Orillia is a city of about 31,000 people (2016) in Ontario, 35 km northeast of Barrie.

Waterfront of Orillia

Understand edit

Known as the "Sunshine City", the city's large waterfront attracts many tourists to the area every year, as do a number of annual festivals and other cultural attractions. While the area's largest employer is Casino Rama, overall economic activity in Orillia is a mixture of many different industries including manufacturing, government services, customer service and tourism.

Orillia sits on the shores of two connected lakes: Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching. Both lakes are part of the Trent-Severn Waterway. Travel north on Lake Couchiching, then through three locks and the only marine railway in North America leads to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Travel south-east across Lake Simcoe, through many locks (including two of the highest hydraulic lift locks in the world) eventually leads to Lake Ontario. From either of these Great Lakes one can connect to the St. Lawrence and thence to the Atlantic Ocean.

Orillia draws visitors as a gateway to Lake Country, cottage country in Muskoka, Algonquin Provincial Park, the Trent–Severn Waterway and other natural attractions.

History edit

The history of the area dates back at least several thousand years. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of fishing by the Huron and Iroquois peoples in the area over 4,000 years ago, and of sites used by First Nations peoples for hundreds of years for trading, hunting, and fishing.

The French explorer Samuel de Champlain visited the area in the summer of 1615. He travelled over a trail used by the Hurons, Ojibways, French and British used as a fur-trading route. It would become the Coldwater Road centuries later. Champlain spent the winter with the Hurons in their chief village of Cahiague (near the current Warminster). A monument to Samuel de Champlain can also be found in Couchiching Beach Park and is a National Historic Site of Canada.

The government made treaties with the Hurons in 1798, 1815 and 1818 to gain land to the north and west of Lake Simcoe and then made grants to military veterans. In 1840, the government bought extra land from the First Nations and laid out the settlement of Orillia.

Transportation links with Toronto and Georgian Bay stimulated Orillia's development as a commercial centre and summer resort.

In Stephen Leacock's 1912 book Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Orillia was used as the basis for the fictional town known as "Mariposa". The book was based on Leacock's experiences in the town and since the book's release, the city has attempted to mimic the fictional location in as many ways as possible.

Orillia was the first municipality in North America to introduce daylight saving time and had the first municipal hydroelectric transmission plant in North America.

Get in edit

By car edit

Highways 11 and 12 combine on to the same road for a few blocks within Orillia. Highway 11 runs north and south, while Highway 12 runs east and west. Orillia can be reached from Toronto (1½ hours) by traveling north on Highway 400 and then either north on Highway 11. Orillia can be reached from Sudbury by traveling south on Highways 69 and 400 and then east on Highway 12. A branch of the Trans-Canada Highway passes through the area, traveling between Sudbury and Kanata (near Ottawa) on Highway 69 and 400, then Highway 12, then Highway 7, then Highway 417.

By bus edit

Get around edit

  • 1 Orillia Transit, +1 705-325-3975. Departures at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour from the terminal: M-F 6:15AM-10:15PM, Sa 8:45AM-7:45PM, Su 8:45AM-4:15PM; no service on holidays. Five routes run on loops that depart and end at the downtown bus terminal on the West St. and Mississaga St. intersection. $2.25 cash fare, children free.    

See edit

Leacock Museum and National Historic Site
  • 1 Stephen Leacock Museum, 50 Museum Dr, +1 705-329-1908. Museum: W-F 10AM-4PM. Stephen Leacock, Canada's beloved humourist spent his most creative time in what he called Lake Simcoe Country. The museum is in the writer's historic former house. $5.
  • The Lightfoot Trail System - including the Millennium Trail which is the longest trail in the world.
  • 2 The Orillia Opera House, 1 West Street N, +1 705-326-8011. This grand old building is at the corner of West St and Mississaga St. Professional theatre during the summer, concerts and educational programming throughout the year, and 200 performances presented by the local community.    
  • 3 Shaw Maple Syrup Production, #493 Oro-Medonte Line 14, RR#1 Hawkestone (Between Barrie and Orillia), +1 705-325-4347, . circa Feb-Apr depending on temperatures. Fun place where you can walk between the maple-trees and see the sap collection. There is a pancake and sausage restaurant, and tours with horse sleigh (wagon when no snow). Visits are free, $5 for horse tour, $10 for pancakes.
  • Orillia's Arts District, on Peter St. S., between Mississauga St. E. and Colborne St. E., is home to a variety of art galleries, fine dining and shops.
  • Orillia Museum of Art & History, 30 Peter St S, +1 705-326-2159, . M-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su 1PM-4PM. Considered the hub of art and culture for the city, plays an instrumental role in municipal cultural events. The museum occupies all four floors of the historic Sir Sam Steele Building, a landmark destination for residents and visitors. A collection of over 10,000 artefacts of regional historical significance features in a rotating exhibits schedule. On a separate floor is contemporary art space with exhibits featuring regional and international artists. The museum also features a designated education space and hosts activities including art-making and interpretive programming for children, artists, artisans, historians, etc. Suggested $5 donation.

Do edit

  • 1 Casino Rama, 5899 Rama Road, +1 705-329-3325. Casino Rama is a hotel, entertainment and shopping complex on the lands of the Rama First Nations, on the eastern shore of Lake Couchiching, just outside of Orillia.    
  • Spring Boat, Cottage and Outdoor Show: usually the middle weekend in June.
  • Perch Fishing Festival: Perch are netted, tagged, and released into the local lake, to be caught for prize money. This event also includes a large social gathering consisting of a "perch fry".
  • Christmas in June, at the Port of Orillia, includes a boat decorating contest and turkey buffet. Boat and cottage shows are held in June and August.
  • Canada Day - the largest such event in Central Ontario, at Couchiching Beach Park. The day begins with a traditional pancake breakfast served by the Mayor and Council, and ends with a large fireworks display.
  • 2 Mariposa Folk Festival. this festival is the longest running folk festival in Canada.    
  • The Leacock Medal Gala and Award ceremony is held each June at nearby Geneva Park to honour the best Canadian humorous book published the previous year. Tickets are for sale to the public.
  • Scottish Festival at Couchiching Beach Park and Centennial Park in July each year. Marching bands from around the country participate.
  • Other popular annual festivals include the Blues Festival, Jazz Festival, and Beatles Festival.
  • Lake St. George Golf Club is ten minutes north of Orillia.
  • Couchiching Beach Park, Centennial Park, and the Port of Orillia: the city's waterfront has an extensive lakeshore boardwalk, a large park with two beaches, several playgrounds, an outdoor theatre, a touring ferry, and a children's train.

Buy edit

Eat edit

Drink edit

  • West 22, 22 West Street South. Good people, beer and food.
  • Grape and Olive Wine and Martini Bistro, 400 Memorial Ave (at the Best Western Hotel), +1 705-238-5086. M-Th 7AM-10AM, 5PM-9PM; F 7AM-10AM, 5PM-9:30PM; Sa 7AM-11AM, 5PM-9:30PM; Su 7AM-11AM, 5PM-9PM.

Sleep edit

Connect edit

Ontario's Lake Country

Go next edit

Orillia is a good central location to start with if travelling back and forth to several locations in Southern Ontario. Muskoka, including Gravenhurst, Huntsville, and Parry Sound is nearby to the north continuing up to North Bay and Sudbury. To the south down Highway 400 is Barrie, and Toronto. A few hours along highway 7 to the east is Ottawa.

Routes through Orillia
North BayWashago  N   S  BarrieENDS
MidlandWaubaushene  W    S  BrockWhitby

This city travel guide to Orillia is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.