Canada Day, July 1, 2017, we celebrated Canada’s 150 at the National Historic Site, the HMCS Haida. Located in Hamilton, Ontario, it’s an easy day trip from Toronto or Niagara regions.
In honour of Canada’s 150, National Parks and Historic Sites could be visited free of charge with the Discovery Pass. With that in mind guests were still expected to check in at the desk. Being Canada Day the HMCS Haida was a very busy site with lots of people coming through to celebrate Canada’s military history.
We arrived shortly before open at 9am and were not the first to arrive. It was about a 15 minute wait to check in but we boarded the ship without wait after check in. We were smart to arrive early because by 10am people were waiting an hour to be let onto the ship. The staff would only allow a certain number of people on deck at a time. July 1st ended up being a beautiful sunny day which brought out a lot more people then would a dark and rainy day which added to the Canada Day business.
We did a self-guided tour of the ship. There are arrows on deck to guide you through the ship so you can see and experience each room on deck. Plaques in each room explains the use of the room and a little history about the Haida while the ship was in use. It took us about 1.5 hours to complete the self-guided tour.
The downside to pieces of history like this is it is not by any means accessible. The ship is very compact with ladders, watertight doors and very narrow hallways. There is absolutely no way to get scooters, walkers or wheelchairs through the ship. That being said a voice guide can be provided to visitors for a fee, so those who have visual impairments or have a more difficult time reading small print can rent a recorder and listen to the plaques as they venture around the ship. However, those with visual impairments should still be warned the ship is difficult to navigate without at least some sight and should not be traveled alone with impairments. It is very easy to trip over a raised edge throughout the halls or miss a step going down ladders on deck.
In addition to having the ship open for viewing, the Parks Canada staff had several activities to celebrate Canada Day. They had games set up for kids like costumes for dress up, painting stations, Canada Day tattoos. On board the staff were also doing a wine tasting. The wine tasting had a $2 fee for anyone 19 year old and over and you got to sample 4 different wines.
At events like this I usually expect to see some military personnel either serving or retired that visitors can speak to and get first hand stories. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Though many Parks Canada staff were dressed up in Navy attire no actual service men or women were around to talk about the HMCS Haida.
Though we did not stay all day, in the afternoon, the Parks Canada staff were doing a canon firing. This was a special event just for Canada Day. As well, in the evening they were doing a small fireworks display just offshore.