View of 201 High Street, the traditional Town Hall
View of 201 High Street, the traditional Town Hall
Southampton is located in Bruce County
Location in southern Ontario
Southampton is located in Southern Ontario
Southampton (Southern Ontario)
Coordinates: 44°29′44″N 81°22′17″W / 44.49556°N 81.37139°W / 44.49556; -81.37139Coordinates: 44°29′44″N 81°22′17″W / 44.49556°N 81.37139°W / 44.49556; -81.37139
Country Canada
Province Ontario
TownSaugeen Shores
Named forSouthampton, England
 • TypeMunicipal
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
Area code(s)519

Southampton is a community on the shores of Lake Huron in Bruce County, Ontario, Canada, and close to Port Elgin. It is located at the mouth of the Saugeen River in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territory. The size of the town is 6.44 square kilometres. The permanent population in 2016 was 3,678 but the summer population is higher, due to cottagers and campers spending vacation time in the area.[1]

Although the community still has its own post office, and road signs indicating the name Southampton, it is no longer an entity in its own right. In 1998, Port Elgin, Southampton and Township of Saugeen, all along the shores of Lake Huron, were amalgamated to form the Town of Port Elgin-Saugeen-Southampton. On December 17, 1998, the Province renamed the community the Town of Saugeen Shores.[2] The primary employment categories are agriculture, small business, tourism and the Bruce Power nuclear power station which is 40 kilometres away. Southampton is a bedroom community, a retirement destination, as well as a tourist destination.[3]


The Walker House, a historic hotel in the village since the 1860s.
The Walker House, a historic hotel in the village since the 1860s.

Long before settlers arrived to the area, Southampton was an important trading area, according to a historic plaque erected in town by the Government of Ontario, titled Fur Trading at Saugeen:

The Anishnabe lived by the mouth of the Saugeen River before Pierre Piché arrived in 1818 to begin fur trading in the region. By 1826, the Hudson's Bay Company established an outpost at Saguingue to compete with independent fur traders like Piché. From La Cloche, its main post on Lake Huron, the Hudson's Bay Company employed First Nations, Métis, French, and British fur traders who largely depended on Anishnabe hunters to supply deer, bear and marten skins. By 1832, the supply of premium furs was exhausted and the company closed its post. Although many Anishnabe gave up hunting and settled in an agricultural village, fur trading continued here until the mid-19th century when Southampton was founded.[4]

The community was originally known as Saugeen by the early residents, by the Canadian Post Office and by Custom House Departments. However, the Crown Land Departments labelled the village as Southampton and the name stuck as the town was incorporated, named after Southampton, the English sea port. The first European settlers of the area, around 1848, were Captain John Spence and William Kennedy, who wanted to establish a fishing company.[5]

While it proved unsuccessful, Spence became a sailor and Kennedy joined a search for the Arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin. Nevertheless, in 1851 there were at least a dozen families living in the community.[5] In the same year, the Post Office was established, the first and only in Bruce County for several years.[5] Three years later, a Bank of Upper Canada was built.

In 1846, Smith's Canadian Gazetteer describes Saugeen (Southampton) as little more than a pioneer settlement:

A Settlement of Chippewa Indians, near the month of the Saugeen River, on Lake Huron. ... Sir F. Head, in 1836, obtained a surrender of that vast tract of land ... containing about 1,600,000 acres. ... There are some good log houses, and several comfortable bark shanties. On the hill, in rear of the flats, are several fine fields of corn and potatoes. ... The fishing is very productive, and has attracted the notice of the white people ...[6]

The pioneers of Southampton wanted the village to become the county town or county seat, as the village held the only Crown Land Department and Post Office in the county. However, the town of Kincardine had a larger population and seemed the strongest rival. Furthermore, Southampton did not have enough population to meet the requirements for incorporation. The town petitioned the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the elective officials passed an exceptional Act of Incorporation on July 24, 1858 to allow the community to be considered for the county seat. Despite their efforts, Walkerton eventually won the battle.[7]

In the mid-1800s, John Denny built a dam, a grist mill, a sawmill, a woolen mill and an inn on the Saugeen River. (Only the latter building remains at 484 Carlisle Street; the current dam was built in the 1970s.)[8]

Chantry Island lighthouse and keeper's cottage, from the licensed tour boat
Chantry Island lighthouse and keeper's cottage, from the licensed tour boat

The Chantry Island Lightstation Tower was completed in April 1859, first lit on April 1, with Duncan McGregor Lambert as the first keeper.[9] (The tower and the keeper's home have been extensively renovated and are open for tours, several days a week late May to mid-September, operated only by the Marine Heritage Society. Otherwise, access to the island is prohibited because it is a federal bird sanctuary.)[10]

Records from 1869 indicate that the population had increased to 600. Large amounts of wheat, pork and lumber were being shipped from the village. A bank agency was operating. Good roads were available to other communities. A steam ship made runs to Goderich and Collingwood in summer; stagecoaches operated in winter.[11]

Southampton was incorporated as a town in 1904; at the time, its population was over 2400. The economic base included commercial fishing, warehousing, furniture factories, a tannery and mills.[12]

The town built a hospital in 1947, a post office in 1952, a library in 1956, an arena in 1961 (replaced in 1977) and a new firehall in 1974.[13]

In the early 2000s, a historically significant shipwreck was discovered on the beach. Relics of the ship, "General Hunter", can be found in the Bruce County Museum.

33 Victoria Street, the Old Public School, now part of the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.
33 Victoria Street, the Old Public School, now part of the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.

Railway history

The history of Southampton is intertwined with the history of the Wellington, Grey and Bruce Railway (WG&B). The original 1856 charter for what was then known as the Canada North-West Railway called for a line "... from Southampton on Lake Huron to Toronto on Lake Ontario with branch to Owen Sound[.]"[14] The railway was intended to both serve the local area and to provide a through route to the west via the Great Lakes steamer trade.[15] It remained a paper railway for several years, and in 1864 was rechartered as the Wellington, Grey and Bruce, with a key provision allowing it to be taken over by the Great Western Railway, as well as a change of southern terminus to Guelph, to connect to the Great Western's Galt and Guelph Railway. Construction began at Fergus in 1867, and it was formally leased by the Great Western in 1869. The line slowly marched northwest through the late 1860s and early 1870s, reaching Palmerston around 1871. The final stretch of the line, from Harriston to Southampton, was subsidized by the provincial government at $2,000 per mile; it is this final stretch which would later become the CN Southampton Subdivision. The full line to Southampton finally opened on December 7, 1872.[16]

The line would survive repeated mergers over the next fifty years: first, the Great Western's acquisition by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1882, then the consolidation of numerous railways into the Canadian National Railways (CNR) system in the early 1920s. The CNR managed the former Wellington, Grey and Bruce mainline using its division and subdivision system, with the section from Harriston Junction to Southampton being known as the Southampton Subdivision. The CN Stratford-to-Southampton passenger service was converted to Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) in 1958.[17] The CN passenger timetable for 1960–61 shows a fragmented network of mostly six-day-a-week Railiner services in the area, with six round trips per week between Palmerston and Southampton, requiring a transfer at Palmerston to travel further.[18] Regular passenger service on the line disappeared by 1970.[16]

Around this time, the Douglas Point Spur was constructed, branching off the main Southampton Subdivision line at Port Elgin. It was primarily used for transporting fuel oil from Sarnia to the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station at Douglas Point.[19] CN abandoned the former WG&B mainline in stages throughout the 1980s, beginning with the oldest section running from Fergus to Palmerston; the Southampton Subdivision from Harriston Junction to Southampton was abandoned in 1988, including the Douglas Point Spur.[15]

Historical timeline, 1848–1904

Although specific dates vary depending on the source, the following are excerpted from a reliable source, History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada, by Norman Robertson, published in 1906.[20]


Climate data for Southampton
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 18.9
Average high °C (°F) −2.7
Daily mean °C (°F) −6.3
Average low °C (°F) −10
Record low °C (°F) −32.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 87.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 12.5
Average snowfall cm (inches) 75.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 16 12 9 10 10 11 8 10 12 14 14 15 140
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 2 2 5 9 10 11 8 10 12 13 11 5 99
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 14 10 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 11 44
Source: Environment Canada[22]


Tourism is the majority source of revenue for the economy; however, the Bruce Nuclear plant in nearby Tiverton, Ontario, is a major employer. In 2016, the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station started a $13 billion refurbishment program which will provide employment for many residents and maintain demand for other services.[23] According to Bruce Power, this multi-year plan "will generate between 1,500 and 2,500 jobs on site annually – and 18,000 across Ontario directly and indirectly – while injecting up to $4 billion annually into Ontario’s economy".[24][promotion?]


This section contains text that is written in a promotional tone. Please help improve it by removing promotional language and inappropriate external links, and by adding encyclopedic text written from a neutral point of view. (August 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Beach at Southampton, Ontario
Beach at Southampton, Ontario

This area of the Lake Huron shore is known for its long sand beaches (the Main Beach is approximately 4 km long) as well as the sunsets since the beach area faces to the west.[25][26][27]

Every Friday night in from mid June to early September, a bagpiper plays under the "Big Flag" at the foot of High Street on Friday evenings, a tradition which started in the late 1990s. Canada Day is a highly celebrated occasion, where hundreds of cottagers and locals alike gather on Southampton Beach to watch the fireworks lit off the base of the "Big Flag". During the months of July and August there are "Ghost Walks" available every Tuesday night with Katherine Leonard and Raymond Harrison. These commence at sunset at the foot of High St at the "Big Flag". During the summer and early autumn, the beaches are full of people who have come to see the colourful sunsets lighting up the sky over the lake.[26]

Near the town, Southampton, a summer destination, is close to Chantry Island, Port Elgin, Saugeen First Nation which holds a PowWow in August each year, and Sauble Beach. Every Thursday evening from early June to late August, a Cruise Nite is held; the classic cars park downtown on High St. near the lake shore. Concerts are held at Fairy Lake at least one evening per week in summer.[28]

Harbour Range light, one of the first designated under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Harbour Range light, one of the first designated under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act

Fishing is common in this area in the nearby Saugeen River, at Denny's Dam and in Lake Huron. The Chantry Chinook Classic Salmon Derby is held each summer, usually from about mid-July to the second week of August.[28] The contest's weigh stations are located in Saugeen Shores and in two other Lake Huron communities, Kincardine, Ontario, and Wiarton, Ontario.

The Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre provides displays about local history and in summer especially, offers adult and children's programming and special events. These are listed in the Shoreline Beacon community newspaper. The museum has been enlarged over the years and was recently[when?] renovated. In addition to a settlers cabin, the facility houses numerous historic artifacts from the area, genealogical records, county newspapers, photographs, and municipal documents.[29]

The Chantry Island Lightstation Tower was built in 1859; the tower, keeper's cottage, boat house and dock have been fully restored. The island is a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary and access is prohibited except with the single licensed tour operator.[30] From late-May to mid-September, tours of the lightstation facilities are available several times a week. They leave on the Marine Heritage Society's boat from the ticket office by the fishing boat docks at the harbour.

Three other local lighthouses have been designated under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act: McNab Point and both the Front and Rear Range lights at the River Front.[31]


There are numerous cottage owners in and around Southampton. Cottage owners are uniquely split between those who own their land outright and those with cottages located on Native lands.[32] A lease relationship exists between the Saugeen First Nation ("Chippewas of Saugeen")[33] and cottagers who have built seasonal homes on Native land in the lakeside area between urban Southampton and Sauble Beach; there are approximately 1,200 such cottages.[34][35] Each cottager on such land pays an annual lease fee to the First Nation for use of the land.[34] The current (mid-2019) lease contract between the cottagers and two Saugeen First Nation Reserves, Chief's Point 28 and Saugeen 29, is in effect until 30 April 2021.[36][needs update]


Highway 21 passes through Southampton, following its lakeshore route to the south and veering over land to the north on its way to Owen Sound. Bruce County Road 3 intersects with it just south of Southampton, near Port Elgin. Bruce County Road 13 continues following the lakeshore north from Southampton.


The Saugeen Rail Trail is a 25-kilometre (16 mi) long rail trail connecting Southampton and Port Elgin. It also connects to the larger Bruce County Rail Trail, It follows the route of the former Wellington, Grey and Bruce Railway line (later the CN Southampton Subdivision) which was abandoned in 1988. After the railways ceased to service the area, the tracks were removed and the beds were vacant and overgrown. A group of volunteers founded the Saugeen RailTrail Association in 1990, and convinced Port Elgin, Southampton and Saugeen Township to acquire sections of the then-unused rail bed. Over the years, the bed has been developed as trails for walking and cycling. The trail also connects to the 80 kilometre long Bruce County Trail Network which leads to towns such as Paisley, Walkerton, Mildmay and Kincardine.[37][38] The trailhead can be accessed at River Street in Port Elgin, a few blocks north of the town centre and east of Hwy 21. There are other access points in both towns, some with parking. The trail is not groomed for cross-country skiing during the winter but is used frequently for that purpose.

The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail also runs through Southampton, following a more coastal route and a mix of on-road and off-road rights of way. South of Port Elgin, it connects to MacGregor Point Provincial Park.[39]

Health care

The Town of Saugeen Shores' hospital is in Southampton, Saugeen Memorial. Many physicians' practices are at the Saugeen Shores Medical Building. The hospital is part of the Grey Bruce Health Services' network of hospitals in northern Bruce and in Grey County. Hospital facilities include 16 beds, a 24-hour emergency department, surgery, acute medical care, outpatient services, and day surgery including ear, nose and throat surgery.[40]

See also



  1. ^ "Census Profile, 2016 Census - Southampton". StatsCan. Government of Canada. 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Our History". Town of Saugeen Shores. Town of Saugeen Shores. 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Our History". Town of Saugeen Shores. Town of Saugeen Shores. 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  4. ^ Cook, Wayne (2013). "Historical Plaques of Bruce County". Wayne Cook. Wayne Cook. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Robertson 2014, p. 509.
  6. ^ Smith, Wm. H. (1846). Smith's Canadian Gazetteer: Statistical and General Information respecting all parts of the Upper Province, or Canada West. Toronto: H.&W. Rowsell. pp. 165–166.
  7. ^ Robertson 2014, p. 511.
  8. ^ "Driving Tour" (PDF). Saugeen Shores. Town of Saugeen Shores. 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Chantry Island". Chantry Island, ON. Lighthouse Friends. 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2017. Robert Mills cared for the tower’s temporary light for a season before Duncan McGregor Lambert, who had many years of maritime experience, took charge of the light in 1858. In 1854, Lambert was first mate aboard the steamer Bruce Mines, when it sank near Stokes Bay, and was largely responsible for ushering the crew into two small boats and safely seeing them to Owen Sound, a voyage of over a hundred miles.
  10. ^ "About Chantry Island". Chantry Island. Marine Heritage Society. 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2017. It is the largest Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary between James Bay and Point Pelee. There are approximately fifty thousand birds (including chicks) on the island during the breeding season.
  11. ^ McEvoy, Henry (1869). Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory. Toronto: Robertson & Cook. p. 433. ISBN 9780665094125.
  12. ^ "History". Southampton Residents' Association. Southampton Residents' Association. 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  13. ^ "History". Southampton Residents' Association. Southampton Residents' Association. 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  14. ^ Dorman 1938, p. 83.
  15. ^ a b Hughes, Robert J. (30 December 1997). "The Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway". Ontario Railways Historical Project. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  16. ^ a b Smith, Jeffrey P. (13 June 2016). "C.N.Rys. Southampton Subdivision". Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  17. ^ "Miscellany" (PDF). UCRS Newsletter. No. 158. Upper Canada Railway Society. March 1959. p. 6.
  18. ^ Canadian National Railways system timetable october 30, 1960 to april 29, 1961, Canadian National Railways, p. 38
  19. ^ Thompson, John D. (October 1988). "Branch Line Farewell". UCRS Newsletter. No. 468. Upper Canada Railway Society. pp. 13–15.
  20. ^ a b c "Town of Southampton". Electric Scotland. Alastair McIntyre. 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2017. From the book History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada, by Norman Robertson (1906)
  21. ^ "Range Lights of Southampton". Retrieved 19 March 2017. [1]
  22. ^ Environment CanadaCanadian Climate Normals for Southampton . Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  23. ^ Learment, Frances (28 February 2017). "Bright future for Saugeen Shores". Shoreline Beacon. Southampton, Ontario. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  24. ^ "Unit 1 sets new post-refurbishment long run record". Bruce Power. Bruce Power. 14 April 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  25. ^, Explore
  26. ^ a b, Southampton Sunset Viewing & Sunset Photography
  27. ^, Main Beach
  28. ^ a b "Attractions in Southampton". Visit Southampton. Tourist Town Online Solutions. 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  29. ^ "About Us". Bruce Museum. BCM&CC. 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2017. promotes the depth and diversity of our heritage; offers many activities that encourage meaningful reflection on the past in order to better understand the present and thus plan for the future; promotes the value of its collection and archives as a prime resource for research at all levels of learning
  30. ^ "Chantry Island Lighthouse Tour". Chantry Explore the Bruce. Bruce County.
  31. ^ "First designations under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act". Government of Canada. Government of Canada. 3 August 2012. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  32. ^, Saugeen Land Management
  33. ^, Saugeen First Nation
  34. ^ a b, Let us back into our cottages
  35. ^, Member Organizations
  36. ^, Saugeen Cottager’s Organization Incorporated
  37. ^ "Bruce County Rail Trail - # 17". Bruce County Trails. Bruce County Trails. 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  38. ^ "Bruce County Rail Trail Map" (PDF). Bruce County Trails. Bruce County Trails. 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  39. ^ Bruce County & Saugeen First Nation: Section 2 (PDF) (Map). March 2018.
  40. ^ "Southampton Hospital". Grey Bruce Health Services. Grey Bruce Health Services'. Retrieved 3 March 2017.


  • Dorman, Robert, ed. (1938). A Statutory History of the Steam and Electric Railways of Canada, 1836–1937: With Other Data Relevant to Operation of Department of Transport. Canada Department of Transport.
  • Robertson, Norman (2014) [1906]. The History of the County of Bruce. Owen Sound: Book on Demand Ltd. ISBN 978-5519009102.