Renfrew Ontario, is a place that offers the best of both worlds—a charming, historic downtown brimming with unique shops and a vibrant community surrounded by stunning natural beauty. As I explored this hidden gem, I couldn’t help but fall in love with its rich history, warm hospitality, and diverse attractions.
A Walk Through Renfrew’s Historic Downtown
Renfrew’s historic downtown is a treasure trove of experiences, from quaint specialty stores to convenient big box retailers along O’Brien Street. The best part? Free parking makes exploring this area a breeze. As I strolled through the streets, I couldn’t help but notice the majestic O’Brien Theatre, the NHA/NHL Birthplace Museum, the charming library, and the historic Post Office, all adding to the town’s unique character.
Exploring Renfrew’s Natural Beauty
Renfrew’s natural beauty captivated me as I ventured beyond the historic downtown. The 3.2-kilometer Millennium Trail offered a serene escape into nature, providing the perfect setting for a leisurely walk and some much-needed relaxation.
Seasons of Renfrew: A Year-Round Experience
Renfrew is a town that thrives in all seasons. Nestled in the heart of the Ottawa Valley, it’s surrounded by pristine forests, farmland, and waterways. Whether you visit in spring, summer, fall, or winter, Renfrew has something special to offer, making it a year-round destination for travelers like me.
Outdoor Adventures and Recreation
For outdoor enthusiasts, Renfrew is a paradise. Ma-Te.Way Park, covering 147 acres, boasts a wide range of activities, from soccer pitches and ball diamonds to tennis and volleyball courts, not to mention an off-leash dog park. Whether you’re with family or friends, spending a day here is an absolute delight.
Unveiling Renfrew’s Fascinating History
Renfrew’s history is a captivating journey that begins with the Bonnechere River. Early European settlers navigated the river’s challenges, establishing the foundation of what is now Renfrew. With each step back in time, I felt a deeper connection to this town’s roots and the people who shaped it.
From Horton to Renfrewville
In its early days, Renfrew was known as Horton and was home to just three families. The census recorded a mere 21 people. As time passed, Scottish and French immigrants arrived, turning Renfrew into a thriving community centered around agriculture and industry.
Building a Town
The 1840s saw the birth of Renfrewville, with John Lorne McDougall opening the first store and later constructing the iconic grist mill. The town rapidly grew, boasting various businesses, from blacksmiths and breweries to post offices and doctors’ offices.
Bridging the Bonnechere
It’s hard to believe that there was no bridge across the Bonnechere River back then. The first bridge was built as a form of punishment for drunken fights in town, highlighting the town’s colorful history.
The Railways That Shaped Renfrew
The arrival of the railway in Renfrew brought newfound prosperity and connectivity. Lumber barons like MJ O’Brien and JR Booth played pivotal roles in the town’s development. The railways opened markets and connected Renfrew to the rest of Canada.
Modern Roads and Highways
Early roads in Renfrew were muddy and challenging, but today, the town boasts modern highways that facilitate travel. Highway 60 still passes through the center of town, offering a glimpse of Renfrew’s evolving transportation history.
MJ O’Brien: A Renfrew Legacy
MJ O’Brien’s influence on Renfrew was profound. He was not only a successful businessman but also a key figure in the birth of the National Hockey Association (NHA), the forerunner of the NHL. His mansion, still standing, serves as a reminder of his legacy.
Renfrew’s Claims to Fame
Renfrew has made its mark in various ways, from being the birthplace of the NHL to the first Canadian soldier injured in WWI. The town’s contributions to Canada’s history are immeasurable.
Shopping and Dining in Renfrew
Renfrew offers a delightful shopping experience with unique boutiques like Pick It Fence and artistic havens like the Art Factory. When it’s time to dine, the Bonnechere Bakery and Bistro, Sweet Tooths, Rocky Mountain House, and Odi’s Kingburger await with delicious culinary delights.
Immerse Yourself in Renfrew’s Museums and Attractions
Renfrew boasts a plethora of attractions to suit every age and interest. Visit museums, explore outdoor attractions, and take leisurely walks along the town’s beautiful trails. Don’t miss the Renfrew Cenotaph, the Renfrew Swinging Bridge, McDougall Mill Museum, and the Birthplace NHA/NHL Museum.
Renfrew, Ontario, is a place that leaves a lasting impression on anyone who visits. With its rich history, natural beauty, and welcoming community, it’s a destination worth discovering. So, pack your bags, and let Renfrew welcome and captivate you on your next adventure!