Boost to Cobourg Tourism planned

Under the direction of Dean Hustwick, Director of Recreation and Culture, Cobourg is adopting a new strategy to attract Tourists to Cobourg.  Instead of simply listing attractions, a new “guide” will focus on “experiences”.  Other initiatives include a new tourism web site to expand on this and the hiring of summer students as “experience ambassadors” to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more.  Work on this project was done by Bryan Mercer, a contract employee who has many years of experience marketing Tourism, most recently in Kingston.  Bryan presented the result of his work to Council on Monday and handed out copies of the new guide to Councillors and the media. The new guide looks very different to previous guides, has no third party advertising and emphasizes experiences as distinct from places to visit – see below for more detail.

Highlights of the 2018 Tourism Plan and the 2018 Guide

Cover of New Tourism Guide
Cover of New Tourism Guide
  • The current Cobourg Tourism web site will be replaced by This should be online mid-April and that’s when the new “guides” will be released.  It currently says (in effect) “Coming Soon”.
  • The Guide’s main purpose is to lead people to the web site.
  • Longer stays will be promoted
  • Summer students will be hired as “Experience Ambassadors” who will tell visitors “there’s no way you can see Cobourg in a day”.  They will also survey visitors.
  • The guide features Armistice18
  • The guide will celebrate our Heritage and celebrate celebrities – e.g. Marie Dressler
  • Cobourg Brands will be created – the guide features special cocktails, local craft brewers
  • The guide will have a wider distribution  – Ottawa and ONRoute Centres will be included
  • Packages and Partnerships will be set up – e.g. with St. Anne’s and Arthurs Pub
  • There will be advertising in other publications
  • There will be a billboard campaign in Kingston and Belleville (they don’t have anything like our beach)
  • A Sponsorship program will be started e.g. with Cameco, Best Western, MacDonalds.
  • A “Tourism Working group” will be created
  • A big “What If” – What if Cobourg built a big sign that simply says COBOURG – cost is around $70k – but it would be a big tourist attraction. See example below right from Kingston.

The new “Experience Cobourg”  Guide talks about:

Kingston Sign
Kingston Sign
  • History, historical buildings, our planned celebration of Armistice18 (music, Art, Speakers, Film, Exhibits, Theatre), the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre
  • Downtown stores
  • The wide range of accommodation available and the idea that you can stay here but visit St Anne’s Spa and make Day Trips to Ganaraska Tree Top trekking, Rice Lake & Haute Goat in Port Hope
  • The Beach and Waterfront Festival
  • The many Festivals – Harvest Festival, Ribfest, Sandcastle Festival and Downtown Sidewalk sale, Winter Festivities, Waterfront Festival and Canada Day, Highland Games, Busker and Art Festival, Christmas Magic.
  • The food and craft beers available, the neat coffee shops, some “Cobourg Cocktails”
  • The extensive arts available from the AGN, the Firehall Theatre, the Concert Hall, the Marie Dressler House and Museum
  • A map is included that shows the location of all the featured Retail outlets, Venues etc

The new plan, guide and web site are a major effort towards increasing tourism in Cobourg.  Hopefully this will be an economic boost to Cobourg.

Update –  23 May 2018

Download the Guide from the Town’s web site here.

Print Article: 


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kim MJ
23 March 2018 4:48 pm

Let’s do more for Pride, if we want to have more celebrations and increase tourism. Everyone loves Pride, it’s such a feel-good event. Currently it’s planned, paid for, and executed by Cobourg Queer Collective, and the Cobourg Police Service have been exceedingly supportive. I’d love to see Pride flags downtown and a bigger scale celebration.

23 March 2018 4:34 pm

Like EWOK, I regularly request flags on strings be put criss cross along King Street. Apparently you can also get them with twinkling lights. I am ever hopeful we will have a Pirates’ Day…..
Love all the suggestions from you, Wally.

Reply to  What'sUpDoc
23 March 2018 9:37 pm

You are my new hero!

Wally Keeler
23 March 2018 3:45 pm

The west pier beyond the elbow is quite an ice show each winter after a storm splashes waves over the pier. Quite a build-up of ice with no formation. I suggest inserting four or five 10-foot rebars into the pier early November and remove after the thaw. Bend each rebar slightly, and during the winter, these will produce spectacular ice formations. We do marvel at the ice ‘volcanoes’ along the beach, and the corner on the east pier where ice builds up a fascinating volcano. An expense that would be a fraction of $70,000 and with much better aesthetic effect, being organically driven by wind and wave.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 March 2018 10:57 am

Just don’t slip and fall in. The town’s insurance co. might not like the prospects, same as they forbade jumping off the pier in summer due to liability concerns.

Wally Keeler
23 March 2018 3:28 pm

CREATIVE CROSSWALKS will bring people to downtown. click on each page to enlarge.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 March 2018 9:47 pm

Old news, somebody else’s creative idea. They’ve even got this in (gulp) Port Hope.
Think Fresh. Unique. Wally
Be creative, not copy cat.

Miriam Mutton
23 March 2018 2:17 pm

Building upon the lighting display ideas mentioned, how about combining a winter savoury celebration involving local restaurants, eateries, food trucks and guest chefs, with art and light exhibits throughout downtown and connecting to the waterfront. Background canvass includes the lighthouse, heritage downtown buildings, streets, and the wavy lake. A good way to enjoy winter and brighten the darker shorter days. Music optional or tune in to a local radio station for tunes to accompany your stroll through the light exhibits. These types of outdoor light exhibits seemed very popular in cities around the world this past winter.

23 March 2018 1:04 pm

Don’t turn our town into another “Wasaga Beach” experience using more taxpayer money just to add a bit of extra revenue & profit to our downtown restaurant owners pockets.

I would love to see a total extra cost to taxpayers this year (vs. last year) for every extra $100.00 of restaurant business this coming summer. Let’s get Dean to do this calculation with full disclosure.

As for the $70,000 sign…somebody get a life…just a bigger waste of money.

Paul Mills
23 March 2018 11:37 am

Cycle Tourism potential
1-Coubourg hosts two provincial/world class cycling routes.
A-Waterfront Trail
B-Greenbelt Cycling Route-
2-Cobourg ‘Bike Friendly status’ is coming soon from the Ontario Share the Road group. An opportunity to invite cyclists attending their Bike Summit to our town and enjoy great cycling.
Cyclists’ are great spenders. They could be encouraged to stay and cycle in beautiful Northumberland County while using Cobourg as a base.
Just wondering about the long term benefits of promoting cycle tourism?
Citizen cyclist

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Paul Mills
23 March 2018 12:08 pm

Yes, bike events. Bike For the Planet

Rusty Brown
23 March 2018 11:17 am

Then there’s all of Victoria Park north of Queen Street: a vast wasted tract the size of all of No Frills grocery, including its parking lot, going totally unused, right downtown, while the rest of the park is overcrowded. Immense potential to generate economic activity and attract visitors without a lot of development cost. Turn it into an actual park, for … sake, instead of leaving it as the huge vacant lot it is now.

23 March 2018 10:39 am

In this forum, I’ve pitched the idea of a permanent ban of cars on the pier to allow a diverse usage space and I will pitch it again when I’m Mayor. I’ve pitched the idea of free parking for Cobourg residents and I will pitch it again when I’m Mayor. I like the idea of a Cobourg sign or maybe a sign that says “Feel Good” in proximity to the beach (or the NEW Kraft Plant 🙂 …. I’ve pitched the idea of a proper boardwalk to the lighthouse and the tower viewers in multiple places, east and west and I would do that again.

I love the LED idea and I also don’t dislike the water obstacle course idea. I also still believe there is a place for our downtown and that it can thrive….What about a food truck weekend, Wing-Fest, Shakespeare in the park, kite festival, etc….

We have a wonderful town with immense potential….

Old Sailor
23 March 2018 9:27 am

I would be interested in hearing what the seasonal vacancy rates are in the Cobourg’s few motels, single hotel and single inn. No point planning on all the new tourists coming for extended stays when the occupancy rate is already100% at that time of year. A second Best Western type hotel in the east end of town or downtown should be a planning op.

23 March 2018 9:03 am

The east Pier Could be used for a lot of Things when it repaired
and Pedestrian anything would be better than a Hot Rod Haven all night
and yes its definitely windy enough for Kites

Wally Keeler
23 March 2018 8:53 am

Empty east pier could be used as a platform for a kite flying festival on the off seasons May June Sept Oct.
Empty east pier could be used as a chalkboard for art and poems etc, also off season.

23 March 2018 7:58 am

I guess Dean has been told Nothing New here Just Bigger not Better
Still flogging the waterfront to get people to a Dead downtown
When was the last time you saw a family in bathing suits on King st .?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  perplexed
23 March 2018 9:05 am

I’ve seen Youtube videos of Cobourg visitors buying stuff downtown. The tourists make vids about their trip. Heck, there’s a vid with tourists stopping at Walmart to buy $246 groceries for their weekend stay. There are lots of video of tourists coming to Cobourg, and they love coming here. So many from Toronto, many first and second gen immigrants becoming Canucks in the process. And the volleyball games is where lots of young bodies meet and greet and sweat and make contacts between locals and city teens, as part of the process of Cobourg students moving to the city for college, university, jobs. Networking.

I understand where you are coming from perplexed, but why don’t you offer one single original idea that might attract tourists to the downtown to purchase something. Just one idea. Surely someone who understands the problem as well as you do, should be able to muster up one original idea. C’mon, give us your ideas, just one.

Wally Keeler
23 March 2018 6:58 am

The Cobourg sign suggestion for $70,000 is an exercise in mediocrity. I would suggest that it be spent on a programmable led-grid for the lighthouse. The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove gets lots of tourists, just for the lighthouse. Cobourg could do better. Unlike many of the other attractions and or experiences of Cobourg, it can be available year round. Led lighting is uber energy efficient. It would be a unique beacon out in the lake. Once a year, a local student could win an opportunity to program the leds. Because it is a program, it can be stored on a thumbdrive for future use. Accuukated over the years, the lighthouse could display a retrospective. This is sophomoric attempt to display what I mean

Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 March 2018 8:37 am

Looks like a great idea to me Wally. Just not 24/7!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Stanley
23 March 2018 8:48 am

auto turn off at 11pm, no music overlay, just a light show.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Stanley
23 March 2018 9:23 am

We could rent binoculars to those standing on the shore so they could get a good look at it, out there on the horizon. Peggy’s Cove is on shore. You can walk right up to it.
Kites on the East Pier is a wonderful idea. Somebody is missing out on a great deal selling or renting kites and accessories (flags to hang from the string, banners, etc.) out there.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Rusty Brown
23 March 2018 11:48 am

I watched people walk right up the Cobourg lighthouse many times. I’ve done it many times in my life. People can stroll quite a ways out on the east pier to look at it. They don’t need binoculars. People on paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, yachts, bigger yachts, can all go quite close to it if they wish — again no need for binoculars. The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove does nothing except stand there like a noun. an LED lighthouse is a verb, dynamic, puts on a show. What show does Peggy’s Cove lighthouse perform?

Here’s a vid of tourists enjoying a splash fest on the pier. The lighthouse is in the background, and people are taking selfies galore with the lighthouse in the background. Why not exploit it? Indeed, why not produce salt and pepper shakers in the shape of the lighthouse, to sell to tourists and suggest that all eateries in town use the shakers on their table

Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 March 2018 9:06 am

Perfect idea you said people go for miles to see Peggy Cove’s Lighthouse!!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Charlie
23 March 2018 9:23 am

It will generate lots of selfie videos of Cobourg. The Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny hardly needs to promote itself any more because of the ubiquitous smart phone recording and broadcasting of the event from hundreds of bystanders. Self-promotion. The same can happen with a led-decorated lighthouse in the background. There are two giant buildings in Japan that call themselves lighthouses and are decorated with programmable leds, but aside from that, nowhere else in the world is there a manifestation of a lighthouse that is a LIGHThouse using programmable leds. In that respect, Cobourg could be original and unique and distinctive from all the other dime-a-dozen lighthouses on the Great Lakes or anywhere. $70,000 would be better invested in something more dynamic and original than a static COBOURG sign that would indicate a community with little imagination other than to copy other communities. It might be worth adding that such a led lighthouse could attract artists from any where in the world who can apply for an annual arts project grant to give them the time to make exceptional lighting manifestations. The COBOURG sign is a noun, undynamic, whereas a led lighthouse is a verb full of dynamic expression.

Rusty Brown
23 March 2018 5:12 am

One “experience” that tourists get in Cobourg is hunger and frustration that the downtown is a classic “food desert”. There is nowhere to buy food for a picnic lunch. It’s patronize the sitdown restaurants or go hungry. I have been asked before on King Street where to buy groceries downtown and the answer is: nowhere. It’s a genuine food desert.
Come to Cobourg and “experience” hunger and deprivation.

Reply to  Rusty Brown
23 March 2018 9:04 am

Gil has been told by the LCBO folks (and with TWO witnesses on the very day of Mr. Lee’s presentation) that the downtown liquor store won’t be closing. There is no good restaurant downtown but at least visitors can have a liquid lunch. Oh, I forgot, not in Ontario!

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Dubious
23 March 2018 9:48 am

Don’t let the folks at Buttermilk Café hear you say that. I’ve seen people lined up in the street to get a seat for lunch.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Dubious
23 March 2018 11:59 am

Liquid lunches take place often in Victoria Park by “tourists” although not openly….plastic drinking water bottles work wonders.

Reply to  Rusty Brown
23 March 2018 11:31 am

Why not let some enterprising soul, or perhaps students in our young entrepreneurs program set up a weenie cart on the east pier. Maybe one on the main pier too. I’m guessing beach goers aren’t looking for a sit down meal but a fast “street meat” snack.
Restaurants = no shirt, no service.
Weenie carts = no shirt, “do you want hot peppers on that”?

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Frenchy
23 March 2018 12:32 pm

Yes, weenies, burgers and more. Badly needed. But where is this “main pier”? I thought the east pier WAS the main pier.

fact Checker
Reply to  Frenchy
23 March 2018 10:15 pm

Isn’t that exactly what the Beach Canteen and Harbourlight Delights provide?

Reply to  Rusty Brown
23 March 2018 11:35 am

The beach cafe, run by Market & Smor, did picnic baskets last year.

Fact Checker
Reply to  Rusty Brown
23 March 2018 10:19 pm

There’s Shoppers on King W or the soon to open Market & Smor on King E

Greg H
22 March 2018 8:58 pm

I like our beach. I like visitors to Cobourg enjoying our beach.
BUT it is ridiculous to have a tourism program to encourage more beach visitors. In the summer the beach is totally overcrowded, especially when special events such as beach volleyball take over.

Why is there no coordination between tourism promotion and reality ? Are the “consultants” and council really considering spending $ 70,000 for an oversized sign that says COBOURG ? Is our vanity really that great ? Is our need to waste our money really that great ?

Signy McSignface
Reply to  Greg H
22 March 2018 9:20 pm

These giant signs are so unimaginative now anyways. Props to whoever came up with the original idea but now that every town and city on the planet wants one it’s time for a new idea, for which at this moment I do not have.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Signy McSignface
23 March 2018 5:06 am

Agreed. That “sign thing” has already been done to death.
As for the beach, we have overcrowding at Victoria Park and no one at all at the West Beach. I have suggested before that we should ensure that everyone can go topless there as the law now provides without any hassle from the “authorities” and promote it as “Ontario’s biggest European-style beach”. It’s a huge asset that we are not making any use of at all.
It was decided in the Supreme Court of Ontario (and others) long ago that women can go topless anywhere men can do it. Perfectly legal.
Now there’s an “experience” for you!

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Rusty Brown
23 March 2018 9:42 am

As for the East Beach:
“Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”.
[Yogi Berra]

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Rusty Brown
26 March 2018 3:44 pm

Rusty Brown
I believe it’s most locals on weekends in summer that you are referring to that don’t go there.?

Reply to  Signy McSignface
23 March 2018 10:54 am

Click here for an imaginative sign. This sign is a people magnet.

The Kingston sign, in comparison, is a bland white nothing. Spend the money Cobourg and do the job properly. The Town of Puerto Vallarta has proved that it can be done in style.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ben
23 March 2018 12:01 pm

The Kingston sign does have leds and lights up after dusk, coloured. (white is ideal for reflecting coloured leds) The Kingston sign omits the letter “I” which is a very clever ruse to invite people to fill the space with themselves, for lots of selfies, to show their friends and families where they have been. The Peurto Vallarta is resplendently multicoloured with the typical decorations one would expect at central American tourist spots. Nevertheless, the sign of a community name on the ground has been done to death, same ole, same ole. Toronto, Kingston, and now Peurto Vallarta. Time to think outside the box.

wishful thinking
Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 March 2018 3:07 pm

The Globe today features great stories regarding Ntld/Kawarthas – (including the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope — but not a word regarding Cobourg – all the new efforts being suggested are only as good as the media coverage – so take a look at the Globe then possibly team up with the towns south of Cobourg, spend the signage money and focus on the GTA – and please no”wellness town” it does not in anyway create curiosity and certainly is not inviting.. No parking would also be a huge welcoming – the meter fellows could be busy leaving a note on windshields with a “welcome” note and include places of interest in out downtown (if only the downtown would redo its flowering baskets and create window boxes in front of every store filled with flowers – WHAT A STREET SCENE THAT WOULD BE”

Bill Thompson
Reply to  ben
27 March 2018 7:41 am

How about a “sign” by actually doing what needs to be done for the people of Cobourg instead of throwing away more money on trying to attract the so called tourists?
The tourist draw ( beach and Victoria Park ) is now virtually a non event for locals on weekends as it’s so overcrowded that it is not enjoyable. No crowds of tourists in town however,.for what is there to see that is “touristy”?
Maybe the new marijuana plant will become the main tourist attraction in the near future .
.Now there’s an idea for a sign and the owners could provide it to the town cost free.
Win -Win situation .