April 25, 2018
THE ONE SOUTHERN ONTARIO ROAD TRIP YOU HAVE TO TAKE!
Motorcycle Riders at Hogs for Hospice Motorcycle Rally, 2017
There is something particularly nostalgic about turning the music up, rolling down your windows, and hitting the open road. The road trip has solidified its place in the Canadian national identity—it evokes memories of friendship, family, summer destinations, and forgetting about the grind of daily life.
Southwestern Ontario, in particular, has a history intimately tied to the car and motor culture. Home to Windsor and in close proximity to Detroit, both auto manufacturing hubs, car culture is deeply ingrained in the identity of many Southwestern Ontarians. You can still see this as you drive down the streets of Leamington, Ontario in the summer. Motorcycles revving their engines, classic cars casually rolling down the streets, and flashy sports cars cruising the roads as people enjoy the warm southern air.
Nothing holds more personal appeal to me than a road trip where you can see miles ahead of you, with nowhere you need to be, and stop on a beach or patio somewhere for local food, drink, and conversation. To get this in one adventure- all roads lead to Leamington.
John R. Park Homestead, Essex
The most scenic driving route to Leamington from the West is Country Road 20 which runs along Lake Erie from Detroit/Windsor and is dotted with smaller communities, wineries, and historical sites in the communities of Kingsville, Essex, and Amherstburg. With plenty to explore before you reach your destination, this route is a great road trip through Southern Ontario.
Distance & Route: 90km by Country Rd 20 & County Rd 50
Oxley Estate Winery, Essex
Art Gallery of Windsor: Located on Windsor’s beautiful riverfront, the AGW is the largest public art gallery in the Windsor-Detroit corridor and is nationally-recognized for its diverse collection and changing exhibition program featuring contemporary and historical art from Canada and around the world.
Fort Malden National Historic Site: Fort Malden stood guard during the war of 1812, a time when the threat of American invasion was very real. The Americans occupied this fort for almost two years after the British abandoned it following their defeat at the Battle of Lake Erie. Fort Malden commemorates a period when the destiny of Canada was determined by military action.
John R. Park Homestead: Take a trip back in time to the 1850s. The house and farm buildings of John and Amelia Park are restored to bring the nineteenth century to life. Explore the Parks’ magnificent Classical Revival home, built in 1842, taste baking from the kitchen fireplace or play with a wooden toy in the children’s bedrooms. See the workings of an 1885 steam engine-powered sawmill and stop by the blacksmith shop to witness the making of small hardware and repairing of farm tools at the coal-fired forge.
Monarch butterflies on their migratory path through Leamington
Oxley Estate Winery: In the heart of the wine route on charming County Road 50, Oxley Estate Winery makes small batch award winning wines. Oxley offers wine tasting every day and a great lunch and dinner menu year round using fresh, local ingredients. Enjoy your friends and family in the Wine Garden patio with a wood burning fireplace or inside the newly renovated barn.
oTentik, Point Pelee National Park
What to Pack
Located on the 42nd parallel, Leamington has a moderate climate year-round. It can get humid in the summer, being home to the southernmost point in mainland Canada so pack light, breathable cotton clothing. Don’t forget your sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and some comfortable footwear for when it’s time to get out of the car and explore!
When to Go
Peak season is May-October, which is bookended by two exciting migration seasons. May is the Festival of Birds hosted by Point Pelee National Park where you can catch one of the best spring birding migrations in North America. With fall comes the migration of the Monarch butterfly. Leamington is doing its part to help repopulate the Monarch by planting native species along its trails and parks. Another idea is to plan your visit around festivals like the Music Onthe42 Summer Concert Series, Hogs for Hospice Motorcycle Rally, and Fiestas Patrias (Mexican Independence Day)
oTentik, Point Pelee National Park
Where to Stay
From glamping in Point Pelee National Park’s oTENTik, to the Best Western Plus Leamington Hotel and Conference Centre and its indoor waterpark, to the waterfront B&B’s and cottages along the shores of Lake Erie, Leamington has accommodation to suit all budgets. Most popular hotels are along the waterfront from Seacliff Park down to Point Pelee National Park.
Birdie's Perch, Leamington
What to Eat
Once known as the Tomato Capital of Canada, Leamington has expanded well beyond its Tomato-centric community identity. Agriculture has certainly shaped the fresh produce available at roadside stands throughout the spring, summer, and fall and has also impacted the cultures represented in the town’s vibrant food scene. In the uptown alone you can eat at restaurants from over 12 different countries—Venezuelan, Thai, Greek, Mexican, Mennonite, and Vietnamese to name a few. Leamington’s perch is also world renowned as Leamington is right next door to the world’s largest fresh water fishing port-Wheatley, ON.
Point Pelee National Park, Leamington
See the Sights
Seacliff Park Amphitheatre & Beach/ Leamington Waterfront: Leamington has invested heavily into the redevelopment of its waterfront.
Seacliff Park & Beach is the jewel of the Leamington waterfront redevelopment project. Seacliff’s amphitheatre is the largest grassed outdoor amphitheatre in Southern Ontario and offers programming every weekend throughout the summer ranging from concerts such as Randy Houser to Cheap Trick to The Sheepdogs, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, local music nights, and outdoor movies every weekend throughout the summer.
The beach has a brand new boardwalk, beach volleyball courts and the park is the location of the famous Tomato Splash Pad. The waterfront boasts a revamped pedestrian pier, and a newly renovated Marina--only part of the multi-year vision for its scenic waterfront.
Point Pelee National Park: Situated in Leamington at the southern extreme of mainland Canada, Point Pelee National Park is a tiny sanctuary supporting a mosaic of habitats from jungle-like forest, to lush wetlands, to open savannah. Bike the 4.5 km trail taking you deep into the forest, or walk the boardwalk out onto one of the largest fresh water marshes left on the Great Lakes.
Hillman Marsh Conservation Area: A birding trail borders 87 acres of unique Shorebird Habitat where water levels are actively managed to create mudflats, providing outstanding viewing opportunities. The nature centre has educational displays about flora and fauna typical to the region and the area is a great place for hiking, biking, picnicking, canoeing & kayaking, bird watching, fishing, swimming, and in the winter months, skiing. Hillman is located just minutes from Point Pelee National Park, and can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Kopegaron Woods Conservation Area.
If you are planning one road trip this summer this is it. Experience Leamington in 2018.