heritage buildings is to take part in the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) House and Garden Tours that take place in July (gardens) and October (houses).

Port Hope Ontario harbor, down Queen or John Streets from Hwy 2, is a recreational spot for small craft nowadays and home to the Port Hope Yacht Club. 

Other Points of Interest include:

The Canadian Firefighters Museum on Mill Street, which is open 7 days a week from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving. Call them at 905.885.8985 for exact information.

The Capitol Theatre, Ontario's only remaining 'atmospheric theatre', upgraded in 2005, has sky and clouds projected onto the ceiling to give the feel of being outdoors without you actually getting rained on.

Port Hope drive-in, one of the oldest in Canada, opens in May and runs throughout the warmer months. Call 905-434-8233 for show times.

The All-Canadian Jazz Festival, held in September, lasts for three days and includes a parade through town - very Bourbon Street!

The Farmers Market and Agricultural Fall Fair is held in late September, the third week usually.

Ganaraska trail is about 500 km long, wending its way from Port Hope north and west to the Bruce Trail near Collingwood. Ganaraska Forest has hundreds of kilometres of trails for walking, horseback and mountain bike riding, cross-country skiing, ATV and other off-road vehicles, hunting and snowmobiling.

The Vintage Film Festival, 'vintage' meaning films made before 1945 and particularly those that feature Marie Dressler - the local (nearby Cobourg) girl who became one of the movie industry's earliest and greatest stars.

While we're talking entertainment, the town boasts a fine theatre -- the Festival Theatre. It's open from June to end of August, call them at 905.885.1071 for details.

If you like old world charm, shopping and a waterside location, Port Perry is another such a place for you to visit.

For more information about Port Hope, visit their website at Port Hope Ontario. 

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