United Empire Loyalists fleeing persecution in the United States settled here in 1798. The town began as a group of smaller villages such as Amherst and Hardscrabble, which were later named Hamilton. It was renamed Cobourg in 1818, in recognition of the marriage of Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, who would later become King of Belgium.
By the 1830s Cobourg had become a regional centre because of its harbour on Lake Ontario. The timber and other resources of Cobourg's large hinterland were identified as the key to its prosperity. Peterborough to the north had become the principal source area, and in the 1830s it was still the waterways that were the prime method of bulk transport. Rice Lake and the Otonabee River were brought into use when a steamer ran across the lake and up the Otonabee to Peterborough. But goods and passengers had to cover the last 13 km (8 mi) of valuable timber and mine products. By 1835, a plank road was built to Harwood using 300,000 feet of 3-inch wooden planks, allowing horse-drawn vehicles to haul heavy goods. By 1850 the plank road was breaking up, and was impassible in wet conditions.
By 1852 there was considerable enthusiasm for replacing the plank road with a railway, so plans were made for a 4-km (2.5 mi) long bridge across Rice Lake, to take the railway to Peterborough. By 1854 the rails reached the shore of the lake, and it transported passengers and nearly 2 million feet of lumber from the Rice Lake down to Cobourg that summer. However, all the revenue had to ploughed into building an ill-fated bridge, using hundreds of wooden trestles, 31 Burr Truss spans, and a centre-pivot swing bridge to allow boats to pass. Costs escalated, bond-holders lost their money, and the town council with a debt that was only repaid in the 1930s. The bridge was constructed over the summer of 1854 and was opened on 29 December that year. Three days later it collapsed when ice movements shifted the trestles out of line, splintering the Burr Truss sections. The bridge was stabilized on the southern side, but not on the northern side, and winter ice and shifting lake mud meant that it was frequently unusable.
In 1865 the railway was bought by a consortium of Pittsburgh steel manufacturers, who set up an iron-ore supply route in barges up the Trent River and across Rice Lake to the railway at Harwood. From there it was brought along the railway to Cobourg Harbour, for shipment across Lake Ontario to the steel mills of America. This provided a steady income for the railway and the town until the ore ran out in 1878.
The connections and trade links which developed through the iron shipments brought many American industrialists to Cobourg, which became a popular summer destination. High class hotels were established, followed in the late 19th century and early 20th century by enormous summer homes for wealthy Americans, a few of which still stand. A major ferry service connected Cobourg and Rochester, New York from 1907 to 1952, transporting passengers and cargo across Lake Ontario.
Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the town invested heavily in purchasing property along the waterfront and beautifying the area. A boardwalk was developed to connect the harbour and large sandy beach while further pathways were created to encompass Victoria Park and the historic downtown. Because of this renewal and revitalization, many community activities now revolve in and around these spaces.
Cobourg is just south of Highway 401 at exits 472 (Burnham St.) or 474 (Baltimore Rd./Division St.).
- 1 Cobourg Station, 563 Division St, toll-free: . VIA stops in Cobourg on selected Toronto-Kingston runs.
There is one marina on Lake Ontario:
- Cobourg Marina, 103 Third St., ☏ , fax: . 7AM-10PM, summer. Marina with fuel, showers, docking, boat launch ramp, fishing charter boats.
- A segment of Canada's Waterfront Trail is open to cyclists on a former rail right-of-way in the Cobourg area.
- Cobourg Transit, ☏ . Two hourly local fixed routes, six-day shuttle service to Port Hope, no evening service.
- 1 Victoria Hall, 55 King St. W., ☏ (concert hall box office), toll-free: , fax: . 1860 Palladian-style city hall with Old Bailey-style courtroom, Concert Hall and ballroom. National Historic Site with Grecian columns, stone-cut insignia and clock tower. Vintage film festival in late October. Guided tours year-round, site is available as wedding venue. For a brief moment in 1856 the town, with its new railway link to the interior and an east-west rail connection along the Grand Trunk Railway, was feeling secure in its future prosperity, and thought a new town hall would encourage further investment and be an asset to the area. The building serves as the town hall, home of the Art Gallery of Northumberland, the Cobourg Concert Hall, and has a courtroom that is now used as the Council chamber. Victoria Hall was officially opened in 1860 by the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII.
- 2 Marie Dressler house, 212 King St. W, ☏ , toll-free: . Former home of cinematic star Marie Dressler, now houses a one-room museum. Tourism information on-site. The Marie Dressler Foundation, which restored the 1833 cottage house after a Jan 15, 1989 fire, also presents a Vintage Film Festival in the town.
- Heritage Centre: One of the oldest buildings in the town was for many years known as The Barracks, suggesting military connections. However it is equally likely that it was built for industrial uses, either in the very early 1800s or as a malting house and brewery by James Calcutt in the early 1830s. It probably served that purpose until a larger brewery was built by the McKechnies in 1863. The old stone-built building had a variety of industrial and storage purposes, and 20 different owners. In 2000 it was acquired in a run-down state by the Cobourg Museum Foundation, who have restored it and it is now open as the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre.
- 1 Victoria Park, South of King Street, ☏ , fax: . campground office 9AM-10PM, park open 24 hr. Waterfront park, sand beach, boardwalk, picnic area. Bandshell for summer concerts and Shakespeare in the park; Cobourg Concert Band performs free summer Tuesday nights. Cobourg Waterfront Festival on Canada Day weekend, elaborate seasonal decoration at Christmas. Campsites $35-41/day.
- Northumberland Forest, Hwy 45 at Beagle Club Rd, Harwood K0K 2H0 (14 km/9 miles N of 401 on Baltimore Rd (CR #45)). 2,195 hectare (5,424 acre) multi-use forest managed for ecological conservation, recreation and timber harvesting. Protected land with marked, groomed trails.
- Cobourg Highland Games, Donegan Park. Annual Scottish festival, late June.
- Cobourg Waterfront Festival, toll-free: . Canada Day celebration with arts, food, crafts, entertainment, vendors, events for kids.
- Two nine-hole golf courses (Cobourg Creek Golf Course +1 905-373-4444 and Roxburgh Glen +1 905-372-8924) operate locally.
- Farmer's Market, behind Victoria Hall. Saturdays, May-Nov. Local produce, apples, preserves and baked goods.
- Buttermilk Café, 44 King St W, ☏ .
- Corfu Mediterranean Grill, 8 King St E., ☏ .
- daizies, 74 King St W, ☏ . Local and organic.
- Dutch Oven, 7 King St. W., ☏ , fax: . M-Sa 7AM-5PM. Restaurant, bakery, catering and vending.
- Eastern Buffet, 111 Elgin St W, ☏ . Chinese buffet.
- Ginger Thai Cuisine, 39 King St E, ☏ . Asian.
- John’s Junction, 609 William St, ☏ . Asian fusion.
- Limestone Steakhouse, 900 Division St, ☏ .
- Matterhorn Restaurant, 95 King St W, ☏ . Swiss.
- Red Lantern Buffet Restaurant, 727 William St, ☏ . Asian buffet.
- The Human Bean, 80 King St W, ☏ . Café, desserts, lunch.
Pubs and bars
- Arthur’s Restaurant & Bar, 930 Burnham St, ☏ .
- Casey’s Bar & Grill, 1 Strathy Rd, ☏ . Sports bar, restaurant.
- The Cat & the Fiddle, 38 Covert St, ☏ . Pub and speakeasy.
- Mill Restaurant & Pub, 990 Ontario St., ☏ , fax: . 11AM-10PM. On a nine-hole Cobourg Creek Golf Course (+1 905-373-4444, $25-40/player for one day) in historic 1800s gristmill.
- Oasis Bar & Grill, 31 King St E, ☏ .
- Spice of Life, 34 Covert St, ☏ . Bistro and bar.
- Breakers on the Lake, 94 Green St., ☏ , fax: . Lakeside motel with kitchenettes, cottage and two-bedroom housekeeping units. Can accommodate meetings for 4-10 people. BBQs, sand beach. Jacuzzi, fireplace in some rooms. $140-190/night.
- Cobourg Inn & Convention Centre (Best Western), 930 Burnham St. (Hwy 401 exit 472 south), ☏ , toll-free: . Indoor pool, Arthur's Restaurant, whirlpool hot tub, business centre, meeting facilities for up to 425 people.
- Comfort Inn, 121 Densmore Rd. (At Hwy 401 exit #474), ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Two-storey economy limited service hotel, continental breakfast, Wi-Fi. Ground-floor rooms have refrigerators.
- Golden Beach Resort, RR#2, 7100 County Rd. 18, Roseneath K0K 2X0 (Rice Lake, 23km N of Cobourg), ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . Check-in: 2-5PM, check-out: 10AM. On south shore of Rice Lake near Harwood. Cottages and condos with fridge/stove/microwave, campground, fishing, BBQ, ice fishing huts and guides in season.
- Lotus Motel, 823 William St., ☏ , fax: . Motel rooms with refrigerator, microwave. Some rooms have jacuzzi, kitchen. No on-site restaurant.
- Motel 401, 1144 Division St., ☏ , fax: . Motel rooms with refrigerator, microwave. Some rooms have kitchen.
- Scotty’s Inn, 426 King St E., ☏ .
Bed and breakfast
- Essex House B&B, 351 George St, ☏ .
- [dead link] Inn by the Mill, 1000 Ontario St, ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Bed and breakfast, indoor pool, next to Cobourg Creek Golf Course,
- King George Inn, 77 Albert St, ☏ . Part of the Cobourg Jail museum site. MacAllisters Restaurant is located in former provincial jail governor's mansion. Spa, meeting facilities. $79–129.
- MacKechnie House B&B, 173 Tremaine St, ☏ .
- Willowmere B&B, 197 Water St, ☏ .
- [dead link] Woodlawn Inn, 420 Division St, ☏ , toll-free: . Restaurant and B&B on 1835 heritage estate.
- [dead link] Grafton Village Inn, 10830 Cty. Rd. 2, Grafton (Old Highway 2), ☏ . Restaurant and B&B.
- Big Apple Restaurant, 262 Orchard Drive, Colborne K0K 1S0, ☏ . An oversized red apple stands a few stories tall as novelty architecture alongside Highway 401 to promote expensive (about $3/slice or $10/pie) but reasonably good-quality apple pies.
Wi-fi is available at Victoria Park/Cobourg Marina, at the train station, at the Human Bean coffee shop and at many hotels.
|Routes through Cobourg|
|Toronto ← Port Hope ←||W E||→ Trenton → Kingston|
|Toronto ← Port Hope ←||W E||→ Trenton → Kingston|