Lake Erie North Shore – a complete travel guide

Near deserted, endless, white sandy beaches and the southernmost point in Canada


The Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island area is one of the least populated sub-regions of Southwest Ontario yet it has long been a vacation destination for locales that wish to experience the natural beauty of the province without the weekend congestion of traveling to the more popular “cottage country” of the near north.

Endless, near deserted white sandy beaches abound along its approximately 275 kilometre length and the shoreline is dotted with a multitude of provincial parks and one national park that offer a plethora of outdoor activities. Wildlife abounds and many rare and migratory species can only be found in this part of the province.

Visitors to the region can visit both the southernmost point of mainland Canada at Point Pelee and the southernmost populated point of Canada itself by taking a short journey offshore to Point Pelee Island. Many are surprised to learn that this part of this northern country is actually located at the same latitude as places as diverse as Northern California, Portugal and Italy.

Highlights of the region include:

  • Point Pelee National Park
  • Pelee Island
  • Long Point Provincial Park (a UNSECO World Biosphere Reserve)
  • Rondeau Provincial Park
  • Many other provincial parks and recreation areas

Location of the North Shore of Lake Erie:

Getting to the North Shore of Lake Erie:

By Car:

As previously mentioned the region is very long from east to west, approximately 275 kilometres in length. For the most part there are two highways that transverse its breadth, highways 401 and #3.

    • Highway 401 is the main thoroughfare that stretches across Southern Ontario from Windsor to the Quebec border. For those traveling from Toronto or most other parts of the province this will be the route to take. Just head in either direction depending on your starting point and when you see a sign pointing to your ultimate destination just head south. It is very straightforward.
  • It is also just as easy to travel along Highway #3 but this is an older original highway that actually follows the path of the old Talbot Trail, the main route along Lake Erie’s north shore that was originally constructed in the 1820’s. As such it passes through many small communities in an indirect way and thus you travel at a much slower speed over a greater distance. Not really recommended unless you have excess time to spare.

By Air:

Traveling to the region by air is not really an option for visitors to Ontario Canada. While there are small airports and landing strips that dot the landscape none offer passenger services. They are for mainly private or business use.

By Public Transport:

By Rail:

The only community in the region serviced by Via Rail is Chatham-Kent which lies on the main Windsor – Montreal line. From there you would have to rent a vehicle to get to your final destination.

By Bus:

Most of the larger communities in the region have been serviced by bus in the past but the lack of large numbers of travelers has resulted in a significant reduction in services recently.

Insider Tip:

If a visit to the Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island region is on your itinerary rent a vehicle. Driving it is relatively straight-forward and traffic is definitely not an issue once you are away from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). You also can stop at many places along the way that are definitely not accessible otherwise.

Getting to Pelee Island

Pelee island is the largest island in Lake Erie and does not have a land link to the main land. The only practical means of getting to the island is by ferry. Two ferries service the island for both passengers and vehicles, the MV Jiimaan and the much smaller MV Pelee Islander, and operate from mid-March until mid-December. They operate out of the Municipality of Leamington and the nearby Town of Kingsville, summer service is also scheduled to Sandusky, Ohio.

There is limited air service from Windsor airport during the winter months when the ferries are out of service.

For more information as to schedules and fares visit:


Long inhabited by aboriginals, as previously mentioned the area today is sparsely populated with the largest community being the Municipality of Chatham-Kent with just over 100,000 inhabitants which is actually an amalgamation of many former smaller communities and for all intents and purposes actually lies outside the area that I would traditionally call the Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island region.

The largest communities that actually lie on the north shore of the lake are the town of Fort Erie at the extreme eastern end of the lake where the Niagara River empties it into lake Ontario and the Municipality of Leamington at the opposite western end of the region. Each community has approximately 30,000 inhabitants each.

Apart from that there are many smaller communities scattered in between with a few small picturesque former fishing communities dotting the shoreline. Today their ports provide marinas for the numerous boating vacationers that flock to the area. The Town of Leamington is one of the main ports in the area and services the offshore Pelee Island a major draw for tourists and sightseers alike.

The Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island region is an area of Southwest Ontario that is usually visited by travelers looking for a more relaxed vacation. It is a nature enthusiast and beachcomber’s paradise. While lacking the tourist draws of the big cities or the naturally spectacular Niagara Falls, locales have long known what the region has to offer, white sandy beaches and a calm, quiet environment into which you can sit back, catch some rays or enjoy water activities in the warm waters of Lake Erie.

Locations such as Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island also provide nature seekers the chance to encounter migrations of species not seen any other place in Canada. Each year thousands flock to the area to enjoy the annual spectacles.

The small Town of Port Dover has also in recent years become world famous as it host a motorcycle rally on each Friday 13th. This year round event happens year round rain, snow or shine and has become so popular it attracts upwards of 100,000 bikers during a summer rally.

All in all I’d say that if this is your first visit to Ontario Canada you will probably bypass the region but for returning visitors a day or two in the region maybe should be put on your itinerary. You can reach the majority of the region in about 2 ½ hours from Toronto and for those going to Niagara Falls it is only a continuation of about another hour before you are in the heart of the region.

There are many destination in the regions worth visiting. Check out my Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island attractions pages below.


North Shore and Pelee Island Attractions

Point Pelee National Park

A true gem in Canada’s National Park system it is located at mainland Canada’s southernmost tip and is farther south then some parts of Northern California. Visitors will experience warm weather, warm water and long sandy beaches. One of the world’s great birdwatching locations it falls along North America’s main migration route and is a naturalists mecca. Visit my Point Pelee National Park page for more information.

Leamington Ontario

Canada’s southernmost community is located right next to Point Pelee National Park and is the gateway to Pelee Island as it is from here that you catch the ferry to make the journey to the island. Sunny and warm with little rainfall it is an ideal destination in its own right. This Lake Erie North Shore community is known as the “tomato capital of Canada” visit my Leamington Ontario page for more information.

Pelee Island

One of Ontario’s premier tourist destinations visitors flock here to enjoy warm weather, beaches, wine and wildlife. As far south as you can go in Canada, Pelee Island is farther south than parts of California and enjoys a Mediterranean climate with minimal rainfall. Visit my Pelee island page for more information.

Wheatley Provincial Park

Visitors to the park on the Lake Erie North Shore can enjoy a Mediterranean climate, warm water and a 1.6 kilometre (1 mile) long sandy beach while camping at the province’s southernmost government run campground. A perfect place to use as a home base for exploration of the surrounding region visit my Wheatley Provincial Park page for more information.


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