Wasaga Beach | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Wasaga Beach

Wasaga Beach, ON, incorporated as a town in 1974, population 24,862 (2021 census), 20,675 (2016 census). The Town of Wasaga Beach is located on the shores of Georgian Bay at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River, about 40 km northwest of Barrie. Wasaga Beach is the world's longest freshwater beach. The name was derived from the Nottawasaga River.


The area was the site of the Battle of the Nancy in the War of 1812. The Nancy, a British schooner, was pursued by three larger and better-armed American vessels. Discovered hidden upstream on the Nottawasaga River, the Nancy was pounded by the American vessels anchored in the bay, until it caught fire and sank. Over time its hull was covered by river silt, creating a small island. In 1928, the hull was raised and became the focal point of the Nancy Island Museum commemorating the battle.

Logging was carried out in the area from the 1830s to the 1890s. Settlement began in the area in 1870, when John Van Vlack purchased 28 hectares of land. In the early 1900s, hotels were built, attracting wealthy vacationers. This era ended with the ​Second World War, when the soldiers of Camp Borden, near Barrie, flocked to Wasaga Beach during the summer. Cheaper accommodations and other recreational and commercial establishments replaced the grand hotels.

Tourism continues to dominate the local economy. In recent years the town has developed more of a year-round community, as many residents commute to work elsewhere, and there has been a boom in residential construction. Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, with its beaches, dunes and trails, is located within the town's boundaries.

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