One of Ontario's best kept secrets is the town of Kingsville near Windsor. I spent a wonderful long weekend there with a few of my closest friends.
This small picturesque town situated on the shores of Lake Erie offers countless ways to spend a few days or more.
Upon arriving, John and I and our friends Jackie and Barry immediately checked into our Victorian Airbnb rental. The Griffith house offered four bedrooms and was the perfect mix of bygone era charm and modern conveniences. We loved the large, private back yard.
Our thoughtful hostess, Katie even left us a bottle of wine from one of the local vineyards and coffee, tea, cream and sugar for the morning.
Our first visit was to Point Pelee National Park which is about a half hour drive from Kingsville.
Upon entering the park, we stopped at the marsh area where we signed up for the 50 minute canoe tour with a park ranger. The canoe holds ten people and the park ranger. A couple adults with four infants and toddlers sat at the front of the boat. They didn't do much paddling but the toddlers managed a fair bit of splashing with their paddles before one (paddle, not toddler) was dropped into the water. Fortunately, Jackie and Barry were sitting between them and us, thus providing us a protective shield from the soaking.
We paddled through tall grasses, bullrushes and pink flowering rose mallow bushes. Water lilies were all around us. I was intrigued to find that there were even small carnivorous plants with little yellow flowers in the water.
Our next stop was the park visitors centre which had numerous displays, a couple ponds inhabited by cute, local frogs and a short film about the history of the park. From there we made our way to point.
Strong waves rushed up onto this southern most point of mainland Canada. While posing for a picture, our shoes got soaked. Note to self: next time wear sandals.
Swallows swooped along the shorelines at the side of the point. This area is known for bird watching.
Back in Kingsville, we ate on the patio of Jack's Gastropub. Main street Kingsville is filled with wonderful restaurants and boutique shops.
By the time we walked back to our rental house, our other friends had arrived. We spent a pleasant evening sipping local wine while a fire in the firepit set off an intimate glow. This was the perfect place to spend a summer's evening with friends.
We were up early the next morning since we had to be at the Pelee Island ferry dock an hour before departure or we chanced losing our reservations. The ferry only takes so many cars, so you have to book well in advance. I could only get one car reservation so all eight of us were forced to squeeze into our minivan. The phrase canned sardines was an understatement. Fortunately we didn't need to stay in too long and immediately propelled out upon parking on the ferry.
Although the island looked deceptively close, it was an hour and a half to get there. We were sternly informed that we were sadly mistaken regarding the laws for opening a bottle of bubbly on international waters and we had to quickly dispose of the contents.
The island is small but pretty. After stuffing ourselves back into the van, we took a short trip to the Pelee Island winery where we indulged in some tasting before eating the picnic we brought with us. Of course we were allowed to crack open a bottle of their wine at their picnic area.
We toured the island, did a short hike and stopped for ice cream before boarding the ferry back to the mainland.
We barbequed in our yard that evening and walked around the quaint town, admiring all the houses with their wrap around porches.
A music festival with Serena Ryder among other artists was taking place in the nearby lakeside park. There are many festivals that take place in this area throughout the summer.
Two of our group had to leave on Sunday morning, so our band of eight was down to six. After breakfast, we loaded into the minivan and headed west to the vineyards. This is a growing wine region, offering many picturesque vineyards to choose from.
It took us twenty minutes to get from Kingsville to the furthest winery on our tour that day.
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery was beautifully set on the shores of the lake. An area was set up beside the water for an upcoming wedding. All of us (except for John and Lance) ordered a flight of wine to try. We shared our glasses amongst the group enabling us to sample all the wines on offer...fortunately no one had any communicable diseases...that we knew of.
Our next stop was CREW. Our Airbnb hostess had left us a delectable bottle of wine from this vineyard and free wine tasting coupons so of course we had to check it out. This winery had a new visitor centre under construction but it hadn't opened yet. We still totally enjoyed our tastings at the current visitor centre because the staff were so enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
For lunch we stopped at the vineyard next door, North 42 Degrees Estate. We rested up and enjoyed the restaurant where we ate on the upper deck. This vineyard also grows lavender which they incorporate into many other products including teas.
Viewpoint Estates and Oxley Estate were the next vineyards on our list, Both wineries had live music added to their gorgeous backdrops. I would have liked to dally longer but the afternoon was growing old.
Our final vineyard was Coopers Hawk. I know from before that they have unique and awesome wines but we were all too pooped to do it justice. I will definitely come back.
Exhausted and still full from lunch, we decided to have a light supper from the night before's leftovers and enjoy our backyard's hammock, swing, fire pit and lounging areas. We walked off our supper around the well cared for town, delighting in the fireflies flitting around the gardens. We even managed to catch the final hour of the music festival.
The next morning we packed up and made our way back to Point Pelee National Park. This time we climbed the marsh platform lookout while swallows swooped around us and walked the 1 km boardwalk through the marshes, taking lots of pictures of the waterlilies and plant life.
Since the rest of the group hadn't been with us when we checked out the visitors centre and point on the Friday, we went again. This time I made sure to take off my shoes.
Too soon, the weekend was over. I plan to return to this beautiful gem of an area.