A lantern in the snow

Camp Britannia: a soldiers’ overnight adventure

March back in time this summer as you embark on an extraordinary journey with us, stepping into the shoes of a 19th-century British soldier. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of history as you experience firsthand the trials, triumphs, and traditions of military life from a bygone era. Join us for an unforgettable adventure, offering a unique opportunity to live and breathe the fascinating world of the the British military at the Penetanguishene Establishment (today’s Discovery Harbour)

Date & time

July 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27
August 9-10, 23-24

Arrival: 3:30 p.m. Friday evening
Departure: 10 a.m. Saturday morning

Cost

Adults: $150.00 including tax
Youth ages 10-15: $60.00 including tax

What is included: day one

  • tour of the historic site
  • setting up of your soldiers’ tent
  • flint and steel fire starting demonstration
  • exploration of a soldiers’ kit
  • issuing of a soldiers’ uniform
  • marching and weapons drills
  • historic cooking with soldiers’ rations (dinner will be provided)
  • live black powder musket demonstration
  • tour of the Officer’s Quarters
  • campfire and bannock with stories and songs

What is included: day two

  • soldiers’ reveille (trumpets and drum)
  • morning muster and inspection
  • morning drill and marching practice
  • breakfast in the communal mess tent
  • cannon drill information
  • breaking down of soldiers’ camp

To view a packing list and Itinerary for your overnight adventure check out the Packing List and Visitor Itinerary tabs below.

Q: Is this overnight program suitable for young children?
A: We’ve designed this program for families with kids age 10 and older.

Q: Can we attend if we don’t have children?
A: Yes! Of course, this program is perfect for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the life of a British soldier.

Q: Can I bring my dog to the overnight program?
A: We ask that assistance animals only be brought to this special event.

Q: I have mobility issues or other challenges – am I able to attend this program?
A: Yes! We welcome people of all abilities to this program.
Please reach out via email to Melissa.Elsdon@Ontario.ca in advance of your booking to
discuss any specific concerns or requirements you may have.

Q: Are there indoor washrooms available?
A: Yes, participants will have access to indoor, accessible washroom facilities.

Q: What is your alcohol and tobacco policy? 
A: Our historic site is a smoke-free establishment, and we kindly ask there be no smoking during this program. In addition, drugs and alcohol will not be permitted at any time during this program.

Q: What is the recommended group size and age for this program?  
A: This program is recommended for small families or groups of friends. While there is no age limit, this program is geared towards a more mature audience, and we recommend all participants be over the age of 10.   

Q: Where will my car be parked overnight?  
A: Your car will be parked in our North End Parking Lot. This lot is secure with gated access and close to the evening’s activities.  

Q: What if I need or want to leave sometime in the night?  
A: If needed, you are welcome to leave the property in your car at any time. The gate opens automatically from the inside. You will be given the contact information of the security guard for the evening, so be sure to let them know you are leaving and when you expect to return, as they will need to be present to let you back into the secure parking lot.  

Q: What happens if it rains?  
A: This program will run rain or shine, soldiers had to sleep out in the rain! We will take reasonable measures for your comfort though: plastic ground tarps will be used under the canvas tents to protect you from the wet ground, and the tents themselves are water resistant. In case of extremely poor weather, we do have the option to move a significant portion of the program indoors. This foul weather plan and any weather-related changes to the program will be communicated as close to the date of your booking as possible. Weather can be unpredictable though, and we recommend coming prepared for all weather types.  

Q: Will my dietary restrictions be able to be accommodated?  
A: If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, please let us know at the time of your booking, and we will do our best to accommodate them.  

Camp Britannia: Participant Packing List

Clothing Needs

As we are going to be cooking with fire, it is a requirement that all your clothing be made of natural fiber; either cotton or wool. Blue jeans are acceptable. Closed-toed footwear is preferred.

Be sure to check the weather and pack accordingly as our program operates rain or shine. We recommend ensuring you have appropriate clothing items, such as:

  • sweaters / jackets
  • rain wear
  • sun hats / sunglasses
  • gloves / extra socks
  • pajamas / nightwear

Sleeping Gear

You will be issued a canvas tent, synthetic ground tarp, and wool blanket to place on the tarp within your tent – just like soldiers of long-ago (minus the modern ground tarp of course).

You will need to bring your own sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows. If a historic level of comfort is less appealing to you, please bring some form of sleeping pad or therm-a-rest style mattress (air mattresses may not fit into the canvas tent provided).

Flashlights

It is highly recommended that you bring flashlights to assist navigating in the dark, to the washrooms and back for instance.

Water / Dishware

Personal water bottles are encouraged as we will have a scuttlebutt (water barrel) near the camp area, and a filling station at the nearby H.M.S. Tecumseth Center.

Each participant will be provided with historic-style dishware, one each of: fork, knife, spoon, plate/bowl, and cup.  A washtub, soap and water will be provided for cleaning after meals.

Amenities / Toiletries

While we do not offer shower facilities, modern washrooms are available, with sinks and mirrors.  You should bring whatever toiletry items you require, such as a toothbrush, comb, hairbrush.

Please do remember to pack sunscreen and mosquito repellent as this is a predominantly out-of-doors experience.

Food and Snacks

Your food will consist of 19th century soldiers’ rations; please consult our program menu for more information (coming soon).  You may wish to bring additional snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.  Please note, refrigerator space is not available.

Camp Britannia: Visitor Information Guide

The life of a British soldier in the 19th century was characterized by hard labour in challenging environments and dominated by a tradition of grueling routine. These hard-working men were sometimes accompanied by wives and children, who shared in this difficult and sometimes dangerous lifestyle. This was particularly so when the accommodation of a formal barracks was not forthcoming, and a tented encampment was the only option for shelter from the elements. 

Participants in this immersive overnight program will experience first-hand many elements of this bygone existence. Marching and weapons drills, historic cooking and entertainments will drive home the hardships of 19th century military life – and the comradery that resulted therefrom. Recruits will also explore the complex relationship between the British Military and Indigenous communities at Penetanguishene, at a time when the very nature of this alliance was undergoing precarious change.

Detailed Itinerary – Day One

3:30 PM        
Arrival and Check-in at Admissions (93 Jury Drive, Penetanguishene)
Visitors will receive instructions on driving to the north end of the site where they will be able to park their cars in a secure location overnight. After parking, staff will aid you in unloading gear from your car and bringing it to the campsite. 

4:15 PM        
Program Orientation and Historical Introduction
This will set the stage for your experience and ensure you are aware of all relevant safety information. 

5:00 PM        
Set-up camp!
Your group will be taught how to pitch a 19th century style canvas tent and you will be given time to get your personal belongings set up.  You will then be instructed on how to start a fire using a flint and steel, and the community campfire will be lit. 

5:30 PM        
Introduction to Soldier’s Equipment and Military Drill
Go through and try out the typical items a soldier would be carrying with them. You will be issued a soldier’s shirt and tunic and learn how to properly wield a wooden musket for basic drill manoeuvres.

6:00 PM
Soldier’s Mess
Rations will be brought out to you, and we will guide you in how soldiers would have prepared food over an open fire.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to eat this one! 

6:30 PM
MESS TIME!
Enjoy your catered meal communally, served in our historic mess tent! Basic clean-up will occur after mealtime.

7:30 PM        
Live Black Powder Demonstration!
Learn about the detailed functions of a Brown Bess Musket and explore its complicated history as a tool of both defence and colonization, culminating with our staff firing the weapon.  

7:45 PM        
Indigenous and Métis Allies
Learn about the “Indian Department” and the close relationship between the British Military and Indigenous allies at the time.  Explore our Métis Encampment and learn about the rich Métis history of the area   and their contributions to life at Penetanguishene.

8:30 PM        
Break time! 

8:45 PM        
Tour the Officers’ Quarters
Experience how the upper classes of military life would have lived and compare it to how the average soldier lived. You will enjoy some time indoors in our beautiful original Officers’ Quarters while we discuss the intricacies of military rank and class division. 

9:15 PM
Campfire and Bannock
Unwind around our large communal campfire with some Bannock roasting and tea. Experience how soldiers would have relaxed and entertained themselves with stories and songs, led by your guides. 

10:00 PM
Evening Wrap-up
Your guides will leave for the evening (don’t worry, we have an overnight security guard who will be able to help you should any emergencies occur), and you can enjoy some free time around the fire or around your tent. 

11:00 PM      
Retire for the Night
Recommended time to wind-down – remember: the next morning comes all-too quickly!

Detailed Itinerary – Day Two

7:30 AM
Reveille!
You will start your morning as any 19th century soldier’s did – rudely and suddenly, with trumpets and drum! 

7:45 AM        
Morning Muster and Inspection
As part of reveille our guides will line you up for a muster and inspection. 

8:00 AM
Morning Drill and Marching Practice
Drills and exercises before breakfast were a common part of the soldier’s morning routine and ensured everyone was disciplined and in fighting shape. 

8:15 AM        
Breakfast
Your 19th century soldier’s breakfast will be served in the communal mess tent. 

9:00 AM
Cannon Drill
Learn the many steps it took to load and fire a piece of heavy artillery! ** Please note, the cannons will not actually be fired. ** 

9:30 AM
Break Camp
You will be given time to pack up your personal belongings before we take the tents down and pack up the campsite as a group. Our staff will happily assist you in bringing your personal items back to your car.

10:00 AM     
Program Conclusion and Farewells
We will say our goodbyes, as the historic site will be opening to the public. You will be invited to drive cars back around to the main entrance for a complementary admission to our regular day program. 

Plan your Visit

While we love our furry friends, we are not able to accommodate pets at this special event (service dogs are welcomed of course). Thank you for your understanding.

  • Taking photos is encouraged
  • Smoking or vaping (including marijuana) is not permitted on Discovery Harbour property
  • Please note this event takes place indoors AND outdoors and, visitors should plan to dress accordingly for weather and terrain

How to Get Here

Parking Info

Please park in the parking lot provided and make your way on foot through the black entrance gates to the boardwalk area and The Charthouse (Admissions building).

Need more info?

Please contact us at hhp@ontario.ca or (705) 549-8064 if you have any questions.

About Discovery Harbour

Discovery Harbour traces its roots back to the original British naval and military base in Penetanguishene, built to safeguard access to Upper Canada after the War of 1812.

“His Majesty’s Naval Establishment on Lake Huron”, (as it was first called) kept ships prepared to supply British posts to the northwest. By 1820, it was home to over 70 people, including sailors, officers, shipwrights, and soldiers. Five large ships, 15 smaller vessels, and numerous workshops and dwellings were built.

In 1828, a British garrison on Drummond Island was relocated to Penetanguishene. By 1834, Canada was defended exclusively by these forces. An impressive stone Officers’ Quarters was built in 1845. The military occupied the site until 1856.

Discovery Harbour is operated by Huronia Historical Parks, and is an Attraction of the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.

camp set up

Need more info?

Please contact us if you have any questions: