According to Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip, it’s Bobcaygen, Ontario. The area’s recent nick name of “Hip Town” comes from the song “Bobcaygeon” written by the Canadian Band. If this all seems like any other small town—well, it is. But also not, because this is Bobcaygeon: a town woven into the fabric of the Canadian imagination because of some famous lyrics. It was in “Bobcaygeon” where The Hip arguably reached the peak of their powers. As deep rooted as a Timmie’s double-double, cottage country evokes summer memories that dreams are made of. If you aren’t familiar with this awesome small town, keep reading. Cottage country and lakeside living at its finest, Bobcaygeon is everything Canadian wrapped into one perfect little Ontario spot.
Bobcaygeon was incorporated as a village in 1876, and became known as the “Hub of the Kawarthas”. Its recorded name bob-ca-je-wan-unk is debated coming from one of these origins:
- the Mississauga Ojibwa word baabaagwaajiwanaang “at the very shallow currents”,
- giishkaabikojiwanaang “at the cliffed cascades”,
- obaabikojiwanaang “at currented rocky narrows”,
- or from the French beau bocage “beautiful hedged farmland”.
Some of the current annual events celebrated in Bobcaygeon include:
- Bobcaygeon Midnight Madness: Did you know that Bobcaygeon’s Midnight Madness regularly draws up to 10,000 participants from among the local residents, tourists, and surrounding cottagers? There is something for everybody at Midnight Madness. The little ones can enjoy a bouncy castle, located at Manley Motors on King Street. The famous Bungee Run is a great challenge for the teens, and the colossal, rock-climbing wall is a challenge to everyone who wants to test their strength.
- Bobcaygeon Fiddle and Step Dance: This two-day event sees up to 900 people. The contest is great for local business and reflects a commitment to deep roots. The music and dance from Scotland, Ireland, and Europe is a tangible part of Canadian heritage.
- The village’s Canada Day festivities are held at Tommy Anderson Park, with an entertaining fireworks display held at Beach Park.
- During the last weekend in May or first weekend in June, Bobcaygeon hosts an “Unlock The Summer” Event, as a kick off for summer, and the first opening of the locks for the season.
- The Kawartha Settlers’ Village in Bobcaygeon holds the town’s annual Festival of Trees in the second week of November. The first was held in 1997.
- Bobcaygeon hosts an annual cruisefest for classic and custom cars in the second week of September. The first was held in 1996.
- Sponsored by local churches & merchants, the annual Bobcaygeon House Tour takes place in mid-June, where six Bobcaygeon homes are toured, along with an art show at Trinity United Church. The first of which was held in 1992.
The town sits on three islands connected by bridges with Pigeon Lake on the East and Sturgeon Lake to the West. It is about a half-hour drive from the City of Kawartha Lakes, an hour from Peterborough and two hours from Toronto. Bobcaygeon is a popular tourist destination in Kawartha Lakes, offering a vibrant mix of shopping, dining, and cultural experiences. Home to the world renowned Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream and Bigley’s Shoes and Clothing, a visit to Bobcaygeon is a must when in Kawartha Lakes. Arriving by boat? Pick up a bike from the Bike Share program at Lock 32 and explore the town on two wheels
And Bobcaygeon isn’t just any old cottage-country town. Its special ambiance is backed up by a unique history. A major claim to fame was staked when the village became the site of the first lock in the now famous Trent-Severn Waterway. It was built right here, at the narrows between Sturgeon & Pigeon Lakes. Not only was the lock built in 1833, but Thomas Need opened a sawmill and gristmill the very same year. Business was good, and by the 1850’s the village gladly accommodated Mossom Boyd’s lumber business with more jobs and prosperity on the way.
The history of Bobcaygeon lives on with the opening of Kawartha Dairy in 1933. The company began with incorporating the newest pasteurization plant technology. Over time other smaller dairy companies sold their licenses to Kawartha Dairy as they went out of business. Kawartha Dairy is still growing, and their trucks can be seen all over Ontario. The famous blue and yellow logo can be found in the stores of Lindsay, Bancroft, Minden, Peterborough and as far as Newmarket.
This town is steeped in history. You can go on many different heritage tours, learning about the early settlers of the Kawartha Lakes region. But if you aren’t into the ghosts of the past, there are great public beaches to hang out at, cycling routes, and a charming downtown where you can get lost in antique shops and trendy boutiques. Do The Hip justice and see more of Bobcaygeon than just the constellations.