Early Resort Community
Wasaga Beach has a long history as a summer tourist destination. By the 1900’s, railways and roads had improved and visitors had greater access to Wasaga Beach. Hotels and cottages began to appear along the river and a steel bridge was constructed in 1909 across the Nottawasaga River which increased access to the beachfront. While the roads had improved, the beach was still the primary transportation route for cars, horses, and bicycles.
The resort community took off with the construction of the first hotel on the beach in 1912, the Capstan Inn. Though the original hotel burnt down in 1915, it was rebuilt and became an iconic landmark for the community. Not too long after, the Dardanella Dance Hall was built across from the Capstan Inn. Hotel guests would dress for dinner, then go to the dance hall for the evening. Over the next few decades several more hotels were built such as the Wasaga Inn, Breakers Hotel, Hiawatha Inn, and the Dyconia.
The increased access and accommodations drew larger crowds to Wasaga Beach and by the 1930’s larger establishments such as Playland Park began to appear. Playland Park was a permanent amusement area in Wasaga Beach from the 1930’s to the early 1980’s. It included a ferris wheel, carousel, bowling alley, arcade, wild mouse roller coaster, and other various carnival rides. It became a staple in every tourists visit to Wasaga Beach. By the Second World War as many as 100,000 people would flock to Wasaga Beach on sunny weekends.
Another popular activity on the beachfront was the motorcycle racing which took place between 1935 and 1950. The Wasaga Beach Races were the biggest events in Canada at the time and attracted up to 10,000 spectators. Some of the top American and Canadian riders came out race along Wasaga’s straight, sandy shore at speeds over 100 miles per hour!
While the days of motorcycles and cars on the beach are long gone, Wasaga Beach continues to be one of the top tourist locations in Ontario to this day, attracting up to two million visitors each year. For more information on the history of Wasaga Beach please visit the Welcome Centre where you can pick up a Heritage Walking Tour Brochure and explore more of Wasaga’s past!