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Early Lakeshore Beginnings

in a dark blue night-time scene a sailboat lists to starboard with passengers on deck and starting to fall into the sea. Sails fore and aft are billowing.

Peter Rindlisbacher’s dramatic rendering of the last moments of HMS Speedy.


A marine tragedy in 1804 meant good news for the Hamilton area. HMS Speedy was carrying a number of prominent people from York to a trial in a new courthouse at Newcastle, near Presqu’ile Point.  Just before reaching its destination the Speedy sank in a storm with all hands aboard.  Not long after, Amherst, just inland from Hamilton (soon to be Cobourg), was chosen to replace Newcastle as the capital of the newly formed Newcastle District.

It was not until 1818 that the area received its present name, in honour of the marriage of Princess Charlotte of Wales to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

woman seated in a purple dress with white sleeves and bodice, looking over her left shoulder, brown hair in high curls. There is a picture, mostly clouds, in the left background.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales painted by George Dawe, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.


During those early years, many immigrants from Europe and the United States landed at Cobourg’s waterfront on their way elsewhere. As early as 1824, Irishman Peter Robinson brought immigrants to Cobourg on their way to their wilderness homes north of Rice Lake, to the area later known as Peterborough.

On the very beach where the Irish immigrants camped in their white tents long ago, a new generation of campers comes each summer to vacation at the Cobourg Trailer Park!

colour photograph with large blue sign identifying the Cobourg Trailer Park and across the dirt road under trees are some vacation trailer and two cars

Entrance to Cobourg’s popular Trailer Park.


In spite of its poor harbour facilities in those early days, Cobourg attracted many enterprising citizens of Upper Canada who opened new businesses.

As business rapidly increased, so did the desire to build a harbour.  While the natural advantages of the site were not great, the needs of the merchants were.