Story by Mark King
Situated at the eastern gateway to this famed tourism region, Brockville truly is “The City of the 1000 Islands”. Brockville, Ontario has a great deal to offer rvers and boaters, whether you’re looking for a permanent campsite or dock, considering a destination vacation, or just passing through.
Named after Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, – there is a statue of him in front of the Court House – Brockville has a small town feel and large city amenities. The city celebrates its history while building for its future.
Brockville is the only municipality in the 1000 Islands region that owns islands along the eastern end of the 1000 Islands and they maintain them for public enjoyment. There are 17 Islands in the group.
They are available to the public and can be accessed mid-May to mid-October and docking is available on six of them for day use and overnight mooring. Camping is also available and if you are planning a summer-long stay, seasonal permits are available for some of the other islands in the group.
Booking well in advance is recommended as the islands are popular among locals and transients.
The city operates the municipal harbour seasonally from mid-May to mid-October each year. Transient slips and seasonal dockage are both available.
The harbour is located by Blockhouse Island and can accommodate boats up to 46 feet with a maximum beam of 17 feet. Slips are available in the two adjoining dock systems of Tunnel Bay and Ernie Fox Quay.
A full range of services are available and fuel, pump outs, and other services are available close by at Tallships Marina.
Waterfront Parks and Trails
Park facilities and amenities are plentiful in Brockville with several waterfront parks that you can enjoy as well as trails and conservation areas that connect to the Mac Johnson Conservation Area. A large portion of the waterfront is publicly accessible through the city’s parkland.
Blockhouse Island Park is the first park you will see as it envelops the harbour and is centrally located in Brockville’s downtown core.
At its entrance you will find the Brockville Railway Tunnel and throughout the year you will enjoy many festivals and events including the 1000 Islands Poker Run, the 1000 Islands Regatta, the Brockville River of Lights, and every three years the Brockville Tall Ships Festival.
There is an outdoor restaurant, public washrooms, children’s play structure and lots of area for lounging and enjoying the outdoors by the water.
Straight up the street into Brockville – and uphill – is Court House Square. The view to the south from this location is fantastic as it overlooks the downtown core and the harbour.
A clock tower is at the north end, and the courthouse lawns and gardens provide a peaceful setting in the heart of the city.
The walk to Courthouse Square from the marina takes you past the War Memorial and the town fountain.
In the square you will find the statue of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock and on the courthouse building look for the statue of Sally Grant. Many people believed that this person really existed. Sally Grant was named in 1841. The original was made of cedar. Eventually she had to be restored and in 1981 they made a new statue, named Sally Grant 2.
Centeen Park is located in the east end of the city and is popular for scuba divers. Dive benches and dedicated stairways offer easy access to the river, nearby shipwrecks and Canada’s first underwater sculpture park.
It is also the end point of the Brock Trail which connects all through the city.
A few blocks to the west of the marina is the combined Hardy Park and Centennial Park with shade trees, a fully accessible playground, bocce ball and volleyball courts, a gazebo and a walkway along the water.
In the summer the park hosts free Sunday concerts and the popular RibFest.
A couple of blocks further to the west and across from a major grocery store, lies Rotary Park, with year-round recreational amenities for all ages such as an accessible splash pad play area, Ontario’s first paved bicycle pump track, a basketball court and a connection to the Brock Trail.
A camping facility, St. Lawrence Park even further to the west offers a sandy beach and scenic camp sites for guests along the waterfront.
The Brock Trail with its fully paved paths and boardwalks is fully accessible. Along its course are terrific views and historic plaques.
The 10 km trail begins by the marina at the Railway Tunnel with a short extension to the Canteen Park. The trail winds westerly along the downtown waterfront, part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, before heading northward following Buell’s Creek through to Central Avenue. A trail extension connects over to St. Lawrence Park in the west via Church Street. The trail follows the creek north through to the St. Lawrence College grounds and up to the newest link of the trail all the way up to Centennial Road. The Brock Trail ends here at the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority’s Mac Johnson Wildlife Area.
Canada’s first railway tunnel is a free attraction that begins at the north end of the Blockhouse Island Parkway, by the marina. It runs for half a kilometer under the city and features a sound and light show as well as 13 historic plaques that explain early railroading and tunnel construction.
It is a must-see attraction that the whole family can enjoy from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Entrance is free but donation boxes are available. No reservations are required.
The tunnel was built between 1854 and 1860 to allow the fledging Brockville and Ottawa Railway to connect the Brockville industrial waterfront area to the outlying areas lying between the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers.
A unique museum in the heart of the city, the Aquatarium mixes science and education in a fun and hands-on atmosphere.
Located along the St. Lawrence River within a block of the harbour, the facility is a climate-controlled aquarium and a discovery centre featuring hands-on exhibits and interactive sessions that bring knowledge of the 1000 Islands to life. Learn all about the aquatic animals and wildlife of the region through colourful and imaginative exhibits.
Brockville Arts Center
The Brockville Arts Center is a beautifully restored heritage theatre that presents some of the best live theatre and concerts in the 1000 Islands.
It is fully accessible and licensed by the LLBO.
Events such as theatrical performances and concerts, take place all year round.
Accessible within a short walk from the marina, the Brockville Museum offers a glimpse into the social and industrial history of Ontario’s first incorporated town. Through a variety of thematic and interpretive displays, the Brockville Museum shares the stories of the people who have shaped this riverfront community for over 200 years. You should plan to spend a minimum of one hour reviewing Brockville’s history from motor car production to military contributions.
One of the oldest buildings in the city, The Brockville Court House, offers a glimpse of 18th-century architecture. Though renovated a couple of times, it still preserves its Neo-Classical charm. This courthouse was built in 1808. In 1811, they added bricks to the building. In 1824 it was replaced with a bigger building. The last courthouse was built in 1843 which is the one we see now.
Fulford Place Museum is a mansion home that belonged to Canadian businessman and politician Senator George Taylor Fulford, known for his “Pink Pills for Pale People.” Now a museum, this mansion has numerous family furnishings and original artifacts. Designated as a national historic site of Canada, you can see a glimpse of the grand lifestyle during the Edwardian era. The mansion is dotted with several statues, paintings, and ceramics along with a beautiful butterfly Steinway piano.
There are several other historic buildings of note in Brockville as well, including the Brockville Armouries which is home to the Brockville Rifles.
The Brockville Rifles is a reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Army. The formation of The Brockville Rifles pre-dates Canadian Confederation being formed on October 5th, 1866.
Walking through the downtown core and near the Courthouse square reveals several other historic buildings.
Brockville has a variety of eateries and entertainment venues that cater to every taste, from full-course sit down meals in elegant historic surroundings to traditional style take-out fish and chips delivered in newspaper.
Moose McGuire’s Pub and Grill in Brockville is the perfect welcoming neighbourhood hangout, where locals and visitors alike can unwind and enjoy good company. Step into the warm, laid-back atmosphere and savour the perfect blend of hearty food, refreshing drinks, and friendly camaraderie. Moose McGuire’s is the ideal spot to stop for lunch on your way up the St. Lawrence River during the 1000 Islands Poker Runs.
You can view the full selection at https://brockvilletourism.com/eat-drink/.
Shopping and Getting Around
From unique specialty shops in the downtown core to larger retail stores, Brockville has a large selection of shopping opportunities whether you wish to browse or are picking up supplies.
Groceries and other necessities are available within a few blocks of the marina and public transportation and taxis are available to take you to the major retail outlets north of Highway 401.