Brantford Ontario
& Six Nations Reserve

Why is  Brantford Ontario known as The Telephone City? Discover this and more: learn about the city’s tourist attractions, the surrounding countryside, and the history and culture of Canada’s largest First Nations reserve.

August 2013 -- If you’re looking for a new place to explore in Southern Ontario, how about checking out Brantford? Just an hour’s drive away from Toronto, or about an hour and a half from Niagara Falls, Brantford is a great place for an easy day trip or weekend sleep-over. I live in Hamilton, just down the road, and I’ve had the chance to visit the city many times. Here are some of my favourite places and activities in Brantford and its rural surroundings.

Bell Homestead

Why is Brantford’s nick-name the Telephone City? You’ll find the answer at this museum.

Bell Homestead in Brantford

If you’ve ever used a telephone, you owe a debt of thanks to Alexander Graham Bell, who once lived in this house in Brantford Ontario. This building, or more properly its back yard along the banks of the Grand River, is the spot where in 1874 Bell first conceived his idea for the telephone (or as he called it then “the speaking telegraph”). He tinkered with his ideas in a workshop in the corner of his bedroom. The home is now a museum devoted to the celebration of the man and his invention.

Woodland Cultural Centre

Woodland is one of the largest cultural centres owned by a First Nations community in Canada. The centre’s devoted to the culture of the Six Nations. More than just a museum, it houses both historic artifacts and contemporary art. Plan to take in the permanent exhibition as well as the temporary exhibitions that change a few times a year.

One of the permanent sections of the museum deals with stereotypes associated with Aboriginal people in Canada and how these destructive images have appeared in all contexts including advertising, movies, art and literature over the years.

Another section deals with Pauline Johnson, the Mohawk poet. The glass cases include photos and artifacts belonging to her. You can also visit her childhood home, Chiefswood, just outside of Brantford on the Six Nations Reserve.

Chiefswood & The Grand River Powwow

This house, now a museum open to the public, was once the childhood home of Pauline Johnson, a famous writer and recitalist. It’s located along the banks of the Grand River on the Six Nations reserve near Brantford in the village of Oshweken.

Chiefswood

Johnson was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and his English-born bride. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, she travelled through Canada, the United States and England reciting her poetry to crowds. For more details about her fascinating life, see my story about her and her home: Pauline Johnson.

Every summer a great powwow is held in the field near her house. Read more about it here: Grand River  powwow.

Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks

This simple wood-framed building covered in clapboard may have a humble appearance but it has a significant past.  In 1999 it was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.

Mohawk Chapel

The Mohawk Chapel, as it’s colloquially known, was the first Protestant Church ever built in Ontario. It was constructed in 1785 by the government for the Six Nations people, who left the United States to settle in this area after the American Revolution. It is still used as a place of worship by the local community. It’s also open to the public for visits.

Inside, you’ll find some unusual stained glass windows done between 1959 and 1962 showing scenes in the history of the Six Nations.

The church stands along the banks of the Grand River in a shady old graveyard full of impressive headstones and monuments. One of these stones marks the grave of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk leader and namesake of Brantford.

Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant

glenhyrst gallery

The small gallery is housed in an old mansion and features historic and contemporary art exhibitions. There's a pretty tea room (but it only serves set teas, which you need to reserve) and a lovely sprawling garden.

glenhyrst garden

Downtown Brantford Ontario

Neglected for many years, downtown Brantford is showing signs of a come-back. A new civic square, Harmony Square, opened up in 2008 and it hosts community events like movies, concerts, yoga and zumba classes, and in winter a public skating rink.

Nearby you’ll find coffee shops like Brown Dog and Coffee Culture, two chains with good food and treats catering to the university crowd.

The Sanderson Centre hosts live theatre and concerts. It’s a cool, retro building with a style of its own.

Sanderson Centre

Other Things to Do Around Brantford Ontario

If you’re looking for someplace to eat near the Bell Museum, check out this country restaurant/store, The Windmill Country Market at 701 Mount Pleasant Road, Mount Pleasant, just south of Brantford Ontario.

We inquired about a nearby restaurant when we were at the museum and someone recommended this. It’s full of art work, furniture, and collectibles, and is quite large (two stories, almost the size of a department store). The bakery and deli sells food for take-out (perfect for an impromptu picnic) and there’s a nice eat-in area as well.

Grand RiverGrand River from a Grand River Boat Cruise

The Grand River runs through Brantford. It’s long, running 300 km from the highlands of Dufferin County to Port Maitland. if you want to get a little taste of a short span of it, try the Grand River Cruises at www.grandrivercruises.ca. The boats leave from Caledonia near Brantford and they offer luncheon and dinner cruises. We took their 90 minute nature cruise (no meal) and it was great fun. Very relaxing.

Another place to check out:

Brantford Station Coffee House and Gallery – Inside Brantford’s VIA Rail train station you’ll find this cozy cafe displaying local art and offering frequent concerts.

For more information about the city, check out Brantford Tourism.

Ontario Travel Secrets > Cities > Brantford