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Steamships used to be the way to see Innisfil, Lake Simcoe

Steamships used fo stop at a wharf where tourists would stay at the Peninsular Park Hotel
The Islay steamship at the Big Bay Point dock. The Innisfil Historical Society has several photos of steamships in its collection Simcoe County Archives photo

If you’ve ever had to drive around Lake Simcoe, you may have wished for a more direct route. 

Well, when the road network wasn't as established in the 1800s and early 1900s, steamships were the way for tourists to get around the lake. 

Their legacy can still be seen around Innisfil today.

Town hall has on display a replica model of the Emily May, a steamship built in Belle Ewart in 1861 by Hugh Chisholm for Capt. Isaac May, and named after May’s daughter.

At 144 feet long, with a capacity of 400 passengers and a speed of 14 miles per hour, it was the largest steamer to sail on Lake Simcoe. The ship was in service for 21 years before being abandoned in 1883. The hull is near Belle Ewart Park today.

Innisfil Historical Society photos of the Otonabee, another steamship, show people boarding from a wharf near Degrassi Point. 

According to a historic plaque at Big Bay Point, steamships would stop at a wharf on the north side of the point, where tourists would often stay at the Peninsular Park hotel. 

The Otonabee reportedly burned near Big Bay Point in 1916.

Shane MacDonald, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance