If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy attraction of Ottawa and yet, stay immersed in the history of this beautiful area, Pinhey’s Point Historic Site is a perfect choice. It is a great place to visit on a sunny day for a picnic or even a barbecue, to run and play outside, to skip rocks in Ottawa River and to explore the historic grounds and buildings that used to belong to the Pinhey family.
Getting to Pinhey’s Point
Pinhey’s Point is located on Ottawa River in the North West part of Ottawa. The 40 minutes drive from Parliament Hill to Dunrobin is very straightforward and easy to make. The kids won’t have time to be bored as the landscape changes a few times throughout the drive. As you leave downtown heading towards the 417 West, you’ll be passing by office skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants and big and small apartment buildings. The hussle and bussle of downtown.
As you head West on 417, right after Bayshore Shopping Centre, the landscape changes from urban to country with Wesley Clover Parks, which include an equestrian park, seen from the highway.
When you exit on March Road and head North, you’ll find yourself passing new suburban neighbourhoods, grocery stores, restaurants and Kanata Industrial Park, a place most of the high-tech and telecommunication companies call home.
Just further up, turning onto Dunrobin Road and soon after onto Riddell Drive, you’ll be surrounded by tall trees and fields that lead to Pinhey’s Point Historic Site. All in all, even though the site is located a bit out of the way, the drive seems shorter than it really is and the changing landscapes keep the drive interesting.
A Lesson in History
The main house at Pinhey’s Point, called Horaceville, is named after the eldest son of the original owner of the property Hon. Hamnet Pinhey. The original house was a small log cabin built in 1820. In 1822 Pinhey began building the northern part of the stone manor, which was then expanded to the south over the next several years. The Horaceville house and Pinhey’s Point remained in the possession of the Pinhey family until the death of the last resident of Pinhey’s Point, Ruth Pinhey, in 1971. Not long after, the property was sold by Pinhey’s hears to March County. The renovation of the house began in 1990 and soon after its completion, it was opened as a museum and passive recreation grounds.
The ground of Pinhey’s Site consist of several buildings (however only the main house was accessible during our trip), ruins of two specific structures, a garden, dock area on Ottawa River, playground, large areas of well maintained lawns and picnic areas with “built in” barbecues. A map outlining the locations of all the attractions can be picked up for free at the main house.
Overall, the grounds are very well maintained, with lots of space for kids to run around and explore. At the same time, there are many shaded areas perfect to cool off during hot summer day or to set up a picnic. Benches are sporadically placed along the paths, allowing the patrons to rest and enjoy the views of the Ottawa River. It’s a great place to visit for the tourists as well as the locals.
7 Outdoor Experiences Pinhey’s Point Offers to Kids
1. The Hill.
The first thing my kids noticed when we walked up to the main house was the steep hill sloping towards the river. I know, it’s silly, but they spent quite some time running down the hill the climbing back up. Seems like a very trivial little thing, but it most certainly was the initial highlight of our tour.
2. Exploring the ruins.
There are two specific ruins that the kids will love. The first ones, right in front of the house to the side, are the ruins of what used to be Ash House. The window overlooking the river is very high and difficult to reach, yet it is a great attraction for kids who enjoy climbing and try to reach it to look through it. The views from the window are very nice as well, framing the Ottawa River and giving away a sneak peak of Almayer on the other side. The other ruins are on the other side of the house, tucked away behind it. This used to be the kitchen. Here you’ll find another window, and a fireplace that looks like it would still come in handy on a cool evening.
3. Skipping Stones on Ottawa River
As you make your way down to the dock on the rocky shore of Ottawa River, the kids will be very happy to look for flat rocks to skip, shells to take home as souvenirs, and even squirrels and chipmunks to chaise in the treed area along the bank. The views are spectacular and gently lapping waves allow for quiet and relaxing time
4. Playing on the Playground
The playground on the site is small, but there is plenty to do. It is perfect to get the kids to run around and tire them out. It is located on the hill, in a sunny clearing, surrounded by trees. A perfect place for the kids to have fun and for the parents to take a breather and enjoy the breeze while sitting on a shaded bench across the playground.
5. Checking Out the Big, Round Boulder.
One of the paths at the far end of the property leads to the far North side of the point and another access to the river bank. Even though the access to the point of the peninsula is prohibited, while on the shore you can see a big, round boulder very close to the edge of the water. Pretty cool sight, if you ask my kids.
6. Climbing the Big Trees.
On the way back from checking out the big boulder, on the right hand side, there is an area with old trees with wide trunks, clustered together. Because they are low and wide, they are perfect to squeeze between them. And because there are so many of them, this is also a great area for the kids to play tag.
7. Picnic Time
Whether it’s pb&j sandwich with fruit on the side or grilled chicken from one of the barbeques with potato salad and some veggies, a picnic experience is always welcome by the kids. So pack up a picnic basket and a comfortable blanket to sit on. Then, enjoy the views and cool breeze of the river while enjoying lunch.
The Main House
While in the main building, there are many things that are different from our modern homes. Walking through the house, ask your children to see how many differences can they find between the rooms in your house and those in Pinhey’s Museum. Making it into a quest, rather than historical lecture will make it more fun and memorable experience.
Making Historical Toys.
Over the summer, Pinhey’s Point Foundation and the City of Ottawa organize special events for the whole family on the grounds of Pinhey’s Point. Some of them include time period specific games and crafts for kids. Two of the crafts that my kids enjoyed making while there were Thaumatrope and Chromatrope.
Thaumatrope is a children’s toy that was popular in the 19th century.
Two pictures are drawn on two discs of the same size, for example, a horizon of the sky meeting with water on one and a boat on the other.
A piece of string is glued horizontally to the back on the first disc, through the middle, with the ends of the thread sticking out on each side at least 2-3 inches. Glue the other disc upside down to the back of the first disc with the thread going through the middle.
Hold onto the thread, pulling it outward and spin it between the fingers. When spinning fast, the two pictures blend together, creating an illusion of one picture.
Pinhey’s Point Foundation and City of Ottawa organize several events on the grounds of the Pinhey’s Point. More information can be found on the City of Ottawa website under the Museums and Historic Sites link.