Canadian Park Hound

Outdoor Trips & Tips With The Novice Bushwacker

Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Provincial Park and the Lake Erie coast, June 2012

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The southernmost tip of Point Pelee National Park (and the southernmost tip of mainland Canada)

We needed a quick weekend trip outside of the city and, being the height of bug season, we chose to head south instead of our usual direction out of Toronto. Knowing that Sandbanks would be packed to the gills, we decided to check out what Point Pelee National Park and the surrounding area had to offer.

It’s a solid 3 – 3 1/2 hour drive from Toronto right into the agricultural heart of Southwestern Ontario. You have to head through Leamington (the home of Heinz Ketchup) to get to the park gates. Point Pelee Nat’l Park does not offer any camping opportunities (it’s a tiny bird sanctuary, for the most part), so we got ourselves a motel room in town and drove to the park to catch sunset at “the tip”.

It’s a short trail from the parking lot, but the mosquitoes in the wooded sections made the most of their tiny window of opportunity with us. The pay-off, of course, was the beautiful little beach and sunset view that met us at the end. With only one other family there, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. This would be a perfect spot for lunch, but there are plenty of warnings against swimming in this area due to the strong cross currents that occur around this land formation.

Beach at Point Pelee on the west side of the park (not the tip)

Before the sun went down for the night, we took half an hour to walk along the other beach on the west side of the park. Great for “long walks on the beach” and views of Great Lake Erie.

On our way back to the motel, we stopped at an “All You Can Eat” fish place. It was NOT Paula’s Fish Place. I forget the name of the place, but if you’re driving towards Leamington from the park, this place is BEFORE Paula’s. Go to Paula’s. On our way into the park, we noticed that Paula’s was full of guests. The place that we went to was not full of guests. Without boring you with the details of our sterile meal and bad service, I’ll just offer to you that Paula’s Fish Place was probably the busier of the two for good reason.

The motel was no great accommodation either, so I’ll pass on suggesting it to you. Our idea was to get up early the next morning and, hopefully, catch the ferry over to the island. Finding info on how to get the ferry was proving to be a real challenge. My partner spent a good portion of our car ride from Toronto searching the web for ferry schedules, fees and contact info to reserve a spot. Again, without boring you with specifics, let me suggest that if you’re planning on visiting Point Pelee Island with no prior experience; call ahead and book your spot on the ferry in advance.

We woke up to meet the ferry operator as soon as the window was open. Driving into the parking lot and loading area, we could see that the line-up of vehicles and boat trailers that we may not be seeing the island. And again… I won’t ruin the scenery by describing in detail just how rude the girl in charge of running the window was to us. In a word: appalling. Suffice it to say; book well in advance.

At this point, my partner dubbed the area: Disappoint Pelee.

After a diner breakfast, we opted to drive the coast of Lake Erie and see if we made it home before anything caught our eye. As nice as Pelee Nat’l Park is, we’re not bird enthusiasts. Sure, birds are great to observe in their natural habitat, but we’re just not the type of people to crack out our khaki shorts and binoculars to spot birds (no disrespect to birders!)

Our first (and as it turned out, only) stop on our coastal drive was Rondeau Provincial Park, just a short drive north on the coast from Leamington. This area is a “birder’s paradise”, but we had just missed the peak season and the park was relatively empty. We made our way to the beach at the southernmost end of the park and camped out by the water for the afternoon with books, beer and (she, not me, went) swimming.

Our tent as a beach/sun shelter

This was our first opportunity to use our Black Diamond Mesa tent as a shelter. By setting up just the fly with the footprint (see picture above), and leaving out the tent, you can create a quick and easy ultra-lite shelter (or sun-shelter in our case). It was quite a scorcher on this day, so the shelter was fantastic.

Beach at Rondeau Provincial Park

Rondeau Provincial Park

Enjoying the beach at Rondeau Provincial Park

After several hours of getting sun and loafing about, we hit the road again with the notion of possibly staying in Port Stanley or Port Burwell. Port Stanley was a bit too expensive and boutique-y for our tastes. As a child, I had spent many days in Port Burwell, either going out fishing or killing time at the beach. As an adult, the beach at Burwell no longer appeals and I don’t fish anymore. There is a campground at Port Burwell, but again, it really isn’t the way that we like to camp. The only way that I can really enjoy the provincial campgrounds is if it is attached to a stunning beach (i.e. – Sandbanks), or if I need a place to stay on my way into the backcountry or on my way out (i.e. – Algonquin).

As for driving the coast of Lake Erie… the route along the shore takes you through some beautiful farm land which is definitely worth seeing. Next time (if there is a next time), we’ll make sure to have a few extra bucks to put ourselves up in a better than cheap motel or a decent B&B.

All in all, we got out of the city for a weekend…. and reaffirmed our love of exploring the backcountry.


Written by canadianparkhound

September 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm

One Response

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  1. Hello,

    I’m trying to get in touch to speak to you about using an image from your blog post on a website. Can you please provide an email address?



    June 12, 2015 at 10:06 am

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