Owen Sound has the trifecta of travel in Ontario: stunning geography, colourful history, and a vibrant arts scene. It rests on both the Niagara Escarpment and the Bruce Peninsula, blessing it with an abundance of natural beauty right on the doorstep. Visitors are drawn to the magnificent waterfalls throughout the area. Follow the trails from forest to city, as they connect with the Historic Walking Tour. Each spot highlights the stories from pioneering days to the Underground Railway and beyond. Then it’s time to find your groove and sway your hips with the live music scene bustling around the creative arts district. Lose yourself in the magic of Owen Sound, and you will never want to leave.
Where is Owen Sound?
Owen Sound is easily accessible from each of the compass points. To the south, visitors come to Owen Sound from provincial Highways 6 and 10; the latter was previously known as the historic Toronto-Sydenham Road with just over a 2 hour drive to Toronto. Highway 21 brings travellers from the west. To the east is County Road 26 as it shadows Georgian Bay with its scenic vistas and smooth roads. Finally, the Georgian Shores Marina provides mooring for private boats along with a friendly boat-community ready to show off Owen Sound’s key feature: the Water.
Things to Do in Owen Sound
Owen Sound is known for three things: stunning geography, colourful history, and the fantastic creative arts scene, especially with live music. Geographically, Owen Sound takes pride of place on the Niagara Escarpment and the Bruce Peninsula. The area’s biggest drawcard is the collection of waterfalls located less than 10 km from the downtown Visitor Centre. Inglis Falls, Jones Falls, and Weaver’s Creek Falls are all linked by marked trails and are part of the famous Bruce Trail.
Inglis Falls is the largest of the three, with an 18 metre cascade. It is located in the Inglis Falls Conservation Area, south of Owen Sound. The Falls are relatively close to the parking lot, with signage leading to viewing areas above and below. You will be blown away by this majestic force of nature surrounded by scenic walks just waiting to be explored. Equally impressive is Jones Falls, a little north of Inglis Falls. With the height of 12 metres, Jones is heard before it is seen, and it needs to be seen to be believed. Continue to follow Sydenham River back to Owen Sound, and you will reach Harrison Park and Weaver’s Creek Falls. After the intensity of Inglis and Jones, Weaver’s Creek Falls will be a moment of serenity and calm. Once you have attained peace, simply follow the boardwalk out of the forest and back to your adventures in Owen Sound.
The history of Owen Sound is just as inspiring as the geography. The best place to start for an all-inclusive experience is the Grey Roots Museum & Archives. The museum highlights the history of Grey County and Owen Sound, including early settlers. During summer, the museum also includes a heritage village with enthusiastic volunteers dressed in 19th-century costumes to recreate life in the village during pioneering days. The Museum also shines a light on other heritage sites in Owen Sound to continue the story, such as the Owen Sound Farmers’ Markets, held in the same location since 1868. Or Owen Sound’s Beth Ezekiel Synagogue, one of the few remaining examples of a small-town Ontario synagogue.
You can sometimes spot the museum volunteers performing at various entertainment venues around Owen Sound. The city has a strong reputation for its music scene and performing arts. Check out The Roxy Theatre for local theatre productions and live music performances. Owen Sound is also home to the Georgian Bay Symphony and the Owen Sound City Band, with both performing live throughout the year. For special occasions, buy your tickets early for the annual Summerfolk Music Festival, held in mid-August. Revellers come from far and wide for the three-day festival but they always stay a little longer to visit the waterfalls.
Owen Sound Neighbourhoods & Districts
Owen Sound holds plenty of small-town appeal, but it packs a punch in diversity across its many districts.
Downtown Owen Sound
This area is filled with independent character and boutique charm. In the summer, the leafy sidewalks are accompanied by vibrant flowers along the city streets. During winter, Downtown comes alive with the Festival of Northern Lights sparkling across the shops. Many of the stores take great pride in their heritage and architecture, featuring bright murals and public art on their buildings. Pick up a copy of the Historic Walking Tour to find them all.
Owen Sound Harbour
This area is the heart of the waterfront. It is the gateway to Georgian Bay and beyond. For the Marine History buffs, visit the Community Waterfront Heritage Centre with displays on the long history of settlement and marine transport in the area. There are also plenty of places to fish, with some of the world’s largest rainbow trout caught in Owen Sound.
This area is large enough to be considered its own neighbourhood! With more than 40-hectares of gardens, playgrounds, streams and hiking trails, it is easy to forget it is in the heart of the city! The park is also home to an open-air rink and bird sanctuary, complete with resident swans. Within the park is a commemorative cairn to honour the significant Black History of Owen Sound. From 1830 until the end of the American Civil War, escaped slaves made the arduous journey across the Canada-U.S. border through the Underground Railroad. The last “terminal” of the railroad was the Village of Sydenham, which is now known as Owen Sound. It is one of many beautiful features in a city filled with history and community-spirit.
Things to Know About Visiting Owen Sound
Owen Sound is the largest regional centre on the Bruce Peninsula and a great place to base yourself for further exploration. Here are some starting points to launch your next visit.
Where to go for a drink
Mudtown Station Brewery, located by the waterfront, was once a popular railway stop. Renovations have captured small moments in history and depicted them in beautiful heritage-inspired stained glass windows. The theme continues inside, along with a solid menu and a small craft brewery open for tastings each day, a nostalgia touch with a crafty modern twist.
Where to see local art
Owen Sound has many stunning galleries and museums, but bonus points go to “Artists’ Alley” off 2nd Avenue East. It hosts a wide array of murals and outdoor sculptures from local artists, many of whom are also exhibiting at the nearby Tom Thomson Art Gallery.
Owen Sound is famous for its annual fishing derbies with plenty of hotspots around the harbour. Rainbow Trout is always a favourite while others whisper about the Salmon further upstream in Sydenham River.