What’s on the other side of Lake Erie? When Todd and I were kids we often visited Leamington, Ontario and Pelee Island, Ontario with our parents on their boats, but we’d never been anywhere else on the northern Lake Erie coast. As we gazed at the beach from the south side we looked across and wondered… Are the beaches the same? How about the towns? How about the country side? Is the Canadian culture different?
After crossing the border into Canada we headed west along the Lake Erie coast. Our first stop was an area that covers about 30 miles and includes the towns of Port Colborne, Dunnville, and Port Maitland. We had a spot reserved at a campground in Port Maitland, which is on the west side of the area.
As we drove, we noted countryside that is very similar to the rural parts of Ohio… rolling hills, lots of trees, fields of crops, and lots of farmers selling fresh produce. What’s different? Fields of solar energy panels and huge wind turbines everywhere… using nature to harvest energy, not just food! On our first evening there was an awesome sunset and the rural landscape with wind turbines against the sky gave the feel of a scene from a 70’s si-fi film… welcome to the future!
After parking the trailer, we went to explore. We drove to the lake and followed the shoreline east to Port Colborne. For much of the drive the shoreline is residential with a few public access points. As we approached Port Colborne we got the sense of a vibrant, welcoming, and fun place.
On the west side of town is a port with a marina and restaurant. We didn’t visit the restaurant, but noted a beautiful deck overlooking the marina. There’s a nice playground (especially for smaller kids), an ice cream and snack shop, put-put golf, and walkways.
The town is fantastic… restaurants and little shops line the streets. As we explored we were greeted by lots of friendly people smiling and saying hello. The town has an active entertainment and festival schedule, and there was a classic car show the night we were there.
The southern part of the Welland Canal runs through town… The Welland Canal connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and is a key part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. We had fun watching freighters come through and found an awesome restaurant called Canalside for dinner.
Canalside offers outdoor and indoor seating. Weather permitting the front of the restaurant is completely open and both seating areas flow together. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the menu is great. We noted salad options (I highly recommend the lobster and peach salad!), pub fare with healthy options like baked fish instead of fried, and a kid’s menu. Canalside has a good beer and wine list and a full bar. We loved it so much we went back the next day for lunch! http://www.canalside.ca
Want something sweet after dinner? Check out Candy Safari next to Canalside. Candy Safari has all kinds of candy and a really fun atmosphere… it’s worth the visit even to just look around. They also have an ice cream counter with lots of selections.
We went back to Port Colborne the next day and explored more… we found an awesome bakery about 1.5 miles away from Canalside to the north. Bremfield’s is famous for its pies, but offers more… muffins, brownie, scones, and other sweet treats. Bremfield’s also has a lunch special each day. The atmosphere is beautiful and there’s additional garden seating outside. https://www.facebook.com/bremfields/
Nickel beach is on the south east side of town and is known to be beautiful. We didn’t have time to check it out. We did note that it’s $10/car-load for beach access.
Would we return? Absolutely to Port Colborne… it would be a great add-on to a Niagara Falls trip! For anyone visiting the area, we recommend staying in Port Colborne, which offers a number of bed and breakfasts and other lodging. Port Maitland and Dunnville are nice places, but don’t offer much for visitors.