The Trent River was known to the Mississauga First Nation as Sangichiwigewonk, or 'fast flowing.' It was named by European settlers after the River Trent in England.
French explorer Samuel de Champlain followed the Trent passing through Trenton in 1615. The area around the mouth of the Trent River was first settled by Europeans in the 1780s. Assorted settlements and town plots in the area went under a number of names, until the Village of Trenton was incorporated in 1853. Trenton grew thanks to its port location and the area's lumber industry. During the First World War, the town was home to a major munitions plant owned by the British Chemical Company. This facility was built in 1915 to manufacture artillery, rifle, and small arms ammunition. Three weeks before the Armistice, an explosion levelled the plant. Remains of the old plant can still be found today.
Trenton was also an important film production centre. In 1917, a film studio was built in the town and a number of productions were filmed there. The advent of talkies and 16mm film made the equipment at the film plant obsolete and the facility closed in 1934.
The construction of a RCAF Station Trenton, a major Royal Canadian Air Force base just east of Trenton, started in 1929 and continued through the 1930s. This provided a major economic boost to the area through the Great Depression, the Second World War and later.
In 1998, Trenton was amalgamated with the Village of Frankford and the Townships of Murray and Sidney to form the City of Quinte West. Trenton is the largest community within the municipality.
The city is on a section of Highway 401 designated the "Highway of Heroes" and is about two hours east of Toronto and one hour west of Kingston. The former Ontario Highway 2 passes through the base and the city's downtown; Trenton is also the western terminus of the Loyalist Parkway (former Ontario Highway 33) which leads to Prince Edward County.
Trenton serves as a terminus on the Trent-Severn waterway, a canal system which reaches Peterborough (Ontario).
While Trenton's location at part of the Windsor-Quebec corridor places it on key lines served by many intercity bus and train routes, most runs are express services which do not stop in the city. Slightly better service is available in nearby Belleville.
As home of Canada's largest air force base, Trenton serves primarily military flights; the final flight path for fallen Canadian soldiers led from Afghanistan to Trenton by air, then followed the "Highway of Heroes" from Trenton to Toronto.
Scheduled passenger services are provided on a limited basis by:
- Coach Canada/Megabus, toll-free: . Bus to Toronto Pearson airport (YYZ IATA)
- Greyhound, Front Street Variety, 442 Front St, toll-free: . Intercity bus
- Trenton Junction, 18277B Telephone Rd, Trenton K8V 5P9, toll-free: . VIA Rail's station is an unstaffed shelter on the Toronto-Montréal/Ottawa line. No tickets are sold on-site.
The best way to get around Quinte West is by automobile. There are three local transit routes; limited commuter service runs to Belleville.
- National Air Force Museum of Canada, 220 RCAF Road (8 Wing/CFB Trenton), ☏ , toll-free: . 10AM-5PM. Restoration of military aircraft, including North America's only Halifax Bomber. free.
- CFB Trenton (8 Wing). Canada's largest air force base.
- Bay of Quinte Community Players, 55 King St, ☏ , toll-free: .
- Old Church Theatre, 940 Bonisteel Road, Johnstown, ☏ . Former 1876 Methodist church, now a community centre.
- Trenton Golf Club, 292 King St, ☏ . Nine-hole golf course.
- Trenton is a hot spot for sport fishing. Popular freshwater fish in the Bay of Quinte and the Trent River include walleye (pickerel), bass, pike, perch, and mudcat. During particular times of the year, salmon and rainbow trout can be caught in the Trent River and in cold-water streams in the area.
- Each year at the beginning of May, the Kiwanis Club of Trenton holds the Kiwanis Walleye World Fishing Derby, attracting sport fishermen from around North America (more than 5,000 in 2018) with major prizes for tagged fish and heaviest weighed walleye and Northern pike.
- Front Street Farmers' Market, Front Street along Trent River waterfront. May-Nov:Th Sa 7AM-2PM.
- The city's downtown business district is centred around Dundas Street (old Highway 2).
Various signed routes proclaim the region to be part of the "Apple Route" (extending westward), the "Arts Trail" (extending eastward through Hastings County) or the "Wine Route" (extending southeast into Prince Edward County). Apples and strawberries may be gathered in-season at various farms and orchards in the region.
- The Celtic Pub, 58 King St, Trenton. Daily 11AM-2AM.
- The Port Bistro Pub, 21 Front St, Trenton, ☏ . Tu-Th 4-10PM, F Sa noon-11PM, Su noon-9PM. Gastropub with weekly live music.
- Comfort Inn Trenton, 68 Monogram Place, Trenton K8V 6S3 (401 exit #562), ☏ , fax: . Slightly above $100/night.
- Ramada Inn, 99 Glen Miller Road, Trenton, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Former Holiday Inn adjacent to Highway 401.
- Travelodge Trenton, 598 Old Hwy 2, Trenton K8V 5P5, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM.
- Cedar Cove Campground, 79 Carter Road, RR 2 Carrying Place K0K 1L0, ☏ , fax: . Outdoor pool, fishing, paddleboats.
- ONroute, Ontario Highway 401. Rest stops in each direction offer one hour free Wi-Fi to motorists.
- Brighton Applefest, On main street and King Edward Park. Annual weekend festival, late September, various locations. BBQ, dog show, children's village, dances, street fair, car show, arts and crafts show, dinners, Sunday parade.
- Memory Junction, 60 Maplewood St. S., Brighton, ☏ . One of nine remaining 1856 Grand Trunk wayside stations (of 32 or 34 that were built) on the Montréal-Toronto-Sarnia main line, now a rail museum (the train no longer stops in Brighton). Rail and local memorabilia, steam engine, box cars, souvenir shop.
- Presqu'ile Provincial Park, 1 Bayshore Rd, Brighton, ☏ . Waterfront park with Ontario's second-oldest operating lighthouse and original lighthouse keeper's cottage.
- Proctor House Museum, 96 Yonge St., Brighton, ☏ . Local 1850s merchant's home with wishing well, barn and carriage house.
|Routes through Trenton|
|Toronto ← Cobourg ←||W E||→ Belleville → Kingston|
|Toronto ← Cobourg ←||W E||→ Belleville → Kingston|
|Trent-Severn Waterway ←||N E||→ Prince Edward County → ferry → Kingston|