The warm weather is (finally) on its way, and we want to share this post about a trip we took last year to the southernmost populated point in Canada, and incidentally the birthplace of the Canadian wine industry, Pelee Island!
Pelee Island is located in Lake Erie, between Leamington, Ontario to the north and Cleveland, Ohio to the south. There are about 300 permanent residents that live on the Island year-round!
The Island is also where Canada’s first commercial winery got its start back in the 1860s. Farmers were drawn by the long and warm growing season, and soon there were a number of wineries in operation on the Island. During Canada’s Prohibition years, wineries closed up shop, but in 1979, Pelee Island Winery was established and winemaking on the Island was revived.
To get to the Island you’ll need to take the ferry from Leamington, and it only sails a few times each day (weather depending – in the winter it doesn’t run at all and the only travel to and from the Island is by plane!).
Leamington is about a 3.5 hour drive from Toronto so we caught the 10 am ferry one sunny Saturday morning. The ferry ride on the Jiiman is roughly an hour and a half – be sure to get breakfast on the boat, we were pleasantly surprised by how tasty (and reasonably priced) it was!
Due to restrictions on how many cars the ferry can take across, we decided to leave our car behind and rent bicycles instead. It made for a relaxed pace around the island – which I will warn you is bigger than it looks! We also found the locals to be very friendly and helpful. Everyone waved at us from their cars as we cycled by (a huge contrast from our home in Toronto, where drivers tend to wave something else!).
We began our afternoon biking around the Island, visiting the historic Pelee Island lighthouse.
We also cycled around the vineyards, noticing many bird species you don’t often see in Ontario. After a fair amount of exercise in the sun, it was time to enjoy a glass of wine!
The Pelee Island Wine Pavilion:
The Pelee Island Wine Pavilion is a giant facility and a central hub of activity on the Island. For $5, we enjoyed an in-depth tour of the winery, which included a tasting in the cellar, and then headed out to the Pavilion where we discovered very reasonable prices on glasses of wine and food (great prices became a theme of the trip!) with live music as entertainment. Near the water and well landscaped, it was a beautiful spot to enjoy the afternoon.
Following our time at the winery we cycled back up the coast to the Westview Tavern, where we enjoyed a sunset dinner on the patio, before heading back to our hotel for a well earned rest! Quick note on accommodation – there isn’t much in terms of hotels on the Island, so we highly recommend trying Airbnb and booking in advance so you have good selections to choose from!
The following morning we got up early and cycled to “The Bakery”, where we had a coffee and breakfast. We then turned in our bikes and caught the ferry back to Leamington.
Pelee Island is a great spot for a quick getaway. It was a bit of a drive from Toronto, but worth it for a fun ferry ride, cycling along the water and through rows of vines, chats with friendly locals, and great wine – this will be on our list as a spot to visit again sometime!
Until next time!