Pelee Island, Ontario : A Traveller's Guide

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Pelee Island is the southernmost inhabited landmass in Canada, comprised of over 10,000 acres of vineyards, farms, beaches, parks, and forests. What might be shocking to some readers is that over half of the 50 American states are NORTH of Pelee Island, including Northern California.  Pelee Island is on the same latitude as many prestigious wine regions of the world, including: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.  The island is home to approximately 150 permanent residents, many of whom are involved in service or agriculture industries. The main road stretches around the perimeter of the island and provides an excellent scenic route to cycle, run, or walk. If you plan to stay the night, there are a number of beautiful Bed and Breakfasts that will be happy to accommodate you during your stay, all of which serve local Pelee Island Wines.

Prickly Pear Cactus
Pelee Island is home to the rarest natural habitat in the country.  For instance, over 10,000 unique species of flora and fauna inhabit Pelee Island, including: the Honey Locust, Hop Tree, Prickly Pear Cactus, and Sassafras.  While the island is well known by wine experts, nature enthusiasts also visit to enjoy the island's natural beauty and simplicity. Birders journey to Pelee Island to witness the seasonal migration. A time when hundreds of bird species can be spotted. Additionally, from year-to-year, foxes and coyotes have been seen on the island, as have snakes such as the rare Blue Racer. Every label of Pelee Island Wine reflects on both the natural and/or human history of the island itself.

Along with its natural beauty, the island offers a host of other activities including: fishing, kayaking, hiking, and biking. Be sure to visit the Vin Villa ruins--all that remains of Canada's first commercial winery. Also, a stop at Lighthouse Point and Fish Point are a must do. 

At the museum located at the west dock, visitors can view evidence of the hundreds of shipwrecks claimed by Lake Erie's shallow waters during storms and naval battles. The museum also includes an amazing exhibit on Al Capone and his rum runners, who used Pelee Island as a steppingstone into Ohio during prohibition.


Original Pelee Island Lighthouse (1833)
On the northeastern spit of Pelee Island, 96 hectares have been set aside as an Ontario Park Nature reserve. The Blue Racer snake is one of several rare species found within the reserve. There are remnants of deciduous forests and patches of wetland, rich in aquatic plants. There are several trails for hiking, and a long sandy beach on the east side.

The park includes Lake Henry Marsh to the west side, rich in wildlife, plants, and spectacular sunsets.  The recently restored Pelee Lighthouse towers over the eastern shoreline. Built in 1833 to guide ships through the treacherous Pelee Passage, it is the second oldest Canadian lighthouse on Lake Erie [The first is Marblehead Lighthouse (1822) in Ohio].


The Fish Point Ontario Parks Nature Reserve extends into Lake Erie from the Southern shoreline of the island.  Like the famous Point Pelee spit located nearby on the mainland, Fish Point is an important stopover for migrating birds, and a bird-watchers paradise. Black-crowned Night herons and other birds frequent a lagoon, and shorebirds are numerous.

The point itself features pristine Lake Erie beach on either side with a spectacular view to Bass Island Archipelago of Ohio, and picture perfect sunsets.  Caution: there are hazardous currents at the tip and swimming is NOT allowed.

Blue Racer Snake
Inland Fish Point has near-virgin, southern deciduous forest harbouring several provincially rare plants, including Prickly Pear Cactus and Hop Tree. Rare animals include the Fox Snake, Lake Erie Water Snake, and the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.


The Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON) administers this 43 acre property on Stone Road on the southern portion of the island. It boasts a truly outstanding array of rare habitants and species.  Adjacent to the FON property is a park owned by the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) containing The Glacial Grooves.

Alvar is an Estonian word that describes a limestone plain covered with scattered vegetation that endures extreme wet and dry conditions. Alvars have their own unique flora that takes advantage of the extreme variations in moisture and the highly calcified sail and bedrock openings.  With Oak-Hickory Woodland, Oak Savannah, Red Cedar Savannah, Old-Field Thicket, Prairie and Open Alvar communities, it can be safely said that this mix of communities occurs nowhere else in Canada or in any of the adjacent U.S. States.

The alvar has three plant species that occur nowhere else in Canada: Corn Salad, Yellow Horse Gentian, and Leavenworth's Sedge and is also prime habitant for the endangered Blue Racer snake and various species of butterfly.

Pelee Island is just a 1.5 hour ferry ride from Leamington, Kingsville Ontario on the MV Jiimaan or 1hr 45mins from Sandusky, Ohio. For ferry schedules and fares click here.

Pelee Island Tourism Attractions


Post a Comment