You’re Welcome in Renfrew

By Madeline Kallio

The rolling hills, forests and interesting places to visit make Renfrew, Ontario, an absolute delight. Arriving in 1823, Joseph Brunette is credited as founder of current-day Renfrew. John McDougall, a retired fur trader, arrived in 1840 and built the first store and became a magistrate. Fifteen years later, he built a grist mill that, today, is the beautiful grey stone McDougall Mill Museum, at 65 Arthur St. in O’Brien Park. It overlooks the town’s famous Swinging Bridge. The museum’s three floors of artifacts include many from Renfrew’s early industrial days. You’ll also see personal items that belonged to Dr. Charlotte Whitton, a Renfrew girl who was the first woman mayor of a major Canadian city: Ottawa. She was a feisty force in Ottawa politics in the 1950s and 60s.

Downtown Renfrew. Photo: Ottawa Valley Tourist Association

The Swinging Bridge, a 100-foot-long suspension bridge that crosses the Bonnechere River, was built in 1885 by the W.H. Kearney family. One of just three swinging bridges in the country, it offers great views of the mighty Bonnechere.

Another place you may want to visit is the NHA/NHL Birthplace Museum, located at Ma-te-Way Activity Centre. After all, Renfrew is considered the birthplace of the NHL. In 1909, the National Hockey Association was formed, thanks to the initiative and influence of the Honourable M. J. O’Brien and his son Ambrose. In 1917, the NHA became the National Hockey League and today you’ll find memorabilia, photos and stories from the NHA days at this local museum.

McDougall Museum. Photo: Guy Longtin

If you’re planning to stay, you’ve got choices. Full and continental breakfasts are served at Lochiel Bed and Breakfast, 270 Lochiel St. Maple Ridge Inn, 779 Gillan Rd., serves breakfast and has a heated in-ground pool for the warmer months, along with two outdoor fireplaces. The Days Inn by Wyndham Conference Centre, at 760 Gibbons Road, offers accommodation, plus dining at the Alpha Cater Bar & Grill.

The town also has a great selection of restaurants. Looking for a quick bite? Try Raglan Street Foods at 194 Raglan St. S. A deli, butcher/meat and specialty food shop owned by husband and wife Roch Quesnel and Winona Bennett, this popular spot dishes gourmet sandwiches, wraps and salads. Karras Way, 168 Raglan St. S, features authentic Greek cuisine. Enjoy Asian fare at Kung Po House of Chinese Cuisine, 32 Duke St., and the Shanloon Chinese Cuisine House, 41 Raglan St. S. The Bonnechere Bakery and Bistro, 258 Raglan St. S, offers fresh, farm-style bread, soup and salads daily. Step N’ Back Diner, 240 Hall St., Renfrew Pizzeria, 98 Raglan St., Renfrew Shawarma, 648 O’Brien Rd., Milano Pizza, 49 Raglan St., and Sandy’s Deli Diner, 630 O’Brien Rd., are other good bets. At Manitou Bistro, 297 Raglan St. S, you can try indigenous fusion cuisine.

Renfrew Fair. Photo: Town of Renfrew

There is an eclectic mix of shops and businesses, too. Along with floral arrangements, The Flower Factory carries Kate Spade stationery and giftware. Pick-It-Fence, 190 Raglan St. S, offers gifts, home décor, handbags, jewelry, candles, quilts and vintage furniture. A Sense of Country, 169 Raglan St. S, offers home and cottage décor, sweet treats, books by local authors and more. J & J’s Chocolate Sensations, 204 Raglan St. S, sells fine chocolate products made with the highest quality ingredients. Ella’s Keeping Company, 187 Raglan St. S, showcases ladies’ wear, gifts and home décor, while A Dash of Fab, 289 Raglan St. S, Is a women’s clothing store. Scott’s Shoe Store, 263 Raglan St. S, sells footwear as well as apparel and accessories. The Warehouse, 57 Raglan Street South, is a party and gift store. Ottawa Valley Coffee, 239 Raglan St. S, is the spot for locally sourced coffee, craft beer, baked goods and locally made products.

Old Post Office Building. Photo: Guy Longtin

A number of events highlight the year in Renfrew. On Canada Day, the community celebrates at Ma-Te-Way Park. The first Renfrew Roots Music Festival took place last July and every September the popular Renfrew Fair draws visitors from across the Ottawa Valley. The Craft Beer & Food Truck Festival takes place at the end of September, then the Santa Claus Parade comes along on the first Saturday in December.

For details before you visit, check and