Skip to main content

Location! Location! Location!

simple sketch map of Lake Ontario including illustrations of missionaries, battle, natives and river transportation. A red line has been added between Toronto (York) and Kingston with a circle indicating the location of Cobourg

Early map showing relationship of Cobourg to York/Toronto and Kingston.


Our story begins before there was a harbour, or even a Cobourg. But there was a lake, Lake Ontario, offering a ready means of transportation between the military and government establishments of Niagara, York (later Toronto) and Kingston.

black and white sketch of a homesteader standing in a small field pointing to a sailboat on a lake while looking towards a woman with a basket standing in the doorway of a log cabin. In the foreground are stumps of trees and a pile of rocks.

Illustration by Frank C. Taylor of the first home in Cobourg in 1798.


With most travel being by water, passers-by must have noticed the three streams which flowed from the height of land south of Rice Lake. They were an attraction for settlers as a source of clean water, fresh water fish and power to operate their mills.

Even before the first settlers built their homes near the lake in 1798, the area had become known as Hamilton Township. Its location,  a comfortable sail from both York and Kingston, soon made it a regular stopping off point for travellers.

small wooden boat lying slightly tilted on green grass and flying Union Jack flag. It has four sets of oarlocks and four thwarts, two with holes for sail masts.

The jolly boat – used to offload passengers from a larger off-shore vessel.


United Empire Loyalists and soldiers serving during the War of 1812 passed through and then often stayed.

However, in those early days the shore was swampy and, with no landing facilities, visitors often had to first download to a smaller jolly boat.