At the confluence of the Muskrat River and the Ottawa River, Pembroke is main city of Renfrew County, with a population of 15,000.
The first European settlers came to the area now known as Pembroke attracted by the growing lumbering operations of the area.
Originally named Miramichi, the village was renamed after Sidney Herbert, First Admiralty Secretary from 1841 to 1845 and son of George Herbert, 11th Earl of Pembroke. It was named seat for Renfrew County in 1861. This set the stage for construction shortly thereafter on the Renfrew County Courthouse, and the arrival of many civil servants, much wealth and much construction.
From 2005 to 2007, the courthouse and (now disused) jail were re-constructed into one building and historic renovations were also completed. Visitors on weekdays can view original 1867 jail cells in the basement, and the original courtroom, complete with a huge replica of the original brass light fixture. County meetings were held here for many years.
Other historic buildings that survive in Pembroke include a historic synagogue, two original hospitals, the Dunlop mansion (Grey Gables Manor Bed & Breakfast), the 'Munroe Block' downtown, and two houses belonging to the White family. A fire in 1918 downtown destroyed many buildings, including the Pembroke Opera House.
Local attractions include 30 historic murals in the downtown area depicting the history of the city, from steam engines to logging.
At the Champlain Trail Pioneer Village and Museum, the history of Ottawa Valley settlers comes alive inside the fully furnished schoolhouse, pioneer log home and church — all built in the 1800s. Other outdoor exhibits include train station, sawmill, blacksmith shop, stonelifter, carriage shed, woodworking shop, bake oven, smokehouse and a 1923 Bickle fire engine. The large museum features artifacts which range from fossils and First Nations arrowheads to furniture, clothing and manufactured products of Pembroke from various eras. There is also a replica of Samuel de Champlain's Astrolabe (he brought the original to the Valley in 1613), an original Cockburn pointer boat, Corliss steam engine, doctor's examination room, fancy parlour rooms, general store, hair salon and more.
The Pembroke Hydro Museum commemorates national hydro-electric development in Pembroke, including the first electric streetlights in Pembroke, and the first municipal building with electric lights (Victoria Hall).