20 Years From Now...

"20 YEARS FROM NOW," Mark Twain said, “you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did.”THIS online journal is dedicated to our next 20 years!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Pelee Island

Pelee Island had been on our list of places to visit for a number of years and as this is Canada's 150th birthday we decided to spend a week there June 10-17. Our rental cottage was basic, but adequate and its best feature was the huge deck overlooking Lake Erie.

Pelee Island in Lake Erie
As one might expect, the climate reflects the island's location and during our stay we endured 😂 28+C temperatures for seven luscious days. John was in his element!

Passage to the island is via the MV Jiiman ferry that leaves Leamington and we were advised to book early. There were a great many foot passengers who brought along their bikes as the island is a perfect destination for a day-long bicycle ride around the island.

The island is 32 kilometres south of Leamington and after a 90-minute ferry ride the MV Jiiman arrived on the west side of the island.

Before we left Leamington, however, I suggested a selfie. John balked at the idea at first...

...but came around when he realized it was not negotiable!

The 3-bedroom cottage (click link for details) is on the south shore of the island and a short ten minute drive from the ferry dock.

The island desperately needed rain and most lawns were parched.

One feature John embraced was the barbecue.

Roast chicken...mmm
The view from the deck looks west toward Fish Point Nature Reserve (below), while the first photo above provides the eastern view.

Fish Point Nature Reserve in the distance
Travelling around the island is extremely easy although a map does come in handy. The speed limit is a leisurely 60 kilometres per hour and the main route hugs the shoreline. Some roads are paved, but many are not.

During the week we got together with good friends Dave and Flo who came for a one-night stayover and while we spent the majority of our time chatting on the deck we managed to take in the island sights. Our first stop was the lighthouse at the northeast tip of the island.

Getting there (once we parked the van) was a bit of a challenge as the lake levels are so high this year that the majority of the island's beaches are completely submerged. We were lucky to find this narrow stretch and made the most of it as the mosquitos were out in full force on the woodland trail.

Next stop was Scudder Dock and the ice cream parlour. 

Pelee Island is often referred to as "Canada's Best Kept Secret" and we found this to be true. We expected the island would be more built up with numerous tourist attractions, but with less than 200 full time residents (many of whom are of retirement age) that was not the case. For sale signs were posted in front of homes, cottages and businesses and while we suspect the locals welcome the tourist dollars, most would prefer to have the island to themselves.

That said there are a number of bed and breakfast establishments and plenty of cottages to rent. 

Birds are plentiful on the island. We spotted Canada Geese swimming close to shore, herons swooping high overhead and each morning thoroughly enjoyed the song birds.

There are also a surprising number of farms on the island.

Island residences vary from luxurious to basic.

The majority of homes are newer, but this one is likely one of the oldest on the island.

Most are within a stone's throw of the lake and have built decks and gazebos to enjoy the view.

This "stoneman" on the west side of Pelee is a testament to island perseverance. 

In Canada it's customary - and may I add expected - to find more than one inuksuk!

Just north of the Stoneman is a shoe tree. I have no idea of the significance although someone mentioned it's a place for hikers to pay homage to their trek around the island.

This is Canada's southernmost public school.

Nearby is one of many churches we spotted on the island.

Another highlight was the Pelee Art Works. The lacklustre exterior belies the array of locally hand made gifts and souvenirs.

Directly across from the ferry dock is the Westview Tavern where we enjoyed a fresh perch platter lunch on our final day on the island.

Coleslaw, chips and perch fillets
The top attraction of the island is the Pelee Island Winery. It is Canada's oldest and largest.

There was a vineyard on the island as early as 1860, but during the early 20th century it fell into disuse. All that remains is this child-size replica.

In the 1980s the Pelee Island Winery restarted the industry. Today there are more than 600 acres of grapevines on the island and many more on the mainland at Kingsville (the winery's major site). 

View of the ferry from the winery pavilion
The hot, dry climate is perfect for growing grapes and is on the same latitude as many of the best wine producing countries such as Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. It is also home to a variety of the prickly pear cactus.

The pavilion is the focal point of the winery and includes a vintage grape press, bar, shop and outdoor dining area.

On our last full day on the island we went on the wine tour (our first ever) and enjoyed every minute. Our guide provided ample information and interesting tidbits about the industry and the highlight (naturally) was the wine tasting at the end of the 1.5-hour long tour.  A few souvenirs seemed in order!

Timing is everything and in my opinion we lucked out because on the last Saturday the fish flies arrived. We'd never heard of them before and I hope it is our first and last time being in their company. They don't bite, live only a few days, but arrive in swarms. The one to two-week invasion had only begun, yet they covered the side of this port side building.

These two opted to hitch a ride on the ferry back to Leamington.

Fish flies excluded we had a wonderful time on Pelee Island - a truly memorable week on Canada's southernmost land mass. Cheers!

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