Summer Road Trip to Port Dover on Ontario's South Coast

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There are some really beautiful spots that surround Toronto in all directions, including the north shore of Lake Erie. Let’s give some love for Ontario’s South Coast, specifically, Port Dover. Located about 2 hours SW of Toronto, Port Dover, has been described as Canada’s Cape Cod. It has something for everyone, including beach lovers, sunset lovers, hot dog lovers and even bikers. In fact, since 1981 bikers from all over have congregated to this small lake side town for good times every Friday the 13th.

What To Do

You can spend an entire day at the beach. Start your day by taking a walk to the pier, rent a long board, take a dip, worship the sun and then stick around for the epic sunset. With restaurants, palm trees and that serene sound of light waves crashing, Port Dover’s beach looks and feels like something out of the Mediterranean. You’ll find couples, friends and families gathered peacefully on a long stretch of quiet beach, enjoying the summer day. Yes, I knew that there was a beach here but I had no idea that it looked like this!

Where to Eat

All that time on that beach will make you hungry. Port Dover has plenty of food options to choose from. Along Main Street you’ve got a Parisian style bakery, Jasmine’s Foodery and what turned out to be my favourite, The Coffee Shop. This is a local gem as far as I’m concerned. Personalized, friendly service, great variety of sandwiches and wraps at reasonable prices with small town ambiance.

If you’re into the bigger boys on the block with fame and food, there are many options too. Just depends what you want. Knechtel’s is close to the beach, has picnic tables out front along the street and which serves up a bunch of dishes ranging from burgers to pickerel.

Want a meal to go with an amazing view of the beach, then try to grab a table at Callahan’s Beach House. If you were any closer to the water, you’d be eating in it. People watching with a warm lake breeze, palm trees swaying in the wind. Callahan’s a hot spot for good reason.

One of the biggest draws when it comes to food in Port Dover is The Arbor. It will satisfy your hot dog fix. You can’t miss it. It’s been serving up its famous foot longs (aka Ritz Red Hots) for more than 80 years….with so many condiments you’ll load up and watch your hot dog disappear somewhere in the bun. The Arbor is also loved for its French fries, ice cream and unique beverages.

Photo courtesy Margaret Bourne, Suburban Tourist

Where to Stay

Long day at the beach. Plenty of eats. How about some sleep? For a town this small, Port Dover has nearly two dozen places to rest. From cottages to B+B’s, you have options. But if you want to stay in a historical hotel, close to the beach, close to the action, then consider the Erie Beach Hotel. It’s a classic low-rise that dates back to the mid-1940s. It has 18 rooms, 2 restaurants and yes, free WiFi.

If you’ve been before and want to add a restaurant or attraction in Port Dover that we’ve missed, please go ahead and let us know. If you haven’t been and want to squeeze in some beach time, complete with palm trees before the summer’s out, then pack the car and go. It’s a great trip and a great time in Port Dover.

Jim Bamboulis
Jim Bamboulis has held several posts over the past 12 years, including National Sportscaster, Food Host and Writer, Talk Show Host, Olympic Researcher and Travel Film-maker.

Born and raised in Toronto, Jim learned early on that the combination of travel and food meant ultimate living. Combining his insatiable creative spirit and desire to document his travels, Jim took his unshakable travel bug and set off to explore. Add the fact that Jim also grew up in a Greek household and he learned that not only does Mom always make the best meals, but as importantly learned the importance of understanding and appreciating the countless beautiful cultures and the integral role food plays in every corner of the World.

In August 2009, Jim founded Travel Mammal, a site that brings together his travels and experiences (both good and terrifying) with the hope that others are inspired to share their own. We are all storytellers, especially when it comes to travel and food. He urges everyone to be inspired, explore and love the world and the people that share it with us. Or in other words, Live to Travel and travel to live!
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