By Theresa Russell
The tip of the Point Pelee Peninsula points like an arrow directing visitors to this small Canadian island that enjoys a prime spot in Lake Erie. Pelee Island is a hidden treasure; its shores are frequented by monarch butterflies and a variety of species of birds. Birdwatchers in search of a new addition to their life list or those watching the monarchs as they head south will find a perfect place right here in the most southern community in Canada.
How we decide on a particular destination is an art in itself. A great, great aunt used to have a tobacco farm on the island. Really? Tobacco growing in Canada? Has been since the 1700’s. Having heard about this island from my grandmother, I waited years before visiting and when I did finally visit, my bicycle came along with me on the ferry from Leamington.
A Pleasant Pedal
The island is flat, the roads are paved or hard-packed and ideal for cycling. For families, the island is perfect for a bike ride as there are bicycles for rent, few cars and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. The island remains a low-key, undeveloped escape where you can forget about the rest of the world for the rest of the day.
On a pleasant June weekday, we found the sun shining, the roads uncrowded and the island waiting for our discovery. The Heritage Museum near the ferry dock contains an interesting collection of artifacts from the island and also explains much about its culture and its status as a home to several rare species of birds, insects and snakes.
Lighting the Way
Every island has a lighthouse, so first on the agenda was a ride to that area and finally a short and pleasant hike along the shore to the lighthouse. The light was recently restored after having been unused since the early 1900’s.
The wine industry has always played a role in the history of Pelee Island and that remains true today. Next stop for the day was a visit to the Pelee Island Winery. With over 550 acres of vineyards on the island, the winery is the largest private estate in Canada and may also have the most perfect weather for growing grapes. We stopped in and sampled a few of the wines and mounted up again to enjoy the beaches and the gentle lapping of the waves.
Back to pedaling, we crossed over several of the dykes that criss-cross the island. We had learned at the Heritage Centre that for many years Pelee Island has been a popular summer destination. Besides two-wheeling adventures like ours, visitors enjoy swimming, fishing and diving old ship wrecks. Birdwatchers return to the island year after year.
The easy cycling relaxed us and allowed us to get a good sense of Pelee Island. The time passed by far too quickly and before we knew it, the ferry awaited our return to the mainland. After almost half a century, I finally realized my dream of visiting what I had always imagined as an exotic destination. I was not disappointed.
We wheeled our cycles up the ramp and secured them planning for a future return to this island from the past.
About Theresa Russell
Claiming her lust for travel began on her first journey through the birth canal, Theresa is genetically programmed to travel and to have fun doing it. She especially enjoys adventure and experiential travel and always finds something at a destination to write home about.