Leamington Ontario – the complete travel guide

The Tomato capital of Canada and gateway to Point Pelee and Pelee Island


Sunny Leamington Ontario is a small municipality that enjoys the second warmest climate in the whole country.

Located on the Lake Erie north shore it is Canada’s most southerly community and actually lies further south than 13 different American states including parts of California and falls on the same latitude as Rome, Italy.

The community of just under 30,000 inhabitants also includes Point Pelee, mainland Canada’s most southern point, which is located in Point Pelee National Park.

Originally called Wilkinson’s Corners the small settlement grew along Talbot Road, the main road in the area. The name was changed to Gainesborough in 1854 but since that name was already taken it was immediately changed to Leamington after Royal Leamington Spa in England. The hamlet became a village in 1874 and a town in 1890.

Early development centered on the lumber industry and the rich fishing grounds of Lake Erie. At the center of some rich agricultural lands with fertile soils in 1908 the H. J. Heinz Company set up shop in the town and remained the major contributor to the local economy until selling its sole Canadian manufacturing facility in 2014.

While tobacco was once the major crop grown in the area today the tomato is king and this has led to Leamington Ontario becoming known as “The Tomato Capital of Canada”. The is vividly reflected in the town’s water tower being in the shape and color of a giant tomato and the local tourist information office being in the shape of a large tomato. Over 60% of all Canadian tomatoes are processed in the area and the countryside in the immediate area is dotted with so many greenhouses it is said that it has the largest concentration of these buildings in all of North America.

Every August the tomato harvesting season begins and the city hosts the Tomato Festival that features parades, music, beauty pageants, a fair and the “Tomato Stomp”.


Location of Leamington Ontario

Getting to Leamington:

By Car:

From Downtown Toronto:

  • Take the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) West to Hamilton
  • In Burlington merge and take Highway 403 West to Hamilton/Brantford
  • Continue past Brantford and merge with Highway 401 West
  • Exit at Highway #77 (County side road #35) South to Leamington

From Eastern Ontario:

  • Navigate to Highway 401 West towards Windsor
  • Exit at Highway #77 (County side road #35) South to Leamington

From Northern Ontario:

  • Navigate to Highway 400 South
  • Highway 400 ends at Highway 401
  • Take Highway 401 West towards Windsor
  • Exit at Highway #77 (County side road #35) South to Leamington

From West Ontario:

  • Take Highway 401 East towards Toronto
  • Exit at Highway #77 (County side road #35) South to Leamington

By public transport:

Public transport is not an option by any means to get to Leamington. You must rent a car to visit the many attractions in the area. Once in the city however they do have a limited public bus service to get around the immediate area.

By Bus

Bus service is not available to this municipality.

By Rail

Rail service is not available to this municipality.

By Air

Air service is not available to this municipality.

By Boat

Leamington Ontario is also a transportation hub as two ferries operate out of its docks and service Pelee Island the southernmost inhabited point in Canada and a major tourist destination in its own right.

From spring to late fall the M/V Jiimaan and M/V Pelee Islander run to Pelee Island with the M/V Pelee Islander continuing on to link Leamington Ontario with Sandusky Ohio in the United States. For more information as to schedules and fares visit: www.ontarioferries.com

Please note that depending on the time of year the ferries may also operate out of nearby Kingsville (13 kilometres or 8 miles west of Leamington Ontario). Usually from Kingsville in the spring and Leamington in the fall.)


Leamington Attractions and Activities

Wildlife Viewing

Without a doubt the main tourist draw to the area is Point Pelee National Park and the other conservation areas in the region as they are major sites for birdwatchers and sun worshipers who flock to its beaches and wildlife sanctuaries from around the world. The migration of Monarch Butterflies each fall is also a major draw. For more information on the park and its activities visit my Point Pelee National Park page.

Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

A nature center on the east side of the city this 850 acre wetland and marshland habitat skirting Lake Erie is a birdwatchers paradise where numerous species can be observed including:

  • Bald Eagles
  • Ducks
  • Egrets
  • Herons
  • Warblers
  • Sandpipers

May is the best viewing time as this is the height of the annual migration and is highlighted with the Spring Shore and Songbird Festival. Viewing towers are placed at strategic places and a hiking trail allows excellent viewing opportunities.

There are also a couple of very good swimming beaches with excellent sand for frolicking and sun worshipping. Other activities to partake in include:

  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking

Kopegaron Woods Conservation Area

Located must north of Hillman Marsh this 47-acre woodlands is full of tree species not usually found this far north. A boardwalk trail allows one to walk through some beautiful scenery that is especially brilliant in the spring when early blooming flowers carpet the landscape in beautiful colors.

Also a splendid bird watching location the highlight is undoubtedly the colorful warblers that flock to the area. Other activities to partake in include:

  • Hiking
  • Picnicking
  • Cross Country Skiing (in winter)

Cedar Creek Conservation Area

Located west of Leamington Ontario it is considered by many the most beautiful natural area in the whole region. Cedar Creek is a 524 hectare (1300 acre) protected area that flanks both sides of the Cedar Creek. A landscape of Carolinian woodlands, ravines, and rolling plains it is full of wildlife and like most natural areas in the region is a bird watchers paradise. Some of the species to be spotted include:

  • Eagles
  • Egrets
  • Herons

Activities that visitors can participate in include:

  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking

Cedar Beach Conservation Area

Located at the mouth of Cedar Creek and the Cedar Creek Conservation Area it is one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in an area with a multitude of beaches. Of course this lends to wonderful swimming and sun bathing opportunities. Other activities that are enjoyed at the site include:

  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking

Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary

Located just northwest of Leamington Ontario the sanctuary was founded in 1904 by naturalist Jack Miner who is considered to be the father of conservation in North America and was awarded an Order of the British Empire by King George VI for his efforts and was instrumental in developing a method to band waterfowl to track their movements and migratory patterns.

The sanctuary remains a home to thousands of migratory birds each spring and fall. A small museum is located on site and visitors are allowed to wander around the site at their own pace and can even feed the birds supplied seed if they wish.

Wheatley Provincial Park

Located just east of Hillman Marsh and Kopegaron Woods near the small town of Wheatley the park is a favored destination for those wishing to camp in the region. Comprised of 241 hectares (596 acres) of Carolinian forest along the shores of Lake Erie it has a number of small creeks running though it that is full of wildlife and like most natural areas in the region, abundant waterfowl. It is also one of the few remaining homes of the rare Blue Racer snake; this non-venomous reptile is one of Ontario’s largest snake species.

The park has four campgrounds with 220 total campsites. In addition to camping there are a number of activities that visitors can enjoy including:

  • Hiking (2 hiking trails are available)
  • Fishing
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Boating
  • Swimming (a good sandy beach is available)

For more information visit my Wheatley Provincial Park page.

Heritage Village & Transportation Museum

Located west of Leamington Ontario near the town of Kingsville just north of the Cedar Creek Conservation Area this 100-acre site houses one of the largest vehicle museums in the province and a collection of important buildings from the regions past.

Some of the vehicles to be found in the Transportation Museum include:

  • A 1905 Ford Model F
  • A functional 2/5 scale 1903 Wright Flyer
  • An 1893 Shamrock (the oldest car in Canada)
  • A 1932 DeSoto
  • 1943 WWII Jeep
  • and many, many more

The heritage village has a number of historically interesting building including:

  • The first house in the region to have electricity
  • An 1890’s jail
  • An 1840’s General Store
  • A one-room schoolhouse
  • An old train station

And many more each containing artifacts and items from its era.

ErieQuest Marine Heritage Museum

As part of the Leamington Arts Centre this museum highlights the nautical history of the waters just offshore known as the Pelee Passage. Heavy traffic, sudden storms and treacherous reefs has resulted in over 275 shipwrecks in the passage just a short boat ride from the city’s marina and the museum has pinpointed these with displays and information. A great place for divers seeking more information about these man-made reefs before heading on a voyage of discovery.


The mild temperatures and fertile soils have long made the region one of the centers on Ontario wine production. On the same latitude as Rome, Italy, this industry is well established but is growing at a significant rate. Winery tours are a popular summertime activity along the western portion of the Lake Erie North Shore and a few are located in the Leamington area.


Leamington Ontario is a busy port of call in the summer months and it has a large marina and boat launch facility. Many boaters drive down to the city and use the launch to explore the islands of western Lake Erie and in particular Pelee Island which is one of the province’s premier tourist destinations.


The Pelee Passage between Pelee Point and Pelee Island is full of shipwrecks, including many that as of now have been undiscovered and unchartered, with the result being that Leamington Ontario has become the centre of a burgeoning diving industry. Divers flock to the area to partake in their sport among the many artificial man-made reefs in the shallow and fairly clear waters of Lake Erie. There are at present over 60 known shipwreck locations.


The shallow waters and strong winds that occur in the Pelee Passage make for ideal conditions for windsurfing and it has become a premier location for this sport in Ontario. On a sunny summer day you will see quite a few windsurfers in the waters just offshore from the city.


Enjoy cycling along a 4.5 kilometer (2.7 mile) route on top of a dyke.

Cross-country Skiing

In winter you can enjoy the sport along a 5-kilometer (3 mile) groomed route.


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