Pelee Island, A Great Escape to Canada

 The Pelee Islander at Sunset at West Dock Credit: N. Shogren

The Pelee Islander at Sunset at West Dock Credit: N. Shogren

Pelee Island in southern Ontario, Canada, is a perfect getaway for travelers who are very serious about getting away.

Want to go to Key West without all the throngs of crowds? Want to watch sunsets on quiet beaches with a touch of reggae music softly wafting over from a local bistro? Want to enjoy life in a place where there is no rush hour, not much happening, and visitors can lavish in the luxury of not having anything to do?

United States travelers may have to go north, while all Canadian voyageurs must go south. Pelee Island in Ontario, Canada, is the country’s most inhabited southern point, while Middle Island, 2.5 miles/4 km further south is Canada’s actual most southern point of land.

Canada`s Key West

Pelee Island in Lake Erie, known as Canada’s Key West, has virtually no tourism. There are a dozen bed and breakfasts, numerous cottages, three or four good restaurants, a winery, a co-op general store, a marina, a picturesque abandoned light house and not much else — other than the extreme beauty of an island not impacted much by commercialism.

For bicyclists there are over 30 miles/48 km of roadway, some of it paved and most of it flat since there is only a 30-foot/9-meter elevation difference for the whole island. The non-paved roads are hard-surfaced dirt which will accommodate most road bike tires. The western shore is rock while much of the eastern shore is sand with some rock. There are numerous natural areas for birding and botanists will notice a Carolinian habitat made possible by the warm Lake Erie waters. Wheat, soybeans and vineyards overtake most of island acreage while wind velocities can be a little ferocious at times.

The 250 permanent residents of the island are friendly and very helpful. The island community possesses the same sort of laid back as folks living on Caribbean islands.

A highly recommended stop is the Pelee Island Heritage Centre, located right at the end of West Dock, where the ferries arrive and depart. The Centre has a Kite Museum, information on the rum-running days of prohibition, early island development and the excellent exposés on exquisite ecosystems of wildlife diversities.

Getting to Pelee Island

The MV Jiiaman and MV Pelee Islander offer ferry service from Kingsville or Leamington, Ontario. The Pelee Islander also sails to and from the Jackson Street dock in Sandusky, Ohio. For schedules and rates, contact Pelee Island Transportation Company (1-800-661-2220) or check the website. Bikes can be rented just across from the ferry dock. Reservations are needed to take cars to the island. Passports are required by U.S. citizens.

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