Sensational Summer Shows

Sensational Summer Shows

By Andy Adams

Our History On The Water, Reflected In Our Boats

You don’t have to be a boat lover to have a wonderful day visiting a summer antique and classic boat show, or one of Canada’s numerous marine museums.

A chance to smell the fresh varnish and take in the rich woods and classic designs can make for a memorable day in the sun and there is usually something of interest for every member of the family, from the youngest to the oldest.

The following article is by no means a complete rundown of the summer antique and classic boat shows and marine museums, but these are a few of the shows and museums that we love the best. It’s certainly worth planning a trip to the ones that are nearby for you.

Last year, we decided on a road trip. We started in Peterborough, Ontario, home of the Canadian Canoe Museum, travelled to Kingston to visit the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes, continued down the street to see Kingston’s Pumphouse Steam Museum, then drove on to Gananoque in the Thousand Islands where we stayed at the Gananoque Inn & Spa on the water and took the Thousand Islands Boat Cruise before we travelled south across the border. View Andy’s video tour of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes by going to and his visit to the Kingston Pumphouse Steam Museum here…

Our next stop was in Clayton, New York to experience the Antique Boat Museum. This is one of my personal favourites. It’s on the water, has fabulous year-round displays and it also holds an excellent antique boat show and auction. View Andy’s video tour of the Clayton Boat Museum here: 

From there, we continued south, taking in some of the sites on New York State’s historic Erie Canal system. By special arrangement, stopped at the Waterford Flight where we met John Callaghan, Deputy Director of the Canal Corporation and several of his crew who kindly took us out on the Gov. Cleveland, one of their historic tugboats to show us their excellent system of lift locks and in particular, the Waterford Flight.

From Waterford, New York, we continued south to Connecticut where we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at Groton, CT. That was the perfect jumping off point to go to the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic Connecticut where we spent two days and on our third day, we drove a little further to Newport, Rhode Island where we visited the historic and remarkable community of Newport. View Andy’s video tour of the Mystic museum by visiting:, or watch it below.

There are several stunning Newport estates that are now open to the public. We enjoyed hanging around the Vanderbilt place, “The Breakers” for an afternoon!

If you live in the area from Montreal through Ottawa west to Toronto, you can do that trip in a week but here’s a warning; you could fill a month with just those locations!

We live in the Greater Toronto Area and in just under two hours, we can be at the waterfront in Gravenhurst, Ontario. This was the railway terminus to the Muskoka Lakes where vacationers in the 1800’s would arrive by train and transfer to a steam ship to go further up the lakes to lodges and private summer estates. 

By the early 1900’s as gasoline engines became available, wealthy families would commission local craftsmen to build a private boat for their summer use. The short season, cold water and rocky geography were perfect for shoreline boathouses. These mahogany treasures were well preserved in that environment and a surprising number of Muskoka-built long-deck launches still survive.

The Toronto Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society holds an annual show where boats from the 1920’s still run their original engines and are maintained in show condition. 

The contrast from the near-perfect wooden boat environment of the Muskoka Lakes, to the rugged salt-water environment of the Pacific North West is extreme. It’s amazing that any wooden vessels remain in Vancouver or Victoria. Rough water, storms, narrow passages and tidal currents have brought many vessels to grief over the decades yet wooden boats have survived there, and are cherished. 

Maybe it’s just the weather I usually experience when I’m in Nova Scotia but if the Pacific North West is tough on boats, my opinion is that the Atlantic is brutal. Yet again, wooden boats survive and wooden boat building is alive and well in some areas. In our sidebar there are listings for excellent marine museums you could visit  in Atlantic Canada if you are lucky enough to live there, or are planning a trip this summer.

Canada’s history is often best expressed by the boats and the mariners who sailed them, or paddled them, because Canada was explored and opened up by water. The boats tell a story and the stories are often dramatic. 

I hope you get out to a show or museum with family or friends this summer to experience, enjoy and share our water-borne heritage. 


Photo tour of Mystic Seaport, Connecticut

The Mystic Seaport Museum is far more than just a museum. It’s an 1800s seaport community with a wide range of buildings, stores, shipbuilding displays and chandlerys, just as it would have been a century ago.

Two days was not nearly enough for us to see it all and the Charles W. Morgan, an 1841 whaling ship was out while we were there. Incredibly, this ship has not only survived but it has been restored, equipped with new sails and rigging  and it took off out to sea again on May 17, 2014!

It will be back this summer though, joining all the exhibit galleries, the Seafaring Village displays, the Sabino, a working steam boat you can ride aboard and an amazing selection of antique and classic down east vessels. 


Mystic Seaport - Museum Entrance Mystic Seaport - Tall masts Mystic Seaport - Gift Shop Mystic Seaport - Volunteer Mystic Seaport - Century old luxury yacht Mystic Seaport - Hilton Garden Inn Mystic Seaport - Rope rigging Mystic Seaport - Seaside view 





































Mystic Seaport, Mystic Connecticut

Museum open year round. Check website for hours.


Photo tour of Waterford Flight, Waterford, New York

The Erie Canalway is far more historic than I realized and both beautiful and serene. We wanted to stop in and see the Waterford Flight, a series of five locks in Waterford, New York. There is also a museum there and the tourism info centres will arm you with tons of information about the area. We were impressed to learn that New York State has devoted significant funds both the keeping the Canal up and to maintaining some of the historic vessels that served on these waters. We were treated to a special ride on one of the tugs, the Governor Cleveland.

Waterford - Lock 2 park Waterford community Waterford - Lock 2 sign Waterford - Historic tug Urger Waterford - Onboard the Urger


























More Photo Tours:

ACBS Toronto, Summer Boat Show, Gravenhurst, Ontario

Canadian Canoe Museum, Peterborough, Ontario

Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston, Ontario

Pumphouse Steam Museum, Kingston, Ontario

Gananoque, Ontario, Thousand Islands – Boldt Castle Yacht House

Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, New York

Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival, Granville Island, Vancouver, B.C.

Victoria Classic Boat Festival, Victoria, B.C.


Other Marine Museums and Antique and Classic Boat Shows:


Antique & Classic Boat Society (ACBS) 

Located in Clayton, NY.


Singer Castle near Alexandria Bay, New York


Atlantic Canada

The New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, New Brunswick, has a great gallery on the shipbuilding in Saint John.

Museum open year round. Check website for hours.


Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia has a great collection of boats built in Nova Scotia. The Museum has a full-time boatbuilder to restore and conserve their small craft collection

Museum open year round. Check website for hours.


The Dory Shop Museum in Shelburne, Nova Scotia,  show visitors, the art of crafting a traditional dory and tells the story of these iconic Nova Scotian small-crafts.

Open seasonally. Check website for hours.



Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre, Grace & Speed

Also, Muskoka Steamships, Segwun and Wenonah II cruise ships – same location

Muskoka Wharf, Gravenhurst, Ontario



The Newfoundland and Labrador Wooden Boat Museum in Winterton.

Contact the museum for hours.



Photo (at top) courtesy of Patrice Anderson, Blue Heron Ink.

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