Five Things to do in Essex County
Our family of six recently spent a week in Essex County. Essex County was one of the first places to be settled in Ontario. It is still primarily rural and is known for very flat farmland and a lot of wind. Point Pelee, the southernmost point of land in Canada, is in the county. Expect hot summers and snowy winters.
The landscape is now peppered with windmills as far as the eye can see. Farmers receive approximately $8,000 per year from each installation. At night, the red lights put one in mind of an alien invasion and during the day, the arms look like spiders creeping across the landscape, rarely stopping. It is a unique sight and was one of the characteristics most noticeable about this part of the province.
I would recommend the following if you are heading to Essex County:
1. Stay in Lighthouse Cove.
Lighthouse Cove is built on a canal system feeding from the mouth of the Thames River into Lake St. Clair. Every home in the community backs onto the canal. This facilitates fishing from the backyard along with fire pits overlooking the water. The canal is always moving.
We stayed at a beach house with a five-hole putting green in the backyard. There was also kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. Walking around the community is interesting as the houses range from tiny cabins to massive mansions and everything in between.
Lake St. Clair is a very shallow lake, 21 feet at its lowest point except in the shipping channel that is dredged to 27 feet deep to facilitate Great Lakes shipping from Lake Huron to Lake Erie. It has sandy beaches, most notably at Belle River, and lots of sandbars.
2. Go to Point Pelee National Park.
Point Pelee is our second smallest National Park at the southernmost tip of Canada. It is also our most ecologically diverse, known for thousands of flocks of migratory birds in the Spring and Fall along with monarch butterflies. Originally a military base coveted for its red cedar for boat making, it is now maintained by the country’s parks system who do an excellent job of preservation and protection.
Our family visited in late June. We had a wonderful time at the very tip of the point, barefoot in the sand, wading into the water to our ankles, marveling at the tides and waves and how the Lake Erie water comes sloshing together there. We climbed to the top of the lookout point and were able to see Pelee Island. We also enjoyed the tram and some hiking. There is a boardwalk that takes you right over the top of the water where you can view barnyard sparrows and red-winged blackbirds close-up along with all manner of flora and fauna.
We spent a second day swimming in the beach on the west side, enjoying the sand bars and the waves. The water was fresh and the beach was long with multiple picnic tables for guests who didn’t want to swim. It is one of the nicest beaches in the county.
3. Golf at On the Green Mini Golf in Tecumseh.
On The Green Mini Golf is a 36-hole outdoor facility along with a 17,000 square foot indoor golf extravaganza. We played all 36 holes of pirate-themed outdoor mini golf. Animatronic buccaneers talk to you when you come in and there are multiple plates telling interesting pirate facts and tales as you move through the course. The holes are creative, fun and challenging. We had a marvelous time.
The indoor facility was closed due to COVID but looks fascinating with the ability to play any course in the world from the simulated indoor area. We ended with soft serve ice cream cones – vanilla and chocolate swirl - while we sat at the picnic table waiting for our ride. It was a pleasurable way to spend a few hours.
4. Go to Windsor to gaze across the Detroit River.
Go to Windsor and look across the relatively narrow Detroit River at the United States of America. The border runs right down the middle of the river. There is something neat about looking across at a totally different country and seeing Americans driving their cars along the water with the Stars and Stripes flying proud. Detroit used to be a bustling, busy, vibrant city. The infrastructure is still on full display when you gaze across the river. It is a most interesting experience.
Windsor has done a nice job of creating and maintaining multiple waterfront parks where you can play frisbee, swim, play on climbers, walk dogs, picnic and just enjoy some green space by the water. Many houses fronting the Detroit River are large and luxurious. The drive past the Ambassador Bridge is also engaging and there were some freighters in the river.
On the way back, we visited Stop 26 Ice Cream & More and ate some tasty ice cream. It was a nice drive.
5. Go Walleye Fishing on Lake Erie.
Lake Erie is known as the best place for walleye fishing in the world. Walleye, also called pickerel, is a white fish typically ranging in size from 19 to 24 inches in length. It makes for a delicious meal when cooked fresh.
We chartered a 28-foot boat captained by Chris Benn through Crooked Hook Charters. He had 12 fishing poles running alongside his radar system showing where the fish were. Our children each caught multiple fish, primarily walleye but also two sheepheads, a big trout, and a couple of baby perch. We ate the trout for dinner that night.
The boat ride on Lake Erie was magical, with the wind blowing through our hair and the water shining and shimmering. The day was sunny and warm with a breeze. Being half an hour out in the middle of the lake was most enthralling. Everyone had a grand time. Canada is extremely lucky to have all the freshwater lakes we do.
In Essex County, the weather was beautiful, the people friendly, and the landscape much different than what we were used to. Being on the water is always a luxurious pleasure and boating on the lakes makes you feel fortunate to live in Canada. Although the windmills everywhere you look took some getting used to, the week in Essex County was most relaxing, relatively affordable, and something I would recommend.
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